Can single player games survive in a market moving towards multiplayer games, free to play, and games as a service style methods of content delivery? For a while, it seemed like the answer might be no, but then last year and this year, the success of games such as Horizon, Zelda, Mario, God of War, Persona, Nier, Assassin’s Creed, Xenoblade, and so on, seems to suggest that they could do well.
One of the developers that is committed to making strong narrative drive single player experiences is Eidos Montreal. Noting that they want to continue making those kinds of games, they nonetheless noted in an interview with GamesIndustry that while single player games will survive and thrive, they also need to evolve to do so.
“It’s a question of maybe trends, or moment, or timing,” Eidos Montreal boss David Anfossi said. “Every year there is a new trend. At the moment it’s Fortnite – which is a great game – and all the attention is around these kinds of games. But we just have to wait. I don’t want to change a Deus Ex game or experience. We want to be respectful to that.”
“There are these trends every year, or every two years. Whether it is multiplayer, co-op, MMO or single player. If you deliver the right quality experience, you will reach the audience you want.
“That being said, I believe that the story-driven experience is going through a generational change. Especially for people like me, the old guys… people who are 25 or older. Looking at God of War, that’s a pretty good example of a great single-player experience. I like it a lot, but I might not get the time to complete it. For me, that’s a frustration. Because when you start a story-driven experience you want to see the conclusion. So we have to adapt and try new models.”
So what’s the solution here? Cheaper and shorter story drive games might be something, he suggests. “This is just my opinion, I’m not committing to anything – let’s say that we develop a very good narrative, with a complex universe and strong characters. You start the game and then you complete it in three hours. That costs $30. That’s it. Maybe that’s the way to continue with story-driven games. You bring a strong experience, you make sure that the audience is interested by it, and that they can actually complete it.
“We always ask ourselves about that. But single-player for me is as strong as before, and it should continue.”
I understand where he is coming from, and I understand the need for third parties to ask themselves these kinds of existential questions- while Sony and Nintendo are first parties who can subsidize single player games to drive sales of their consoles, third parties don’t have that luxury. It will be interesting to see how they deal with the concept of single player games going forward.