Yes welcome to those who may be new to it to the C-blog series I do where I rant about what I see as problems in the video games industry.
Live services are the future, we're told. Single player doesn't sell, we're told. We're told this by the AAA companies and some developers who are smaller studios whine about how Twitch or Let's Players are ruining single player games, spoiling the story and costing them revenue. We're told this because apparently thousands of free hours of advertising are the reason to focus on developing multiplayer or live service model games. To that I say.
They're dead, live services are all well and good when they're live but it's all or nothing really. Don't believe me?
Robot Roller-Derby Disco Dodge ball
Plants Vs Zombie Garden Warfare
Lead and Gold
Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite. (apparently)
For Honour (almost from what I hear)
All dead or mostly dead so far community wise and this isn't even including the countless lesser known indie titles that are also dead or mostly dead at this point that could probably double the size of this list. Once a title is dead unless you can get groups together to play it then that title isn't playable really and it's no longer going to have much continued value. Thus studios have to make a new title or a new game and try that out. If you make a single player game as long as it can still be bought and still work on the hardware it's not dead. There's groups out there still making fan / community patches for games like Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines.
Part of the issue lies with antiquated business and economic practices that say money now is better than more money over a longer time period or to but it another way in present economic models given the choice a company would prefer $10 now rather than $50 in 5 months time.
With the rise of digital distribution the old model of most AAA games making their money in the first 2 weeks from launch is slowly going away. People can and will wait for complete editions or for a price they feel more willing to pay because if it's on digital distribution the game isn't going to become some rare impossible to get thing (unless it's some licensed thing that gets pulled due to the license expiring). Digital distribution has created a whole new business structure that we're very much going to see developed on more in the future. Take HellBlade Seuna's Sacrifice by Ninja Theory, that game didn't break even until about 2 months after release. Ninja Theory now though, well they seem comfortable enough to be able to donate some pretty large sums to charity now. They knew that the game would be able to keep making money and if they could keep running through the period it still hadn't broken even then once it started to make profit they'd be ok for a while. CD Project Red have, according to rumours, done so well from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt that they don't have to seek any external financing to market or sell Cyberpunk 2077. Any and every single player game that's on digital distributions platforms will be viable as long as two things are met; 1) It's still for sale and 2) that it runs on whatever system or hardware it's being sold to play on.
Yes that's Doom on an ATM and this is the video this image is from
There's a reason a lot of developers are looking at Steam now when they were previously console only developers mostly. Steam offers a potentially infinite sales tail for a product, sure it may not be a huge amount as time goes on but it can and will likely produce sales spikes during sales and over time too. With a multiplayer game on Steam unless it gets and holds a community then it's done. There's unlikely to be some great discovery of it later. For single player games that's not true, they're always going to be viable. If down the line some youtuber picks up on the game or some streamer streams it as a bit of a joke and people like it, then that will generate a sale spike, hell it might even cause it to outsell what it did at release. For AAA developers also as more powerful hardware becomes more readily available to the general public rather than simply being priced mostly for enthusiasts it means a whole new bunch of people on PC who can buy and play your game and be introduced to it. Or as the game drops to a price people find more acceptable over time then there's potential for sales spikes too
There are people whose first console could well have been a PS2 who this year are old enough to buy God of War or GTA V. Think on that for a moment. It shows just how much time passes and new generations are suddenly old enough for different titles. It makes sense for remasters or re-releases of old games to be made and put out because there's a whole lot of people who likely didn't experience them first time round and thanks to digital distribution they now can; easily, without having to hunt round second hand stores for the game to play on older consoles. And because they're single player each new release if it's on digital is then viable for the lifetime of that system or in Steam's case viable until an operating system no-longer supports the game if that ever happens.
The trick is in this age where the video game industry is exploding is to make your game worth playing. It sounds stupid almost simple really but like with almost every other medium the fight is on to stand out far more than ever before in gaming. Video games like every other medium are starting to get old enough to have titles passing down the generations. They're getting old enough that title from the past are showing what does stick around. There's not just the "classics" either but very much "cult classic" games developing and can and will develop more. Also unlike almost every other medium games can take radical jumps forward when they're re-made or re-mastered just try to avoid messing with too much because we don't need more George Lucas esc re-mastered versions or in video games Silent Hill Collection re-mastered where they removed the in game fog. Though that was likely more incompetence than choice.
Plenty of major companies, while making new things also, recognise just how profitable their back catalogues are. Disney regularly re-releases its old films on DVD and Blue Ray because people can and will buy them........ well except you know the really racist ones which they hate people mentioning and probably have buried any copies of in some underground vault somewhere. With single player games this works, with multiplayer not so much.
So I think I should end this by destroying the idea that Twitch is killing single player game. It's not killing them. What is killing them is certain studios taking leaves from Hollywood's playbook and being shocked when they don't work in video gaming. I'm talking about of course the Mystery box. A concept that JJ Abrams uses and has used many times as part of the marketing of his films and a concept people who suffered through Lost will likely be all too familiar with. The basis for it being to present a mystery to the audience and encourage them to go into the piece of media to get the answer, a nasty little trick because the human brain tends to want answers to stuff and doesn't like unanswered questions. So by certain games presenting the mystery in place of enjoyable plot, or as these are video games actually compelling gameplay, they suffer badly from people watching them on lets plays or on twitch and having no reason to buy the full thing. The thing is if a story is good on merits other than the mystery then people will still happily experience it. I've watched the film Hot Fuzz 17 times; I've seen Scott Pilgrim vs the World close to 7 times now; I own Half Life 2 on three separate platforms and have finished it probably 5 or more times. That I know what is coming or spoilers for things doesn't stop me enjoying the piece of media when it's good.
Image from his Ted Talk
Hopefully I've convinced you reading this that single player isn't dead. Because even if a single player game fails to get an audience initially it will still be more viable than a multiplayer games that fails to get an audience initially. Given enough time most single player goes probably will eventually cover their costs, if that will actually be within its creators lifetime is a another matter but still, given enough time most multiplayer only games will wither and die. Multiplayer games leave no legacy except if they spawn sequels or live on in the legends of the internet as people who played them at their peak tell stories of things people basically can't go and experience. With single player games people can go and experience them as long as they're still for sale.
Thank you to: Kerrik, TheLimoMaker, GreenHornet214, Palvikinkku, Keiichi Morisato, siddartha85, Goemar, Yoseph, jasondm300, Sfero, GoofierBrute, Jaakkosakari, Heat, zatoseyes, Lawman, Flegma and Union pvt Bong264 who all contributed to this blog in some way.