When it releases later this year, the improbably titled Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII will test a long-held hypothesis: single-player campaigns don’t matter, at least not in games like Call of Duty. It will spawn yet another round of think pieces on the death of single-player games. And, if history is any indication, it will lead a lot of people to draw a lot of wrong-headed conclusions.
For years, this conversation has chugged along, with fork after rhetorical fork being stuck in the single-player campaign. The popularity of online multiplayer games, the growth of social platforms like Twitch that thrive off of these infinitely-replayable anecdote factories, and investors’ insatiable thirst for the games-as-service model’s revenue stream all seem to point to a simple conclusion: nobody plays single-player campaigns, nobody wants them, and developing them is a waste of money.
There’s certainly some truth to this. Obviously, some people are happy to spend all their time in multiplayer and have little-to-no interest in single-player. And when viewed from a spreadsheet, these pay once, play once games aren’t as lucrative as their play forever, pay forever brethren, and are therefore sub-optimal investments of capital. But this type of analysis seems to oversimplify and obfuscate the matter. Continue reading We Don’t Not Want Single-Player Games