With the advent of social games and more console connectivity there is a noticeable trend of packaging more games with cooperative and competitive multiplayer features. This is a great development in the game world because supporting a wider range of play styles can facilitate a larger audience. Friends can play with other friends who get excited and draw even more friends into the loop. Creating a community can extend the life of a product through expansion packs and micro-transactions and even simply keep fans around long enough to be excited for a sequel.
One thing that concerns me, however, is that there seems to be this line of thought that single player gaming is dying. There are people that believe that multiplayer is the future and everything else will fall by the wayside. This is simply not the case.
On speaking to current trends it is easy to see the success of World of Warcraft and Facebook as a platform. Let’s ignore the stagnation of the mobile and PC gaming markets for now. What we are left with are consoles- the core of the game platform business. There are clear examples of games receiving better critical and popular acclaim because of multiplayer modes. Grand Theft Auto 4 is a sprawling solo experience but you can play with and against friends in a cops and robbers mode. Almost all first-person shooters have cooperative play and various competitive modes, some even going so far as to focus on multiplayer and packaging a very weak solo campaign. These points all create a great case for why multiplayer gaming is here to stay but to swing wildly in the opposite direction and say single player is dying is being reactionary. A look at recent games awarded Game of the Year by popular outlets reveals Batman: Arkham Asylum, Oblivion, and even Bioshock, which is a first-person shooter that forwent a multiplayer mode altogether. Surely these types of game experiences are here to stay as well.
Aside from examining the current market we can think about why people play games to begin with. Entertainment has a long history of solitary and social applications. People can watch movies in groups and listen to music at parties but that doesn’t prevent doing these activities alone. Man is a social creature, to be sure. That is exactly the reason people turn to media when they are bored and alone. Curling up with a good book is a traditional experience- why should curling up with a good game be any different?