Is the End Really Nigh?
Are we really nearing the end of true single player campaigns? Will we have to rely on a bold few developers to create such diamonds in the rough? Has the paradigms of gaming really shifted THAT much in favor of multiplayer? Well, in short, yes. But as with anything in life, things aren't quite so simple.
With games like Mass Effect: Andromeda and gems like Skyrim having been remastered and subsequently re-released (at full price mind you) to massive acclaim, it's hard to believe that the market for a solid single player campaign is anything but thriving. But even Andromeda, like Mass Effect 3 that preceded it, features a solid multiplayer element.
And I'd like to believe that no sane person would ever pick up a Mass Effect title for the multiplayer alone much as they do with a Call Of Duty or Battlefield, but it's those same people who would belittle the game for not including such modes. Even renown single-player juggernauts such as Bethesda must have been feeling the multiplayer pressure which resulted in the release of Elder Scrolls Online. CD Projekt Red stayed true to their roots with their latest Witcher title but we'll see what the future holds for them. Perhaps an MMO set in the Witcher universe?
Gaming is an ever more social undertaking. What was once a hideaway hobby for socially awkward introverts pounding away on a mouse and keyboard in their own mothers' dank and dusty basement is now a fully realized eSport practiced either leisurely or competitively by nearly every twenty-something I know. And the age of consoles has a lot to do with that.
But did the introduction of concepts like Xbox Live really change the scope of gaming that drastically? Yes and no, and more yes than no. While there will always be a niche market for a strung out single player adventure, gaming session times have been getting shorter and shorter. People aren't spending hours at a time grinding through a deep RPG anymore. They're logging on for shorter, intense bursts in matches such as those you'd find in Black Ops 3 or Battlefield 1 where they can test their mettle, take out some of the work week's aggression's, and maybe even do a little lite trash talking. Fewer and fewer people are willing to spend the wee morning hours exploring the far reaches of Skyrim, and if they are logging on for several hours it's to reek havoc with their friends in such titles as Grand Theft Auto V and Ghost Recon: Wildlands.
The people at Ubisoft could have easily pumped out another solid single player campaign in the Ghost Recon universe but they chose not to. Sure, GRW can be played solo but it clearly wasn't built to be. It's been said in several different reviews on several different sites that to truly enjoy GRW the way it was meant to be played is to play it with friends. The same can easily be said for GTA: Online.
More and more titles are readily choosing not to include any sort of single player effort and still remain at the top of the charts in terms of popularity, player base, and sales. Overwatch from Blizzard is a prime example of this. Blizzard is no stranger to either fantastic single player campaigns (a la Diablo III) or solid multiplayer outings (such as WoW) so it's safe to say that they COULD have crafted a great single player story mode for the Overwatch universe. But why would they? They've received little to no backlash for not including it and probably never will.
Speaking of backlash. Here's a bit of an oxymoron. Remember the first Titanfall game? You know, that new Xbox exclusive FPS IP that lacked any sort of campaign? The folks over at Respawn received TONS of backlash for it. So much so that the second title (now no longer exclusive to Xbox) had a fully fleshed, albeit lackluster, story mode which could be enjoyed all by your lonesome. Go figure.
The point is that so many developers are capitalizing on the social aspect of gaming that story driven campaigns are starting to fall by the wayside. They're all asking themselves, "Well that's all well and good, but how can we make it multiplayer." The newer Titanfall game is proof that the half-baked campaign took an obvious back seat to the overhauled multiplayer experience, good though it may be.
I do believe we will soon have to turn to developers such as CD Projekt Red and Bethesda to craft meaningful single player titles and that's only if those of us in this niche audience keep putting our money where our mouths are. I am all for multiplayer and co-op gaming and have been known to dabble in the aforementioned quick bouts of COD, BF1 or Titanfall but I also truly appreciate a fully realized single player story that takes me on an adventure similar to what I'd read in a novel. And that's perhaps the only thing I dislike about titles such as Ghost Recon: Wildlands.
How awesome would it have been to have a tactical military Skyrim set in Bolivia where instead of a Dragonborn, you're a BA delta operator stranded behind enemy lines and on a quest to single handedly shut down the cartel for good and survive the harsh environments of that 3rd world country?
It would have been very similar to a great single player campaign Ubisoft is clearly capable of making; Far Cry. So why can't it just be so?
I am a U.S. Army combat veteran hailing from Texas. I have been an avid Xbox gamer since 2009. While I've been writing all my life, I only began seriously gaming during a combat tour in Iraq and it has always been a dream of mine to combine the two hobbies. I prefer story-driven action RPGs and skill-based shooters and cut my teeth on games such as COD: Ghosts and Skyrim. I seem to find time here and there for my other hobby, playing guitar and live with my wife and children in Lubbock, TX.