Multiplayer Is NOT The Future

Multi-player games may be all the rage but it's just another phase.

For those of you out there that don't care for multiplayer/online-only video games, don't fret, they are not the solitary future of the industry.

For a few years now many have professed a multiplayer-only future, in which no game will have a single-player campaign. This theory came about due to the excess of such games announced and released in the past few years, i.e. Destiny, Evolve, The Crew, Star Wars Battlefront, Tom Clancy's: The Division, Titanfall, Smite, DayZ, and many more.

However, there is a much more evident pattern emerging with all of these games; an expiry date. If you look at Evolve, a game that had an incredible promotion, was released to positive reviews and "sold-in over 2.5 million units", and yet the player base dropped off incredibly fast. Even with the latest batch of DLC, the player base for Evolve has not returned. The same can be said for Titanfall and The Crew, and we'll see what happens with Splatoon.

Evolve rip meme

Manifest Destiny

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, Destiny, for example, has managed to maintain an impressive fan base. As has Smite, State of Decay and PC classics W.O.W, DOTA, and League of Legends. That being said I believe the PC games are a different case entirely and don't reflect the state of console multiplayer games.

Destiny has been a great success for Bungie, despite being obviously lacking in content at release. Which is another trend with these games, they somehow manage to release with only half of the features and modes, Splatoon being a great example of that. So why is Destiny successful and others are not? There doesn't seem to be an obvious answer to that questions, but there are a lot of factors. For one, Destiny is very accessible and offers a grind that keeps players coming back again and again.

Splatoon voice chat meme

Destiny isn't convoluted, and that makes it easy to jump into. It also rewards players fairly regularly, and the team aspect of it seems to have really caught on more than it did with Evolve.

Play It For The Plot

Then there's the lack of features in many games that were mentioned previously. Splatoon has no voice chat and Nintendo has promised new modes once the players have "levelled-up". The idea of a developer holding off on game modes until it thinks you are ready is preposterous. Then there's Tom Clancy's: Rainbow Six Siege, for all intents and purposes a multiplayer game.

Of course, Ubisoft has said there will be a reason for single-player gamers to play the game but they way they have described it is all-too reminiscent of Titanfall. They won't comment on the scope of the campaign, and they said they included it as a result of comments from gamers, so it seems more like an afterthought. Expect a pseudo-campaign.

But the lack of a dedicated campaign isn't the problem with Rainbow Six Siege, the problem is the repetition. Similarly, like Evolve, the game is based around 4-person teams in small maps. Now don't get me wrong, the multiplayer footage that has been shown looks fun and interesting but, other than a few varying modes, what we've seen so far is essentially the entire game. Is a game in which you continuously play small 4v4 maps really worth $60? I guess that's up to the players, and we will see if the fall of Titanfall and Evolve will play a role in these future games.

The more and more online-only games are released, the more we see the need for a single-player component of some kind. This was recently stated outright by Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick, at the 43rd Annual Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in New York. Zelnick was discussing Evolve and called it a "permanent" franchise for Take-Two but went on to say:

"I think we come out of that experience reminding ourselves we have to have a strong single-player opportunity. But we knew that about Evolve. We think we've developed another permanent IP. But if there were something lacking, I would say it would be that it was probably a bit too multiplayer-focused, which we knew all along."

These comments from Zelnick are very interesting because he implies that they were aware that lack of a single-player campaign could hurt Evolve. And it did. It also hurt Titanfall. Many of these games release with a small single-player component that is basically just thrown in for the sake of it. One of the reasons Call Of Duty is as successful as it is, is because it features both dedicated multiplayer AND a fully-fledged campaign.

Now this is nothing new, nearly every game nowadays features both, but you notice how COD never just gave up on the single-player. Because that is because Activision knew that a sizeable portion of COD's player base would buy the game for the campaign, and then jump into the multiplayer.

Doctor Evil Titanfall meme

The Call of Duty Way

This seems obvious, but there's more to it than meets the eye. So someone like me, for example, will play a Call of Duty campaign, which lasts around 10 hours, then I will feel comfortable enough jumping into the multiplayer for a while. Without that single player experience, I would never buy the game because it immediately makes COD a straight multiplayer game; something that casual gamers are less likely to buy.

The games are advertised with the campaign front and center, so they are very important to the casual audiences. That's why COD is as successful as it is, it's accessible and both casual and hardcore gamers can jump in on the action and not feel out of their depth. If the campaign was removed, then that training is lost and the game becomes more hardcore, meaning harder and less accessible. 

This is where most other games get it wrong.

Evolve is 4-person co-op multiplayer, this already is a barrier to entry because most gamers like to play alone or play with their friends. Not everyone has 4 friends ready and waiting to play games at their beck and call. Then the game isn't all that easy to play. Sure you can do a rudimentary training scheme, like in Titanfall, but that isn't very helpful when you're with 3 other players, who are relying on you, and there's a giant monster running at you.

Games like Evolve would have fared significantly better had there been a campaign mode that told a story and taught you how to play, before throwing you into the multiplayer.

Kevin Spacey in COD: AW

Where to next?

So back to the original point; multiplayer games are not the future of video games. The recent trend suggests that the always-online, multiplayer-only future that was predicted only a year or two ago, is falling flat on its face. Games like Dying Light and Bloodborne sold immensely well, proving that single-player games are very much alive and kicking. Assassin's Creed: Syndicate was recently announced and Ubisoft vaunted "no multiplayer" as an apology for Unity and a selling point for Syndicate.

While games like Destiny continue to be successful and carve out a sizeable niche, other games like Evolve and Titanfall will be forced to (no pun intended) evolve and include a strong campaign and reason for non-multiplayer gamers to jump in.

Multiplayer in games are very much a part of the future, but they will be just another feature and not the entire experience. That way everyone is happy.


Published Jun. 1st 2015
  • Ford James
    Featured Contributor
    I disagree with the concept of the article and I notice one glaring flaw: you mention State of Decay as a multiplayer game alongside titles like LoL, Smite, WoW and DotA... State of Decay is single player only!
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist
    While I don't entirely disagree with you, there are a few holes in your article:

    First off, the reason why Destiny has hooked so many players HAS been discussed. It's the same way WoW keeps you invested. It's psychology, not the gameplay, or the story, or anything else. Those pull you in at first. The rest is a carefully designed set of Skinner Boxes.

    Second, the reason Evolve failed was because, as I repeatedly pointed out before launch -- IT WAS BUILT ON A GIMMICK! Hunt might be a distinctive mode but Turtlerock focused so much on just one style of play that the game lacked variety, and the DLC scheme was actually a major turn off. Those were major factors.

    Third, Titanfall was restricted to Origin on PC, which was a death knell there for anything that isn't Battlefield or made by Bioware. It's lack of a proper campaign was a problem, but what was a more significant issue was a lack of deep progression -- it was possible to unlock nearly everything in the multiplayer in two days. Combine that with other multiplayer alternatives arriving soon afterward on Xbox One, and you've got a tough situation to stay afloat.

    Fourth, Dying Light and Bloodborne both have multiplayer components, both of which were inspired by the Dark Souls series' multiplayer. Assassin's Creed: Syndicate's dropping of multiplayer has actually been a major turn off for those of us who bought Assassin's Creed games for BOTH offline and online play (I wrote an entire article explaining why, and why their reactionary dropping of the mode was pointlessly short-sighted).

    It's nice to see someone actually not say 'SINGLEPLAYER IS DEAAAAD" like so many whiny, anti-multiplayer gamers, but the implication that everything that went wrong over the past few years was a result of no single-player only holds up under cursory examination. You're ignoring successes like Nosgoth, Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, GTA Online (I've known and met people who only bought GTA V for the online component), Marvel Super Heroes 2015, and more.

    The fact of the matter is, yes, we definitely need to accommodate multiple player types, both solo and team players. But continually passing around blame on the two (or lack thereof) gets us nowhere. I can honestly tell you, I have NO idea how they'd make a Titanfall single-player work, short of just being a botmode. The gameplay genuinely didn't allow for it. Evolve did its best with its campaign mode, and some singleplayer outlets, like SP Only, were quite happy with it.

    Instead of talking about how things that passed -should- have been done, how about instead we all try to keep open minds to the games that are yet on the horizon? I think that'd be more beneficial. Regardless of if they have online or offline modes of play, let's ENJOY them; and if they feature modes we particularly like, then all the better!
  • Synzer
    Guide Editor
    Splatoon is extremely fun. I can't say for the future, but I haven't had this much fun playing a game in a long time. Even before they added the ranked mode last night, I was having fun playing hours with the one game mode.

    Yeah they waited to release i, but it wasn't that long, and finding ranked games takes a while sometimes so I understand why they did it. You don't need voice chat in Splatoon, would be nice, but all you really need are more d-pad shortcuts to announce stuff.

    Splatoon feels more like a live experience than most games, things keep changing, map rotation, shops, it makes the game feel fresh. Of course we'll have to see if it stays this way months from now.
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist
    ...I don't understand why you are replying to my post? I said -nothing- about Splatoon?

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