Why Multiplayer is So Important

I was on Amazon the other day, and it struck me how well some older titles are holding their price points, especially older titles with a compelling multiplayer component. These games are still making significant profits for their publishers over a year and a half after their release. Perhaps the most important reason is that gamers tend to hold onto games with fun multiplayer – not giving GameStop a glut of used copies to drive the price down across all retailers. Consider these prices:

PS3 – Call of Duty 4: $56.99 (’07) vs. Metal Gear Solid 4: $39.99 (’08)

360 – Halo 3: $36.99 (’07) vs. Mass Effect: $19.99 (’07)

7 thoughts on “Why Multiplayer is So Important

  1. Just have a look at old Blizzard Games. Starcraft and Diablo 2 for example still sell for 10€ in Germany.

  2. I said “compelling” multiplayer. 🙂

    (Actually, I have no idea how good mp is in MGS4, but I don’t it’s a big selling point for the game, at any rate…)

  3. Adding Multiplayer to a game instantly provides almost endless free content updates.

    When you play Civ4, you know roughly how the AI will play and roughly what they will do depending on the difficulty level and the specific leaders you are playing against. Whilst Civ does a very good job of retaining replay value by the variety of options in the map generator, difficulty levels and leaders, it will at some point become semi predictable.

    However, when you start to play multiplayer, the whole game is turned upsidedown and you have to start from scratch. You still know the rules, and how to play, but so does your opponent and you can not predict she he/she may do.

    Often in multiplayer, a purposly made poor strategic decision can yeild results simply because your opponent doesn’t expect it and if you can capitalise on that, you can undo your opponents plans while they are trying to re-group.

    Before this turns into a pure Civ4 comment, I’ll get back to the point and say everytime you start a multiplayer game, you’ve just been given a “new AI” to play against, one which you can’t predict and ultimatly, one which gives you more far satisfaction when you beat.

  4. It’s interesting to note that some games (mostly shooters) have separate executables for the singleplayer and multiplayer portions. I even seem to recall a few instances where SP and MP were developed by different divisions/studios.

    Several years ago there was a bit of a debate about how much time developers should spend on singleplayer vs. mutiplayer content. The result was a handful of multiplayer-only games that have been released over the years. Some have done very well, others not so much.

    Nowadays, it’s rare to find a shooter or RTS game that doesn’t include some level of multiplayer support, and yet those games succeed or fail anyway. I can’t help but wonder if those developers improperly allocated development resources, or if the base game design was just flawed to begin with.

  5. But multiplayer tends to be zero sum. Halo and CoD are the 2 most ridiculously popular multiplayer shooters out there. Since multiplayer depends on what everyone else is playing, it’s kind of tough to create successful multiplayer amidst these juggernauts. Like how with PC shooters, you can’t get anyone to play anything other than Counter-strike.

  6. I think the better argument is to look at XBOX360 – Call of Duty 4: $56.99 (?07) vs. Call of Duty: World at War: $49.99 (?08).

    There was a massive drop in player numbers when CoD:WaW first came out, but within 3 months, many of those players retreated back to CoD4 since the MP experience is just so much more polished. I doubt CoD4 will drop in price point until IW releases their newest CoD this year.

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