Gaming changes every few years, welcoming a new phase into the industry. Back in the early 2000s, it was all about online gaming and how a game, even if it was unnecessary, could use its platform to connect players all over the world in a lobby and set themselves against each other to the death.
Multiplayer was a selling point for games and the more titles that released, the more focused on multiplayer they were. During the PS3/360 years were the golden age for multiplayer as the PSN and Xbox Live was the best place to play online.
Fast forward a few years and multiplayer died down a bit when everything became about co-op. In the early age of the current gaming hardware, the heavy emphasis on cooperative gaming was clear.
Instead of having this constant fight online against other gamers, we made friends and did things together. Games like Evolve, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, and of course Destiny ushered in a new age of co-op online gaming.
While multiplayer games were still around during the co-op days, today we have seen a greater emphasis on single player games. If you had to make a single player game back in the day, it was mandatory that there was a multiplayer mode attached to it. Games like Bioshock 2 and the Wolfenstein released in 2009 were perfect examples of multiplayer being added for the sake of it.
With all this being said, it seems we are finally at a crossroads when it comes to platforms and their respective titles. PC seems to be more focused on multiplayer as stats have shown that it still dominates the charts. Consoles, on the other hand, show different, and this is probably due to the most popular multiplayer games being on PC and not on the console.
If we look at the latest from SteamSpy, there is no doubt a clear indication that PC dominates the playing field when it comes to multiplayer games. Games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, PUBG, and Rust take up the top spots on the list. All these games are not on consoles at all. These stats are representative of SA gamers by percentage of players.
- Counter-Strike: Global – 32.97%
- Dota 2 – 22.89%
- PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS – 22.34%
- Warframe – 7.63%
- ARK: Survival Evolved – 4.63%
Console play time stats are not as readily available, so what are console gamers playing then? The best data I could find was sales for the past few months, and hopefully it would give some sort of indication to where console gamers are spending their time.
PS4 Sales for September 2017
- Destiny 2
- NBA 2K18
- FIFA 18
- Madden NFL 18
- Final Fantasy IX
- EA Sports NHL 18
- Grand Theft Auto V
- Rocket League
- Star Wars: Battlefront Ultimate Edition
While Destiny 2 is at the top, it was a new release so it is expected. Let us look at August 2017 as a whole.
August 2017 Game Sales
- Madden NFL 18
- Grand Theft Auto V
- Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
- Splatoon 2
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege
- Mario Kart 8
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered
- Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy
Again, not much of a sign of any major multiplayer games in the top spots. Instead, the NPD shows that single player games are selling like hot cakes. Unless you are buying Uncharted: The Lost Legacy for its multiplayer. So while PC has the great multiplayer stats which are all games not available on console, the console market, on the other hand, is being used for a new wave of single player games. Devs know where the money is and that lies in console sales, so why not make more of them right?
Rise of the single player games
Stats aside, the launch lineup for games in recent weeks has shown a heavy emphasis on single player games. South Park, Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Shadow of War, Wolfenstein and more are all single player experiences. If these games released 5 years go they would have had a pointless multiplayer mode added in you can believe that. Things have changed quite a lot and it could be due to this new obsession of loot boxes.
In past years, multiplayer modes were used as a continuous stream of paid content. New maps, modes, skins, guns even loot boxes were used to offer in-game purchases after launch. Could this have been the reason why they were so heavily focused on in the past? It could be, and now due to the discovery of loot boxes in single player games, the must for multiplayer in every title released is no longer seen as an option. Instead of having to focus on creating multiplayer maps which would guarantee post-release revenue, these single player games are just as good thanks to these infamous loot boxes. Who would have thought that we would we one day be paying for content inside a single player game? It is sacrilege.
So what is the deal with multiplayer games and the decreasing number of them? Could it be that it is pretty hard to compete with those mammoth titles ranking in the top spots on PC? Or are single player games being used now as easy revenue streams with the inclusion of loot boxes? My theory might be crazy, but if you look at the stats and the release schedule, it seems that due to the huge popularity of the biggest games on the charts, the only route into the market is single player games.
How does one create a contender to CS: GO and likes of PUBG? You don’t, you rather release a single player game, offer loot boxes, and you have what would have been COD of 2013 without the online mode. Unfortunately, we cannot even say that the rise of single-player titles is due to developers wanting to deliver something unique. Developers have been blatant in including loot boxes as a model in their games and some of them even revolve their entire gameplay structure around them.
Call me paranoid but if you add all the stats up and look at the current state of the market, publishers are trying to find new ways to make a quick buck and the recent rise of loot boxes and single player games, not to mention the combination of the two, makes for a questionable result.
Multiplayer is surely alive on PC, but on console new avenues are being explored with the rise of single-player experiences. If only the biggest multiplayer games were on consoles too, then this would have been a very different discussion.