The Pipe Bomb #7: The Multiplayer Pathogen

Adding multiplayer to a game these days has become common course, and in some cases it helps – but in others, it’s just not needed whatsoever.

Now am I saying that every game with multiplayer is bad? Of course not. There are games that pull off multiplayer pretty well like Marvel vs. Capcom 2Injustice Gods Among Us, and even Call Of Duty. Even if COD’s been using the same formula for the past 10 years, it’s gotten them success because developers focused on the multiplayer aspect primarily and put the single-player experience on the back burner because both Infinity Ward and Treyarch thought of a long-term experience for gamers – even if it’s been ill-received by the community as of late. On the other hand, there are games like Tomb Raider.

Tomb Raider’s multiplayer failed because simply no one cared about it. People who played the game went through the single-player experience, noticed there was a multiplayer and either tried it and came away with a sour taste, or didn’t even touch the multiplayer.

Now to put things into a closer perspective, what makes multiplayer so appealing for some games, and a hindrance for others? First and foremost is the design of the aspect. Is it the core focus of your game, and if so, do you have an experienced team like Infinity Ward and Treyarch do to pull multiplayer off? If you do, you’re bound for the money train, and if you don’t,  you’ll end up falling flat on your face.

While it’s somewhat unfortunate, multiplayer does sell. Another reason for this is, of course, the social interaction you feel while playing online multiplayer. The multiplayer aspect of some games, especially fighters, can be a drug because while the single-player experience isn’t necessarily bad, it’s the multiplayer and social interaction that keeps fighting enthusiasts coming back. The same goes for COD and BF because that high of leveling up or attaining high kill streaks is something to strive for.

While most of the community thinks COD and BF are just copied and pasted, which can be argued, they keep coming back year after year. Fans of their respective game, especially when you talk about the many iterations of Street Fighter 4. You felt that when the next COD released, you were playing an outdated game, even if there were still plenty of support for the previous iteration while millions were jumping onto the new game, and then a month later, going back to the old game, because it’s just a new coat of paint on a deteriorated house.

Now why is multiplayer sometimes a failure and considered an infection in the game industry? Personally, I think game developers rely on the concept of multiplayer most of the time to help their game sell, and sometimes it does, and in the cases of Crysis 3, Tomb Raider, and other games with bad multiplayer, every game does not need multiplayer. Look at the LEGO games for example, it’s a 1-2 player game with lots of replay value.

As a final note, while multiplayer in games is sometimes warranted, not every game needs it to enhance an experience, because if you oversaturate the industry with needless multiplayer in certain games, then you lose the trust of the gamers themselves and thus poison the industry and leave it without an antidote.