Are Used Games Really Pushing Consoles Towards Multiplayer?

Frontier Developments’ David Braben recently weighed in on why so, so many games are going with a deep multiplayer mode at the possible cost of a strong single-player campaign. Namely, used games. Here’s the most interesting quote of the article:

“People will say ‘Oh well, I paid all this money and it’s mine to do with as I will’, but the problem is that’s what’s keeping the retail price up — prices would have come down long ago if the industry was getting a share of the resells.”

We’ll give Braben this: he’s not Jameson Durall.

Still, we think this is more than a little simplistic (we won’t even get into the whole “consumer rights” thing nobody in the video game industry seems to get). It’s no secret that multiplayer is appealing to developers who can’t design a good single player game; you don’t have to code AI, you don’t have to design levels that are clever or engaging to just one player. And, as Braben is correct in pointing out, it’s a lot cheaper because of those factors.

However, we’re skeptical that prices would have come down if used game stores had somehow put developers into the loop.

If that were true, GameStop wouldn’t being turning around and selling the hot new game used for $55. After all, developers don’t set the price, publishers do, and it’s not like we all sing and dance about the fairness and generosity of EA or Activision.

We think part of the drive towards multiplayer is simple: it’s expected from many titles, and very few can get away with not having it. Even big titles built around a single-player experience like “Mass Effect 3” have multiplayer now. And the biggest franchise in gaming, “Call of Duty”, was built on it.

Braben is obviously biased: he’s got a single-player game, “The Outsider”, that he’s trying to sell. And we recommend you give the full article a read: it’s insightful and rarely blames the gamer, for once. Still, especially in light of the success of Kickstarter funded games, we wonder if the problem is really used games…or just shortsightedness in the games industry.