THE FUTURE OF SINGLE PLAYER GAMES
Are single-player video games really dying? A few years ago all the so-called industry experts were predicting its death and the development of online-only multiplayer games surged. However, a few years later in retrospect, the poster-child failures of Evolve, and to a lesser degree Titanfall and Star Wars: Battlefront, points to a major disconnect between these developers and the people who play their games. Obviously, the creators did not expect their games to fail so quickly post release and given that these titles won all sorts of critical awards and received high praise in graphics and design, that leaves something vastly wrong with their assessment of what gamers really want. When you're talking millions of dollars in production costs, that's one serious miscalculation. Although the newest gen games can be very pretty to look at and use all the latest, greatest technology, eye candy is fleeting whereas the age-old aspects of what makes people tick is not. A sure fire formula for a quick demise is this trend toward lack of enough content on Triple AAA priced releases, price-gouging on DLC, lack of options, unstable servers and most importantly of all, failing to keep the player emotionally invested. As to advertised single-player modes, many of them are generally just challenge maps and not story-driven campaigns. Add to that list that although social networking plays a big role in today's gaming, to bet the farm on this one aspect is to turn a blind eye to many gamers who just don't want to be connected to other people day and night, nor play with total strangers in what is often a toxic environment.
Although some people would scoff at Call of Duty as an example of a winning formula that encompasses both modes, you can't argue with commercial success, although they too have been fumbling around with this in recent years. Single-player and multiplayer offer two very different emotional experiences and people want strong contenders in both modes. The typical argument has been that users don't play the single-player content and therefore it's a waste of resources to develop it. However, this assessment may be intentionally disingenuous or may not be based on good analyses. When primarily single-player games toss in under-developed multiplayer modes, they die quickly and perhaps the opposite is true. Multiplayer games with tacked on poor single-player modes, could result in the same effect and lead to the conclusion that people don't play these. There's also an underlying psychology to consumer mentality and perhaps the most glaring example of a failure to recognize this is a game called The Flock. It's premise of a world population that depletes until no one can play it was an unique idea that went horribly wrong. Every player death contributes to the reduction of a set number of spawns until the game dries up and becomes obsolete. One of the justifications for this premise was that most multiplayer games dry up anyway. Although it's no more than a statement of fact that most multiplayer games will eventually die, to hard code this into a game with a price tag was not wise and was doomed to fail. What's more worrisome is that the developers had zero understanding of the psychology behind planned obsolescence. Many consumers do not want to pay good money for games that don't give them the option of replaying them at some point down the road, or games that are unplayable if the servers are down, or worse, if they are officially shut down. It's immaterial whether gamers will play them or not, they want that option to remain open regardless.
Of course, as mentioned above, there are other factors besides the lack of a single player mode that will determine the success or failure of a game, but it's interesting that on this one point, Titanfall 2 and Battlefront 2 are slated to include single-player campaigns, which basically points to an admission that the developers didn't get it right the first time around. However, it remains to be seen just how much effort will be put into the mode. Additionally, as of July 7 2016, Evolve went Free To Play in an attempt to save the game. The next few years should prove interesting as developers and publishers try to figure out how to offer the best of both worlds. Fortunately, some in the industry recognize there is profitable room for diversity and the astonishing success of some single player games released in recent years prove that they won't be dying any time soon.