If you can find a forum about any single-player game that does not feature the question ‘will there be a multiplayer mode?’, do let me know. It is all the rage right now. But, while multiplayer modes are great, they won’t be if every single game has the same one.
Which is better – Fortnite Battle Royale or PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds?
Multiplayer has been huge for years – doing stuff with friends is broadly accepted to be a good thing – but last year it had a surge in interest as developers and players gathered to warm themselves around the intense fire that is battle royale. Paladins is getting a battle royale mode, Dying Light: Bad Blood has stylings of the genre, and we could even see Destiny 2 or this year’s Call of Duty outfitted with a new game mode.
This is not the first time we have seen a mad rush to fill the multiplayer market. It happened before in the mid-’00s, with the likes of World of Warcraft, Call of Duty 4, Counter-Strike: Source, and Halo 3 blowing up due to the huge online communities they attracted. Publishers wanted the same for other games and so they started to force multiplayer modes on games that, arguably, do not warrant them. Remember Dead Space 2’s online mode? Exactly. Me neither.
The tacked-on multiplayer trend continued past then, with the likes of Crystal Dynamics’ abysmal attempt to ape Uncharted’s success with the competitive online mode in Tomb Raider’s 2013 reboot. Explaining why that mode existed in the first place, Eidos Montreal’s Daniel Bisson told Eurogamer that it was added in an attempt to prolong the game’s life. Such a sentiment epitomises the issue with tacked-on multiplayer modes: it is rarely part of the original idea and, while not always true, can often be a rushed afterthought created with shareholders in mind, rather than players.
The past year has seen some of the symptoms of this illness pop up again. Only, this time, it is campaign modes which are now suffering as a result of a heel-turn towards competitive multiplayer. Fortnite is a prime example, as its Save the World campaign was quickly left in the shadow of the Battle Royale mode once it proved more popular and, ultimately, more lucrative. Now campaigns are made to play second fiddle to a game’s multiplayer mode. Many single-player games, including Deus Ex, Prey, and Dishonored turned up disappointing sales figures, causing publishers to rethink their futures, which helped spread the false idea that single-player games are dying.
Off the back of this we are getting titles like Metal Gear Survive – a bizarre and divisive zombie-infested attempt to smash together the features of every popular online mode into one game, while riding on the coattails of the series it is part of by name alone. Yeesh. Look, I’m not advocating an isolationist future, far from it. But if every major game developer was to blindly follow the money rather than their creative vision, it would not just be single-player campaigns that suffer, but the state of multiplayer games, too.