Whether it’s pay-to-play or pay-to-win, there is a growing inclination among game studios to have a multiplayer element to their major releases. Some love this multiplayer trend, others hate it.
Grand Theft Auto V, for example, is often viewed as a whipping post for multiplayer haters with greed and neglect of the single-player campaign being the biggest thorns in everyone’s side.
The one company that seems to have avoided the multiplayer morass is Bethesda. The publisher has had much success in single-player adventures. Fallout and The Elder Scrolls (with one exception) have intentionally avoided multiplayer modes and the Wolfenstein franchise seems to be following suit.
MachineGames, the studio developing Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, recently told Gamesindustry.biz that it is solely focused on creating the best single-player experience it can and will not consider putting a multiplayer element into the upcoming sequel.
“Having a multiplayer component in this work process would just dilute it all,” said narrative designer Tommy Tordsson Björk. “That’s the danger if you try to do two things at once.”
This philosophy can be seen in almost all of Bethesda's productions.
It’s not that the company is entirely against multiplayer gaming. On the contrary, it looks into that aspect during pre-production of all of its titles.
“Believe it or not, every time we do a game we design a multiplayer mode just to see what we would do,” Todd Howard told Mashable back in 2015.
The multiplayer modes for Fallout and Skyrim (and many other titles) never made it past pre-production because developers didn’t want to detract from the story. Since the narrative is what has made these games household names, it was a wise choice in hindsight.
The folks in Rockville, Maryland, are also not opposed to the games-as-a-service business model. After all, The Elder Scrolls Online is still thriving more than three years after launch. However, TESO is a different breed from the rest in that it was designed explicitly as a multiplayer game.
While some might want to see a multiplayer Fallout or Wolfenstein title, Bethesda seems happy for the moment to continue producing content for TESO and publishing compelling single-player adventures.
In my opinion, this is the smart move because it eliminates the headaches, overhead and self-competition involved with operating multiple MMOs while still allowing developers to focus on producing a quality single-player narrative.