The game has just arrived in your mailbox. Carefully, you break open the plastic cover to reveal your new baby and virtual companion. You have been reading months about how its campaign and story will evolve and you are feeling the hype as you push the disc in. After watching the company logos and a slight intro, you venture yourself through the different game modes only to discover, to your surprise and disappointment, that there is no multi player.
Reactions like these are the norm nowadays. The sense of value in games has deeply changed as gamers expect to leave the disc in the drive for longer, thus the presence (or absence) of multi player modes becomes a key factor towards deciding where to use your money on. This though is not necessarily the indicative of a good game.
In the old days, the main reason for not including a multi-player would be either technical reasons or the fact that a developer would prefer to spend more time tuning the single-player experience. However, developers today feel obliged in many occasions to introduce a multi-player mode to appease the more than predictable clamour that arises after a full priced game is finished in 10 hours or less. Therefore, we have seen a multi-player mode introduced in games that did not benefit particularly from it apart than the fact of having the sticker on the box “Multi-player enabled”.
Some games have been criticized back in the day for the absence of it despite offering compelling single player experiences. Games such as Bioshock or Vanquish, 2 excellent games, were laid aside by many because of the lack of it; Bioshock pulled it through by offering an excellent campaign, but the sequel didn’t save itself from the multi player presence and it is yet to be confirmed whether Bioshock Infinite will include it or not (Co-op maybe?). Max Payne 3, a story focused shooter, will see multi-player appear for the 1st time in the series and we have seen Battlefield introduce a single player as it already did with the more console oriented Bad Company sub-series in an intent to overthrow the all-powerful Modern Warfare.
Is it necessary for a dev to split their time by developing 2 experiences? EA and Activision have solved this by assigning multiple teams to a same project to not hinder from the focus and thus creating a mode that doesn’t seem complete. Although this can be a viable choice, you might just end with 2 experiences in the same game that are, and feel, different (like the latest Medal of Honor). Flying Wild Hog released just recently Hard Reset, leaving everybody aghast when they announced it as a single player game only; as a shooter, this is an extreme rarity. Then again, the studio said that this was to deliver the best game possible to the players, but this is not an opinion that many players agree with.
Personally, I am more enthusiastic about new single player experiences. However, this doesn’t mean that I rule out the multi-package approach, quite the opposite, but I don’t want my experience hindered because a producer thought that to sell the game they need to split development time on extra game modes.
Give us your call! Are you one of those players that never touches the single-player if there is a multi player involved? Do you prefer the solo approach? How influential is the presence of a multi-player in your purchases?