Opinion: Why Is Online Play Becoming A Standard?

When did we come to accept that online multiplayer was something that should come as standard? Gaming’s rapidly moved on from the days of playing mostly single player games, and it’s skipped past the point at which we’d all cluster round the same screen, playing in one room.

There’s certainly still room for the latter of those, nights of FIFA and Just Dance confirm this more than any other games I can think of, but online does seem to be becoming a focus for almost all developers. They’ll say that people clamour for multiplayer if you ask them, although they’ve certainly driven some of that demand in an attempt to improve the long term viability of a game’s revenue stream.

[drop]Is this prevalence of online something that’s universally loved? I’m certainly not all that on board with it, and judging by the occasional uproar we see I’m not entirely alone. Remember when Ubisoft announced the inclusion of multiplayer in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and the outrage it caused? Of course Ubisoft actually did fairly well in the end, implementing a nice set of multiplayer options that complimented the game’s pre-existing gameplay style. It didn’t set the world on fire like the original Modern Warfare, but they managed to craft something interesting.

Sadly I feel like that experience has become the exception rather than the rule. More and more often developers seem to be cramming in multiplayer that doesn’t always fit, with the public and press complaining if it’s “missing” whilst bemoaning poor implementations. It feels like a lose/lose situation for developers, although I do wonder if a poor multiplayer section of a game is better than no multiplayer from a financial.

Personally, I’m perfectly content with shelling out £35 for a good single player experience but it does feel like I’m becoming fairly old fashioned. Look at Assassin’s Creed or Rocksteady’s Batman games though, they’re great experiences that I feel are more than worth their RRP for the single player. Beyond reviews I’ve never felt the need to play Assassin’s Creed multiplayer, or to contribute to leaderboards in Batman Arkham City’s Challenge Mode, yet I count them amongst my favourite games.

Even when playing Call of Duty I’ve never really had the desire to dip my toe into the game’s multiplayer. I’ll sit there and happily blast away whatever vaguely generic enemy they put in front of me in the game’s campaign but there’s no real desire to take myself over to the multiplayer option and start trying to take out my fellow gamers. I’ll admit that with those game I’m not always happy at the price given that I won’t be playing the multiplayer, which is probably why I think I’ve only ever been loaned or given Call of Duty titles past Call of Duty 2, and that only got a look in because it came with my 360.

[drop2]The problem I have with multiplayer growth, beyond the simple fact that it so often feels like an almost insulting afterthought, is simply one of development resources. I don’t feel that adding multiplayer to a game draws any money or time away from the single player component once development’s been mapped out, but it’s obvious that when a game’s in the planning stages that resources need to be allocated appropriately and that certain aspects of the game may be scaled back at that point in response to resource concerns.

That doesn’t mean that a game would automatically have more poured into the single player if the multiplayer didn’t exist but it does seem a likely outcome. Either that or the resources would be allocated to an existing title or even used to create a new one, opening up the possibility of more games and ideas appearing if everyone wasn’t quite so committed to the multiplayer experience.

Despite the occasional ruckus that the inclusion of multiplayer makes I do suspect I’m in the minority here and that many of you will support the growth of multiplayer gaming and that’s a good thing. If it’s what you enjoy then you should certainly push for it but for me it just isn’t holding my interest. Bring me a game with a great story or some enjoyable gameplay then I’ll be hooked but I’m not going to pick up a game based solely on its multiplayer component, no matter how good it is.



  1. Since pubs figured they could charge another £40 or so.

    • I’m sure that’s the reason they work hard to implement it, but it wouldn’t be a viable option if it weren’t the consensus favorite among the majority of gamers. Firstly, this is a continually brought up topic by gaming opinion sites, and understandably being that realistically all editors will be old enough to be from a time where single player games were near enough the only option. But you guys do need to take your affixed nostalgia glasses off and realize the basic truth about the human: it is a social animal. So being shocked or confused with the very social direction that smart phones are going, the huge growth, dissemination of social sites or the implementation of a very social feature in all games is shamefully short sighted. Not that you consciously think in that way, but you do seem oblivious that this is successful because of us, and you can’t argue that it extends the life of games.

      • And not saying that online is implemented well, but then, that’s not the point.

  2. Can’t say I’m eager to spend a lot of money on a game SP or MP, as long as it has enough play time to justify the money (Dark souls is through the bloody roof on that one).

    Interesting article as I think there is conflict between the need for gaming to be MP (A-creed, dead space, bioshock etc all were SP originally) and the need to actually create a meaningful story. Shooters just aren’t interesting in story or SP gameplay, doesn’t anyone care about experimenting with narrative and cinematic styles.

    Well I care, hence why I can’t be bothered with most mainstream games, only the more artistic ones (MGS, BlazBlue, Journey, ICO). I mean Journey’s approach to MP was in actual fact fantastic, but it was creative, and the SP took centre stage in dev.

  3. My main issue with multiplayer being included in nearly every game is the impact on trophies. There are 90% of games I will have no chance of getting a platinum on because I very rarely play online, a slow unreliable connection means its not worth the hassle.

    • I second that, I think it was Halo 3 I got just under 900G but the rest could not be achieved cos of damn MP.

      Also DLC seems more focused on MP when they could be spending time adding more to the SP.

      • I agree with you two the online trophies do my head in because there are some i will never do or they shut the servers down beforw i get round to doin them and being a trophy whore is becoming harder and harder with online trophies

  4. I don’t think your in the minority at all. Multiplayer is perfectly fine – in certain types of game (FPS/Sports/Racers/Beat Em Ups) but is not really suited to (RPG/Adventure/Hack and Slash).

    I do on occasion play online and have fun however I have far more fun engrossed in massive action adventures like Skyrim or Dishonored (same publisher so at least one knows how to make SP only games sell).

    No I don’t like it when Publishers needlesly try to shoehorn MP into EVERYTHING (EA i’m looking at you). Dragon Age 3 is reputedly going to have some MP features? Really – REALLY. Maybe a MP awkward sex up the dwarf mini-game?

    • RPGs and action games aren’t suited for online play? I’m confident then that you’ve never been introduced to MMOs.

      • lol ok I should re-phrase it “good RPG’s” :D

        And yes played Wow for 5 years but class MMO’s more social messing about sims rather than fun RPG :)

  5. Too many games are shoe-horning MP in these days.
    A lot of my best gaming experiences came from single player games.

    I think they should leave rpg’s alone and also games like Dead Space/Resi. As soon as they throw co-op into those kind of games…I dunno, they just lose their main draw for me.

    MP should be saved for FPS, sports and beat em ups, although I reckon a game like Torchlight would be welcome on PS3. A good old loot em up with buddies :)

  6. Lovely article although there’s scores of us still interested in single player. Some genres lend themselves supremely well to such things whilst others belong in the multi-player camp. For me, it’s all about co-op (preferably local but online is fine) and singleplayer. Competitive multi-player I simply couldn’t give a flying fudge about. Actually, it puts me off a game but as long as the single player portion of the title is still good entertainment then count me in.

    Sadly, Kris, it has to be about the attempted prolonging of the revenue stream, as you mentioned. It appears a little shameless but we’ve seen some publishers do a slap-up job of integrating multi-player into a well respected single player affair.

  7. From PS1 through to PS2 & Xbox myself and a few buddies used to get together for a gaming night every week with a few beers and pizza and have a laugh. That has now died due to to the ommision of split screen games this generation. Yes we can all join up on multiplayer games online but the fun factor isnt there anymore. and isn’t the same experience. The last game i really played online for any period of time was Burnout Paradise.

    I also agree with arrybags about trophies. There are lots of games ill never platinum as i really dont want to play online with certain games.. You also then have the problem of games having online multiplayer that no longer have online servers. Therefore making any trophies reedundant and cutting out a chunk of the game that would have still been there with splitscreen gaming.

    Perhaps im just too old for gaming now as i can think of nothing worse than listening to so called elite players who spend hours a day on multiplayer games (perhaps getting a job might be a good idea) shouting noob over a microphone when you jump into an online game for the first time and not being uber awesome straight away.

    Gaming has changed and not always for the better unfortunately. I’ll get my pipe and slippers and hobble over to my comfy chair now and remember days gone by with my rose tinted glasses on. Mind the zimmer frame as you go past :P

  8. The last game I played in split screen was Perfect Dark Zero/Gears of War back in 2006/2007 I think, while at my mates house.

  9. because i got loads of friends in cyber world..

  10. I feel indifferently about multiplayer in FPSs or adventure type games, I’m mostly interested in an engrossing story. I think I’ve slipped into the group who prefer coop to competitive, if there’s a choice, especially the drop-in sort found in Journey, Peace Walker and Wipeout 2048. I think racing games though should always include at least a simple online multiplayer offering, competition is sort of implied by the genre whereas in FPSs and adventures it isn’t.

    • Next time we’re on a good co-op game, I’ll let you know. Feel free to shout at me until I listen, though. Just in case I forget. ;-)

      • Thanks dude! Youles will testify that unfortunately I’m an awkward one to organise meets with, I work shifts and like to keep evenings free if me and my girlfriend are both at home. The odd night that she’s out and I’m in then coop will be on :)

      • No probs. we don’t play many co-op games as there’s never really enough of them to enjoy with any real frequency. See you when hell freezes over. ;-)

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