Single Player vs. Multiplayer

By Jonathan Barnes, 7 years ago
Unless you’re a gamer who appreciates the finer things in life, like, say, living under rocks, you probably know that Battlefield 3 launched this week. In fact, you probably couldn’t avoid knowing. If you consider yourself a “plugged-in” gamer, you probably also know that there’s a big (for lack of a better term) pissing match between EA (Battlefield) and Activision (Call of Duty). While this forum is ripe for a good discussion about whether we want institutional, public fanboyism to permeate the corporate cultures that bring us our games, it’s not really the biggest story of the week. In my opinion, the biggest story of the week is the continued battle between single player and multiplayer and the disparity (be it perceived or real) between the two, the resources devoted to them, and what is most important to gamers.

Let’s look at this issue through the lens of Battlefield 3, at the time of writing (Wednesday, October 26th, if you’re curious) our community has given the game 4.6 out of 5 from 90 votes. I would be interested to know exactly what our community is voting on when casting these votes. Is it the single player campaign? Is it the multiplayer suite? Is it a bit of both? While I can’t gauge this with any degree of absolute certainty, what I will do is go to a “professional” reviewer or, more aptly, his tweets about his review, to garner some insight.

Ben Kuchera (@BenKuchera) is the Gaming Editor of Ars Technica, a great writer, and, if you’re on Twitter, is someone you should follow. His review was titled, “Battlefield 3 has a single-player campaign... unfortunately” and, after posting it, tweeted out the following:

I don't think it's worth knocking the score of BF3 because of the SP. It's not the steak's fault bad beer was served alongside it.
This may seem a bit odd, but he goes on to elaborate:

Here's my thinking: if there were no single-player game, would I still think the game was worth $60? Absolutely. So why knock a value-add?
I’ll grant you, this is just one opinion of someone whom I respect, but I’m not sure I quite agree with it, and I’ll explain why with one, simple game:

Gears of War 3

By most accounts, Gears 3 is the strongest entry in the series. It combined the best campaign of the trilogy with the most robust, thorough, and engaging multiplayer that Epic has ever produced. Some reviewers went so far as to say that each piece would be worth the price of admission on their own.

The caveat that I’ll bring in to this central argument is that not every gamer is the same. Some gamers prefer multiplayer over single player, some gamers prefer single player campaigns over multiplayer suites, some prefer co-op over competitive, while some like everything. What challenges, and should challenge, every game developer is the desire and drive to please that fourth demographic, the gamers who want it all.

Let’s face it, $60 is a pretty high point of entry for any game and that price won’t be going down… ever. To purchase a game with a shit single player on the premise that the multiplayer backbone is worth the purchase on its own right is kind of a cheat to gamers, especially on the heels of Gears 3 which seemingly gave gamers every last penny of their purchase price in every mode.

To further spin this opinion, think about what games are getting multiplayer components. Like many gamers, I loved, and still maintain that it is one of the best games in this generation. I also thought that the game was perfect without any multiplayer and stood alone as an excellent, single-player experience. I was also excited when BioShock 2 (Xbox 360) was announced, but became a bit skeptical when I heard that 2K was putting in a multiplayer component. On the surface, it should have worked; BioShock was a game with incredibly solid FPS mechanics and, in theory, playing against friends should have been fun. Unfortunately, most gamers agree that BioShock 2 was a perfectly acceptable single player experience (albeit, not as good as its predecessor), but a sub-standard multiplayer component.

And now, fellow gamers, the opinion is in your hands. What do you think? We’ll be posting a simple poll to go along with this piece on what’s the most important factor in purchasing a game: single player, multiplayer, co-op, or everything, but feel free to elaborate on your decision in the comments section.
Jonathan Barnes
Written by Jonathan Barnes
Jonathan has been a news/views contributor since 2010. When he's not writing reviews, features, and opinion pieces, he spends his days working as an informal science educator and his nights as an international man of mystery.