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Publishers are following the money – but that doesn’t mean single-player is dead.

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There’s a power in stories. A power to entertain and to enlighten. Make us think and feel things we’d never considered before. For me, the best games are the ones that tell me a great story. I got chills the first time I heard B.J. Blazkowicz’s opening monologue from Wolfenstein: The New Order, and was captivated by his struggle throughout the game. I felt angry, and then sad after John Marston’s betrayal at the end of Red Dead Redemption. I was proud of what my characters had been through and accomplished in the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series, these empty shells whom I had brought to life, given character, motivation, and personality. There is something undeniably special about a story told through a video game, a depth of immersion that’s difficult to replicate elsewhere. There’s a power in stories. A power to entertain and to enlighten. Make us think and feel things we’d never considered before. For me, the best games are the ones that tell me a great story. I got chills the first time I heard B.J. Blazkowicz’s opening monologue from Wolfenstein: The New Order, and was captivated by his struggle throughout the game. I felt angry, and then sad after John Marston’s betrayal at the end of Red Dead Redemption. I was proud of what my characters had been through and accomplished in the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series, these empty shells whom I had brought to life, given character, motivation, and personality. There is something undeniably special about a story told through a video game, a depth of immersion that’s difficult to replicate elsewhere.

 

It’s not at all impossible for multiplayer games to elicit these same feelings. There are plenty of touching stories about moments shared silently between two players in 2012’s indie puzzle adventure Journey,  and in Grand Theft Auto Online exists one of the best examples of the potential for emergent storytelling, as countless gifs and forum posts can attest. But these are outliers. Focus on storytelling has never been a defining characteristic of multiplayer gameplay, and in an industry that is seeing online multiplayer beginning to co-opt single-player as the foundation of many major titles some gamers are concerned that we’re seeing a decline in the single-player narrative experience.
It’s easy to make arguments for either side. We’re seeing more and more publishers embrace the “games as a service” model, a philosophy that focuses on providing long term support to games after release to encourage consumers to continue playing – and spending money on – games whose life cycles would otherwise have ended much earlier. This model generally relies on revenue from multiplayer modes to maximize profits. Publisher Square Enix recently made a pretty definitive statement on the company’s position in a shareholder report, stating:

 

“Gone are the days in which single-player games were of primary status and multiplayer games secondary. Lately, multiplayer games have taken the lead, and it is standard for games to be designed for long-term play.”
Elsewhere, the unhappy news about the closure of EA studio Visceral Games and the restructuring of their single-player Star Wars game has many wondering what we’ll be getting in its place. EA has long been focused on integrating multiplayer into their games and while it has since come to light that there were many factors involved in the studio shutdown, assumptions that this was a sign of EA deemphasizing single-player content sparked discussion throughout the industry.

 

On the other hand, it isn’t as if we’re running short on single-player adventures. 2017 saw it’s biggest day in gaming on October 27th, with the release of Super Mario Odyssey, Assassin’s Creed Origins, and Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, three brand new entries in hugely successful franchises – and all story driven single player experiences, foregoing online multiplayer entirely. Wolfenstein 2 is a first-person shooter whose setting would make the perfect backdrop for cooperative multiplayer, yet the developers declined to include this mode so as not to “dilute the single-player experience”. And we’ve seen Star Wars Battlefront 2 hyping up its single-player campaign ahead of the game’s release later this month after a massive fan outcry over the lack of one in its predecessor, echoing a similar situation with Titanfall 2 last year. These are both franchises designed “as a service” with multiplayer at their core, yet fan interest led EA (publisher of both games) to see enough value in a single-player campaign to dedicate resources into developing one for each game’s sequel.

 

So if publishers are still seeing value in single-player games then why does it seem as if they’re disappearing? Why is it that these days it’s more surprising to learn that a game will be released without a multiplayer component than with one? If the demand for single-player games hasn’t declined, then what changed? The answer is that the way games make money has changed. Season passes, loot boxes, microtransactions and “games as a service” are all components of this. Businesses exist to make money. As new milestones are reached and the potential for profit is realized priorities in the games industry shift. This is true of any industry. Gone are the days when maximum revenue was limited by the number of copies sold, and there is no better example of this than Grand Theft Auto V.

 

Grand Theft Auto V is a game defined by money. Of course, the story centres around bank robbers and the missions feature high stakes heists with millions of dollars on the line, but there’s much more to it than that. With a development and advertising budget of $265 million, GTA V is the second most expensive-to-produce video game in history. By the end of its first day in stores on September 17th, 2013 it had recouped that budget more than three times over, and since that first day on sale over four years ago it continues to appear on lists of top selling games each week. It broke scores of records for units shipped and had surpassed one billion dollars in sales before the end of its first week – all before Grand Theft Auto Online even launched. To date, GTA V has sold eighty-five million copies. When I began researching for this article it was the #4 best selling video game in the world – but before I finished it had climbed to #3. Conservative estimates put its total revenue at over $3 billion USD. To call Grand Theft Auto V the definition of a successful single-player game would be a massive understatement.

 

So with these figures in mind, it would be fair to say that anything attached to the Grand Theft Auto name will be a guaranteed success. Publisher Rockstar Games seemed to agree in a blog post at the end of 2013, promising single-player story DLC for the following year along with continued support and improvements for the fledgling GTA Online. Years went by, and the online mode continued to grow and find success with new content and regular updates, but the promised single-player DLC never materialized. Only recently in an interview with Game Informer did Rockstar comment on why the story content was shelved. Citing the commitment of resources towards launching the upgraded PS4 and Xbox One versions, the long awaited PC port and continued development on GTA Online, as well as feeling that Grand Theft Auto V was a “complete” game, they no longer felt that single-player expansions were either “possible or necessary”. There’s no reason not to take this at face value. Rockstar is an impressive company, but their resources are not unlimited – something had to be prioritized. But why Online?  Perhaps because by 2016 Grand Theft Auto Online had generated $500,000,000 on its own via “shark cards”, the vehicle through which Online allows players to purchase in-game currency using real money. Considering how the online service’s success has continued to grow since then we can assume that number has also risen substantially. As successful as single-player DLC would no doubt have been for Rockstar, GTA Online proved to be more profitable and easier to manage with the resources at hand, and ultimately that decision has paid off so well that Take Two Interactive – Rockstar’s parent company – now plans to implement what it calls “recurrent consumer spending” (aka microtransactions) in all of its games going forward.

 

And therein lies the issue that concerned gamers are dealing with today. Game publishers are businesses, and businesses follow the money. People voluntarily pay outrageous sums for loot boxes and other microtransactions and as a result, the platforms that support these methods are given priority – and the fact is that single-player-only games don’t support them nearly as well. Yet in spite of all this, we still have holdouts. 2017’s open-world single-player RPG Horizon Zero Dawn was Sony’s best selling debut ever for a new IP and was lauded by critics. The majority of mainstream titles that Bethesda Softworks has published over the last five years – including recent hits Prey, Dishonoured 2, and Wolfenstein 2 – have been single-player story-driven games with no multiplayer component at all.  Modern graphic adventure games like Life is Strange and The Walking Dead continue to captivate their audiences with the stories they tell and find critical success. We’re even seeing the companies most gamers are quickest to point fingers at for the perceived decline defending their commitment to single-player and insisting that it’s here to stay. As part of a statement regarding the closure of Visceral Games, EA executive vice president Patrick Söderlund said:
“This truly isn’t about the death of single-player games – I love single-player, by the way – or story and character-driven games (…) Storytelling has always been part of who we are, and single-player games will of course continue.”

 

Rockstar Games director of design Imran Sarwar said in his interview with Game Informer:
“We would love to do more single-player add-ons for games in the future. As a company, we love single-player more than anything, and believe in it absolutely – for storytelling and a sense of immersion in a world, multiplayer games don’t rival single-player games”.

 

So, are single-player games at risk? I would say no. There is still value – and profit – to be found in a single-player story. From a cold and calculated business perspective, a game’s plot and setting are still valuable tools in marketing and a good story can keep people reminiscing and reengaging for years to come. But are single-player games going to change? Yes. Absolutely, and most gamers won’t like it. We will see more single-player games that could stand on their own being shipped with multiplayer modes designed to support the “games as a service” model. In those that don’t (and probably also still with those that do), we will likely continue to see the season pass model used. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we continue to see loot boxes and other microtransactions popping up in single-player modes that can find a way to justify them, as we’ve recently seen in Middle Earth: Shadow of War. Hopefully, publishers and developers will make an effort to make these additions unobtrusive to our stories and experiences – but maybe they won’t.

 

It’s easy to decry companies for preying on our wallets, and I’m not at all suggesting that all game companies are innocent of shady practices and exploitative strategies – but these practices still exist in abundance today because they were successful. Maybe it began with microtransactions in multiplayer games, or maybe it goes as far back as the introduction of downloadable content, but the genie is out of the bottle now and there’s no putting him back. Publishers know that the copy of their game that you paid for and own is not the limit of the money they can earn for it – there is no upper limit anymore. Single-player games aren’t going anywhere, but because they work – and work so well – these spending hooks are also here to stay.

 

 

 

Guest post by: Dylan McDermott

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15 Things You Never Knew About Game of Thrones

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The Night King – makinggameofthrones.com

Game of Thrones has finally returned to our screens with season seven premiering to huge praise from fans and critics alike. So, it’s safe to say that being obsessed with Westeros will be quite common for the next seven weeks, so let us help you with that. Here are 15 things you never knew about Game of Thrones.

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Media Create Sales: Week 46, 2017 (Nov 13 – Nov 19)

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New media create sales sees Pokemon Ultra Sun / Ultra Moon topping the charts. Super Mario Oddysey is in third place and the boycotted EA game, Star Wars Battlefront 2 is in fourth with 38.769 units sold.

01./00. [3DS] Pokemon Ultra Sun / Ultra Moon {2017.11.17} – 667.439 / NEW
02./00. [3DS] Pokemon Ultra Sun / Ultra Moon Dual Pack {Pokemon Ultra Sun \\ Pokemon Ultra Moon} {2017.11.17} – 247.782 / NEW
03./01. [NSW] Super Mario Odyssey # (Nintendo) {2017.10.27} – 62.024 / 714.308
04./00. [PS4] Star Wars Battlefront II {2017.11.14} – 38.769 / NEW
05./02. [PS4] Call of Duty: World War II # {2017.11.03} – 34.116 / 269.483
06./03. [NSW] Splatoon 2 {2017.07.21} – 25.118 / 1.343.255
07./00. [WIU] Dragon Quest X: 5,000 Year Journey to a Faraway Hometown Online {2017.11.16} – 24.836 / NEW
08./00. [NSW] Dragon Quest X: 5,000 Year Journey to a Faraway Hometown Online {2017.11.16} – 18.444 / NEW
09./05. [NSW] Mario Kart 8 Deluxe {2017.04.28} – 16.532 / 819.004
10./00. [PS4] Dragon Quest X: 5,000 Year Journey to a Faraway Hometown Online {2017.11.16} – 13.657 / NEW
11./12. [NSW] The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild # {2017.03.03} – 7.004 / 641.853
12./18. [NSW] Pokken Tournament DX {2017.09.22} – 6.642 / 122.333
13./08. [3DS] Girls Mode 4 {2017.11.02} – 6.523 / 48.349
14./04. [PS4] Need for Speed Payback {2017.11.10} – 6.440 / 27.404
15./07. [PS4] ARK: Survival Evolved {2017.10.26} – 6.178 / 109.978
16./06. [PS4] Assassin’s Creed Origins {2017.10.27} – 5.593 / 88.336
17./13. [PS4] Gran Turismo Sport # {2017.10.19} – 5.063 / 187.503
18./09. [PS4] .hack//G.U. Last Recode # {2017.11.01} – 3.738 / 72.214
19./20. [3DS] Animal Crossing: New Leaf Amiibo+ {2016.11.23} – 3.444 / 270.765
20./00. [PS4] The Sims 4 # {2017.11.14} – 3.428 / NEW

Top 20 

PS4 – 9
NSW – 6
3DS – 4
WIU – 1

HARDWARE

Code:

+-------+------------+------------+------------+------------+------------+-------------+
|System |  This Week |  Last Week |  Last Year |     YTD    |  Last YTD  |     LTD     |
+-------+------------+------------+------------+------------+------------+-------------+
|  NSW  |     86.999 |     79.958 |            |  2.252.328 |            |  2.252.328  |
|  3DS  |     43.480 |     19.369 |    107.631 |  1.372.373 |  1.334.965 | 23.533.114  |
|  PS4  |     26.302 |     26.058 |     38.026 |  1.471.814 |  1.191.150 |  5.480.133  |
|  PSV  |      3.090 |      3.210 |      9.191 |    293.179 |    676.103 |  5.736.246  |
|  XB1  |        247 |      1.465 |        186 |      8.071 |      6.490 |     83.654  |
|  PS3  |         46 |         41 |        625 |     19.919 |     56.347 | 10.469.706  |
|  WIU  |         43 |         36 |      3.251 |     15.500 |    263.647 |  3.328.708  |
+-------+------------+------------+------------+------------+------------+-------------+
|  ALL  |    160.207 |    130.137 |    158.910 |  5.433.184 |  3.528.702 | 50.883.889  | 
+-------+------------+------------+------------+------------+------------+-------------+

 

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FIFA 18 Feels Like a Free-To-Play Game

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I know that you probably had it with EA and their bad business policy but I feel that this is an issue that has to be addressed. I was a big fan of this title since the PS One days. When EA started adding player packs and FUT it felt like a money grab to me and I stopped buying their games. Came back after a few years later and saw a lot of changes… for the worst.

If you are unfamiliar with FIFA Ultimate Team, it is a mode where you start with a crappy team, earn cash by playing games, spend that cash on packs or on the transfer market to build a better squad, rinse and repeat. Sounds a bit grindy? Well, it is. Not only that, it’s exhausting and frustrating because there are people who spent real money to skip this part. Chances are that your 70 rating squad will be up against an 85 rating squad in the 10th division just because that someone bought a more expensive version of the game where he got Ronaldo on a loan and a bunch of FIFA points that he spent on gold player packs. Skills don’t usually help in these situations.

Another thing that really bothered me is the draft mode. I remember reading about it when it was introduced to FIFA and it was an idea I really loved. You choose a formation, click on a position and get a bunch of random players to choose for that position. RNG is strong in this one and I think it would be very fun to play. Why did I say “would be”? Because I can’t freaking play it! I bought a $60 game that has a game mode I am not allowed to play just yet. It costs 15,000 coins to play it. Really EA? Couldn’t you at least give us one free ride? Does a fully priced game have to be all about grinding?

To put this into perspective, you will need to play at least 30 games to make this much coins. Then you will have the toughest decision of them all. Buy a gold player pack or have some fun with draft mode? Either of them can bring you more money or get you back to zero. Yes, it’s just like gambling, I know.

I will skip the input lag issues, matchmaking problems, and all that stuff. If you want to get more info on that the Daily Mail has you covered. What I want to talk about here is this pay-to-win system that has evolved over the years. I, as a player who came back 5 or 6 years later, feel so inferior on the field because everyone has a better team than me.

Before I propose a fix for this game I want to mention one more interesting detail that has been around since the first FUT mode – contracts. When you buy a player from the transfer market he has a certain amount of games that he can play for your club until his contract has ended. Of course, you can buy more contracts on the market with real or fake money. Complete nonsense!

What I would like to do is to propose some fixes for EA before we all stop playing their games that are getting worse and worse. First of all, rethink everything that you are doing with FUT. We already gave you $60 or $80 for the game. Do you really expect us to be complete brainless morons and grind for in-game currency for days just so we can buy an 80 rating player that has decent pace? I don’t think so. Either give some free gold packs to get us started or remove the mode completely.

Match bonuses are insanely low. If you lose a match you will be getting about 350-400 coins. A win will probably get you a 100 more. If you have a streak of bad luck and end up playing against people who spent real money on players you will probably end up losing. Even if you win you won’t feel good about it because another one with Ronaldo up front is about to appear very soon. This could be easily fixed with bigger rewards based on the rating difference between teams. If you beat a team that has 10 or 20 rating more than you I think that you deserve 1K coins on top of your regular reward, don’t you think?

Remember when EA thought that free to play model is the next big thing and they went all out with FIFA world, NFS world and more F2P titles? Back in the day all of this made sense. You get a game for free and it’s up to you if you want to pay or grind for players. Cash was easier to obtain and it wasn’t a mission impossible to obtain superstar players. But then someone at EA probably said “why don’t we keep charging for games but keep this same model?” and they all went “what a wonderful idea…”. Please try to understand that FIFA 18 isn’t a free game, we paid 60 freaking dollars for it!!!

Here is the most important thing you guys need to do at EA. Have one of your workers start playing FUT, give him as much time he needs and report back to us when he has a decent 85-90 rating team. Tell us how long did it take? Was it fun for him? Did he feel great when pay-to-win players pounded him all day long until he bought a few normal players that can compete with them? Maybe then you will understand that your game isn’t fun at all.

If you are thinking about buying this game, please don’t. This is a broken system and the most greedy scheme I ever saw. A $60 game never felt more like a F2P title. It is time consuming, frustrating and boring. You will have no fun playing it unless you enjoy playing FUT VS AI on Amateur difficulty. Everything above that is badly scripted but that is a story for a different time.

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