Does Every Game Have To Have Multiplayer?
With the recent announcement of God of War: Ascension and its multiplayer mode I couldn’t help but think, why? Does the game even need multiplayer? For that matter does every game need multiplayer?
Once upon a time multiplayer was rare and only a certain set of games like FPS’s had multiplayer. Back in the day it was more common to have Co-op than to have multiplayer. However after the rise of Xbox Live and Halo, multiplayer seemed to become the key to a games longevity and success. Slowly but surely every first person shooter under the sun had some multiplayer thrown in, whether it was good or not every game seemed to have it.
Sports games caught the multiplayer bug, then fighting games jumped online and now action adventure games are getting on the boat. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good multiplayer like the next man, but sometimes it feels like the multiplayer is just an add on. Another bullet point on the back of a box. There is a drastic difference between a game with good and thoughtful multiplayer and a game that throws in a poor man’s version of a deathmatch. Worse yet it seems that some games suffer in the single player department due to the focus on multiplayer.
Case in point, Ninja Gaiden 3. The xbox reboot of Ninja Gaiden was excellent, and the follow-up sequels were great, everyone was gravy…. until the third iteration. Not only was the single player experience a step backwards but the multiplayer was god awful. Was this due to their split focus of single and multiplayer? Or was the game doomed from the start? It’s hard to say but the question still remains, why? Ninja Gaiden was a great singleplayer game that didn’t suffer due to a lack of multiplayer. The success of the game was due to its action and level of difficulty and while multiplayer was one of those things that gamers talked about it, its ultimate implementation was wrought with problems. The series was better off when the whole focus was on the single player.
A single player experience is vastly different from a multi player one. The trend I find most disturbing is this concept that a game is only valuable if it has multiplayer, a sense that a single experience just isn’t worth the price tag. However I ask, how many times have gamers replayed classics like Final Fantasy VII? How many hours did people put into Castlevania: Symphony of the Night? By today’s standards those games would be throwaway titles that are doomed for the bargain bin within months.
However we know that that is not true, that a game with a truly unique and deep single player can have the longevity of a multiplayer, in fact even more. Because what happens when the players stop logging into the game? What happens once you can’t find any matches? Eventually all multiplayer games die, even sooner if the publisher pulls the hosting. But a strong single player experience never goes away, it never dies, as long as you enjoy the game it will survive.
Though an exception to the rule is a game like Demon’s Souls. They wove a multiplayer experience that felt single and multi at the same time. When the multiplayer servers shut down (which is sadly very soon) the game will still live on as an amazing single player game. That is the sort of multiplayer experience that some games need, a hybrid single/multi player experience that can stand on its own.
While I don’t want games to stop striving toward the magical lands of multiplayer I do wish that more developers would understand that not every game has to have it. God of War was a great game before multiplayer, and in fact all the elements that make it so enjoyable aren’t really applicable to multiplayer. While I’m willing to keep my mind open when it comes to God of War: Ascension and its multiplayer I just can’t help but find myself hoping that single player doesn’t suffer for it.