Do Multiplayer-Focused Games Need Single-Player?

Do Multiplayer-Focused Games Need Single-Player?

Battlefield 3 is a great game, no doubt. The 9 that Allen gave it here at Darkstation is really in line with the rest of the industry, and it’s no wonder- the production values are high, the multiplayer is great, the engine it’s running on is like future technology, and besides a few problems with back-end EA problems, everything is smooth still and there’s hours of fun to be had. Oh, there’s also a single player experience, but it’s pretty universally panned. People call it slap-dash, tacked-on, basically an unoriginal me-too answer to the campaigns in Call of Duty, even ripping the same narrative structure from Black Ops. In the end, the singleplayer actually hurt the game, drawing unnecessary distaste for what is a great game in multiplayer. So there’s really just one question: do games like Battlefield 3, and other multiplayer-focused games, need single player?

It wasn’t until Doom that PCs really had online multiplayer, and consoles took even longer to get there; but we’re at a point where every system has internet capabilities, so playing together is even easier. Even handhelds (and the Wii) can get online, and there are a lot of people who don’t even pay attention to single player for the sake of getting online with friends. So wouldn’t everyone be happier if Battlefield, which is almost completely known as a multiplayer game, had just shipped with more multiplayer and cut the single player completely?

It’s not like there isn’t precedent for this. Games like Counter-Strike have been multiplayer only for years. Even in the current generation, there are games like Left 4 Dead and Brink that are completely online-based, to the point where the single player is just the multiplayer with bots. Plus, they’re still full-priced games, and they sold well enough, proving there is an audience for these types of games; and with marketing like EA’s behind it, Battlefield would still get great word-of-mouth.

However, with those games, there’s a heavy debate about the cost-to-entertainment ratio. $60 is not something most of us can just drop down every day on games, and when we do, we expect a certain amount of entertainment and lasting value from it. That’s what something like Counter-Strike had: a bunch of maps, heavy mod support, and updates to this day. It’s also something that Left 4 Dead completely failed- 4 maps for $60 gets really old really fast. However, there was still great support from the developer (on the PC), and new maps still come out every now and then, ensuring customer satisfaction.

Really, the best thing that games like Battlefield can do is ship with a good amount of modes and more than a handful of maps (a double handful, at the very least). I mean, ideally they’d have a strong single player, aided by a multiplayer that gives it more life, like Gears 3, but in reality, not everyone has the funds or time for it. Focusing on the part that you know people love about your series, though, would help in the end by making it a smoother user experience with deeper multiplayer content and no lazy-feeling single player to mar the experience.

So do multiplayer-focused games need a singleplayer mode? I would say no, but in the end, the developer would have to price accordingly. That $60 has to be warranted in on-disc content or free updates down the line. If you have less, you can always price lower, and a big-name game for a low value like that could really corner a part of the market. The developer has to know the strength of their game and capitalize on it. We’d have no choice but to thank them, really, for making such a great experience in the end and for giving us more of what’s great about their game.