Every so often, some developer, publisher or various industry bigwig sounds off about the death of the single-player game. It would appear that this year it was EA Games' President Frank Gibeau’s turn. Gibeau seems rather certain that unless a single-player game has some sort of online component, it’s going to go the way of the dodo.
Here’s what he had to say:
"...it’s not only about multiplayer, it’s about being connected. I firmly believe that the way the products we have are going they, need to be connected online. Multiplayer is one form of that.
…EA’s studio heads; they’ll tell you the same thing. They’re very comfortable moving the discussion towards how we make connected gameplay — be it co-operative or multiplayer or online services — as opposed to fire-and-forget, packaged goods only, single-player, 25-hours-and you’re out. I think that model is finished. Online is where the innovation, and the action, is at."
It shouldn’t go without mention that EA just dumped truck loads of money into purchasing both Playfish and Chillingo. Both of these companies are heavily entrenched in the ways of socially connected and online gaming, so of course EA would love for gamers to believe that this is the new path to glory for the industry.
The truth of the matter, though, is that online connectivity is still relatively new in the grand timeline of gaming. Progress is made as developers figure out what can be done with online connectivity as a tool at their disposal. Given this set of circumstances, it’s fairly natural for trends to currently reflect an interest in online play. However, public interest for what's hot and what's not in all mediums comes and goes over time.
An aspect of gaming that has been around the block a few times, and certainly before online gaming was even thought of as a possibility, is narrative. The single-player, story-driven experience has played a large part in gaming’s history, and has only really started to come into its own over the last couple of generations. Only recently have games even started coming close to competing with cinema in terms of delivering a great narrative experience, and many developers are helping them inch closer each day. Perhaps Gibeau should tell them to not bother wasting their time?
With games like Mass Effect, Heavy Rain, Mario Galaxy and God of War 3 hitting, and flying off of, the shelves, there’s still clearly plenty of room, not to mention demand, for single-player games without any sort of online component to speak of. The innovations in these games is absolutely as impressive as anything we've seen come from even the games with the best online components.
What do you think? Who wants to be the one to go hand Kratos his pink slip? Are offline single-player games in trouble, or is this just EA trying to get gamers on board with the investments they’ve made?