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God of War multiplayer may not "move the needle on sales" says Pachter

More and more single-player games are getting the multiplayer treatment

God of War: Ascension was officially unveiled last month and one of the surprising additions to the franchise is a new multiplayer mode. It's a pattern we've seen before: single-player games that seemingly have no real need for a multiplayer mode are getting multiplayer modes in what appears to be an effort to boost sales, mitigate the used effect and generally give a title a longer tail.

As industry veteran Richard Browne noted in a recent editorial on used games, "How do I stop churn? I implement multiplayer and attempt to keep my disc with my consumer playing online against their friends. It works wonderfully for Call of Duty - no doubt it can work wonderfully for me. The problem is, at what cost? Countless millions of dollars would be the answer. Let's take a great example, one of my favorite game series released on this generation - Uncharted. What on Earth was the point of taking the completely single player experience of Uncharted 1 and bolting on an entirely new game to Nathan Drake's second adventure?"

The strategy does seem to be working, even if it appears somewhat out of place for a story driven single-player game like BioShock or Uncharted. But what about an action oriented game like God of War?

"It's odd to see it in a third-person game, and especially odd because it's not a shooter"

Michael Pachter

"It's an interesting move, and something I think gamers will like, but it's odd to see it in a third-person game, and especially odd because it's not a shooter. I think GoW fans will love it, but am not sure it will move the needle on sales," commented Wedbush Securities' Michael Pachter to GamesIndustry International.

Even God of War Game Director Todd Pappy has admitted, according to Destructoid, that Sony Santa Monica is "still figuring out" the multiplayer component. That makes it sound all the more like someone at a high level simply told the development team, "You have to include multiplayer. Figure it out."

That said, there's definitely some precedent for multiplayer having a positive effect.

"EEDAR has run numerous studies on the impact on multiplayer on game sales. We have found that when executed properly, multiplayer does have a positive impact on initial and long-term sales," EEDAR analyst Jesse Divnich noted to GamesIndustry International. "The pitfall that is common, however, is for developers to simply tack on a multiplayer component thinking it will be the silver bullet solution to long-term sales and a reduction in used sales."

"If this was two years ago, I would be concerned that the allocation of resources towards a multiplayer component often comes at the cost of the single player experience"

Jesse Divnich

Ultimately, what matters most is quality, and just like Naughty Dog's efforts to introduce multiplayer to Uncharted, it's likely that the God of War team will produce some highly polished results. "In the case of God of War, we are confident that the Santa Monica Studio recognizes the common pitfalls. As a studio with a great pedigree, I am sure any multiplayer component will be additive to the God of War experience and not simply a tacked on feature," stressed Divnich.

Some would argue that the addition of multiplayer might damage the quality of the single-player main game, due to resources being divided up, but Divnich doesn't see that as a concern any longer.

"If this was two years ago, I would be concerned that the allocation of resources towards a multiplayer component often comes at the cost of the single player experience; however, the industry has matured enough--maybe through its own trial and error--that no feature should ever be tacked on simply because the 'data' suggests it. How that feature is implemented into the core project impacts sales much more than simply having it or not," he said.

What do you think? Will God of War benefit from including multiplayer?

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Latest comments (9)

Private Industry 9 years ago
I see it more as some extra content that keeps the GoW fanbase playing the game after they finished the singleplayer. The one level they showed so far does look promising tough as it didn`t seem to be just some tacked on multiplayer but rather something that fits into the universe and fits the gameplay. We have to see how the rest of the MP is.
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Zan Toplisek9 years ago
I didn't like the game director's reason for MP: "We needed to change something, we really did." Uhm, OK...

But yeah, let's wait till more is shown.
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 9 years ago
I don't mind multiplayer in single-player game sequels if the quality is high and it feels different to its peers - for instance, the onus on verticality in Uncharted 2 made it feel considerably different to Gears et al. On the other hand, I do like it when big-budget games eschew multiplayer to concentrate on what they do best, such as Deus Ex: HR and Batman: AC.

Although I didn't ask for or want multiplayer in God of War, I have faith in the output of Sony Santa Monica and the fact that it's a third-person brawler gives it very little competition in its specific field (Anarchy Reigns is the only one which springs to mind). I agree that it probably won't sell more copies of GoW: Ascension, but like Chee says, it may keep the community active, reduce trade-ins and provide the opportunity for DLC sales. Plus, if the levels are all as unique as that Titan/Cyclops level shown so far, then it looks bloody good fun too. Anyone else remember fun? I'm sure it's what I used to get from gaming before I became so bloody pedantic and cynical.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Terence Gage on 2nd May 2012 1:17pm

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Show all comments (9)
Rogier Voet IT Consultant 9 years ago
I have serious problems with the "just add multiplayer" mentality of management. Some examples Dead Space 2, Ninja Gaiden 3, Uncharted 3, the Darkness, Prey

What do they have in common? They all have multiplayer modes which took a lot of time to develop and were forgotten just weeks after release.

If you want to keep players engaged a wiser move would be to include (drop in-drop out) co-op, unique rewards for playing through the game more than once.

Excellent examples are The Darkness 2, Borderlands, Resident Evil 5

PS I love the God of War-series and probably get the new game but not because of the MP
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"'s odd to see it in a third-person game, and especially odd because it's not a shooter."

What's so odd about a non-shooter game in 3rd person being multiplayer? Didn't the Tales series, which is an RPG of all things, add that a long time ago? I know it's as early as Symphonia for NGC, and it was probably put in the series even before that.

Is this competitive multiplayer or story co-op? If it's story co-op, it doesn't really add anything, and they have to figure out some sort of plot excuse to have Kratos work with another character, that is going to need to be seriously cool (at least enough that you don't fight over who gets to play Kratos). If it's competitive, how do they build it out of a single player experience? Should they even bother when they probably don't have the experience with that type of balancing?

Heh... just had the thought that Parappa would be assisting Kratos with his Onion Kung Fu, considering the marketing opportunity for the fighting game mash-up Sony is making.
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Michael Vandendriessche Studying Computer Science, K.U. Leuven9 years ago
This is great! I've really wanted to play God of War vs someone else. The addition of the multiplayer will make me buy the game at full price instead of a year or two/three after release for 1/3 of the price.
Didn't expect that the next god of war would get me so hyped!

I might be a niche minority but great niche games make money too.
Even if the single player aspect is shorter, overall the game will be longer.

I mostly play single player games but am VERY much looking forward to Anarchy Reigns and now also this new gow.
I wish them good luck and hope the game will still be supported till long after release.
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Andrew Clayton QA Weapons Tester, Electronic Arts9 years ago
Just because Call of Duty / World of Warcraft / etc. did it successfully doesn't mean you can needlessly tack it onto the end of the game and expect people to use it. Unless the multiplayer has a fun element that is easily integrated with the story and gameplay from the single-player campaign, there's no point wasting valuable time and resources in adding it on.

If game companies really wanted to add replay value to their games, why not make the single-player campaigns fully cooperative instead? I have played each Gears of War (GoW, lol) campaign half-a-dozen times now with different friends because each time it's a different experience. Yes, Gears does have multiplayer, but the cooperative game modes are what make me suggest it to my friends.
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Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus9 years ago
Say it with me: "Skyrim has proven that single player is still effective... Skyrim has proven that single player is still effective..."

Pachter is right. And just saying that makes me need a shower.
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Reza Ghavami Marketing Analyst, NVIDIA9 years ago
I initially approach this with some skepticism. Multiplayer does seem a bit "forced" onto the agenda. It's something I cannot envision. At the same time, it could have the potential to redefine the franchise in ways that I never imagined, which would be fantastic. Based on how well Sony Santa Monica have implemented creative game play mechanics for the legendary GoW games, I am optimistic about this route.
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