Wed. Nov 30th, 2022

Als een licentie als <em>Star Wars</em> isn’t enough to justify a large single-player gaming budget, so what is?”/><figcaption class=

enlarge / If a license such as Star Wars isn’t enough to justify a large single-player gaming budget, what is?

Yesterday’s news that EA is closing Visceral Games is bad news for fans of franchises like Empty space and for the studios nameless Star Wars project. But the abrupt shutdown has also caused a bit of an existential crisis in the gaming industry’s chatter about the future of big-budget, single-player, story-driven gaming in general.

The gist of all those concerns comes from a portion of the blog post EA’s Patrick Söderlund wrote announcing the closure of Visceral (emphasis added):

Our Visceral studio has developed an action-adventure title set in the Star Wars universe. In its current form, it is used to be becomes a story-based, linear adventure game. During the development process, we tested the game concept with players, listened to the feedback on what and how they want to play, and closely following fundamental shifts in the market. It has become clear that delivering an experience players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to comewe had to run the design.

That’s all a bit vague, but the wording suggests that the “story-based, linear adventure game” being planned doesn’t look like it would make a profit given “fundamental shifts in the market.” In other words, they started making not mapped and now they want Destiny.

Looking at the most popular games today, it’s not hard to see the market shift that Söderlund is talking about. From hearthstone and overwatchuntil Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds and Rocket Leagueuntil dota 2 and League of Legendsuntil clash of clans and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siegeand again and again, the games that get the most attention (and money) from players today are often endless online competitions.

These are the esports and games-as-a-service titles that can continue to make money long after a single-player title is back on the shelf and forgotten. Even mega franchise for one player Grand Theft Auto has sprung into action with the huge success of GTA Online.

Within EA, multiplayer-focused games such as FIFA generate $800 million a year through the sale of digital map packs, while critically acclaimed single-player games such as Dead space 2 reportedly have struggled to recoup their $60 million development budget. As the Visceral formwork shows, even a mega franchise like Star Wars isn’t always enough to justify that kind of budget for a single-player adventure. And if so, what chance do lesser-known franchises have?

… are greatly exaggerated

So is Visceral’s fate the death knell for big, linear, story-driven games? At least in the short term, major publishers don’t seem to be giving up on format. We’ll see later this month Super Mario Odyssey, Wolfenstein IIand Assassin’s Creed Origins all released on the same dayending a year with many comparable single player titles.

Next year’s release calendar already includes Red Dead Redemption 2, The Last of Us, Part 2, Kingdom Hearts III, god of war, Monster Hunter World, and a host of other titles that show the industry isn’t ready to give up on the sprawling single-player storytelling. The release schedule proves that concerns about a immediately dead before the big-budget single-player story is overplayed.

Perhaps Visceral, however, is more of a canary in the coal mine: a big, public warning that the format can no longer sustain itself. Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad writes on Twitter That “Prey, RE7, dishonored 2, [and] Deus Ex“All below par sales expectations this year. “AAA games without service/single player can succeed,” he wrote in a follow-up tweet“but they really have to be the best in the genre and executed perfectly.”

Als een geweldig spel voor één speler als <em>prey</em> underperforms, you have to wonder what will work.” src=”×400.jpg” width=”640″ height=” 400″ srcset=”×800.jpg 2x”/><figcaption class=
enlarge / When a great single player game like Prey underperforms, you have to ask yourself what will succeed.

This is where it’s reasonable to wonder if the big-budget, single-player story is at its peak or already spiraling downward as a market power. Look at that list of huge, multi-year multiplayer successes I mentioned above. The billions of labor hours and dollars that players put into those games have to come from somewhere, and many players may see shorter, more linear games as worse values ​​for the time and money in comparison.

After all, why pay $60 for a self-contained story when they can often pay a lot less (or nothing) to play a game whose engaging online component ensures it will functionally never end? Then there’s the explosion of indie games that can often deliver comparable (albeit often less technically impressive) experiences for a fraction of the budget or cost to the consumer. The single-player adventure on a big budget is being pressured on both sides.

something to give

On the other side of the profitability issue, the budget needed to make a real blockbuster impression with a game has skyrocketed in recent years. While $10 million was considered a “big” gaming budget even ten years ago, today the biggest titles charge hundreds of millions of dollars to create and market, thanks in large part to the higher art costs required to take full advantage of all of them. that enhanced hardware flow.

Getting back about $60 at a time can seem pretty tough, even for games that are expected to sell in the millions (and especially after retailers and platform holders get their share). So we get ornate collector’s editions, season passes with downloadable content and the dreaded loot box as attempts to squeeze a little more money out of the average customer and get a project back in the black. (This is also why single-player franchises are not mapped and Assassin’s Creed throw in multiplayer modes that can keep players playing and paying long after release.)

All of this market and budget pressures are certainly impacting large publishers and likely reducing the willingness to take risks for a single-player title with a big budget. We could see budgets for single-player titles come under pressure as publishers become less willing to take big risks.

At the same time, I don’t think publishers are ready to stop swinging at the fences with huge, sprawling single-player content. As long as franchises want The Witcherand The Legend of Zeldaand Horizon: Zero Dawn can make a big impression on the market, publishers will continue to hunt for the big, prestigious return on investment that a single-player story can deliver. And while online “service” games are currently on the rise, the gold rush for space is also leading to a lot of big-budget flops (RIP Battleborn).

Even if the best days of single-player gaming are over (from a business standpoint), it’s premature to predict the total death of what’s still a vibrant slice of the market. But don’t be surprised if publishers get more and more creative to monetize these standalone titles.

By akfire1

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