Doom Watch: The Demise of Single Player Games?

Over at Develop, Frank Gibeau of EA offers his thoughts on the future of the console games industry.

I volunteer you to speak to EA’s studio heads; they’ll tell you the same thing. They’re very comfortable moving the discussion towards how we make connected gameplay – be it co-operative or multiplayer or online services – as opposed to fire-and-forget, packaged goods only, single-player, 25-hours-and you’re out. I think that model is finished.

Online is where the innovation, and the action, is at.

I’m inclined to say he’s right.  Console video games are expensive, and when pitting a 10 hour single player campaign against a 100 hour+ multi-player mode, multi-player is the better value for $60.  I would modify one part of that quote though: “I think that model, in the console gaming industry, is finished.”  And when I say, console gaming industry, I don’t mean to include mobile gaming on i-devices and android.  Nor does it include DLC games.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if people at the top of the console gaming industry really thought that games begin and end with them.  There is plenty of “action” to be had with single player games, it’s just that their model for publishing games has failed.

Which may very well be a good thing.  Alec Meer had a chance to interview Notch, of Minecraft fame, and one subject to come up was the flagging PC games industry.  Notch’s opinion was that the void left by the lack of big name PC games allowed for indie games to get more attention.  There is more breathing space for new ideas, and that’s been a very good thing for gaming on the whole.  I would suspect that the same would be true with console game publishers.  Frank Gibeau might make it sound like single player games as we knew them are done for, but we could actually see many more, much better single-player games.  We already see this to an extent at Xbox Live Arcade, the mobile market, and as already noted, the PC market.  These games have been inexpensive and accessible across the board.

If big console publishers think that they are best suited to provide the service and technology required for multi-player games, then that’s awesome if they can focus more on doing that even better.  So I take this as rather optimistic news.  It will be interesting to see how new ideas can fill the void that publishers like EA leave behind.


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