Rockstar: Single player games still have value

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Single player games are dying, the industry experts keep telling us, unable to explain the successes of games such as The Witcher, Skyrim, Arkham: Asylum and Dishonored. Some developers, like Respawn, aren;t even including single player campaigns in their games. Rockstar’s Dan Houser, however, feels that there’s still significant value in single player games.

"I think the well executed multiplayer game clearly attracts a big audience, but it doesn’t attract as big an audience as in a single player game. It just doesn’t do that yet," Houser explained to Polygon, discussing the impending release of GTA Online with Polygon.

"Not everybody, not even with Call of Duty, not everyone is playing the multiplayer," he said. "There’s a huge audience for people who love single-player adventures. And I think what we make is action adventure-games. Games with ever stronger mechanics and an ever stronger adventure component. They’re not quite RPG’s but it’s getting harder and harder to say what the difference is between an RPG and what we do. The space between the two has in the past few years has gotten smaller and smaller."

"I think a short single player game struggles. That’s what’s happened. But a big single player adventure can do well if it’s a good game. Just as a focused multiplayer game can do well if it’s a big game. The only area where it’s become tough is for a short single player campaign without multiplayer. That’s become a tough market, I believe. The rest of it, everything is just moved in one direction without moving away from the other direction."

He’s pretty much spot on. I think lengthy single player games that feel like an investment can, and do still sell incredibly well in the AAA games market. It’s also one of the reasons that, though their latest GTA features a pretty extensive online component, it didn’t launch at the same time as the main game.

"I think we were concerned that some of our previous games, while they still had a very fun multiplayer component to them, it was almost like it was being cannibalized by the enormity of the single player game," Houser said. "People were just not focusing on it. So by moving it, we really wanted to go all in and make this much bigger, much more encompassing, a stand-alone product essentially. By making it separate you give people a reason to look at it as a different thing."

"You can play single player," he added. "You can really learn how the game works, learn the mechanics. You can start multiplayer after two weeks and it will really give them a real focus on where to look at the thing. I think that separating it out will just help people look at it as different products in their own mind a bit more and really give it a good chance to try and play it and enjoy it. Otherwise, you try it for two minutes, it’s hard to connect because it’s day one, and back you go to the single player, play that and never go back into playing online."

GTA Online launches tomorrow, though it’s expected to have quite a few teething problems – which Rockstar has been pretty open about. Have you finished GTA V yet, ready to jump in to the multiplayer, or are you still slowly soaking up everything Los Santos has to offer in the single player game?

Last Updated: September 30, 2013

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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