Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. Photo: ComicBook.com
I have pretty well kept my distance from the online/offline gaming experience debate, but once they came for my favorite first-person shooter I felt it was time to address the issue head-on. Call of Duty is one of my favorite video game franchises and finding out that Black Ops 4 doesn’t offer a single player campaign mode was, to put it lightly, incredibly disappointing. Enough so that this is the first time I won’t be buying a Call of Duty game since Modern Warfare came out over a decade ago.
I won’t spend money on an experience that doesn’t appeal to me, which is why I’ve missed out on games like Destiny and Titanfall. They may have looked badass, but I have zero interest in online multiplayer. I understand the appeal to others, I mean, MMOs are popular for a reason. But why do fans of single player or offline modes have to sacrifice what they love about gaming?
What Do Gamers Say?
After visiting multiple gamer discussion boards, curious how other players felt about online MP, I discovered a similar tonal theme: Even the players who like online multiplayer aren’t always that impressed.
Gamers on the IGN and GameSpot boards were full of interesting opinions:
- Offline mode allows them to play the way they want to.
- Some wish more developers allowed offline MP.
- Online doesn’t have to be in every game that comes out.
- In online mode, sometimes people stop playing the game.
- You have to deal with assholes.
- Some players prefer local MP versus online MP.
- People online cheat and argue and some enjoy sabotaging their own teams.
- Even those that feel online MP is “cool in some ways” find that there is too much emphasis on it and it’s annoying.
- Local or offline MP (a.k.a face-to-face communication) is better than online.
- Console online MP “is so impersonal that it gets boring pretty quick unless you’re controller swapping with a buddy in the room.”
- Consoles are for local MP and PC is for online.
- Online MP can be stressful and many gamers play to have fun and relax.
- Online gaming can become “just as predictable and redundant” as offline.
- The gaming experience is “better in a well-crafted single-player mode.”
Now, let’s take a look at the other side:
- Being able to play with family and friends long-distance.
- Some games allow for diverse environments and modes to play in.
- If you find chill gamers it’s great because “strategies develop, map information flows, there is more awareness of the dynamics of the map,” etc.
- If you play offline MP, you “might as well be playing against bots, and that isn’t very fun in itself.”
Statistics and Revenue
One of the reasons online multiplayer became popular for developers was the chance to earn more revenue. DLC’s, for example, and the fact that people who play online need their own game and their own subscription instead of sharing one physical copy. While costs for gamers went up, so did the distributors’ earnings.
A study found that online MP/MMO gaming — free-to-play and pay-to-play — generated revenue of roughly $19.9 billion in the U.S., and the data volume of global online gaming traffic forecast a growth from 126 petabytes in 2016 to 568 petabytes in 2020.
Electronic Arts Games label president Frank Gibeau once referred to single-player offline games as “fire-and-forget, packaged goods only… 25 hours and you’re out.” He feels that “online is where the innovation, and the action, is at.”
The popularity of offline gaming is not extinct, though, and neither are its gamers. For example, statistics revealed that as of April 2015, 73% of PS4 users played games offline while 54% played games online. And there are plenty of gamers that feel the way I do and hesitate to spend money on a game without a single player campaign mode. A common concern: not being able to play online-only games when servers go down. I’ll certainly take a “packaged good” that I can play whenever I feel like over crashing servers.
My big question is: why does innovation have to be at the expense of other creative works, such as single-player narratives? Take RPG’s like Fallout, for example, where a singular experience of choice could be impacted by an online-only setting. While many people simply want to connect and play with others online, single player advocates are drawn to story-driven games with character development and innovative narratives.
I think we can all agree that based on monetary value alone online multiplayer is here to stay. Which is fine for those who love that style. But as we examine whether or not online MP is overrated, it’s certainly fair to address whether or not gamers should be excluded from gaming experiences because of online-only games.