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General Gaming Polygon: Single-player games might be safer bets than live games in 2019

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https://www.polygon.com/2019/6/24/18683652/single-player-games-as-service-fortnite-anthem-apex

 

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After what looked like a wildly successful launch a few months ago, EA and Respawn’s Apex Legends has been struggling. Twitch viewership has plunged more than 80 percent from the game’s highs, and other metrics, like post volume on Apex subreddits and views for Apex-related YouTube videos, have also declined sharply. It seems like many of the 50 million users who tried Respawn’s battle royale are no longer playing regularly.

 

This is remarkable, because Apex Legends has a Metascore of 89 and is almost universally considered to be a very good game.

 

When EA canceled Visceral Games’ in-progress Star Wars title and disbanded the studio in 2017, some commentators argued that AAA single-player titles were no longer an economically viable business in the current marketplace, and that the future of gaming was in live services, which can provide constant revenue from players over an extended period of time.

 

I argued at the time that there was still a market for single-player games, but that they need to be really good to succeed in an increasingly competitive marketplace. There is no room for mediocrity in story-based games anymore. If you want to sell games, you better make something excellent.

 

Subsequent events proved me right. Excellent single-player games like Sekiro, Spider-Man, God of War, and Red Dead Redemption 2 sold extremely well and made a lot of money.

 

At the same time, major games like Fallout 76 and Anthem, which were expected to bring top-tier game studios like Bethesda and BioWare into the live service market, had a much rougher time. The key lesson of 2018 was that the challenges faced by AAA single-player games in the current market also impact live-service games.

 

In fact, the market is likely more challenging for new live-service games like Anthem and even the upcoming Borderlands 3 than it is for single-player titles, because new online games compete directly with existing ones such [as] Fortnite and The Division 2. There’s always a market for good single-player games, but the publishers of very good live services can still fail if they can’t convince people to quit an established title and play their game instead.

 

Continued

 

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Every game will have multiplayer

 

People don’t want single player games anymore 

 

Single player games are dead 

 

Single player games are the best 

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In all seriousness though, I’m personally so happy games like anthem are falling flat on their face. Gamers are somewhat complicit for putting up with and fueling the fire by paying for the dumbest shit (hey here’s a small chance to get a cool hat), but it’s mostly the massive companies to blame for trying to squeeze every last dime out of us and throwing their talented developers to the wolves with shit like the Star Wars Battlefront 2 decisions. 

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I think in the end a great game will almost always sell. You give us quality and we will buy it (in most cases) whether it's single player or mulitplayer. 

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Huh, It’s almost like people want all different kinds of games and not just one type of game. It also seems like people have the ability to get burnt out on the same game or game type they were really into previously. Weird. 

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We hit the ceiling of sustainability for big AAA publishers. They tried to make it sustainable by nickle and diming us, and for the most part its not working aside from a select few. 

 

If they had a half brain theyd downscale to meet their sustainable income, but we all know they can't (won't) do that. 

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This isn't a new thing. Great single play games have been selling well for a few years now. Doom in 2016, GTAV and Tomb Raider in 2013, and a lot more. But corporate pencil pushers are too busy chasing buzzwords to notice.

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This is the punchline, and I think I agree:

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the market can support more AAA single-player games than we’re currently seeing, and it can’t support as many online games as we’re getting

 

It's certainly the case for myself, and I think the article does a good job of proving that point more broadly.

 

It'll be interesting to see if publishers overcorrect like they usually do.

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Every game must have MASSIVE USER ENGAGEMENT™ but there's only so many users, so much time to subject to that engagement, and definitely only so much money. Something's gotta give at some point, these companies know that, and are doing what they always do: Milking a cash cow dry until nothing but dust is coming out, and then blaming consumers, who, in their own shitty way, will then resent any product similar to the ones that got milked for the next 20 years, creating a stigma around games people should actually like because thinking beyond the surface level of a product is way more work than regurgitating a pithy phrase like "Online game? More like online lame!" as they lambaste a title for being designed to be just that. I'm happy to blame everyone, there's a cycle of shittiness that the consumers are happy to inject themselves into right alongside the filthy publishers!

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I’m most interested in how the coming onslaught of subscription services could change consumer (and publisher) appetites.  It’s a bit of an unknown at this point, but could change a lot about what types of larger budget games are produced.

 

 

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13 hours ago, TwinIon said:

This is the punchline, and I think I agree:

 

It's certainly the case for myself, and I think the article does a good job of proving that point more broadly.

 

It'll be interesting to see if publishers overcorrect like they usually do.

 

Yup, with multiplayer, being on one means you're not populating the community on another. With single-player, the party is never over. That's the beauty of it, and that's what also stinks about many games not having a couch co-op option.

 

If I got back to play any Twisted Metal, including ones with online components like the PS3 version, there are great couch options available that still work. You can always start a new party. With something like Lawbreakers, if the party never starts, what's the point on seeing what I might be missing out on?

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7 hours ago, SaysWho? said:

 

Yup, with multiplayer, being on one means you're not populating the community on another. With single-player, the party is never over. That's the beauty of it, and that's what also stinks about many games not having a couch co-op option.

 

If I got back to play any Twisted Metal, including ones with online components like the PS3 version, there are great couch options available that still work. You can always start a new party. With something like Lawbreakers, if the party never stops, what's the point on seeing what I might be missing out on?

You guys think about games in really weird, arbitrary terms that don't seem to actually have any tangible benefit?

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1 hour ago, Xbob42 said:

You guys think about games in really weird, arbitrary terms that don't seem to actually have any tangible benefit?

 

This sentence is weird and makes no sense. :p 

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17 minutes ago, SaysWho? said:

 

This sentence is weird and makes no sense. :p 

Maybe! But to me, so does "well with single-player the party never ends" followed up by "With something like Lawbreakers, if the party never stops, what's the point on seeing what I might be missing out on?" -- I don't understand!

 

Also, do you play games based on whether the party can eventually stop or not? I knew the lobbies of Phantasy Star Online wouldn't always be packed, but that's never made me regret buying or investing my time into the game! If anything, my feelings for the title have only grown stronger as we've drifted away from it!

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Just now, Xbob42 said:

Maybe! But to me, so does "well with single-player the party never ends" followed up by "With something like Lawbreakers, if the party never stops, what's the point on seeing what I might be missing out on?" -- I don't understand!

 

Also, do you play games based on whether the party can eventually stop or not? I knew the lobbies of Phantasy Star Online wouldn't always be packed, but that's never made me regret buying or investing my time into the game! If anything, my feelings for the title have only grown stronger as we've drifted away from it!

 

Part of the confusion is that I meant, "With something like Lawbreakers, if the party never starts, what's the point on seeing what I might be missing out on?" I edited that for clarity, but basically: with something like Lawbreakers, it's a quick fall if it doesn't catch on. I might hear it's fun, but if there's a sharp drop from week to week in number of players, I have no use in buying the game. That's why a multiplayer game could explode, but it can also be a significantly bigger bomb, to which most bombs this gen have been multiplayer games that couldn't catch on and compete for time.

 

I loved Starcraft and played it every year and made a billion maps. That was worth it, and even as it became slower on Battle.Net, there were still a billion user-created maps and a strong campaign to play for years. I'd like to see more multi-player games with those kind of features, which is part of why I'm really interested in Dreams. 

 

I like to be able to return to a game or play a game for a first time that I missed years ago. It's why I enjoy threads about, "Hey, I finally played Chrono Trigger," or, "Hey, I finally started the Metal Gear Solid series." They're always available. 

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Hey that's not exclusive to single-player! "Hey I just got into WoW" or "I just got into City of Heroes" are now very relevant things! And ol' PSO is kicking along just fine as well! I think, speaking very generally, only lesser online games actually get doomed to obscurity. Seems that way with single-player games too. I mean after all, no one's talking about how they're cracking in to their LJN back catalog.

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30 minutes ago, Xbob42 said:

Hey that's not exclusive to single-player! "Hey I just got into WoW" or "I just got into City of Heroes" are now very relevant things! And ol' PSO is kicking along just fine as well! I think, speaking very generally, only lesser online games actually get doomed to obscurity. Seems that way with single-player games too. I mean after all, no one's talking about how they're cracking in to their LJN back catalog.

 

For every game you mentioned, there are about 2000 other games I could name that are single-player. Gaming is one of the few mediums I can think of where a product can become obsolete, whereas if I haven't read a book written in the late 19th century, I will remain able to do so since I'm not missing out on anything. Someone wants to play Rygar or Contra: Shattered Soldier on PS2? Ebay/Amazon it and play it; it doesn't matter if you're the only one in the world because it won't affect your experience. I don't know any single--player game that's actually doomed to obscurity as long as I can find it. If a game has a cult following, then as long as it's in circulation or you can find a emulator of it, you're good to go. Which is the point: as long as I like the game, I don't need a populated online server to enjoy it.

 

It's pretty much exclusive to single-player; I am never at risk of missing out on something. If I feel like playing Jak & Daxter for the first time, I have it available to play right now. Never played Mario 64? Download it on Nintendo's store and have at it. On the other hand, if a multiplayer game doesn't catch on, it's at a much higher risk of being a bomb where nobody will have the urge to see what they're "missing" as the servers depopulate quickly.

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16 hours ago, Paperclyp said:

In all seriousness though, I’m personally so happy games like anthem are falling flat on their face. Gamers are somewhat complicit for putting up with and fueling the fire by paying for the dumbest shit (hey here’s a small chance to get a cool hat), but it’s mostly the massive companies to blame for trying to squeeze every last dime out of us and throwing their talented developers to the wolves with shit like the Star Wars Battlefront 2 decisions. 

 

While I agree with the sentiment, Anthem as an example, literally had none of this.  Its a straight forward store.  Items for a price, which can be bought with in game currency or real money.  

 

I am happy to see the "Loot Box" methodology going away.  It really was such a bullshit scam.

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14 hours ago, Reputator said:

This isn't a new thing. Great single play games have been selling well for a few years now. Doom in 2016, GTAV and Tomb Raider in 2013, and a lot more. But corporate pencil pushers are too busy chasing buzzwords to notice.

 

GTAV's popularity probably has little to do with it's Single Player at this point, it is a GaaS.

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For me personally, I have 0 motivation to rush out to buy a Single Player game.  As it's been pointed out, if I play it today, or I play it 5 years from now, I'm not missing out on anything.  I can wait for a sale, wait for it to be free somewhere, there's no rush.  I'll have essentially the same experience as someone that bought it day 1.

 

For a Multiplayer game or GaaS, if its something I'm interested in, I'm much more eager to buy it Day 1, to be there with the online community and experience the game and its growth from Day 1.  I don't want to be left behind in terms of leveling/gear/experience. You also have the Seasonal type content now that once a Season is over, you no longer can experience certain aspects of the game.  

 

As for the article, again bringing up Apex Legends.  Apex Legends Season 1 just ended, and Respawn admitted Season 1 was poorly done.  They bring up Twitch viewership being down 80%.... being down 80% from #1 on Twitch and the crazy numbers they were doing is still vastly better than a huge majority of games released.  They bring up Single player games that sold well and "made tons of money".... Did Apex not make tons of money? When Season 2 releases in 2 weeks is it not going to have another influx of sales and engagement.  Polygon just does such a poor job of trying to explain or prove a point.  

 

Apex was F2P so obviously it never had the initial $60 sale, but to try to claim that a single player game that sold fairly well is a success while Apex because of it's drop off from an unheard of launch is now seen as a failure, just makes no sense to me.

 

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10 minutes ago, JPDunks4 said:

 

 

Nothing Benji said contradicted the article? The top-selling games of last year are all established multi-player franchises; one of the main points was that, if you're making a game like Fallout or Anthem or Apex Legends, it's more difficult to break out because all of them are competing for your time and the success of one will hurt the longevity of another. The market is saturated with games that not just require your time but require a large amount of it to take advantage of its online, along with events. It even says in the link in the tweet, "Everyone is fighting to make games that live forever, leaving more room for games that end."

 

There's also no context to what selling better means; something selling better doesn't mean it's a success. I'm sure Anthem/Fallout 76 sold better than Dead Cells. I'm also sure Dead Cells is more successful.

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50 minutes ago, JPDunks4 said:

For me personally, I have 0 motivation to rush out to buy a Single Player game.  As it's been pointed out, if I play it today, or I play it 5 years from now, I'm not missing out on anything.  I can wait for a sale, wait for it to be free somewhere, there's no rush.  I'll have essentially the same experience as someone that bought it day 1.

 

For a Multiplayer game or GaaS, if its something I'm interested in, I'm much more eager to buy it Day 1, to be there with the online community and experience the game and its growth from Day 1.  I don't want to be left behind in terms of leveling/gear/experience. You also have the Seasonal type content now that once a Season is over, you no longer can experience certain aspects of the game.  

 

 

I agree with this for the most part. However, there are some single player games that I feel like I’ll be missing out if I don’t buy it right away. From Software games are good examples of this. Part of the experience for me is going through those games for the first time with other gamers. The online threads that accompany certain SP games make them Day 1 buys for me. 

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15 minutes ago, Mercury33 said:

 

I agree with this for the most part. However, there are some single player games that I feel like I’ll be missing out if I don’t buy it right away. From Software games are good examples of this. Part of the experience for me is going through those games for the first time with other gamers. The online threads that accompany certain SP games make them Day 1 buys for me. 

 

Yeah, I get that appeal completely.  RDR2 I thought might be a game I wanted to dive into right away, but that left me more disappointed than any game I've bought in a long time.  Anthem I at least got a good 50 hours of fun out of... RDR2 was a slog from Day 1.  

 

Last single player game I bought right away cause I really felt I was missing out otherwise was Breathe of the Wild.  The hype around that and the Switch got me to buy a Switch, something I had no intention of buying at all initially.  I loved it.  I love a good single player game  I can get lost in and no life for a few weeks.  I just generally wait until a few years later to do so, cause theres no real rush.

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1 hour ago, SaysWho? said:

 

Nothing Benji said contradicted the article? The top-selling games of last year are all established multi-player franchises; one of the main points was that, if you're making a game like Fallout or Anthem or Apex Legends, it's more difficult to break out because all of them are competing for your time and the success of one will hurt the longevity of another. The market is saturated with games that not just require your time but require a large amount of it to take advantage of its online, along with events. It even says in the link in the tweet, "Everyone is fighting to make games that live forever, leaving more room for games that end."

 

There's also no context to what selling better means; something selling better doesn't mean it's a success. I'm sure Anthem/Fallout 76 sold better than Dead Cells. I'm also sure Dead Cells is more successful.

Agreed. 

==========

I think that it is very hard to make any "new IP" that breaks into the top ten -- if you look at the top ten selling U.S. games over the last 12 months -- all of them (except for Spider-Man) are existing franchises.

 

However, if you look at the games that aren't annual (or semi-annual) games -- all of them except for Smash have a significant single player component (RDR2, Spider-Man, Kingdom Hearts) -- and one of the annual games (AC) is single player.

 

 

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1 hour ago, SaysWho? said:

 

Nothing Benji said contradicted the article? The top-selling games of last year are all established multi-player franchises; one of the main points was that, if you're making a game like Fallout or Anthem or Apex Legends, it's more difficult to break out because all of them are competing for your time and the success of one will hurt the longevity of another. The market is saturated with games that not just require your time but require a large amount of it to take advantage of its online, along with events. It even says in the link in the tweet, "Everyone is fighting to make games that live forever, leaving more room for games that end."

 

There's also no context to what selling better means; something selling better doesn't mean it's a success. I'm sure Anthem/Fallout 76 sold better than Dead Cells. I'm also sure Dead Cells is more successful.

 

I agree with this.  As someone that plays a lot of these games, trying to keep up with the "Season Passes" and stuff is a lot.  It's why Fortnite has tweaked itself season to season to perfect its formula.  You can essentially play one day a week and still unlock essentially all the Seasons worth of content.  Apex Season 1 was 100% time based.  You had to play hundreds of games doing well to level up, it was bad.  Apex has already stated they will be using Fortnites approach.  Regardless though, I do understand the idea that, you can only commit yourself to so many of these types of games at a time.

 

I didn't read the entire article, I read the initial quotes in the OP.  I just disagree with the premise that because numbers may dip, a game isn't considered successful.  So because Apex's numbers fell off from their crazy high numbers they are not as successful as a decent selling single player game?  If you want to bring up Fallout and Anthem, okay, I can kind of get maybe they cost a ton to make and didn't sell nearly as well or maintain player numbers for long term revenue like they'd hope, but Apex? Apex is not a good game to bring up for this topic.

 

On another note though, its why I find those that go overboard complaining about content in some of those games to be excessive.  Anthem obviously completely floundered at this point, but when I ran out of new compelling content, I moved onto Division 2 while i waited .  When I ran out of content for that, I moved onto another game until they deliver something new I want to play.  I still jump in and play Fallout 76 when updates hit.  Where as Breathe of the Wild, one of my favorite games the past 5 years, I beat it and never touched it again.  So why is that better?  If I love a game, I love to have reasons to keep revisiting it.  I don't have to play those games non stop with each update, just a few days depending on the quality of the updates.  

 

 

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15 minutes ago, AbsolutSurgen said:

Agreed. 

==========

I think that it is very hard to make any "new IP" that breaks into the top ten -- if you look at the top ten selling U.S. games over the last 12 months -- all of them (except for Spider-Man) are existing franchises.

 

However, if you look at the games that aren't annual (or semi-annual) games -- all of them except for Smash have a significant single player component (RDR2, Spider-Man, Kingdom Hearts) -- and one of the annual games (AC) is single player.

 

 

 

Does this take into account revenue on MTX?  Fortnite obviously isn't on that list with all the money they bring in.  So we have no idea how Apex would rate in money generated right?

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1 minute ago, JPDunks4 said:

 

Does this take into account revenue on MTX?  Fortnite obviously isn't on that list with all the money they bring in.  So we have no idea how Apex would rate in money generated right?

No, it's retail sales.

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Maybe a bit off-topic but I'm actually somewhat interested in getting into some online multiplayer for once. I've tried time and time again and always suck too much.

 

What I haven't tried is fighters like SFV, are there specific beginner match-up options available in most of them? I seriously have no idea and don't want to blindly buy SFV for example just to get crushed nonstop. It seems like it'd be fun with the right learning curve. 

 

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13 minutes ago, Bloodporne said:

Maybe a bit off-topic but I'm actually somewhat interested in getting into some online multiplayer for once. I've tried time and time again and always suck too much.

 

What I haven't tried is fighters like SFV, are there specific beginner match-up options available in most of them? I seriously have no idea and don't want to blindly buy SFV for example just to get crushed nonstop. It seems like it'd be fun with the right learning curve. 

 

Street Fighter is probably not best game to start with if you want to get into online multiplayer. I would recommend any of he Battle Royale games to start with (Fortnite, Apex,  PUBG, etc...). There's lots of new players in those games with similar skill ceiling.

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16 minutes ago, Bloodporne said:

Maybe a bit off-topic but I'm actually somewhat interested in getting into some online multiplayer for once. I've tried time and time again and always suck too much.

  

What I haven't tried is fighters like SFV, are there specific beginner match-up options available in most of them? I seriously have no idea and don't want to blindly buy SFV for example just to get crushed nonstop. It seems like it'd be fun with the right learning curve. 

  

 

I would say if you're really interested hop into Samurai Showdown, it's new and everyone will be learning the game and you won't get bodied by SFV players who have been playing SFV for 3 years.

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There are quite a few free BR's now to test, but they are a touch genre to get into too at times, cause when you die, your done.  Granted games like Fortnite have new modes that allow respawns and work more like a big Team Death Match.

 

Apex

Fortnite

Realm Royale

Cuisine Royale just launched on Xbox (No clue if its any good)

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