A reader argues that single-player games are in no danger of going extinct and are in fact more successful than they’ve been for a long time.
One of the most common concerns from video game fans in recent years has been the supposed death of single-player games. Ever since publishers discovered loot boxes and microtransactions the biggest budget, and most successful games, have been multiplayer-only or games with a very heavy multiplayer focus. FIFA, Call Of Duty, GTA Online, Destiny, Fortnite, Apex Legends… these are the biggest names in gaming in terms of sales and profits. But that does not tell the whole story.
With God Of War recently picking up a number of BAFTAs, just as it has at every 2018 award show, it’s single-player games that are consistently the most critically acclaimed. Since so many stay in early access or beta for the entirety of their lives a lot of multiplayer games don’t even get reviewed properly. Apex Legends only has 27 scored reviews on Metacritic, mostly from lesser websites, while God Of War has 118.
In so many ways comparing a single-player game with a multiplayer-only title is like chalk and cheese. Most people didn’t bother with Apex Legends because how can you give any kind of definitive judgement to a game that is, by design, never finished and constantly changing? Apex Legends is a great game, I’m sure, but it’s like comparing a rugby match to a music concert – there’s just no point of comparison beyond they’re both forms of entertainment.
Looking at just the last three years of the most critically acclaimed games almost all of them are single-player only or single-player focused: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Devil May Cry 5, Metro Exodus, God Of War, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, NieR: Automata, Persona 5, Resident Evil 2 and 7, Horizon Zero Dawn, and many more.
Not only were all of these games praised to the rafters but all of them were financial success, and almost all that are part of an existing franchise are the most successful that series has ever been. That is not the sign of a style of game that’s on the way out.
When Nintendo launched the Switch they made sure that Fortnite was on it, but the game that sold the system was a 200-hour long single-player only adventure. Sony has had their most successful first party line-up ever with the PlayStation 4 and almost every one of their titles has been single-player only.
What was the only game Google Stadia mentioned by name at their reveal? Doom Eternal, a primarily single-player shooter. And what kind of exclusives has Apple Arcade shown off so far? Single-player indie adventures.
The only company that has deviated from this pattern is Microsoft, who have focused primarily on multiplayer this generation and… have sold less than half that of the PlayStation 4. Obviously, there are lots of other reasons for that but ask anyone why they bought a PlayStation 4 over an Xbox One and one of the main reasons will be exclusives – which are almost exclusively single-player.
Single-player games may not be quiet as numerous as they used to be but in terms of prestige they’ve never been better. Not only are they the most critically acclaimed games of the generation but they’re consistently used as killer apps to sell hardware. There is absolutely no reason to imagine this is going to change in the next generation or at any time.
There is such variety in what a single-player game can be that it’s impossible for them to go out of fashion and the only real problem is how expensive it is to make them, which is why, when compared to the profitability of multiplayer games, some smaller publishers have shied away from them in recent years. But shied away is not the same as abandoned.
The whole panic over single-player games dying is largely because of a quote from an EA financial exec, who was quoted in 2017 as saying of the cancelled Visceral Games Star Wars tie-in: ‘As we kept reviewing the game, it continued to look like a much more linear game [which] people don’t like as much today as they did five years ago or 10 years ago’.
That, understandably, sent many into a panic, even though it wasn’t a creative but a financial guy. It seemed bad at the time and yet what was the Star Wars game they announced last week? A single-player game that they went out of their way to promise did not have multiplayer or microtransactions.
Certain things will go in and out of fashion in video games, as they do in all industries. But single-player games will never die. Or if they do then gaming will die with it because they are inseparable.
By reader Coolsbane
The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.
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