Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Is online multiplayer good for new titles?

As most of you know I have been playing Monster Hunter Tri since June and well I can't get enough of it. I noticed something in me that I would like to talk about.
I don't think I have purchased a game since I got it so this is where I started thinking about if having online multiplayer in older games is good for newer titles that doesn't have any form of online play.

I think it can be a problem for newer titles because it can prevent you from trying out new games because you are heavily vested into the old game. In the end it is probably bad from a business perspective for other publishers.

Am I alone as far as not getting any new games after being so into a game that I haven't played anything else?
Does anybody else feel wrapped up into a game that you can't stop playing?

Please share your thoughts.


EarthViper said...

Even at the heights of my addiction to Diablo II over the past decade I never stopped buying and playing a variety of other games...but that's just me.

I'd say it depends on if the gamer in question can be satisfied by a single experience, no matter how good/addicting it is, or if they constantly crave variety in their gaming diet.

I'm sure many hugely addicting games, both online and offline, have affected some gamers willingness to spread out their time and money. All the more reason to embrace the ever growing number of gamers.

NinSage said...

Great post, Maxi.

My last two games have been MH3 and DQ9. Both have "MMO" aspects to them. And it's true, since then my games per month rate has severely dropped.

I don't consider that a bad thing.

As much as some gaming companies seem to encourage the "disposable" aspect of games, I am most content when I can consume/engross myself in a game the way some might a good book.

So if some take longer than others? No problem.

Building on the "disposable" concept, I have (many) friends that play a game for a weekend and then shelve it indefinitely because the next big thing has come out. (Those friends tend to be a little more "hardcore" shall we say.)

However, I do have a couple other friends that play games like Lord of the Rings Online or World of Warcraft and barely play ANY other games.

Ultimately, as EV said, it really depends on the specifics of the situation (game/player). But I do know Michael Pachter keeps saying PS3/60 software sales are sluggish because gamers are too busy playing games with awesome online components indefinitely to buy new ones.

Definitely interesting things to think about. But I am always of the mindset that the more things change the more they stay the same.

So I don't imagine the popularity of online gaming will change how we play as much as, simply, who we play with. Just sayin' ^_^

Anonymous said...

thats love man..

one day, you might not have it anymore.

NinSage said...


that's deep, bro.

... but I'm not sure you have the right website... or are a person. =P

we'll see how things play out...

Benjamin Fennell said...

In many ways, it depends on the individual game, I think. There'll always be a massive demand for quick, pick up and play experiences that focus on simplicity in their entertainment, which anyone can easily get into.

But there's obviously a sizable audience for games that go out of the way to keep you around as long as possible for the substance of their content. Outside of some casual Guild Wars here and there with friends, I'm not a big MMO player - Guild Wars is helped by having actual storylines and more concrete goals with rewards, along with seasonal holiday events several times to year to enjoy. And I'm in no way a big fan of the trend we see of gray and brown FPSes with maybe 4-6 hour single player games tacked on as an afterthought to a game that otherwise just focuses on the same basic shooting on the same certain number of maps online that so many get addicted to. Their existence - given the big audience - is plenty justifiable, but the increasing lack of focus on substantial single player modes in many games definitely bugs me.

The "MMO" aspects in games like Dragon Quest 9 and Monster Hunter 3, as CrashM-NinSage mentioned, are something I like these days, though. In a lot of ways, they take fairly static experiences - as single player games have traditionally been - and turn them into something growing, something more organic, in part thanks to interaction with other players. I wouldn't want all games to be like that at all times, as diversity - variety - is key to a healthy industry and keeping the largest number of customers possible happy at any given time. The PS3 and 360 have struggled in software sales these days - as Pachter's noting was brought up - in large part due to pigeonholing themselves right out the door this generation. Their prices were far too high, their focus was on photorealistic graphics in "dark," "mature" games (Continuing the unfounded meme we always hear that graphics need to increasingly be the main focus in game development these days - expensive graphics do not sustain the industry or draw the mass market.), and they intentionally alienated the mass market right out the door to appeal to a very narrow demographic, which in turn only buys a handful of major brandname blockbuster games a year. Hence games like Modern Warfare 2 doing extremely well - as with Halo - with the HD consoles' primary demographic being the traditional controller FPS crowd, cannibalizing the sales of most other games released. They sold themselves as not being narrow platforms for even narrower audiences, and we keep seeing third parties struggling to sell enough games to make money to this audience - Japan visibly especially suffering when they should be focusing on the Wii and handhelds, given that their games only sell on one console this generation - while Sony and Microsoft are now visibly scrambling to widen their audiences with cynical moves like Move and Kinect, which are in turn already failing (In Move's case) and set to fail (In Kinect's case).

Benjamin Fennell said...

While addiction to these major brandname FPSes are definitely part of the HD console conundrum, the situation is essentially symptomatic of a bigger problem - an audience that doesn't care about games outside of these select few titles each year. They didn't buy their PS3 or 360 for a wide range of titles, they bought them for a very few specific games, and they stick to those. They don't buy the countless knockoffs and other similar attempts to pander to their tastes, because these other games aren't the ones they want or the ones they bought their system for - and as Reggie had even pointed out at E3, despite the pervasive meme about Wiis collecting dust or sitting in closets, Wii owners play more games and game more often than HD gamers do. The "hardcore" crowd doesn't spend as much time gaming as they act as though they do, nor they play nearly as many games. Even with years of hype, marketing, and massive budgets, we've seen major first party PS3 and 360 exclusives come out and flop this year due to outright lack of customer interest. Thus, the narrow market - much like the narrow market in the case of MMO players who get hooked on World of Warcraft and so forth and don't play much else. And of course, there's the phenomena of social media gaming like Facebook games and Flash gaming portals and social communities like Kongregate.

We see the industry and "analysts" try to pigeonhole gamers into simple generalizations of "this crowd is hardcore and plays everything" and "this crowd is casual and they don't count since they're not real gamers" these days, when none of these statements are accurate analysis of the gaming market and platform demographics of today - they're trying to dumb things down and by and large the industry is hurting for it because the HD crowd isn't interested in gaming beyond a select few titles each year on the whole, and the Wii crowd isn't interested in buying the same extremely few genres (Party minigames, rail shooters, otherwise dumbed down titles, etc.) that we keep seeing the platform flooded with by third parties that continually try to write off the market as a bunch of idiots who don't deserve serious efforts or even marketing - for the first time, the mass market is being treated as though it's a bad thing, and this is hurting the industry. Third parties try to use the idea that they can't compete with Nintendo - which is demonstrably false - to write off the Wii (Even though they're still competing with Nintendo on the other platforms, just not even taking a chance on the same larger market that actually buys more games.) while trying to ignore the fact that they're getting crushed more directly by annual brandname sports roster updates and brown and gray FPSes. Games that sell because they're what the consoles were bought for, knowing that they would have the long-term online addiction factor to keep them occupied when they game for a longer duration. It's part of what keeps them loyal customers for these brands - they go in knowing what to expect and that they'll be satisfied for months. Thus, they don't feel the need to buy anything else. They didn't buy their expensive HD system for low-end download games or other $60 games that won't provide what they're already getting and satisfied with. It's a rather visibly impenetrable and dangerous market to keep targeting.

Benjamin Fennell said...

But back to the Nintendo end of things, and talk of static single player versus organic single player. The growing, organic single player experience is something we've been seeing Nintendo exploring for years and continuing to grow more into a social realm where players can affect and help to develop each other's gameplay experiences and worlds even without necessarily playing in a multiplayer cooperative or competitive mode. Tag mode on the DS began this with Nintendogs, with our ability to trade and share stats, etc. and Dragon Quest IX has obviously shown how involved and addictive tag mode can be on a larger scale, hence its inclusion as a standardized and much more convenient feature on the 3DS.

Animal Crossing is all about the growing, living organic world experience, about players being able to visit and affect each other's worlds and experiences there, with characters visiting and moving to each others' towns, sharing patterns, town tunes, animals remembering their old home, animals talking about friends' towns and their animals and news from there, and more. Living worlds that grow and develop - even if only in small ways now - based on players connecting, which will only continue to undoubtedly grow and develop in time.

In Fire Emblem 12 - the remake of 3 - that hit the DS in Japan not too long ago, characters will leave your army and return while you're not playing, gaining experience and bringing back items with them, keeping their development up in a sort of natural, organic manner. It also makes me think of the remote questing in the likes of Capcom's Zack & Wiki, Mega Man X Command Mission, and Square's FFCC My Life as a King, where you can send off a character or multiple characters to locations on a map to adventure there while you're off doing things, then return stronger later with the spoils of their journey in tow for you. Features like that can add a lot of neat additional depth and liveliness to a game world - an additional addiction factor in some simple background micromanaging.

I've wanted to see Nintendo take more of a crack at evolving sandbox gaming. The mainstream in the genre's been kind of stuck in the 'edgy' crime world with the likes of GTA for some time now, and when games like GTA and Red Dead Redemption get online modes, they seem to be little more than battle modes. I'd love to see adventure games set in open, expansive sandbox-style worlds like Shenmue or Yakuza or even Zelda, which shares plenty of those elements, where players can connect their worlds remotely through features like WiiConnect24, StreetPass, and SpotPass and impact each other's game worlds and experiences through these connections, like in Dragon Quest IX. It'd be amazing to see worlds as well developed as perhaps Opoona or Steambot Chronicles get that kind of additional depth and potential for growth in experience. Sort of the opposite of the "cinematic" gaming movement Sony began when they took to the top of the industry that has dragged gameplay down severely in its focus and even led to our still often getting the same old kinds of multiplayer experiences we were having 10+ years ago without looking for new ways to develop them like Nintendo has been through things like tag mode, StreetPass, etc. though in most cases, WiiConnect24 has been sorely underused this generation, even by Nintendo themselves. With StreetPass and SpotPass set to be much huger, I'm hoping we'll see more done with WiiConnect24 - perhaps in 3DS-to-Wii social network connectivity - and especially with the social/passive content download elements in Nintendo's next console when that comes out in a few years.

Benjamin Fennell said...

I've been thinking it would be interesting to see what Nintendo would do with their own sort of social virtual world, too. Sort of like Sony's "Home," except instead of a barren, zombielike world of a mall full of people making asses of themselves for the five to ten minutes they use it for and constant marketing to try to get you to spend real money on useless virtual content, perhaps making it into more of a warm, virtual social networking element to get gamers hooked on. Nintendo's been exploring the more colorful real-world-esque world of the Miis for years now, with the creation of Wuhu Island being notably stressed as a big deal, and Personal Trainer: Walking getting its own colorful virtual Mii city you light up at night as your footsteps from the pedometer are converted into watts on a treadmill by your Miis. It's no coincidence that the 3DS has a built-in pedometer with indepth stat-tracking in that. And of course, there's Tomodachi Collection, an entire island city small scale virtual world to explore and play with your Miis in. Little by little, the Miis and their world are evolving as a concept beyond merely little avatars to plug into the occasional games that use them like the "Wii" series on the Wii and now Pilotwings Resort and Nintendogs on the 3DS already. Sharing Miis with friends via mail through WiiConnect24, collecting a huge variety of Miis in the Mii Parade (Though that doesn't do too much overall), collecting Miis in your otherwise rather barren and sorely underutilized Mii Plaza, and sharing Miis on the Check Mii Out channel (In which we can't even easily connect with friends' Mii artisan accounts or share stats, when you'd think it'd be a natural feature for channels like that and Everybody Votes.) are about as much social networking as we've got on the Wii itself. All the while, I'm still keeping my fingers crossed that we'll see Wii no Ma make it west yet - I'm not so interested in the video streaming part of it, as I already have the Netflix disc, but it's the virtual life element that intrigues me. The idea of having a little virtual living room/Japanese style apartment that you can plug Miis into and watch them go about their daily routines is incredibly fascinating to me. You get little celebrity concierge Mii visitors, you can rotate the camera to look around the virtual room and all its features, the Miis come and go, going to bed at night, turning the light on if you load the channel up at night, routinely leaving the room to do other things, and otherwise engaging in all sorts of casual everyday activities in their little virtual world while really relaxing, wonderful music plays - as we've come to expect from Nintendo's menus and channels in general. And of course, content in the room changes based on things available for viewing, little posters will change to holiday-themed things during the holidays, Koi no Bori windsocks appear outside during certain holidays, you get gorgeous photographic images of the Japanese urban landscape from up in your apartment's window far off the ground and get to watch the city through the window light up in the distance at night as the music becomes more chilled out. And of course, the weather changes based on the Forecast Channel, giving you rainy and snowy days to enjoy. I can imagine just sitting back and relaxing with the Wii no Ma channel running in the background with its nice music, taking in the atmosphere and watching the Miis go about their day. And with the likes of Endless Ocean, Animal Crossing, and now the upcoming Vitality Sensor, Nintendo has put a visible focus on relaxation themed software as well, which has already proven to have incredible potential.

Benjamin Fennell said...

I've been thinking since Wii no Ma's unveiling last year now that such a virtual life concept would be perfect for Nintendo's social networking - a virtual world done right as opposed to Sony's "Home." I like to think of a "Miitropolis" of sorts, evolving from Nintendo's already-revealed beginnings in using Miis as a social networking tool on the 3DS with the special Mii plaza for some basic social stat trading via StreetPass, which could be well integrated into both StreetPass and SpotPass. Drawing on the Mii worlds of Wii Sports Resort's Wuhu Island, Tomodachi Collection's island city, Wii no Ma's cozy city apartment, and Personal Trainer: Walking's light-up city and perhaps the growth of MetropolisMania - an all-time favorite ultra-obscure Japanese city building sim series I love on the PS2 and would kill to see hit the 3DS and Wii and actually get localized like the PS2 games (The DS one hasn't been.) - you would link up with friends online via passive connections through SpotPass or WiiConnect24 and build your own personal social networking Mii cities on your own islands, impacting each other's cities and sharing your own content, stats, etc. through it online. You'd start out the metagame with a little apartment building to move into, the ability to customize your apartment, and perhaps start with a few other buildings like a specialized Nintendo one where you might find Miis of Reggie, Miyamoto, Iwata, and various Nintendo characters as part of your town's population, perhaps with news content updates downloaded directly from Nintendo online. You could decorate your own apartment from content available within the game world to personalize it while sharing stats, etc. through it and share it with friends, moving your Mii and any others - a la Wii no Ma - into friends' cities, and they'd do the same for you, either living in the same apartment building or getting other residence options in time to expand into and make your cities and experiences more varied, colorful, and atmospheric. Perhaps continue the Wii no Ma channel's advertisement/coupon aspect into it like the second MetropolisMania game on the PS2 does, with real world businesses being able to bring buildings into your Mii world (But perhaps make it optional for people who wouldn't want to see that in their city.), and expand the Wii no Ma Mii routines and habits like the MetropolisMania series' characters, so you could explore your virtual city and watch your Miis go on walks around the city, perhaps pop out of the apartment and go down the street to the grocery store or to a fast food place or a local park and things like that. Let users build their cities up their own way and move things around of their own accord, and slowly unlock new content in the overall metagame over passing days, weeks, and months - as well as through online updates through WiiConnect24 or SpotPass - while watching the seasons pass, the weather change from sunny to rainy, cloudy, and snowy days, the greenery change in autumn and the city get snowy in the fall as you go from perhaps a few small neighborhoods online populated by your Miis, friends' Miis, Nintendo content and optional sponsor companies' Miis, as well as some kind of big building to house Miis through StreetPass to let them wander the city and go about routines too, eventually building up to a little personal Tokyo or New York-esque city with any number of landmarks and otherwise interesting things to see as you watch your Miis stroll around the city and do all sorts of things in your lit-up city at night and more. A social networking virtual world metagame like that could be an insanely addictive feature for any Nintendo system and something to bring from system to system - like new standard features we're seeing in online shops, Miis, an increasing focus on stat collection and social elements/sharing, tag modes, WiiConnect24/SpotPass, etc. in Nintendo's systems.

Benjamin Fennell said...

They could tap into the kind of base that's made the likes of Farmville so insanely huge on Facebook through it, maybe let you share snapshots of your Miitropolis directly on Facebook (As Nintendo's getting into that kind of integration now too) and encourage people to really get into building their worlds together.

I definitely think that the designers behind games like Farmville are just as onto something as the team behind Dragon Quest IX and the 3DS respectively with the visibly ramped up focus on passive social connectivity both online and locally hitting gaming now to let players influence each other's game worlds and experiences and grow and develop them in a more organic way. This is how you boost replay value through the roof and keep players coming back to their systems and games on a daily basis and make games that might last weeks to months last years, how you can make a gameplay experience more personal and meaningful through some well-integrated social elements - shared experiences. And Nintendo has made it clear in interviews for years now that they're all about this kind of philosophy now. Iwata and Reggie have both emphasized diversity of content, and Reggie has said they specifically want ANYTHING they can get going to get users to use their DS hourly on a daily basis - anything to keep people hooked, and thus, hooked into their network.

Benjamin Fennell said...

To continue getting it right, they just need to push to make some kind of basic online features - even if just to share achievements, stats, etc. with friends - into as many games as they can, along with similar unique features for StreetPass on their portables from now on. After beginning to let us collect our stats with the Nintendo Channel and in a big way in certain games like Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl, the next steps are to make sure that with this new huge focus on social connection through our Miis - both locally online - we need to be able to share our game stats, and perhaps get some kind of Steam-like hub-site to display generations of stats on while connecting with friends, perhaps an extension of Club Nintendo or some new special Nintendo social network in general, like a website extension of the Miitropolis concept. All this would be a big step forward in Nintendo continuing their focus on the "We," as the Wii and 3DS are openly all about bringing us all closer together and getting us addicted to our games together. And ultimately, a major goal should be to keep us playing because of the way we can affect each other's experiences in a game in both single and multiplayer, collecting and sharing things together, from both near and afar. This is the future evolution of gaming, bringing the single and multiplayer experience closer together and bringing the very game experience itself closer to each and every individual player. We've seen a lot of this in the Wii and DS, and we're seeing a lot more of it on the 3DS - Nintendo just needs to keep pushing it as far as they can, work on bringing significant new features to the Wii through firmware updates and channel releases to let us finally connect more online through the system (Perhaps by at least partially bringing the 3DS's new online system to the Wii after it launches in whatever ways they can, even if we have to wait until next generation for a console with a username or single friend code to connect through.) and not lose sight of what they're doing. Releasing something like the proposed Miitropolis as a free download and trying to get everyone hooked on it as something of a standard feature would be a brilliant game-changer for the Nintendo online social experience too, no doubt - it's all about tapping into the spirit that's gotten so many people hooked on free Facebook gaming, the interconnectedness of player experience. We've seen a little of this in Wii Sports Resort with the ability to populate Wuhu Island with a massive population of Miis going about their daily business there, in Namco's We Ski games with the ability to fill the mountains with your Miis, and it's even confirmed that we'll be able to see friends we connect with walking their dogs down the street - living in our neighborhoods - in Nintendogs + Cats. Hopefully we'll see a way to connect that way with friends online and not just through StreetPass. But then imagine seeing a friend's graffiti in Jet Set Radio, running into a friend's rival gang in Yakuza or some kind of modernized River City Ransom type game, running into a friend's Mii in the Mushroom Kingdom, hearing about friends' heroics in Advance Wars or Fire Emblem, rolling up content from friends in Katamari games, and more! The possibilities are only limited by our imaginations.

Maxi said...

Wow where to start.

I personally haven't tried a MMO in the tradional sense but I have played a few games that have that MMOness to the game.
Monster Hunter Tri, Animal Crossing series, and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.

I'll cover Animal Crossing first. I managed to play the original for about 3 years. It just had this quality to just play a little and be on your way. The content it had was pretty big and fun such as the NES games and just making your house just the way you liked it to just sending letters to other villages.

I didn't play Wild World but from what I read it was a very content rich. Now when I picked up City Folk my main draw was the online play. I have had so many memorable memories that I really enjoyed playing it. It was that social experience that kept me playing.

As far as Final Fantasy Tactics Advance I just enjoyed mixing different skills and classes together and that made it last a very long time for me.

I think the key to the longevity of these types of titles are the social and experimental nature of the games.

Anonymous said...

oh i have the right site crash,

what I think you should do is possibly look at it from this perspective.

age + how many games in your life have captured you like that - the years without any really.

So be happy that a developer is willing to put the time into something that will most likely be the only release on the systems lifespan.