The big picture: Some have suggested that single-player games are headed for a demise thanks to the quick and easy money that can be made from multiplayer games. With lower overhead and higher long-term revenues, MP games seem to be an attractive way to go. Take-Two's Strauss Zelnick disagrees.
With games like PUBG and Fortnite and the million knock-offs they have spawned, some people have questioned whether single-player story modes are on the way out in gaming. As the most lucrative title in the history of entertainment, GTA Online has set an example that studios can create IPs that can be long running money machines without the need for expensive voice actors and story writers.
However, Take-Two’s own CEO Strauss Zelnick does not agree with this view. Despite having shown how much revenue can be generated with a frequently updated MMO like GTA Online, Zelnick says that without the single-player mode in GTA V, the online aspect of the game would have never taken off.
“There are also people saying that it won’t work if it’s not a free-to-play battle royale,” Zelnick told VentureBeat in an interview. “People really are saying that, and not even tongue-in-cheek. I don’t buy that. Single-player, in my opinion, is not dead, not even close. Companies that feel like they’ll just avoid the hard work of building a story and characters and go right to where the money is in multiplayer, I don’t think that’s going to work. I’d be surprised.”
Indeed, speaking personally as a gamer, had GTA V released without a single-player campaign, I would have never played GTA Online. Zelnick reflected and reinforced this belief.
When asked if he thought players were motivated by the campaign to try multiplayer he said, “[Yeah.] I think that’s what happened with Grand Theft Auto Online. We certainly feel like there’s no evidence that people don’t want a single-player, because they’re still playing Grand Theft Auto V.”
As popular as multiplayer games are, there is a vast number of players who are primarily looking for story-telling experiences. That a game also offers multiplayer only expands the chances of picking up some of those users as long-term MP customers.
While the publisher’s upcoming Red Dead Redemption 2 will have a multiplayer mode, Zelnick made it clear that the single-player campaign was the priority. Multiplayer modes can be tweaked over time, but the single-player experience has to be flawless right out of the gate. Otherwise, the game will never sell enough units to make the online portion successful.
We’ll see if Take-Two and Rockstar can get the balance right when Red Dead Redemption releases on October 26.