Tuesday, December 19, 2006

withering single-player market?

This might be a gross misconception, but an impression has been growing on me these past few months that the industry is becoming somewhat antagonistic to single-player gameplay, particularly in regard to console games. I say that without denying a number of recent, interesting solo-focused games... Oblivion, Mass Effect, Two Worlds, Fable 2, Alan Wake, etc.

But I've noticed that with Oblivion, Gothic 3 and other recent solo-oriented games, both professional and non-professional reviews have included a lack of multiplayer elements as a mark against the individual games. No longer are such games accepted for the sort of games they are and reviewed as such. They are instead held against a standard that suggests all games should have some cooperative or, even better, competitive elements.

And it seems that there is increasing pressure from publishers for the inclusion of multiplayer gameplay wherever remotely possible, and perhaps even some places where it would best be left out. All of the console publishers have emphasized their online capabilities so fervently, and now Microsoft seems to be doing the same with Windows Vista, that a failure of any game to employ those capabilities is perceived as negligent.

In hindsight, this trend appears to have begun with the tremendous success of Goldeneye 64's competitive multiplayer mode. Today, my latest Game Informer magazine's main article concerns professional multiplayer competitions.

I certainly don't perceive direct and indirect multiplayer gameplay as problematic in itself. I'm very excited about the proposed online elements of upcoming solo-oriented games like Spore and Two Worlds. But I do wonder if, in our continuing fascination with the still-novel and still-explorative internet, and with our explorative forays into the many possible manifestations of multiplayer gameplay, a hostility is amassing against solo game experiences that is discouraging the production and player-acceptance of solo-focused games.

Keep in mind, solo-oriented does not mean non-social, let alone asocial. As Mark Terrano astutely pointed out at the AGC this September, single-player games can have considerable appeal for spectators and the sharing of stories about individual experiences.

So what do you think? Is there a mounting tension directed against solo game experiences, on either the player side or the production side?


  1. Personally, I find it hard to spend time on single player games these days. I waited for FFXII for quite a long time, and when it finally came out I put a good 20 hours in, but I just can't stick it out for the whole epic story when I know that no one else will particularly care about my accomplishments or see how skilled I've become at besting my foes. When I can always go back and put some time into my WoW characters, an accomplishment I see as meaningful, it's hard to spend large chunks of my limited free time on less "meaningful" pursuits like I did when I was younger.

  2. cameron may have a point. Oblivion is not only a single-player game, but it isn't exactly the best spectator game either.

    I loved playing through KOTOR, Jade Empire, and similar single-player story games, but I've stalled out of so many when the compelling story couldn't carry me past the mechanics I'd all but mastered.. and I can't even begin to think about watching someone for all that time.

    A single-player "social" game is STILL a different design than a single-player game.

  3. Single player games are LAME. I can't believe a developer would spend so much time and resources to make a game that only one person can play. Is there an assumption that a gamer is a anti-social loser loner or something? Maybe a lot are, but I'll never EVER buy a single player game.


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