As with many other industries and things today, videogames now embrace online connectivity. With a shift to multiplayer and multiplayer-driven games like Star Wars: Battlefront or Evolve from 2015 and post-launch content like DLC and Expansion packs, releases are always changing but of course the question is what does this mean for singleplayer games?
Concerns surrounding single-player games have always been there dating back to 2014. However, the conversation again was at the forefront last week when EA shuttered Visceral Games, the studio was most famous for the Dead Space trilogy and the less then stellar Battlefield: Hardline, a game that was a little bit mediocre.
Of course, the closure of Visceral Games was met with sadness and was unfortunate, the circumstances surrounding the closure has been met with some questions about the industry and the true nature of the closure is still unknown. Before EA shuttered the studio, Visceral was working on a story-driven, narrative-heavy game set within the Star Wars universe and now that game is shifting over to EA Vancouver. EA said the reason for this was because of “fundamental shifts in the marketplace.” , whatever that means.
The appeal for single-player games is declining among gamers and among major publishers has been widespread and not offering games-as-a-service like Battlefield 1 or Call of Duty for example is becoming a rarity. Why play singleplayer when I can go play a game with 10 of my friends and have fun? That’s not saying singleplayer can’t succeed in the marketplace today, me and plenty other people still love singleplayer games although success stories are far less common then they were in 2007 or 2010.
Bethesda, a publisher exclusively known for singleplayer games like Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, Wolfenstein, and some other famous franchises has seen the effects of this for the past several years. For example, Prey which is one of the highest-rated games of 2017 but it failed to grasp the attention of the rest of the world ( I didn’t even finish Prey. It got a little bit boring.)
Since online connectivity became a thing with the Xbox back in 2002 and it became commonplace, publishers have attempted to diversify themselves with online service games. In 2007, online play was reserved mostly for hosting multiplayer games and delivering what we know call DLC, the scale of multiplayer and it’s effect has grown far spread. When you invest into singleplayer, what you’re getting will be unchanged but when you invest into a multiplayer game like Battlefield 1 or Call of Duty, what you’re getting is always evolving.
The costs for AAA games continue to rise and becoming more expensive as new hardware becomes available and with base game pricing not increasing, videogames has remained at $60 USD since the Xbox 360 launched in 2005, publishers need to find and have found a way to make the money back. Games-as-a-service titles present this and it is increasingly popular: You guessed it, it’s lootboxes and microtranscations. Lootboxes, Microtranscations, paid expansions, and season passes are all common sight now with season passes becoming more and more less relevant with the arrival of Overwatch in 2016. When you come back each and every day and purchase a couple of boxes from the hype machine, they offer almost an infinite flow of income for publishers like EA, Activision, and Microsoft.
Today, Games-as-a-service is more incentive then singleplayer games and for good reason. There’s a decline for single-player games and a massive growth of multiplayer games. investing resources into singleplayer doesn’t have the payoff as it did a generation ago. If you put multiplayer in your game or some of monetization then you’ll have endless amount of money, as shown by games like Halo 5, Forza 7, Battlefield 1, and Call of Duty.
SP games will never go away or so I hope, but with interest decreasing from these games, the presence will go away in the marketplace. We’ll see less of them as the generation continues into the PS5 and Xbox Two, possibly no longer existing outside of a very few games.