This past Tuesday, EA’s Peter Söderlund came out of nowhere and announced in a blog post that EA is shutting down Visceral Games, the studio best known for the Dead Space series. This came as a surprise to many because Visceral was working on a new single-player Star Wars game with a story written by the Uncharted series’ Amy Hennig. Not much was known about the game other than the linear, story driven style of it. At E3 2016 only a short teaser and some concept art was shown.
But, according to an email obtained by Kotaku, that game will live on, kind of. Söderlund says in his post that they are “shifting the game to be a broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency,” essentially changing everything about the game. However, the email sent to employees states that the assets that have already been created will be used as the foundation for this new game. But, the general consensus on the internet is that this will involve some kind of online with microtransactions throughout.
An end for single-player games?
So, why would EA cancel a game with the awesome combo of Uncharted in the Star Wars universe I feel this is just another step in the direction that big publishers have been going in recent years. That is, away from single-player games, or at least single-player games without some kind of online aspect. Big name companies have been putting multiplayer into almost all of their games in one way or another. In the lightest cases are games that have challenges with an online leaderboard attached, like Rocksteady’s Batman games. In the worst cases you see a game like Uncharted or Mass Effect get a half-baked multiplayer tacked on. But, it’s only now that people are starting to take notice because of the surge in microtransactions and loot boxes. The most recent culprit that has brought this to the forefront is, of course, Middle Earth: Shadow of War. The loot box system in that game is so invasive that many critics gave lesser scores because of it. But the aspect of attacking another player’s base isn’t new. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain had pretty much the exact same system with their F.O.B.s and had you attacking and defending. But MGS did it right. The soldiers and equipment you assigned to those bases didn’t cost any real money.
And that’s what it’s all about, real money, not in-game currency, that doesn’t help the developers or publishers make a larger profit. It does make business sense to make players pay for a game even after they’ve bought it. I’d be lying if I said that I go back to a story-driven game after I’ve completed said story, but I’d also be lying if i said these aren’t my favorite types of games. What’s wrong with playing a game once and never going back to it? Well to a publisher like EA, you’re only paying them once, but they want more of that sweet cash.
If a company can find a way to make you pay for a game more than once, why wouldn’t they do it? Of course, that sounds like, and is, a shitty thing to do to their customers. If so many people are in such a rage about these microtransactions and aren’t paying for them then developers would stop putting them in their games, right? They would, if that were the case, but it’s apparently not.
The games industry is an ever evolving beast, and publishers only follow the changes that make money. With the rise of “games as service” and free-to-play, these big companies are seeing their success and are now trying to get in on it. Even Rockstar is going away from the single-player only games they’re known for. Sure, Grand Theft Auto 4 and Red Dead Redemption both had multiplayer modes, but they were nothing compared to what GTA 5 has become. Rockstar has made no mention of a single-player story DLC for GTA 5 and has since announced Red Dead Redemption 2, with a description stating that it will be a “new online multiplayer experience.” This definitely makes me worry that the game will be something like Destiny, much like what this Star Wars game will likely become, and will do so at the expense of the story.
With all that said, I don't think single-player games will die anytime soon. I just think we're going to see a lot less come from big game companies like EA, and that's fine. Let the small, independent developers who put their hearts and souls into a game be the ones to create these masterpieces. I mean, The Witcher 3 is an indie game, and is one of the greatest of all time in my book.
So, one can only hope that publishers like EA will go back to releasing actual single-player games without these stupid microtransactions, but it's fairly doubtful. Even if they don't, single-player, story-driven games will always have a place in any true gamer’s heart.