Local Multiplayer is DyingFiled inside: News
The PS4 and Xbox One just released. Millions of each console have been sold in an incredibly short time, breaking records and signaling that the long awaited next generation of video games is finally here. Years of potential and promise have seemingly been realized with ridiculously pretty games, boasting numbers of polygons and resolutions that my eyes can’t even comprehend. It’s wonderful.
The recent holiday made me realize something distressing, though. While spending time with loved ones, waiting for the next opportunity to consume more food than I should, my cousin was eager to show off his PS4. It was met with awed eyes, of course, but watching is rarely enough to really experience a game. Naturally, everyone wanted to give it a test drive, but waiting for a turn was soul sapping. “Don’t worry,” he assured, “I have two controllers.”
He searched his library of launch games for anything people could play together. It was all in vain.
Killzone: Shadow Fall, inarguably the biggest first-party IP available at the PS4’s launch? No local multiplayer. Battlefield 4? Surely, one of EA’s biggest releases of the year would sport some local multiplayer modes, right? Nope. How about Need for Speed: Rivals, the next entry in the popular racing series? Uh uh. How is it possible that Call of Duty: Ghosts, a game also available on last-gen systems, is one of the only launch games to offer local multiplayer?
Unfortunately, aside from PS4’s Knack, Xbox One’s Killer Instinct, and some yearly sports titles that don’t offer much in evolutionary gameplay, there are practically no exclusive next-gen games – games that could and should be able to show off the power of these new systems – that offer local multiplayer.
The first wave of next generation games boasts some pretty great multiplayer if you’re online and that’s where publishers’ focuses are. We all lead busy lives, certainly. Not everyone has the time to go to a friend’s place after work just to get a couple of rounds in, and holiday get-togethers are few and far between, so the convenience of online multiplayer is why it’s so fantastic. However, if you do happen to have some family or friends over and actually want to play, you know, together, you’re out of luck.
Sorry, little cousin Timmy, if you want to experience this awesome new game along with me, you’re going to need to be at your own home with your own shiny new console and your own copy of the game. Oh, and don’t forget you’ll need that yearly online subscription.
Where is the local multiplayer!? With online multiplayer modes getting more and more focus in recent games (slapped on in some cases), to the point where solo campaigns suffer – becoming increasingly linear and astoundingly brief – how is it that such a key feature like split-screen/local multiplayer is neglected? Perhaps I’m totally off base here, but shouldn’t these über-powerful new pieces of hardware be able to handle the workload if outdated tech can? As a point of contrast, Nintendo’s struggling Wii U console, derided for its relative lack in power, features around 10 exclusive games so far that provide this oft-neglected feature.
It is a trend that’s been going on for some time. Of course, it’s easy to understand that these decisions are largely business driven. More and more resources are dedicated to building lasting online multiplayer communities in the hope the consumers will play their games longer. (The theory is that holding onto games deters trade-ins and potentially lost new game sales as consumers opt for the slightly cheaper used games route.) Requiring multiplayer to be online-only encourages more sales of new games, the consoles to play them on, and the subscription fees to actually play them. Local multiplayer would only serve to undermine that.
But there’s just something rewarding about beating a particularly difficult boss through coordinated in-person teamwork; something precious about being able to experience a new game with, say, your significant other or your child, getting them to understand why you like your hobby so much and possibly deepening your bonds; something unforgettable about actually seeing, hearing, feeling the person beside you win or lose a competitive match while you taste sweet victory or utter defeat.
The experience of local multiplayer is irreplaceable. So, instead of being replaced, it’s falling by the wayside, and that’s unfortunate.