You know, I’ve been gaming for 20 years now. That’s crazy to think about. It’s not as long as some, but certainly longer than many, and long enough to be able to tell when a big shift is under way in the industry.
I’m sure you’ve felt it, too. If you’re reading this blog you’ve almost definitely come across articles proclaiming that linear single player games are dying. Large studios lauded for their once compelling single-player experiences have been shuttered. It has been the year of the Loot Box, where many of the bigger AAA titles have contained some element of extra payment to obtain in-game loot. It’s alarming stuff, for sure. But does it really herald the end of the single player experience?
I certainly don’t think so. Many of this year’s best games were single player experiences. Hell, arguably some of the best games I have ever played were released this year: Persona 5, Breath of the Wild, Horizon Zero Dawn, Dishonored 2, Divinity: Original Sin 2, and more. It has been an incredibly solid year for single player games, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all. You can look at the release schedule for 2018 and see that we’re not losing any momentum in that regard.
Still, the news in the gaming industry recently has been noteworthy in that it does feel like we are in the midst of a paradigm shift. I don’t think single player experiences are going away any time soon, but it does seem like the big publishers are realizing that they are not the most viable way to rake in the big bucks. Releasing a short-ish linear experience that somebody pays once for, then returns after playing, is nowhere near as profitable as, say, your Destiny or your Overwatch, which incentivize players to return over and over again. You can argue up and down about the morality of systems like those (the recent and highly controversial release of Star Wars Battlefront 2 is a prime example of nefarious practices to get players to pay more for content), but people tend to forget video games are products of business, and business always moves towards money. The fact is, whether we like it or not, the industry is likely to move towards that business model. “Games as a service” has proven to be incredibly profitable, and games like Destiny and Overwatch and even their tangentially related offshoots like The Division and Ghost Recon: Wildlands have proven to be successful, to varying degrees. Even BioWare, known for sweeping single player experiences like Dragon Age and the Mass Effect Trilogy, are coming out with a Destiny clone.
The knee jerk reaction to all of this news is to assume that every big game moving forward will have loot boxes, come out in episodes, or have expensive expansion packs that are necessary to purchase in order to stay current. I think, however, that the results of all of this will be far more unpredictable than anybody can anticipate. I think that a large shift is under way, certainly. I’ve seen it several times in my life. The landscape of gaming is always subject to change, and it always follows the flow of technology and economy. With some countries beginning to investigate loot boxes as a potential form of gambling, it’s possible that companies will have to find other ways to monetize their games. And with the potential repeal of Net Neutrality in America on the horizon, who knows what direction the industry will have to take to stay profitable (as an aside, I would like to direct all of my readers to this website so you can contact your representative and tell them you support Net Neutrality).
It’s not all doom and gloom and gloom, though. As I mentioned earlier in my article, there have been plenty of incredible single player experiences this year, and there are more to come. The industry isn’t as saturated with loot box controversy as so many of those clickbait articles would have you believe, you just have to know where to look.
Just as a fun exercise, in order to show you how solid the past few years have been, here’s a list of incredible single player games from the past two years alone that don’t have any loot box bullshit, in no particular order:
- The Witcher 3
- Persona 5
- Horizon Zero Dawn (My review can be found here)
- Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Super Mario Odyssey
- DOOM (2016)
- Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (My review can be found here)
- Nier Automata
- Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
- Dark Souls III
- Dishonored 2
- The Last Guardian
- Hollow Knight
- Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
- Battle Chef Brigade
- Divinity: Original Sin 2
And that list barely covers it all. If you, as a gamer, can’t find something in that list that clicks with you, then maybe it’s time to find a new hobby. Despite all of the controversy that permeates the industry, it is still the best time to be playing video games. The past three or four years have been the best in my life, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. It’s easy to forget that amid all the naysayers and the articles proclaiming the end of an age. But hey, that’s why I’m here. Keep playing games, folks. Keep finding things that you enjoy to play, that you feel good about playing, and put your money there. Thanks for reading, and Stay Optimistic.
* * *
Writing a blog takes time and video games are expensive. I do this purely for fun, but if you want to see me do more live content or game capture, head over to my slightly revamped Patreon page and shoot me some support. For only $3 a month you gain access to my Discord channel where you can directly influence what sort of material I write, such as suggesting games for me to play or game-related topics for me to write about. You also, of course, receive a big shoutout on my next blog post, or whichever post you influence. Any money you give me will go directly to paying for capture equipment such as microphones, capture cards or cameras that I will use to generate more content for my blog. I appreciate you and all your feedback so much.