A little single-player campaign goes a long way
Making any game is a risky investment for the developers and publishers due to the competition, audience appeal along with several unforeseen factors. The risk of failure is always more significant when the game is a multiplayer-only title.
In theory, making a multiplayer-only title is easy since it’s all about gameplay while resources have not been used to make a single player story. In reality, the market is so saturated with multiplayer-only titles that it becomes a risky investment. For developers, the competition is between already established titles along with free-to-play titles and indie titles. Developers and publishers are not the only ones taking a risk as consumers who purchase a multiplayer-only title better hope an online community develops around the game.
This is a look into how everyone is taking a big risk with multiplayer-only games. Just to be clear, this article is focusing on player vs. player and co-op multiplayer while excluding MMO titles.
The Risk for Developers and Publishers
Very few game developers and publishers have a stellar reputation to the point that they can almost do no wrong.Blizzard had no problem convincing their legion of fans that Overwatch is a stellar title. Valve had another hit with Left 4 Dead while having to change only a few gameplay mechanics in Counter-Strike: Global Offense. Both studios have a stellar reputation for releasing quality titles but they to are not immune from the risks.
Next we look at the big risk UbiSoft took with bringing Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege to the market. The publisher had a bad year in 2014 while having to cancel the highly anticipated Patriots. UbiSoft took a massive risk and despite the odds, Siege would go on to become a solid title. One year after its launch, the game still has strong player base while receiving support from the development team.
On the other end of the spectrum is the lifespan of Evolve by Turtle Rock Studios and 2K Games. The game was highly praised at E3 and Gamescom but was met with mixed reviews while criticized for its dependence on DLC’s. The community started to dwindled after only a few months and the game soon resorted to adapting the free-to-play model. However this plan failed to bring new life to the community and support was discontinued after four months.
Next there is the heavy competition from the free-to-play titles that could be found on every platform. Gamers have been playing titles like America’s Army for almost a decade while major and indie publishers have released hit titles that adopted the free-to-play model. Unfortunately this market has become so over-saturated that it has become difficult to stand out from the shovelware.
Examine the short lifespan of F.E.A.R.: Online, a free-to-play title that tried to continue the story of the acclaimed series. The game had a solid co-op gameplay with a story that connected everything to the series but most of the action was in its death match. F.E.A.R.: Online had a strong start during its first month but soon the community dwindled and the servers were shutdown after six months.
The Risk for Consumers
This is a burden that is also shared by the consumer because for such a title to be played to its full potential, it needs to have a strong community. Gaming is an expensive hobby and players don’t have the resources to buy a $60 title each week. Since multiplayer-only titles lack the safety net provided by a single player campaign, gamers take a huge risk paying $60 for such a title that could become unplayable.
Any time gamers buy a multiplayer-only title, they have to hope that it sells or they will be stuck with an unplayable experience. If it fails to gain momentum then the few who had bought the game will be unable to enjoy its full potential and therefore abandon an already small community.Unless it’s a title from Blizzard, most gamers would wait to see if their friends bough it or for the community to develop before investing (hence a Catch-22).
That is why the free-to-play model has found some success among PC and console gamers who don’t want to invest $60 in a multiplayer-only title. This however will then put the developers in a difficult position of trying to find a balance between keeping the game going, building the community and trying to make a profit.
Single-player to the Rescue
Multiplayer may be a popular feature and a single-player experience may cost extra, going with only one experience presents far more risks. Not everyone wants to play with other gamers while the story adds replay value for those who enjoyed the plot and the memorable characters. In the end, studios are better investing in both a single-player and multiplayer experience or risk getting panned with a boondoggle of a title.
How do you feel about multiplayer-only title and how do you feel about the risks? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.