The single player game has been under assault ever since online gaming became more accessible. It began with the Xbox and was perfected with the Xbox 360, being connected to Xbox LIVE virtually non-stop, and more and more games incorporating or focusing heavily on their multiplayer aspects.
And with good reason; it’s fun to play with others. Whether competing with that jerk who’s constantly spawn camping in Halo, or beating Gears of War on Insane mode with your buddy, online multiplayer has opened up incredible new options for socializing while having fun.
Here’s the deal: Multiplayer gaming is huge. It drives console sales in the Holiday season with mega-hits like Battlefield and Call of Duty, it drives social interaction on Xbox LIVE, it sells itself when you see your friends playing online and you want to jump in with them, and sells tons of DLC in the form of new map-packs. No one is denying the impact that multiplayer has on the industry. It sells, and I quote: “BIGLY”.
But what about the single player experience? Are hit series like Call of Duty, Destiny, or up-and-coming titles like Anthem, going to push single player adventures into oblivion?
I don’t think so.
Xbox boss Phil Spencer has said: “I want all kinds of games to be successful. I don’t think we want to see the death of games that have a beginning, middle, and an end.”
He has also said he believes backwards compatibility is a way to help preserve different kinds of games and give single player games from the past new life as a means to “Save” the single player game in an “uncertain future”.
I can’t say I disagree with the first statement, and I definitely see the value in the backwards compatibility. But to say single player gaming has an uncertain future is to ignore how well the category has in fact been doing.
This year alone has seen a string of highly successful, critically and gamer acclaimed, single player titles that incorporate no multiplayer aspect whatsoever. Let’s look at some numbers:
Persona 5: 1.8m
Nier: Automata: 1.5m
Horizon: Zero Dawn: 3.4m
Resident Evil 7: 3.7m
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice: N/A(Topped PS4 Store and made #2 on Steam, reportedly moving almost 100,000 copies at launch)
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild: 3.9m
That’s at the very least 14.3 million copies of these games, and most of these numbers are a couple months old. Are these Call of Duty numbers? No, of course not, but they are hit game numbers and that’s considering none of them can sell themselves with multiplayer.
Most of them don’t even get close to the same kind of promotional investment either.
These games sold on the fact that they were well crafted(or at least offered something new) immersive worlds for the player to get lost in and enjoy a story.
Imagine if one of these had received the kind of marketing budget a game like Titanfall would?
Four of these games also happened to be PlayStation 4 exclusives and the PS4 had a huge year, undoubtedly fueled by these games releasing throughout the year.
The evidence is there, and what it shows is there is absolutely an appetite for single player games. These games can sustain sales outside the Holiday season by offering an alternative to the mayhem of online gaming, and allow a gamer to get back to their roots of simply turning the game on and soaking in the experience. It bolsters the catalog and brings in gamers who may have less or no interest in multiplayer, and it helps your console garner a reputation for delivering quality content.
Investing in good single player games as exclusives is a win-win for the platform holder and the gamer. Big time multiplatform shooters and racers are always going to be there, it takes that little extra step to say you’re going to invest in the campaign-driven game and offer the gamer those options. It helps define your brand and drives goodwill toward it.
I sincerely hope Xbox is paying attention.