Reign of Multiplayer: How the Solo Gamer Went Out of Style
Do you remember the days before online gaming clearly?
Odd question for the older crowd yes, but for younger generations, it’s getting increasingly harder to remember a time before Xbox Live, Playstation Network and online PC gaming. With faster internet speeds and new features being introduced all the time, game developers have shifted gears, noticeably, to a world where multiplayer gaming is the precedent.
Single player games and game types are becoming less and less relevant. Why?
It’s simple really. Multiplayer is thriving, and thus, so is the gaming community. There are now so many ways that video games can bring people together, and opportunities for interconnectivity never seen before. Developers want to take advantage of what works, and they want to give the gamers what they want. We’ve basically laid out a blueprint for them when you think about what runs the community right now. The golden age of Call of Duty, the on-going Steam takeover, the social media blitz, and the surge of Free-to-Play titles. It all adds up.
Call of Duty
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Halo fan, a Battlefield fan, or someone that doesn’t play shooters. If you know anything about Call of Duty, you know that it’s a powerhouse of multiplayer gameplay.
The bottom line here is that Call of Duty is doing something right, and every other game in town wants a piece of the action.
With Call of Duty 4 launching alongside Halo 3 in 2007, Activision has released a best-selling blockbuster every year since. Sure, each rendition is more or less a tuned-up clone, with a handful of new weapons and game types, but it does something unique. Over the course of the past few years, Call of Duty has attracted non-gamers as fans.
A huge portion of Call of Duty players are just people that heard from a friend or coworker that they should pick it up. It’s become more of a social interaction for some, and allows people to “hang out” so to speak, without needing to go through all the hassle of the outside world. The bottom line here is that Call of Duty is doing something right, and every other game in town wants a piece of the action.
Withholding any “all aboard the Steam train” jokes, the PC gaming platform has done some remarkable things in it’s time.
Steam let’s users access a seemingly endless store of video game titles, sorting by genre, number of players, etc. etc. Of all the great features, the legendary “Steam Sales” are really what promotes multiplayer. Finding a game playable by yourself and 3 other friends makes it much easier to pull the trigger on the buy button when the price has been slashed by 75%. Throw the free games on top of that, and you have some seriously inexpensive multiplayer.
Above: Steam's easy-to-use interface promotes new and popular titles
Social media is perhaps the most underrated player in the gaming world right now.
I’m not talking Facebook, either. The probability of calling up a buddy, or messaging them in game is much more likely than getting together on Facebook. The real social media heroes are Youtube, Twitch, and Twitter. Ten years ago, you wouldn’t get to play with your favorite game developer unless it was at a local event, but now with community playdates and livestream events, it happens all the time. Twitter is a channel for not only developers, but also Youtube personalities, to reach out to their fans, share their experiences, and set up games with subscribers and bring the community together.
Above: Popular League of Legends streamer Trick2g regularly organizes "subwars", pitting prominent streamers against each other, with a team of fans on each side.
A giant, profitable elephant in the room.
Finally, we have Free-to-Play. It was mentioned a bit with Steam, but that’s a just a small selection. With League of Legends holding the largest PC gamer count and a plethora of MOBAs launching in it’s wake, Free-to-Play titles rely on microtransactions, and microtransactions rely on multiplayer. For those that don’t know, microtransactions are small purchases of anywhere from $5-$25 that give you some kind of advantage or cosmetic appearance change in-game.
Everyone has their stance on microtransactions, and opinions on whether or not they’re good or evil, but the fact of the matter is that there is no money in single player microtransactions. Either the developer makes a game that you can play and beat without any microtransactions, rendering any purchases near pointless, or they make a game that requires microtransactions to succeed, thus reducing popularity and player satisfaction. There is no happy medium, except for maybe multiplayer, which is where all of the microtransactions are now.
In the end, it’s not completely over for single player, and multiplayer’s day might be over sooner than we think.
The gaming world changes and evolves constantly, and almost anything can become a new inspiration.. I can’t speak for the trends of gaming past, as I didn’t watch those unfold. What I do know is that with the next-gen is here, and we should be excited for the future of multiplayer and single player alike.