Does Battlefield 1’s Campaign Prove Single-Player in FPSs is Still Relevant?
I’m one of those exceedingly rare (and weird, evidently) individuals who has little to no interest in multiplayer anything. This includes shooters, despite the fact that just about every FPS in existence these days is designed almost exclusively with an eye to pleasing the multiplayer fan. This has been really disappointing for me, as I’ve watched shooter campaigns become mere afterthoughts, something tacked on just because it’s obligatory. Sure, there are a few that, despite being short, are well worth playing, but it’s just not the same thing.
Remember the days of really great FPS campaigns? Remember the awesomeness that was Medal of Honor: Frontline? What about Singularity? And I don’t care what anyone says about it; I adored Rage. And I distinctly recall being extremely impressed with the campaign in Killzone 2. But for the most part, especially now, a shooter is 99% multiplayer, 1% campaign, and everyone knows it. Walk up to anyone standing in the midnight launch line for a new Call of Duty or Battlefield and ask them what they’ll be playing, and I’d say at least half will say they’ll never even bother with the campaign, while the others say they might “rush through it” just to say they played it.
And from development and marketing standpoints, I totally get it. It takes a lot of time and resources to produce these games and the majority of those time and resources have to be dedicated to the multiplayer portion of the game. Creating a bad-ass, riveting, extremely well-done campaign probably doesn’t fit into the business model. Maybe it just isn’t even remotely realistic. Besides, as most people don’t care in the slightest, as just about all revenue comes from multiplayer (Season Passes, DLC, anything that can be labeled a microtransaction, etc.), you have to focus on that which brings in the most cash, right? Like I said, completely understandable.
All this being said, perhaps the arrival of Battlefield 1 proves that the single-player experience in first-person shooters is still relevant. Most critics are saying the campaign – even though it’s no 15-hour juggernaut – is extremely solid, even great, and while multiplayer undeniably takes center-stage yet again, there seems to be a better balance this time. If you check around the internet, there are lots of people who are pretty impressed with the campaign and are urging others to play it. EA might start seeing more sales from people like me, who rarely buy shooters anymore because of the extreme focus on multiplayer, and are now seeing a lot of positive feedback about the single-player adventure in the new Battlefield.
Now, I choose to be realistic as opposed to absurdly optimistic. I know the young ‘uns don’t care. They grew up during the multiplayer boom in the industry and probably can’t even imagine a shooter without a multiplayer option (nor would they want to). Plus, nobody gets hooked on a FPS campaign, while millions get hooked on multiplayer. Forget a 15-hour campaign; even a 50-hour campaign would be a drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds, if not thousands, of hours some fans pour into the multiplayer side of shooters. Is it any surprise that most cases of true video game addiction have to deal with online multiplayer, from Everquest through CoD? It’s insane how addictive it can really be.
Because of that, publishers know where the money is. They know people will freely spend their $50 on four new maps for CoD DLC. And it’s because many people will probably get a lot of game hours out of that DLC, correct? Bang for your buck is a big deal for everyone these days and multiplayer has undoubtedly increased that particular aspect by leaps and bounds. So, it’s absurd to think devs and pubs will or should return to the old ways. That’s not what I’m proposing nor is it what I want (not really, anyway). I’m just wondering if it might make sense for game makers out there to consider the idea of big-budget single-player-driven shooters. Is success really out of the realm of possibility? I’m not so sure.
Look, multiplayer fanatics are covered. The industry caters to them at every damn turn because they have become the industry’s meal ticket and everyone, analysts included, know it. Multiplayer lovers can count on a bunch of amazing multiplayer experiences in any given year; in 2016, not only do we get the two big shooters this fall in Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, but we’ve already had Battleborn, Overwatch and The Division. And yes, I’m aware the latter isn’t a FPS but the others are and besides, you get the point. If you’re mostly a multiplayer gamer, you’ve got nothing to worry about. You’re covered, like I said.
But there are a fair portion of gamers – admittedly older but still part of the core audience – who would really appreciate a shooter with an amazing campaign. We really would. And we really exist. What about the idea of turning CoD into an MMO (which is really what everyone wants anyway, and all the whining about paying a monthly fee will die out in about a week, after the truly hooked realize they can’t do without it)? And to complement that all-online experience, the developers at Infinity Ward, Treyarch, and now Sledgehammer put out free-standing single-player-centric CoD titles? I seriously doubt these titles would require even half as much manpower and money to produce and the name on the box alone would help, if not guarantee, good sales.
The point is, just because multiplayer dominates doesn’t mean there aren’t gamers out there who wouldn’t love a great FPS campaign. And I think there are a lot more such gamers than most people think, you know?