In the modern day, live service games are all the rage. Currently, most titles, if not all, contain in some form or another, online integration.

What was once, a fanciful vision of the future is now a statement of fact in the gaming world. In truth, online-play has permeated into every genre.

Once resigned to sport and racing simulations only, the live service model has evolved to incorporate other styles. And thus creating, countless sub-genres in the process. Whether that’s MOBA, MMO or Battle-Royale games, there’s no escaping the fact, that online play is an unstoppable force in the industry. And, one that doesn’t look like fading into obscurity any time soon.

It begs the question; Have single player experiences been marginalized as a result of live service practices? And, will single-player games vanish from the scene altogether, as a direct consequence? Perhaps in some ways, similar to the way split-screen gaming soon became a nostalgic notion of the past.

At this point, I want to clarify; I am in no way championing this cause, as my allegiances lay firmly on the side of single-player experiences. That said, I am still partial to playing online games now and then. Albeit, I envision a world where both can co-exist peacefully. However, I am aware, that may be a wild delusion of grandeur.

Is it then, more of a lucrative asset for investors, over single-player games that finish after the primary campaign? Hence, calling longevity into question. Or, could it be plausible to infuse the two, and offer a competent story with online play attached, as part of the overall package?

Before I attempt to answer this question, next, I will demonstrate why, in my opinion, single-player games still carry solid muscle, have plenty of staying power. And, are an essential ingredient of the industry.

The Single-Player Success of 2018

In truth, many online games hugged the media spotlight in 2018. Most notably, Fortnite. Though that may be true, perhaps surprisingly, it was two single-player titans that stole the show. And thus, clinching all headlines in the process. At the 2018 Game Awards, God of War took away the coveted prize for best title. With Rockstar’s western wonderland Red Dead Redemption 2, sweeping up silverware across many other categories.

Above all else, this critical acclaim indicates that respect for single player games is still very much alive, while demand is as potent as ever. If that is indeed the case, what are the potential hazards of online? And, is this tectonic shift in favor of it, healthy for the industry as a whole?

The Dangers of Live Service Only Gaming

Before I begin, I would like to state my position on online games. In my opinion, the concept, at least on the face of it, is a force for good. After all, unifying millions of players worldwide is constructive. Also, it promotes healthy competition and allows friends to socialize, from wherever they may be in the world.

My issue with it lies not with the gamer, but with those making the games. Or preferably, those seeking to profit from them. The way I see it, a surge in anti-consumer practices and questionable business decisions from the top brass are threatening to put our industry into disarray. The focus, it would seem, has shifted from quality content issued on the day of release. To companies promoting a buy now pay later approach, with updates drip-fed to the consumer.

And while it’s good that games should receive ongoing maintenance, questions have been raised about the legitimacy of these practices. For instance, if you pay AAA price for a game, is it acceptable to have to download sizeable content in the form of a patch, the day after release? Take Fallout 76 for example. That had an update almost equal in size to the actual game on launch.

Additionally, online play has opened the door to microtransactions. Though these are the subject of much debate and controversy, I am happy for them to exist, if purely for cosmetic purposes. Sure enough, as soon as monetization becomes pay to win, especially regarding the use of loot boxes, those thin lines between gaming and gambling begin to blur.

Live Service Conclusion  

Worst of all, this concerted effort to enforce online play, has a profound impact on the single-player campaign, and detracts from it, as a result. Instead of focusing purely on a captivating story, games now must accommodate for online play.

All in all, single player games are still very much at the heart of the video games industry. But for how long? I for one will fight to the bitter end, to keep them alive. After all, stories of substance that touch that soul and pull at the heartstrings are experiences we take to our graves.

Which are your best single-player and live service games? Do you see one ruling over the other? Or will they both exist in harmony for eternity? Let us know in the chat below. Like always, your contributions count. 

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Steve Roger

I played so many solo games and offline games in the late 80’s and early 90’s that I thought it was refreshing in the early 2000’s to have an online option to play with friends. I think at this point for a lot of casual gamers, it has become the norm. I can see why but I can also see the negative impact it can have on the gaming community if devs continue to prioritize it.