Rob Pardo: Single Player Games An Endangered Species

News flash: The makers of games built around persistent, online multiplayer think that well-made single players games are soon to be a thing of the past! Ha, yeah I know. We’ve been here before, but bear with me. Blizzard’s Rob Pardo has given a fascinating interview with GI. It’s definitely worth a full read, but we were struck by Pardo’s blunt assessment of the state of the single player game:

I do. 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. 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.

Now, with all due respect to Pardo, we ought to consider the source of the lament. Blizzard’s entire business is built around social/online/multiplayer gaming. Blizzard also joins fellow industry titans Electronic Arts and Ubisoft, (as well as Activision, natch), in openly clamoring for a world in which gamers rent, rather than purchase games, only at full price. These commenters tend to throw out big claims about the impact of piracy on the industry, but the specific damage wrought is never clarified. Until actual, concrete numbers are produced to verify their claims that it’s piracy, and not players rejecting inferior products, causing industry sales woes, I’m inclined to feel about these claims the way I do about the estimation of street value whenever the cops make a huge drug bust.

Confirmation bias, in other words.

Notably, he doesn’t discuss actual budgets, so I have no idea what he thinks is too high, but I can think of at least one example of a single player game whose sales more than justified its budget. Maybe the secret is… making great games?

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6 Comments on Rob Pardo: Single Player Games An Endangered Species

folklore

On October 5, 2012 at 4:51 pm

I really hope there never comes a time when single player games are gone. That is probably the time where i stop buying video games.

Jojo

On October 5, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Clearly someone hasn’t heard of Skyrim.

Axetwin

On October 5, 2012 at 11:13 pm

For all the scoffing and the eye-rolling one may do when reading the article, fact is, the guy isnt wrong. What is the main hook for most (not all but most) of the big titles for the fall lineup? The multiplayer component. What was the main hook for last years fall lineup? The multiplayer and what is going to be the main hook for next years fall lineup? Again, the multiplayer. Every year multiplayer becomes just a little more prevalent and the idea of the “single player experience” edges that much closer to death.

Sure, every year there is that random indie game that comes along and sparks interest again for a couple weeks. But that is already becoming a nostalgia factor, a thing of the past where gamers like to say “hey remember when games used to be played single player?”. It is a gasp of air in a long line of last gasps before life support is needed to keep it alive. I wont say death, but more like a coma.

Forced into a coma by companies like EA, Activision and Capcom because theyre the ones holding the pillow over the face of singleplayer games, while companies like Blizzard and Ubisoft sit in a corner self-felicitating watching it all unfold.

By the end of the next generation the idea of a single player game is going to be considered a niche genre. Low budget development companies will continue to make them simply because they dont have the money to play with the big boys and make REAL games (read: multiplayer games). The reason this is going to happen is because companies like EA, Activision and Capcom have enough yes men (read: consumers) that continue and will always continue to support these companies. Making excuses for those of us that dont buy the game saying things like “Oh they didnt buy it because theyre just waiting for the Epic Ultra Deluxe Game of the Week, Game of the Month, Game of the Quarter, Game of the Bi-Quarter, Game of the Tri-Quarter, Game of the Year Platinum Best Sellers Edition” and yes, that is one single title.

So dont make light of the idea that Singleplayer games are dying because they are. However, its like dying from radiation or cancer (no offense to anyone who has or knows someone who has cancer and/or died of cancer), its a slow painful death and all the most of us can do is just watch and offer what little support we can to ease the comfort.

max

On October 6, 2012 at 8:25 am

lol.. jojo u might have heard of skyrim, but have u heard of the next Elder scrolls game ? its a MMORPG….. owned….. even if i alwasae hated mmorpg’s pay per months bull , the guy is right, skyrim with a coop mod or dueling mod would be very nice.

Alex Covic

On October 7, 2012 at 6:50 am

“Maybe the secret is… making great games?” – great riposte.

From a company/publisher side this “always-online” model makes sense: data-mining, tracking users and their behavior, keeping them hooked on their tit, bombarding them with ads, infinite noise-marketing, etc …

From a consumer side, there will always be parents, who do not want their kids interacting online via their gaming console. There will always be low bandwidth ghettos, or smart phones charging batteries, around the globe with people still having the money for a offline game experience. And there are old(er) players, who want a single player experience, like they want to read a book … on their own time – without the noise around them. Confirmation bias, indeed.

mlove

On October 9, 2012 at 8:42 am

I’m a single player fan. As far as that goes, I think Dark Souls did multiplayer correctly. I play by myslef until I want help or want to help someone else. Sometimes others crash the party but It’s not all that often. I just want the choice in especially RPG games.