Does Overwatch Need A Single Player? – Breaking Down The Question
One of the chief criticisms of Blizzard’s Overwatch is the questions of its value. With no single player campaign, a number of critics see this as a weakness. The amount of times I’ve seen people say the game would be ‘better’ with a single player is both numerous and confusing. At this point in time, I genuinely thought we had moved passed this school of thought. Forcing in single player/multiplayer into games to check boxes has been done and dusted, costing some franchises their life.
A while back, I posted a piece on Condemned 2. This game was developed and released during a period in which modes of play were forced into final releases. The idea was that every game needed a multiplayer, every consumer expected a multiplayer. This led to games costing more to make, as well taking the focus of the core offering. Condemned 2 was the perfect example.
Shoe horned in and released to the public, the multiplayer offering was panned by critic and consumer alike. The whole game was marked down for its lacklustre multiplayer. With low sales, and increased production costs, Condemned 2 spelt the end of the franchise. A little while after the release, a developer who worked on the game had their say on the final product, expressing regret on the inclusion of multiplayer.
It’s not a one off, for most of 2007-2014, a large number of single player focused games awkwardly taped on a multiplayer offering. As expected, most critics cited the weak multiplayer as a criticism, impacting those all ‘important’ review scores. Bioshock 2, Tomb Raider, Dead Space 2/3, The Darkness 2. Heck, even the critics darling Spec Ops: The Line suffered from forced in multiplayer, apparently against the wishes of developer Yager’s wishes.
So what about the case of Overwatch, and similar multiplayer only games? Part of what seems to form the basis of people’s opinions is where and how they play. Multiplayer only games are not new on PC, they’ve been a staple for decades now. Battlefield 1942 is the one that comes to most people’s mind at first. People understood that the core offering required a internet connection. This notion had already been established by the rising tide of multiplayer. A continued focus on pioneering how we played and what we could do online.
The sheer amount of play time a player could get out of these multiplayer games was near limitless. Limitations came in the shape of the severs staying online and maintaining an online connection. Multiplayer only games changed and catered to the market. Some lowered in price, others took opened up to their players, catering for modders and map makers. These moves single handedly bolstered potential play time greatly.
But that’s the PC market, the criticisms aimed towards Overwatch’s ‘value’ are mostly coming from console users. They’re paying more for a start, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise. PC games were generally cheaper than their console counter-parts until Activision, EA and Ubisoft changed their stance. These three companies will happily charge full price for both console and PC versions of their games, regardless of the quality or technical soundness.
But even with the price gap, is it really that much of a issue? This year has already seen the release of a game that is essentially multiplayer only in the shape of The Division. Yes, you can play it solo, but the quality of the game is so diminished to the point where the game becomes awful. Last year saw the release of Star Wars Battlefront, a game some people bizarrely compare Overwatch’s content offering to.
Battlefront was a simplistic shooter in every way. There was barley any mechanics at play, across a handful of maps. While there was plenty of modes to choose from, barely any of them saw a truly active player base. All of this, paired with the full price cost across the board, left Battlfront’s value being legitimately questioned. And there’s that little issue of the season pass.
Overwatch is a different beast if you look at the game rather than a check-list. Each of the 21 heroes has their own mechanics. They all effect the gameplay, forcing players to react and counter. That’s 21 different ways to play, 21 mechanics to learn and 21 different experiences. This is where Overwatch’s value can be found.
The sheer amount of mechanics at play means no two matches ever play exactly the same. There’s no system that favours one team over the other, no ways to instantly end a match. Depending on how much you enjoy the gameplay and mechanics, the amount of game time on offer is near limitless. This is why multiplayer is such a popular feature, with the best staying relevant for not just a few years, but decades.
There’s a reason why Diablo 2 is still hosting a active player base online, even after 15 years. Counter-Strike’s never ending life cycle, Team Fortress 2′s eternal appeal. These games thrive on quality gameplay, ensuring they’ll live for years upon years. But yet again, this is the PC market. Consoles are a whole different kettle of fish.
With consoles living by life cycles, multiplayer games can only last so long. There’s no real sense of longevity, even more so with how fast new system come to the modern market. This is one reason why multiplayer only video games are worth worrying about on the console market. But does that mean a single player is required to make for up it? No, not really.
Much like the before mentioned forced in multiplayer into single player games, reversing the roles is just as problematic. Pushing in single player campaigns into games designed for multiplayer often produces bad to average results. Production time and costs are increased, focus is not 100% there and the final product often suffers.
Battlefield’s single player campaigns have been criticised ever since the numbered series introduced them. They’ve never been the selling point, yet are constantly referenced and marked down in most reviews. When was the last time anyone ever said ‘remember Battlefield 3′s single player?!’ no, because no one cared about it. Yet here we are, still wanting single player campaigns for games for multiplayer focused games.
From a perspective of how Overwatch works, the mechanics each hero has would not function in a single player campaign. Each hero would require a campaign built especially for them, allowing the use of their abilities. Would playing Reinhardt alone really be that much fun? How would Mercy work? Could Tracer function without a large amount of time ploughed into creating top notch enemy AI?
Overwatch was designed for multiplayer, its gameplay and mechanics reflects that. Forcing that into some sort of boxed single player campaign would be a waste of time, money and resources. You can also bank on the fact it would have been highlighted as a negative by critics too. Damned if you, damned if you don’t.
The question of value all comes down to enjoyment. If a full price single player games is worthy of a full price tag, then a multiplayer only game can do the same. It’s ultimately down to the subjective nature of value. No one is stopping anybody from waiting till a game drops in price. Claiming Overwatch ‘needs’ a single player is ignorant of what the game is.
Blizzard’s dedication to maintaining their games for as long as they are still be played is respectable. At the same time, given the consoles general life cycle, I can understand some peoples caution/hesitancy over buying Overwatch at full price.After all, when game like Titanfall sink as fast as they do, who can play them?