There is an attitude I encounter occasionally from gamers regarding multiplayer in games. Specifically, that multiplayer should be standard-issue in every game, and if a game does not have multiplayer, that is a strike against it.
I could not disagree more.
Multiplayer is a great thing, first of all. It allows a constantly changing game experience for the players. It can allow teamwork, backstabbing, strategy and raw power. It lets gamers play with their best friends or with people from halfway around the world. It can be a very, very fun thing. But not every game needs it. I don’t think people know what they’re asking for when they demand that every game have multiplayer.
They’re asking for fewer games. Multiplayer takes time and it takes money and it takes a good chunk of each. Multiplayer titles need map support, code support, matchmaking support, online capabilities (that actually work), art support because people want more than one character to choose from, and lots and lots of playtesting. This is all assuming you have a game that lends itself well to multiplayer, like an FPS. What if you’re working on an RPG? Do you want to have a separate multiplayer campaign? Split-screen co-op? Should Player A’s character be able to travel to and join Player B’s game? These are all questions that need to be answered, and then after they’re answered they still need to be implemented. Adding multiplayer to a game can seriously increase development costs and time. One of the easiest ways a developer can avoid going over time or over budget on a project is to avoid multiplayer. For a small start-up or indie developer, than can make or break a studio. If gamers seriously want every game to have multiplayer, fewer games will be released because it will simply be too expensive for developers and publishers to keep with the current release standards.
Also, some games simply don’t need a multiplayer component. Would Final Fantasy be improved with multiplayer? Would Zelda? What about Planescape: Torment? Monkey Island? Okami? Portal? (Okay, maaaaybe Portal.) As gamers demand more and more multiplayer, these excellent single-narrative games will be less and less common. As a fan of immersive games with developed storylines, this idea makes me very sad. I want well-written narratives and long stories in my games, and I am perfectly willing to sacrifice multiplayer to get that. I don’t care what you do with your first-person shooters as long as I still have my adventure games!
Besides, who wants to have an important story point interrupted by some 12-year-old boy calling you a gay noob lagger?