September 24, 2021

No, Single Player Games Aren’t Dead.


So, the industry wants to convince us – AGAIN – that Single Player games are no more.

Look, this isn’t the first time this has happened. We get this every few years, with the industry enamoured with the loot crate slash micro-transaction model of business and the potential of profit that such things bring (ironically this is happening during a push-back against such business practices – good job games industry!) to the point that they say that the single player game is no more, it has ceased to be and the future is driven by multiplayer and micro-transactions.

Which is kind of funny. Seen this years releases?

That’s an awful lot of single-player games getting highly rated, eh? And all are doing well sales-wise to boot! Truly, it is a miracle… (oh sorry, the sarcasm doesn’t get through here…)

Look, this isn’t even about arguing the case for single player games because the industry is awash in this kind of nonsensical B.S. – PC Gaming is Dead, NintenDoomed, JRPG’s are over, Who Wants A Handheld Console Anyway, Call of Doody Is All That Matters and on and on and friggin’ ON it goes. If the industry is telling you something is out of fashion, chances are it’s just come back into fashion. If the games industry says something is dead, chances are it’s never been more alive. This would be amusing if it didn’t innately prove to most consumers how out of touch and out of step the games industry happens to be with current trends – I mean, good job games industry, glad you’re eager to exploit the Nintendo Switch now. But hey, had to sell before you guys got out of your bubble – by the by, how’s VR treating you? Yeah! Yeah…

It’s more about the idea that perhaps, rather than actively trying to convince consumers a thing is dead – how about, and I know this is an outrageous suggestion so bear with me here because I might be about to blow some minds with this one, how about… you know… letting your customers decide this?

Thing is, look at some of these games that are selling – they’re not all big-budget powerhouses with turbo-charged graphics. A lot of these games – Hollow Knight, SteamWorld Dig 2 and so on – are quite modest in what hardware they require. What they do is build a game worth playing, worth getting into – the visuals come later and are usually married in with the theme, the story and the genre. In essence, consumers have been slowly and by degrees shifting to the low and mid-tier software market.

Of course, I’m not surprised by that. These games tend to be cheaper and tend to have more content than their big-budget offerings – the value for money argument doesn’t always hold up, of course, but by and large people are starting to realise that bigger-budget doesn’t always mean better. There’s also the quite valid observation that many of these games don’t come with too many hidden costs – they’re usually complete offerings, you get what you’re given with no strings attached and in an era where the law is threatening to make loot crates and micro-transactions in video games very hard or costly, there’s an appealing aspect to knowing you can buy a game and that’s kind of it – that’s the game that you paid for. And when they do add DLC, it’s usually ample DLC content – you think, yeah, this was made to keep me engaged and I’m okay spending a little more to get a few more hours out of this game.

The industry has created a situation where it can argue the death of single player games all it wants – they’ve made it possible for these games to thrive. They’ve created the perfect market conditions for games like this to make insane amounts of money. And of course, we’ve got Mario Odyssey to come yet – no doubt a massive hitter for the Switch this month, which is… oh yes! A single player platform game.

One thing is becoming clear – the industry isn’t dying. Heck, the Nintendo Switch is doing something most didn’t expect and driving growth in the market. The reason things hit a downward trend wasn’t because of any egregious business practice – though they may have their place in the end – but because the industry has stopped listening to its audience on the whole. It has become a cliche unto itself that the industry seems to do exactly the opposite of what consumers want – after all, remember when Capcom convinced itself that old-style Resident Evil was no longer wanted? One of the biggest re-releases in recent years was the Resident Evil Remake – old-style Resident Evil.

As such, it’s not a surprise that gamers have shrugged and headed off to pastures like the mid-tier market (and that it is thriving again makes me so happy I could literally kiss most of these developers). Gamers want to have fun, but they also want a good deal. And rather like Hollywood this year, extravagant expenditure when most are gravitating to different market spheres (in the case of Hollywood, streaming is starting to bite) only ends up with you looking around and going “Where did everybody go?”

They went to a better party, with a host that isn’t so narcissistic that it’s jacking off in front of its audience and expecting them to pay for the privilege. Wait, can I say that with recent revelations from Hollywood? Eh… you kind of know what I mean I hope.

The industry – or rather, the third-party sphere – needs to realise that it’s become far too self-absorbed. A healthy industry is founded on a two-way street; meet consumer demand, consumers give you money. The moment you get to the point that you’re greedily and obsessively trying to convince people that rifling through their wallets and taking out twenties is “for the good of the industry”, yeah. They’ll go elsewhere. Who wants to hang around with that guy?

Hell, two of the most anticipated upcoming games are Mario Odyssey and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. Single player games. Think of the biggest games in recent years; GTA5, Skyrim, Breath of the Wild, Pok√©mon Sun and Moon, DOOM… all driven by single player offerings.

… but to close, there is a place for these big-budget behemoths and no, it’s not in the trashcan. But you can’t just declare something dead when it isn’t. You can’t replace one thing with another – and you especially can’t do it with words. Hell, think of all the people who’ve tried to kill Nintendo. I mean, people say EA stabbed Nintendo in the back over the Wii U but in truth it stabbed Nintendo in the front. But Nintendo is still here, after twenty-odd years of people declaring the company “doomed”. If it was possible to change the world with words, Donald Trump wouldn’t be President of the United States of America right now. Oh, and Nintendo would have gone bankrupt years ago.

If the industry wants these games to take deeper root, it has to cultivate a market and deliver content that makes it work. Hell, the reason Nintendo made a comeback was because it pulled itself up by the socks, looked at where hardware was headed, asked itself what worked and what didn’t with their last console and made something that people wanted. Right now, for far too many big publishers, they basically look like a kid having a tantrum, fingers in ears, screaming “LALALALALA I’M NOT LISTENING I KNOW I’M RIGHT LALALALALA!”

And they want to know why we’re tiring of them?

I mean… I’d point out the obvious, but I’m getting a bit tired of pointing out the obvious…


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