Hello hello everyone, and welcome to a new series! Every few weeks, we’ll be perusing our Twitter mentions for a new topic or question to discuss.
If you’d like to be featured next time, tweet me @dyl_byl or @BeastbyBlog using #WhatsUpWith, and it may be your lucky day! Our first question of the series asks about the current life of couch co-op in the gaming industry.
what do you think about the move away from couch co op in the gaming industry? And why is this happening?
— W E W L A D (@DaltonARussell) January 12, 2017
As Dalton points out, the market truly is straying away from the multiplayer experiences of old. Where we once shoved and laughed alongside each other whilst playing Mario Kart, we now party up for quick rounds of Overwatch. Why is this? Will things ever go back to normal?
The answer is simple: the market (that is to say, us gamers) heavily suggested that we wanted this online experience. I mean, just look at sales numbers from November 2016. The top two selling games are both from franchises well-known for their online multiplayer experiences (Call of Duty and Battlefield). So well-known, in fact, that many people insult the single-player campaigns for these games, and cite the online functionality as the main draw. It’s crystal clear—most people want this experience.
There exists a vocal group (me among them) that misses couch co-op games. However, the large, silent, money-toting majority of the market has spoken: leaving out local multiplayer isn’t a problem. Just look at Halo 5, which ended up cutting its popular split-screen mode. 343 cited technical problems for the cut, as well as resource allocation issues. It does make some sense: if these games already push a console to their limits, imagine how taxing it would be to run the game twice.
Sure, the general layout and back-end mechanics would still only run as one unit. But rendering the high definition Halo on two tiny squares can take up more power than you might think. Co-op efforts that don’t use split-screen (for example, having two players work on the same large screen) provide a decent solution. However, even this would require extensive re-balancing and testing of the game, to ensure that environments and scenarios run properly with more than one player. This equals out to the use of much more time and resources. It’s a risky move for a small market which may or may not justify said costs.
(Granted, Halo 5 didn’t sell incredibly well, so we’ll see how this comparison holds up. It’s entirely possible that we could see the return of split-screen due to low sales.)
However, some developers are doubling down on co-op efforts, making them integral to their experiences. For example, Overcooked and Towerfall: Ascension are just two recent, highly-praised, couch multiplayer indie games. In bigger news, Nintendo seems utterly dedicated to this prospect with the Nintendo Switch, essentially giving players the option of local two-player right out of the box with their detachable Joy-Con controllers. Not only will this be exciting for first-party Nintendo titles, but it will help indie devs as well. Imagine having a great idea for a game, but worrying about limiting your fanbase by making it reliant on co-op. With the Switch, you’d be able to guarantee that everyone who buys your game has a second controller!
The best way to ensure the genre doesn’t keel over on us is to simply support the titles that support couch co-op. Large sales numbers on such titles, no matter how indie they are, will send a message to the market. Put your money where your mouth is and show developers that there is an unheard market for local multiplayer. Better yet, avoid buying games that are overly reliant on their online components. For a more direct approach, try politely writing or tweeting to some of your favorite developers. Explain your love of couch co-op, and try to convince them that their hard work would be worth it.
Yes, couch co-op is on its way out. Not everyone has the time to sit down with a group of friends routinely. Heck, some people prefer the interaction-light experience of online play. However, I firmly believe that local multiplayer will live on with indie games and unique Nintendo experiences. It’s up to us to ensure the success of such ventures.