Are Single Player Games Going Extinct?

I’ve been a gamer for most of my life. I live, breathe, and even work, games. There’s nothing I like more than coming home from work, firing up my console, and playing a great game to relax. Years ago, one game could last me about a week. Now, one game lasts me two days, tops. Why is this happening?

A lot of studios are starting to turn away from the concept of a single player game and opening up to the possibilities that the Internet provides: online multiplayer and social or mobile games. Sure, it’s the wave of the future, but why do single player games deserve to die because of it? I, personally, don’t think they will completely disappear, but I am worried that less and less attention will be given to the production of them. Already less time is being spent on single player games and more time is being spent on creating content and communities for the multiplayer aspect. With this trend we’re also seeing a reduction in quality and length; single player games rarely top 7 hours nowadays, some of them are buggy, and others aren’t living up to their potential.

I’ve been quiet about my discontent for some time, until I played Warhammer 40K: Space Marines, that is. The game was incredible, but only about 8 hours, tops. This is nothing compared to the RTS versions of the game, (which has also gotten shorter thanks to Dawn of War II). That being said, the game could have been so much longer! Instead, it’s getting a sequel—which is another terrible trend. If you have enough content for two games, why not just make one incredible game and make your fans happy?

When we were first shown teasers a few years back, Warhammer fans around the world were promised a revolutionary game with breathtaking environments, awesome characters, and the ability to shoot or cut up orks at close range. It was going to be completely different than the RTS, and insanely better than the action games that came before it. In a lot of ways, it did live up to it’s promises, but by offering an online mode, did Relic/Games Workshop/THQ truly give us something different? I don’t think so; online multiplayer has always been a feature of the RTS games, and I guess they couldn’t just stick to an offline game. I guess they were afraid that their countless fans would somehow be disappointed without this option. It’s not Black Ops; I didn’t expect it, nor want it.

I think what’s most damaging about this trend is that a lot of players aren’t even touching the single player campaigns if there’s a multiplayer option. I know a lot of people that haven’t even glanced at the single player campaign in Black Ops, for instance. And this is a terrible shame; a lot of work goes into making the story and narrative great and entertaining, and the levels fun and challenging! At the same time, a lot of players are avoiding games because they have multiplayer. Personally, I stopped playing Assassin’s Creed after 2, and I loved those games so very much. But I hardly wanted to continue playing the franchise after so much attention was put into its oh-so-amazing multiplayer mode.

There was a time when the core of a game was its story, but now it seems the core of any game is: how can we make this multiplayer? The bottom line is that single player and multiplayer games are two different games. I think that if a studio wants to create both, they should create them as two separate products, as they’re intended. I also think studios need to realize that not everyone can, or wants to, play online. Not everyone has incredible internet connections, or the courage to face the raucous community, or the patience to respawn endless times when you first get started. There is still a huge audience for single player games, and I sincerely hope studios in the future will realize there’s a potential there to make their games great again—and to justify the $70 price tags. I also hope that  Hitman: Absolution never gets multiplayer, else I will lose all faith in humanity.