Gearbox Software's president, Randy Pitchford, has voiced his dislike regarding publishers adding a multiplayer feature into games that are unsuited to that experience. His reasoning? Publishers' obsession with creating content rich games to compete with blockbuster titles like Call of Duty.
While many AAA titles released in the past few years have included a multiplayer option, a good amount are shooters. Several other titles that have been considered AAA that are without multiplayer have usually been RPGs like the Mass Effect or Fallout series.
These titles have offered incredibly in-depth experiences without the need of multiplayer, although some people have always wanted the inclusion of the feature in the game.
Pitchford's statement, made to EDGE Magazine, talks about multiplayer being a tick box on a list of features a game should include, rather than letting it be created organically to better serve the game experience.
"Let’s forget about what the actual promise of a game is and whether it’s suited to a narrative or competitive experience. Take that off the table for a minute and just think about the concept-free feature list: campaign, co-op, how many players? How many guns? How long is the campaign?"
“When you boil it down to that, you take the ability to make good decisions out of the picture. And the reason they do it is because they notice that the biggest blockbusters offer a little bit for every kind of consumer. You have people that want co-op and competitive, and players who want to immerse themselves in deep fiction. But the concept has to speak to that automatically; it can’t be forced. That’s the problem."
“They’re wrong, of course. What they should do instead is say that they’re comfortable with the ceiling, and get as close to the ceiling as possible. Put in whatever investment’s required to focus it on what the promise is all about."
Pitchford used Dead Space 2 as the prime example. The original featured a great single player experience that was rich with story and had great gameplay. When the sequel was released and the developers included a multiplayer option - it was clear it didn't compliment the series.
The decision to include the feature was made to generate more sales for the title, but Pitchford talks about lowering expectations, rather than try to compete with games like Black Ops that break $1 billion in sales.
“It’s ceiling-limited; it’ll never do 20 million units. The best imaginable is a peak of four or five million units if everything works perfectly in your favour. So the bean counters go: ‘How do I get a higher ceiling?’ And they look at games that have multiplayer."
“They’re wrong, of course. What they should do instead is say that they’re comfortable with the ceiling, and get as close to the ceiling as possible. Put in whatever investment’s required to focus it on what the promise is all about.”
Randy Pitchford's statement isn't wrong at all. Some sequels have featured a multiplayer option that wasn't entirely suitable to the experience, including a series like BioShock, which could be used as another example. The original had an incredible single player experience that was highly focused. The sequel's multiplayer didn't just feel like a tacked on addition - it felt at odds with the game.
Strong single player games can still be hugely successful and fun. Games like Batman: Arkham City have opted not to include multiplayer in order to create a much stronger single player experience and look to be much better off. Whether or not publishers will take Pitchford's advice is going to be another matter entirely.