Every year, game makers and publishers stuff specific trends into their games. This year, we have two of these: Alexa as your personal gaming assistant and games completely divorced from what anyone would consider a robust single-player experience. Alexa in everything doesn’t bother me. Less single player PS4 and Xbox One games certainly does.
I’m a single player fanatic. Halo 5 is still installed on my console years after its release because I like its campaign. The Assassin’s Creed franchise’s long-running battle between Assassins and Templars still has me interested years after it started. My favorite game of all time, Batman Arkham Knight, had no multiplayer at all. Rocksteady Studios added in ways to compare your stats to a friend’s performance and left it at that. It had an amazing narrative.
Because there’s no online element to single-player games, I finish every one of them that I start. If I decide I want more playtime, I pick up some DLC.
I’m a dying breed. By analyzing stats and statistics on Xbox Live and Steam, Arstechnica was able to deduce that around 20% of Xbox One and Xbox 360 gamers finished the story in the last Call of Duty game. They were also able to confirm that the number of people finishing its story missions had dropped by huge amounts over the last half decade.
Seeing these numbers, it’s easy to understand why Call of Duty Black Ops 4 won’t have a single-player. Narratives are expensive. A story can take artists, coders, gameplay designers and writers years to develop. If these numbers are true, Activision is spending millions on story modes that people buy and don’t play. Logically, it makes more sense for them to cut some costs and spend those development dollars on something that will get people excited – like a battle royal mode that seems remarkably like Fortnite Battle Royale.
That’s to say nothing of the real boost in profits publishers stand to make when they focus their teams on online games. Fortnite made $126 million in February, according to a Superdata report this article from Forbes is based on. Grand Theft Auto Online is still pulling in millions every quarter for Rockstar Games, according to owner Take-Two Interactive’s latest quarterly release. That game launched 2013.
I’m not in the business of telling businesses to not act like businesses. Truth is, if all that stands between developers not laying off thousands is discontinuing a story mode, developers should absolutely seek to boost their profit margin. Do what you have to do to keep your franchises around and your best talent employed.
Just don’t think for a second that there’s no one out there who values the work you put into these stories; don’t believe that there isn’t a gamer out there who needs four cups of coffee because he stayed up all night trying to make it through Assassin’s Creed Origins before daybreak. Single-player games are the only reasons I stick around for gaming sessions between new releases of Halo.
Keep making stories for as long as you can and I’ll keep buying them.