Speaking with Gamespot, Xbox general manager Shanon Loftis chimed in to reiterate claims made by Electronic Arts about single-player games no longer being hot stuff in the gaming industry. According to Loftis, the economics of making single-player games have become too big and too expensive for publishers to focus on like they used to, hence the need for microtransactions and loot boxes.
Loftis first explains that gaming is about storytelling and “delivering an experience”, but when looking at the single-player market, she doesn’t agree that single-player games are dead but that it’s “complicated”, telling the outlet…
“I don’t think that [the single-player market is] dead per se,” “I do think the economics of taking a single-player game and telling a very high fidelity multi-hour story get a little more complicated. Gamers want higher fidelity and they want higher resolution graphics.”
This is a blatant lie.
Some gamers want high-fidelity experiences like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Uncharted or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, all of which classify as big-budget AAA experiences.
Most gamers just want a fun and entertaining game to play, regardless of how it looks, and the data seems to back that up.
In fact, a good majority of decent or high-selling single-player games these days have been lower-budget or mid-budget projects made for under $10 million.
Had Microsoft funded Toby and his project, they could have made close to $30 million on a game that cost less than a 2017 BMW M3. I wonder how many Microsoft executives own one of those?
According to an interview with GameZone, Dontnod they had a “small” budget for Life Is Strange, but managed to move millions of copies across home consoles and PC… in fact, on PC alone the multi-episode series has reached nearly 5 million owners, according to Steam Spy.
The same applies for Divinity: Original Sin II, which has moved more than 830,000 copies on Steam since releasing on September 14th, 2017, according to Steam Spy, but it had a budget of only $2 million, according to Kickstarter. The original Divinity and Divinity: Enhanced Edition have both sold over 1.4 million copies each, even though the original game only had a budget of $944,000, according to Kickstarter.
Just for a bit of perspective, Battleborn and Lawbreakers have both tanked in sales, proving that just because a game is a first-person multiplayer shooter doesn’t guarantee that it’s going to sell well. Both of those titles also come from renown or established developers, such as Gearbox Software and Cliffy B.
Gamespot rounds out the piece by continuing to feed into Loftis’ misdirected opinion that single-player games are these expensive beasts that require massive budgets, writing…
“ As Loftis said, it’s highly unlikely that exclusively single-player games cease to exist, though we could see fewer of them due to the realities of doing business.”
Realities of doing what kind of business? Not investing in small studios making intimate single-player projects on modest budgets?
This feeds into what was recently mentioned in an interview with former BioWare developer and open racist, Manveer Heir, who stated that big businesses like EA, Activision, and apparently Microsoft, don’t want to make games on modest budgets with guaranteed returns on investment, they want blockbuster games that make $1 billion in one week, like Call of Duty and Battlefield and the annual high-profile sports titles.
This fits in line with what Loftis is saying. The economy is not dictating that Microsoft only spend money on $100 million single-player games. The current ecosystem has room for all manner of games at all manner of price points, but it’s just not something Microsoft is interested in. It’s the reason why the focus on the Halo games is centered more around multiplayer updates rather than making an enjoyable, replayable, memorable single-player (or co-op campaign) mode.
Thankfully the comment section on Gamespot rightly recognizes the PR speak Loftis is spewing and many of them aren’t having any of it. The indie and mid-budget sector also directly contradicts what Loftis is saying, especially when games like Persona 5 and NieR: Automata have proven to be profitable successes for Atlus and Square Enix, despite being single-player games made on moderate budgets.
What thing is clear, don’t expect Halo 6 to scale back on the multiplayer microtransactions and loot boxes, especially since Loftis thinks that that’s the only way that Microsoft and 343 can make a successful single-player game.
TL;DR: No single-player games are not difficult to make in today’s economy. Plenty of low-budget single-player games have sold millions and have been profitable. Microsoft just doesn’t want to make moderately-budgeted single-player games.
(Thanks for the news tip Tajlund)