Should Call of Duty / Battlefield Bother With Singleplayer?
Right now, first person shooter fans all over the world are basking in the warm glow of the latest releases from two of the biggest franchises in the genre. Whether its Call of Duty: Ghosts, or Battlefield 4, a significant portion of those players will have jumped in to the multi-player without having touched the single-player part of the game, so do developers need to bother with creating it in the first place? Years ago, the idea of a major FPS title not having a single-player mode would have been unthinkable, but has that tide turned?
In the interest of full disclosure, I should make it clear that I’ve not played either campaign yet. I’m one of those gamers buying a next-gen console, and as such I’m waiting for the new hardware before I buy any more games. What I have done is read and watched numerous reviews of both titles, and none of them have particularly praised the single player portions of either. Granted, many reviews have made a point of telling us that Battlefield 4′s single-player campaign is better than the last game’s effort, but as that was utter garbage, I don’t think you can really see that as praise. So if both Call of Duty and Battlefield are doing the bare minimum when it comes to single-player, why bother at all? Just ditch the single-player, and stop wasting our time.
Releasing an FPS without a single-player mode wouldn’t work for every game, I grant you; a Halo game without single-player would be utter madness, and Bioshock would be… well it wouldn’t exist, but they’re on much longer development cycles to CoD and Battlefield, and arguably, have a completely different type of audience. Unlike those two games, nobody buys CoD or Battlefield expecting an epic and meaningful story, so perhaps the quality of that story is unimportant. If it is unimportant, surely that means it plays no meaningful part in convincing gamers to buy the game? If gamers know that the single-player part of the package is not worth playing, but still buy it anyway, I’d argue that taking it away would have little to no effect on the game’s sales.
With the single-player portions of these games unlikely to get the development time needed to produce a really great experience, why not separate the two, and release the multi-player separately from the single-player? Make all physical copies multi-player only, and offer a separate, downloadable campaign mode for those who want it. Activision or EA then have twice the amount of games to sell, and anyone not interested in the single-player doesn’t have to pay for something they don’t want. In addition, the multi-player could stick to it’s yearly development cycle, and remain just as profitable, without impacting the quality of the single-player content, which could have more development time.
To my mind, it’s only a matter of time before EA and Activision go down this road anyway. Both games are already being developed by multiple studios at the same time, so a separate release for each half of the game is the logical next step. The only stumbling block in my opinion, is the price. Publishers have long felt that the current price point of £40 is too low and doesn’t adequately reflect the rising cost of development, but have had a hard time convincing gamers of that fact. Given that, they’re simply not going to offer a multi-player only game at a reduced cost, and gamers might have a hard time accepting that. It may be ironic, but removal of a mode they never play may just be a step too far for some.
In the past, I would have had a problem with suggesting that games like CoD or Battlefield shouldn’t have a single-player mode, but not any longer. My view today is that if developers aren’t going to do a decent job of making a single-player mode, they probably shouldn’t bother at all. Just give us the multi-player, and farm the solo campaign out to a developer who’s willing to spend time doing a decent job of it. OK, you could argue that we’d end up paying the same amount of money for half the game, but if you never play half of it, or if that half isn’t worth playing, what’s the problem? Surely, not buying a poor campaign to begin with, is preferable to paying for one that’s terrible.
Sooner or later, gamers and publishers are going to have to sit down for some FPS group therapy. We gamers are eventually going to have to be honest, and admit we no longer care for campaign modes in first person shooters, and publishers are going to have to come clean by revealing that they’ve wanted to stop making them for a very long time now. Until we do sit down for together and hug it all out, we’ll be stuck where we are now; paying for a mode that most of us no longer play, whilst watching its quality decline year on year. Nobody wants that, so let’s do the decent thing, shall we?