EA: multiplayer now an "expectation"
But single-player only isn't dead.
Multiplayer is now an "expectation", according to EA - but single-player only games are not dead.
Multiplayer is of particular importance to shooters, Jeff Gamon, EA Partners executive producer on Syndicate, told Eurogamer.
"It's a matter of scope and value for money," he said. "We have to think in terms of our customers and the product. I don't think online and social modes are absolutely a requirement. It depends on the game. But it's rapidly becoming an expectation because it's becoming more and more common.
"We are making a first-person shooter with Syndicate. The kinds of people who play that want to play online with their friends."
Gamon denied, however, that the addition of co-op to Syndicate was a business decision designed to increase the value of the product in gamers' eyes. Instead, it was an attempt to recreate the feel of the first Syndicate game.
"When we're thinking about what kind of online game we wanted to make, co-op seemed the only way to go based on the original games," he said.
"Co-op for us was always equal partners in this. It wasn't about, we need to tick a box here. This is Syndicate. We're Starbreeze, so we're going to do a single-player campaign with a great narrative, really immersive, but it was a given to us this was going to be equal partner in the billing, with the co-op mode recreating that experience of the original game."
The issue of multiplayer in games was thrust into the limelight when BioWare announced a co-op mode for action role-playing game Mass Effect 3.
Some fans have complained about the mode, which sees players team up online in an attempt to boost their Galactic Readiness, saying it detracts from what has traditionally been an involving, epic single-player series.
When Eurogamer asked BioWare Edmonton general manager Aaryn Flynn whether single-player only games are dead, he replied: "I wouldn't go that far.
"For us, we looked at it and thought it would be fun to make a multiplayer game. Then we said, well, what's the right way to do it? This is what we hit upon as our solution to that. I hope fans agree."
Last year then EA Games label boss Frank Gibeau said 25 hours and you're out single-player only games were "finished". The future, he said, was "connected gameplay".
At Gamescom this year veteran video game consultant Mark Cerny, who has worked with Sony on games such as Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, Spyro and Ratchet & Clank, echoed Gibeau's comments, saying the traditional single-player only game experience would not exist by the end of 2014.
"Right now you sit in your living room and you're playing a game by yourself - we call it the sp mission or the single-player campaign," he said. "In a world with Facebook I just don't think that's going to last.
"A game without the presence of other players in it - you go out three or five years, I believe that is unthinkable given how connected we're becoming."
Resident Evil: Revelations assistant producer Tsukasa Takenaka, however, disagreed - despite the fact that his game includes a two-player co-op Raid mode.
"No I don't think that single-player only games are dead at all," he said. "I definitely think that depending on the experience the designer is trying to create the game they want to present, a single-player only experience is absolutely valid. I fully believe we're going to see single-player experiences moving forward.
"But in the case of Resident Evil: Revelations, we felt like we were lucky enough to present both of those experiences, with the campaign mode and also Raid mode. The great thing Raid mode gives the player is a bit of longevity for the game. It lets you come back to the game again and again with friends or even just by yourself and get more out for your money."
And another dissenting voice is that of Thatgamecompany's Robin Hunicke, producer on the upcoming PlayStation Network exclusive Journey.
"Games were always multiplayer for a long time and then they became single-player," she said. "The novelty of a single-player experience is still there. I love busy box games like Machinarium and I'm going to totally play it. I love that kind of experience where you go through this world and experience it, especially when it has beautiful art and sound. I don't think that's ever going to go away. It's like how a beautiful album you can listen to on your own is different than a concert. It's just different. But they're both really valuable. Being able to play your own music on the piano is different than listening to a record, but you still experience the composer through that act."
Journey takes place in a big, orange landscape where players can walk, glide and fly as they probe to uncover the history of an "ancient, mysterious civilisation". The online element means that you'll be bump into other people now and then and get to share the experience to some extent.
"Games are a medium that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways by a variety of people and it's really exciting to me that because of multiplayer games more people are now able to be brought into the experience," Hunicke continued. "You can play with someone else and they can bring you along. Maybe Journey will be that for a few people - a way to get over the initial barrier of performing in an online space."