Nintendo has long been a harbinger of innovation in video games, and in this past decade we have watched them create whole new markets out of basically everyone but stereotypical “gamers” (if that term has any meaning anymore). Possibly in keeping with their penchant for reaching out to those untapped niches – and riches – a Nintendo US patent application dating from early 2010 (and just recently published) claims the “Massively Single-Player Online Game” for itself. Is MSO an oxymoron? Not really, though with our traditional Massively Multiplayer Online games you could be forgiven for thinking so.
The patent describes several possibilities of drawing in elements of the MMO without fully interacting with those pesky humans in far away lands. Examples include a market system based on supply, demand, and rarity; persistent NPCs whose dialog and actions are affected by other players in the same world (that you never see); and a persistent, changeable world that reflects the actions of other players without you ever seeing those players yourself (but you would see the structures they built, for example). In addition, the patent suggests that people could interact directly with their friends (as in, those people in their friend lists) in the game world without direct interaction with non-friends, a distinction that will be appreciated by anyone who has been hounded by griefers online.
From the patent application:
“Those who want to play games that are more dynamic, not based on AI and not pre-scripted like multiplayer games, however, don’t want to ‘deal’ with other people, appreciate the privacy it provides.”
If you’re paying attention you will have realized that maybe all of these ideas have been done before, but leave it to Nintendo to take what is there in front of us and turn it into an intriguing new focus or even a new genre. For example, what about single-player games where players can play as the enemies or boss characters? You could become notorious for being the most dangerous Glass Joe (Punch Out), Metal Man (Mega Man 2), or General RAAM (Gears of War) boss player there is. What if you needed to cross a river, for example, but only the players on the other side had access to the building materials that are required? In this scenario, players could become the driving forces for advancement–the quest-givers–by posting jobs for others to fulfill, and each quest could be as unique as the people asking for them to be completed.
Possibilities abound, and it will be interesting to see if Nintendo takes the ideas in this application and marries MMO elements with single-player games. With the 3DS selling poorly, Nintendo may be looking for the next big monetization, and it should be noted that persistent worlds often come with persistent price tags. We would prefer to rein in that cynicism and focus on the potential, at least until the games are announced.
Are you excited about the possibilities presented by MSOs, or do you prefer your online play to be filled with the curses of downed human opponents? Let us know with a comment.