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WoW designer: Single player games are dying

WoW designer: Single player games are dying

Wed 03 Oct 2012 3:34pm GMT / 11:34am EDT / 8:34am PDT
Business

Blizzard's Rob Pardo just doesn't see the business model to support triple-A single player titles

Game developers in today's market are being challenged to find ways to avoid seeing their titles in bargain bins at retail. Having a long tail is an important factor in any game's success, but big budget single player titles definitely are running into trouble. Blizzard's Rob Pardo, executive vice president of game design and lead designer on World of Warcraft, doesn't think single player games can survive.

Speaking to GamesIndustry International in an in-depth interview, Pardo agreed that single player has become an "endangered species" that probably won't last much longer. "I don't see there being a great business model for it these days. It's really sad, there's just a lot of elements out there that conspire to make those games difficult to make now," he told us. "Between pirating or the ability for people to rent games, it's hard for publishers to pour millions and millions of dollars into a game and not necessarily see the return they need to make those budgets realistic."

Indeed, that's why we're seeing more and more titles that normally would have been left as single player affairs receiving tacked on multiplayer modes. If a game can hook a player into its online mode, then that title is less likely to be traded in or rented for several months.

Of course, there are some exceptions of hot selling single player titles - Bethesda's Skyrim perhaps being the most notable example - but not everyone has the skill and development capacity to create a game on Skyrim's scale.

Elsewhere in the interview, Pardo talks about the upcoming console generation probably being the last, he discuss free-to-play and cloud gaming, and he offers his opinion on how new genres will appear "that you can't imagine yet." It's a wide-ranging interview that covers a lot of ground, so be sure to check it out.

31 Comments

JT QA, Rockstar Lincoln

26 17 0.7
It would be a sad sad day if SP titles disappeared. Other than some MMO's, SP titles make up my whole game library.

Posted:2 years ago

#1

Josh Meier

40 15 0.4
If we're talking about single player games that have no multiplayer component at all, I might be able to believe that. If we're talking about completely removing single player from the game (kinda like Diablo 3), then no, I don't see this happening.

There will always be a market for games that can be played offline and by yourself.

Posted:2 years ago

#2

John Donnelly Quality Assurance

313 38 0.1
I miss a good solid decent single player game.
Some days/nights I just want to get in to a good deep story and lose myself instead of having to listen to the rants of some players of questionable maturity on online games.
Seeing some of the crap people spew in Diablo 3 when your playing really can be off putting when trying to play the game.

Having a game with a good single player story that also has multiplayer is acceptable but I dont want to be forced in to playing mutiplayer to complete the game or get the best ending or so on and so forth.

Posted:2 years ago

#3

Pier Castonguay Programmer

189 106 0.6
Blizzard are probably the worst company to say this kind of thing, they always put everything on the multiplayer aspect. Personally, I hate the type of multiplayer games like that. It's all about repetition, statistics and getting better. I love single player stories and campaign and I complete them all. If these cease to exist, I'll stop gaming completely. Blizzard only said that because they are not used to release a product who don't return profits for years (they didn't plan the Diablo3 drop), but if they put the shoes of a normal game company, they'll learn it's pretty normal.

Posted:2 years ago

#4

Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing

1,134 1,171 1.0
Popular Comment
A penny for every statement of impending death.

Posted:2 years ago

#5

Rafa Ferrer Localisation Manager, Red Comet Media

59 87 1.5
At least he says it as something to regret, unlike many other people who seem to be OK or even love the idea of seeing every approach that isn't a brand new trend - and frequently their own company's approach- blasted to oblivion.

Posted:2 years ago

#6

Adam Campbell Associate Producer, Miniclip Ltd

1,182 971 0.8
To some extent, yes. But not because we want them too. Single player games will always remain number 1 for me.

Posted:2 years ago

#7

Robert Mac-Donald Game Designer, Lethe Games

72 85 1.2
Dying for big publishers maybe. But It seems like they found a place on crowdfunding.

Posted:2 years ago

#8

Rafa Ferrer Localisation Manager, Red Comet Media

59 87 1.5
@Robert: Very true, and I love how some indie games take me back to the days where games focused on the story and feeling (mostly for budget reasons). I think these will keep single player games alive for a long time.

However, what I assume he's putting to bed are AAA SP games with no multiplayer mode at all. I have to agree that may sadly be the case. For instance, for quite some years now one of the most frequent negative comments in game reviews is "lacks a multiplayer mode", which in some cases is like giving a car a low score because it doesn't make you breakfast.

Posted:2 years ago

#9

Dan Lowe 3D Animator, Ubisoft Montreal

46 68 1.5
Didn't Skyrim sell over 10 million units? Will be interesting to see how well Dishonored sells eh.

[Edit] - Just thought of another one: Deus Ex.
[Edit2] - Batman: Arkham City.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Dan Lowe on 3rd October 2012 11:21pm

Posted:2 years ago

#10

Jason Sartor Copy editor/Videographer, Florida Today

104 33 0.3
The Witcher and the Witcher 2 sold well as did Final Fantasy XIII. Metroid and Zelda sell just fine as single-player only games, and I think most people prefer Castlevania to be single player rather than the multiplayer Castlevania Harmony of Despair.

Link: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/blog/6923456/104_Systems_Preview-8_10_2012
It seems players like single-player games no matter what publishers tell them.

Posted:2 years ago

#11

Shane Sweeney Academic

396 406 1.0
Well I only play single player games. I can't be the only one, and where there is a market there will be a product.

Posted:2 years ago

#12

Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,193 1,170 0.5
@Shane: Same here. I'm no fan of MMOs, FPS games that degenerate into mindless killing sprees for fun and points and any other game where you're forced to hang out with other people as if you're on a damn museum trip in third grade (with explosions and scantily clad elves once in a while). But, it's making some people rich, so there goes the neighborhood, I suppose...

Posted:2 years ago

#13

James Prendergast Research Chemist

735 432 0.6
The only MP game I've played in the last three years has been Sins of a Solar Empire. Before that it was L4D (never did like the changes in 2) and before that it was Quake 3 Arena and variants along with Planetside. I'll probably play Planetside 2.

That leaves 98%+ of my gaming and gaming time spent in SP-only interactions with games over a 10 year span.... and I buy a lot of games!

Anecdote, yes... but I'm wondering what the true level of MP take-up is among players. I remember EPIC saying something like 40% of Gears players went online (not playing MP but connected their game to the XBOX network)...

Posted:2 years ago

#14

gi biz ;,pgc.eu

341 51 0.1
I certainly hope not. That would mean no more point and click, no more Zelda or jRPGs and so on. Resident Evil was cool, and so were Crash Bandicoot, Destruction Derby, Woodruff, Sonic and a lot of other games. I don't see all of them going MP, and I can't imagine they will have no successors at all.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by gi biz on 4th October 2012 9:16am

Posted:2 years ago

#15

Felix Leyendecker Senior 3D Artist, Crytek

182 202 1.1
As others say, there's a demand that must be met, so I think we will see new business models coming up for these kind of games. They won't just die.
You can also have a SP heavy game with an online component that doesn't feel tacked on, see Demon/Dark Souls.

Posted:2 years ago

#16

Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters

527 786 1.5
I remember reading discussion of predictions like this in PC Zone magazine over a decade ago when the likes of Counter-Strike, Quake 3 etc were big news. While there's a few good multiplayer games I have great fun in, single player still makes for about 90% of my gaming time, and I wouldn't want it any other way. It's sad that things like business models might get in the way of providing entertainment that lots of people still clearly want.

Posted:2 years ago

#17

Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,269 942 0.7
Does success always lead to this type of narrow mindedness arrogance? I bet this guy never played zelda, mass effect, dragon age, bioshock, resident evil or half life. The single player expirience offers a unique and differant expirience than an MMO, just in the same manner a puzzle game like Tetris does. Ive tried to play MMO's but honestly they require so much of my free time and I need to be strappped to an internet connection that I really cant play them. I like online multiplayer games that flow quicker. Mass Effect Multiplayer, fighting games like Dead or alive 5 cover my appetite to play with others online. But when I sit down with a long game I usually prefer the single player expirience. You can pace it at your convenience and they are richer in terms of story and things to do, thats not just grinding all the time. You have other objectives that arent levelling up getting more powerful, defeat more powerful enemies, level up, see a differant area.

Posted:2 years ago

#18

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
At Kwalee we are only making multiplayer games. They are much harder to do in terms of the game mechanic and in terms of creating good server technology. But playing against a real opponent has a frisson that playing against an algorithm can never replicate. And the social side of multiplayer helps find new players for a game and gives it a longer tail.

In the real world it is the multiplayer games (chess, draughts, Othello, Scrabble, Monopoly, soccer, lacrosse, Eton wall game, Octopush etc) that have worked best.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bruce Everiss on 4th October 2012 2:44pm

Posted:2 years ago

#19

Justin Biddle Software Developer

159 484 3.0
I always love this. No room for co-existence. Just annihilation. Funny how you only hear about the death of single player games from mainly multiplayer companies while the single player companies just quietly and happily carry on.

I only play single player games but if they really do die I can live with that. I've reached the stage in my life where I have so many single player games I can happily enjoy replaying them until I die. Hope it doesn't happen though.

Posted:2 years ago

#20

Lewis Brown Snr Sourcer/Recruiter, Electronic Arts

199 56 0.3
What a load a tosh, Fallout 3 still holds the record for me for playtime! Many other great and recent single player games have already been mentioned.

Posted:2 years ago

#21

Anthony Chan Analyst, CPPIB

92 84 0.9
From an investor's point of view, Single Player games is a much higher risk with a shorter return span. Therefore for every investment dollar that goes in, I would be getting back less. So Rob speaking from the culture that is Activision/Blizzard, he is absolutely correct. Multiplayer games with microtransactions or subscriptions and premium content is a safer investment. Especially with the budget size of these AAA blockbuster titles.

I think ever since Blizzard got a taste of what it's like to make multiple times of every invested dollar + maintenance costs, they have developed that conclusion that SP is dead. What SP title out there has an actual ROI that can spread over a decade?

On top of that, multiplayer games where serial can only be linked to one account, cannot be resold 2nd hand or rented. I know it's sad. I have a box of MMOs that I cannot even donate to goodwill. But from a investor sense that makes total sense, every purchase dollar trickles back to the publisher. Unfortunately SP games will never enjoy that, especially if they have been doomed by Metacritic.

Posted:2 years ago

#22

James Prendergast Research Chemist

735 432 0.6
@ Anthony Chan:

Shorter return span? Did GoG stop selling games from the 1980s and 1990s?

Posted:2 years ago

#23

Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters

527 786 1.5
@Bruce
But playing against a real opponent has a frisson that playing against an algorithm can never replicate.
Wrong. Even in a game like Quake 3 I got more satisfaction beating Xaero on Nightmare difficulty than I ever did beating friends. Why can't you accept that different people like different things?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Dave Herod on 5th October 2012 8:29am

Posted:2 years ago

#24

Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany

820 653 0.8
@Dave

Bruce is kind the fanatic short.

Abouit the article... seems none remembers Skyrim any longuer. It only was one of the best games last years you know... no biggie.

Posted:2 years ago

#25

Tom Keresztes Programmer

683 335 0.5
A game does not have to be single or multiplayer only. Skirmish vs AI or multiplayer with friends? Its just a different experience, which might or might not be suitable for particular games.

Posted:2 years ago

#26
I don't really believe this could happen any time soon - multiplayer and single player games are too different for one to completely substitute the other. But then again Blizzard are kinda biased.

Posted:2 years ago

#27

Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,193 1,170 0.5
From an investor's point of view, Single Player games is a much higher risk with a shorter return span..
(snip)...

Which is EXACTLY why we need LESS industry analysts and market speculators futzing around telling people what works and what doesn't for their bottom lines. I'm sure Double Fine and a bunch of other folks making their crowd-funded SP titles would argue that reports and hopes of the death of solo play in games is a wee bit too exaggerated.

Posted:2 years ago

#28

Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game

1,254 421 0.3
If not every single player retail tries to compete with CoD, and avoids expensive cut scenes where needed, concentrating on areas where the game can be good, fun and polished without having to sell 2 million copies to break even, maybe we can stop having this conversation. There is plenty of money being spent on single player games, but if unrealistic to recoup budgets mean that that money doesn't make a profit, there will be a problem.

Posted:2 years ago

#29

Ove Larsen

28 10 0.4
Wrong. Even in a game like Quake 3 I got more satisfaction beating Xaero on Nightmare difficulty than I ever did beating friends. Why can't you accept that different people like different things?
@Dave
He's correct, though.
Outside of graphics, AI is on the top of developers to-do list. Why is that? Because we want enemies to behave like humans.

But saying that SP has no viable future is absurd. I love the Motorstorm series, but I can count on one hand the total amount of times I've played it online.
Everybody needs some time where they don't have to deal with anybody. But of course, you can't monetize me-time, so let's hope that ugly SP bugger chokes soon, eh?

Posted:2 years ago

#30

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