A few years ago during the start of the console generation, the video game industry mourned the death of single-player games. Many publishers began to favor multiplayer and games as a service models, placing emphasis on games that could exceed its USD$60 value in order to bring in recurring revenue. However, in the last few years, especially in 2017-2019, single-player games are as strong as ever, whereas live service games are struggling to get a foothold.
This past week saw a slew of financial reports from companies. In particular, Take-Two Interactive noted that both Borderlands 3 and The Outer Worlds performed well. Borderlands 3 sold 5 million copies in its first week post launch, which is up 50 percent from Borderlands 2. Additionally, Take-Two said The Outer Worlds was a critical and commercial success, exceeding sales expectations.
Launching of a new IP such as The Outer Worlds is risky, but a mix of good marketing and timing allowed the game to receive the attention it needed. Regarding the latter, Bethesda recently launched Fallout 1st, its premium subscription service for Fallout 76, during the same week that The Outer Worlds was scheduled to launch. On top of that were reports that its perks, such as private servers and unlimited scrapbox space were not working as intended. Players were reporting thattheir friends could jump into their private servers and the scapbox was eating all of the items put into it, essentially sending them into the void. This controversy caused players to look toward The Outer Worlds, a single-player game with no strings attached, made by the creators of Fallout New Vegas.
What makes Bethesda and the controversy around Fallout 76 incredibly ironic is thatduring the 2017 Game Awards, Bethesda launched the Save Player One campaign that celebrated single-player games. The glitches and bugs in Bethesda games had their charms, but when placed in a live service game, expectations are much higher. Live service games require constant updates and bug squashing, the latter that something that Bethesda is inept at even doing. Bethesda, once seen as the bastion of the games industry, has squandered its goodwill with its player base. Unfortunately, the whole situation is a shame because now Bethesda joins the ranks of EA, Activision, and Ubisoft as companies that gamers enjoy piling on whenever a controversy involves them.
Speaking of Activision, the company’s financial report states it had been experiencing a decrease in sales and player engagement. A sizeable part of that could be because of Bungie’s newfound independence from Activision with Destiny 2, and no longer holds the publishing rights for game and cannot include it in financial reports. However, Activision says that the recently launched Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is doing well, with its first week sales up from last year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. This can be attributed to Modern Warfare’s single-player campaign, which has been receiving praise from numerous gaming media outlets. It’s important to note its campaign because Black Ops 4 opted to cut a single-player campaign in favor of a live service battle royale mode.
Blizzard, also part of Activision, announced Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV last weekend at BlizzCon 2019. Interestingly, Overwatch 2 will include a story mode, but does not have a release date so far. Keep in mind that Blizzard has not launched any new games since Overwatch in 2016, and Blizzard stated that Diablo IV will not release any time soon. Additionally, Diablo IV will be always online, indicating that it will be treated as a live service game. I would not be surprised if Activision’s revenues continue to fall until the launch of both games as players are moving on to new experiences.
In other great news for single player games, Capcom said that Resident Evil 2 Remake, Devil May Cry 5, and Monster Hunter World have sold incredibly well and the company is looking to revive its old IP. Publisher Focus Home Interactive also stated that Greedfall and A Plague Tale: Innocence drove tremendous growth. These reports show that single-player experiences are vital to the industry.