Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Playing with Yourself

My dad sent me an article in which former Sony executive and current boss of Infogrames, Phil Harrison, was quoted as saying the following about single-player games:

“I don't think the industry is going to make many more of those. I just don't think consumers want to be playing games that don't have some kind of network connectivity to them, or some kind of community embedded in them, or some kind of extension available through downloadable content.

Now, that's not to criticize Alone in the Dark [Infogrames’ upcoming single-player title] - it's just to recognize the industry is changing, and the role we play as creators and publishers has to reflect those changes. I don't think I'm alone in having those views, either.”

Harrison is hinting that he believes that single-player games are dying out as more people want multiplayer and online connectivity. I think Harrison could not be farther from the truth.

Multiplayer games, both competitive and co-op are gaining a ton of revenue right now and have been for quite awhile. Tons of people play shooters online from Halo 3, Call of Duty 4 and Team Fortress 2. World of Warcraft has over ten million players and aside from adding an expansion every couple of years, all Blizzard has to do is maintain and balance the game. Guitar Hero and Rock Band are hot commodities as well. Multiplayer gaming has really expanded out from the 4-player excitement that was the Nintendo 64.

But to think that single-player games will die out is simply ludicrous. Top-selling games are always mixed with multiplayer and single-player games. Final Fantasy, Mario, Zelda, and Metal Gear Solid are single-player games that have consistently shown, both over the past and present, that people buy and play games that focus on the single-player campaign.

There are thousands of gamers, including myself, that enjoy single-player experiences. Some in-game stories are so powerful that I feel as though I am playing in an interactive novel. To eliminate that experience and focus solely on multiplayer games would only cause the industry to negate the player expansion that they are having right now. The video game industry is expanding out to casual and multiplayer gamers from its base of core gamers; it’s building on top of itself, not changing completely.

Single-player games aren’t just solo experiences for the gamer. If you’ve ever played a Final Fantasy game or a Metal Gear Solid game, you become so invested in the story that you almost can’t help but talking about the game’s plot with another friend. Some people even enjoy watching single-player games. I love watching my roommate dominate Mega Man X and my girlfriend enjoys watching me play some RPGs especially if she can be a “techie” and look over a strategy guide while I play.

Games, whether multiplayer or not, invoke human contact and interaction and create their own community. A great single-player game doesn’t just stay with the gamer who played it. Great games are shared with a friend as the both of you go all giddy over some awesome cut scene, cool special attack or some plot twist.

Harrison is likely saying that single-player games are dying out because he would prefer it to be that way for his company. The article I linked before says it best: “Their job isn't to tell you how it ought to be in some pure philosophical space, it's to tell you how they'd prefer it to be, and it should come as no surprise that both are working like mad on major multiplayer initiatives. If multiplayer gaming were doomed, just to play devil's advocate, they'd each be out of a job, in other words.”

The video game industry needs more people who want to make great games, not just to make money. There are too many people like Harrison that just want to follow the trend and take the safe route because of what is popular. Harrison sounds as though he fears going against the grind because in this case, making a single-player game has too many risks right now. Maybe Harrison should follow the advice my political journalism professor, Kathy Engel, taught me: Creativity is the antidote for fear.


Franklin said...

Nice post, Richard. While it's fairly obvious that multi-player gaming has only gained in popularity, I agree with you about the fate of single-player gaming. While every major single-player series seems to now have some kind of multi-player option (Crystal Chronicles, Galaxy's "co-op mode", Four Swords, MGO, RE: Outbreak, etc.) they usually don't demand the same attention that the single-player ones do.

By the way, have you ever tried 6 Hour Power? It's an energy drink that's great for gamers since it provides long-lasting energy without the crash. You might have seen the commercial for it on G4 before.

It's sugar free, has zero calories, and comes in 5 different flavors. Check them out at

I hope you don't mind me commenting on your blog. If you have any questions feel free to send me an e-mail. I'd love to hear your thoughts about the drink.

Franklin Keane
Brand Ambassador

Lima said...

As a gamer who loves to play with herself, I have to agree with you that one player games are far from by the wayside. then again I sort of hate online massive multiplayer games with a passion.

also your links (and general writing) on this post have been even more amusing than usual. ^_^

Anonymous said...

1. Showing a picture of underage boys in an article entitled 'Playing With Yourself'? Shame on you.

2. I would probably play video games 90% less without a single player option.

shawn said...

Ditto from me dude - I'm all about single-player games. I know we're a small, nonrepresentative sample, but yeah, single-player games are almost exclusively what I'm interested in. Call me crazy.

On another note, what's the deal with the 6-Hour-Power ad/post? I smell endorsement potential. Go corporate sponsorship.

Franklin said...


We're also doing a 'design a t-shirt' contest where if you win you get a PS3 or Xbox 360 (your choice), a copy of Rise of the Argonauts, a year's supply of 6 Hour Power, and 10 t-shirts with your design on it. For more details go here:

We'd love to see Table Salt Games make a post about this to let all the readers know about it. If you're interested in doing that just shoot me an e-mail. 8)

Franklin Keane

Richard R. said...

@franklin: Interesting. I will try the drink, for sure. I'll be sure to give you an e-mail soon as well.

@lima: Ah, well thank you, I try to please my audience. Which, according to who comments the most, is mostly you, will and shawn.

@Will: 1. Good catch. I am a bad person. 2. I agree. I need one-player games.

@shawn: Endorsement deal? Now that would be cool. As long as the people who post on the blog aren't bots (or just idiots), I don't mind people advertising stuff.

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