Sunday Meditation: The Multiplayer Separation
This whole “multiplayer for everyone” thing might be phasing out.
It's no secret that the popularity multiplayer has experienced in the PS3 and 360 generation led a lot of franchises, old and new, to integrate the feature. In some circles, including our own community, that caused some controversy. The theory of course was that focus on the multiplayer feature was a use of resources that didn't go into a quality single player experience.
I think there's some truth to that since many franchises that hadn't used the feature before saw a drop in their scores among critics while the original gameplay focus seemed to change to better accommodate competitive gaming. God of War: Ascension comes to mind. You may disagree, but in any case I think I see some preliminary signs that we could be in for a change in the new generation.
Right in our own backyard we've got two big titles that aren't even willing to pay lip service to the idea of multiplayer: inFamous: Second Son and The Order: 1886. On the other side of the fence Microsoft has funded Respawn's Titanfall, which is exclusively multiplayer. The game integrates single player elements into its multiplayer core, which sounds an awful lot like the upcoming Destiny from Bungie. You may also recall that Bungie wasn't exactly keen on labeling Destiny as an MMO. So it probably isn't accurate to just say that MMOs are becoming more popular and that's all there is to it.
At the end of this month the Thief reboot will land without competitive multiplayer as another game where the refrain from the developers was that they want to put their all into what they do best. Some lucky folks are already in the beta for The Elder Scrolls Online, which they refuse to tell me about due to those darn NDAs, but that is beside point. :) Instead of adding multiplayer to the next iteration Bethesda knew it would be more lucrative to make separate games. They probably also knew that integrating multiplayer into the experience that we are used to could be a bridge too far.
Some games may never separate. For instance I don't see any reason to pull the multiplayer out of Uncharted, you might have trouble selling an MP-only Uncharted. And even though most fans of Call of Duty are only playing for the multiplayer, one of the big selling points for that game is the full package of a single player game, a co-op game, a challenge game, and an online game all in one. I could see them going the Titanfall route and integrating the SP and MP some day but I doubt it will happen any time soon since the formula for now is still winning.
So do you think that's evidence enough to hope for a future separation of these two modes of play or is it just a timeout from the multiplayer in everything trend? Furthermore, do you prefer to get it all in one package for $60 or do you prefer they separate out into more distinctly focused games?
2/15/2014 David D. Nelson