Thursday, August 25, 2011

The future of single-player games: Part 2

Many in the game industry have been declaring the age of the unconnected single-player game is over; other say it’s exactly that unconnected part that makes a single-player game the experience that it is.

“I certainly see a lot of the industry moving in the direction of more community, more multiplayer, that sort of stuff,” said Prince of Persia producer Ben Mattes. “But in my opinion, there are things you can do in a carefully crafted single-player game – experiences you can create, emotions you can elicit and magnitudes of engaging the player – that you’re not going to reproduce in the uncontrolled environment of multiplayer.”

Single play is an essential part of what games are. Videogame’s greatest achievement and contribution has been its refinement of the single player experience. Before these electronic boxes connected to our TVs, single player games were a novelty experiences, best known for games such as Patience and Solitaire. Card games, board games and sports all required multiple people. Games had to be an organized activity with simple pick-up-and-play rules.
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Bioshock Infinite looks to make lightning strike
 twice with its inspired single player 2012 sequel
The invention of artificial intelligence was video game’s Holy Grail. Now it was about the player. You play at your speed, on your own time, in your own way, and stop playing when you choose. Games could now become deeper, more complex experiences and manipulate players’ emotions through narrative storytelling. In the end, it’s always about the player and the reason the global video game business in June 2011, was valued at $65 billion in only 35 years’ time.
“For some time yet, there’s going to be a market of people who say, ‘You know what, pander to me. Suck me into your world and just make me believe. I don’t want to be distracted by griefers and high scores, and dealing with the stuff not everybody loves about multiplayer games.’ I do think there is still a significant market there,” said Mattes.

If single-player is crucial to the foundation of video games, its continued survival relies on it offering the player something multiplayer can’t. Developers must continue to grow creatively with their stories and how they deliver them. Sony made huge strides this generation pushing single-player games in new and exciting directions.
“In my opinion, single-player-only games are nowhere close to being doomed. The problem rather lies in how they’re produced, through which channels they’re sold, and at which price points,” Shadows of the Damned director Massimo Guarini told Gamespot. “I can’t see in any way a single-player experience being less engaging or interesting because of the absence of multiplayer. Instead, I can definitely see how players who pay 60 or 70 bucks for a game can be quite sensitive to the lack of additional features that can justify their investment.”
Guarini, like many in the game business said the industry needs a new business model, and should learn from the mistakes the music industry made during their digital revolution.
“We’re still selling at incredibly high price points because we’re still operating like we were five years ago, with just higher production costs. Instead of changing our perspectives, we’re still struggling to pack games with features, extras, bonuses, achievements, in order to barely justify that price tag, which is given by excessively high development and licensing costs,” Guarini added.
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Skyrim's grand single-player adventure is a
strong contender for Game of 2011
Many original IPs have a very hard time reaching any amount of success when they don’t come with a built-in audience. Gamers don’t want to gamble their $60 on an unknown title when they can buy another Halo or Call of Duty. EA took a chance in 2008 when it launched multiple new IPs which ultimately struggled and led to lower profit projections that fiscal year.

 “Original IPs developed with the traditional business model represents a huge risk and require big investments for appropriate promotion. Unfortunately, because of our excessively long development schedule, we couldn’t get a big enough promotion budget to reach out to players in an effective way,” said Guarini.

Despite Shadows of the Damned difficulties, Guarini believes new products are the lifeblood of the industry and the difficulty of launching a new IP is a major issue for industry going forward. The death of the single player may indeed come one day if the only way a company can make money is to release yet another Call of Duty knockoff. Oh the humanity.


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