The Real Problem With Dwindling Multiplayer Game Numbers

There's a problem with games that offer only online multiplayer affairs, and it's not the fact that each crop of titles borrow heavily from one another. It's their lack of replayability and value for gamers long after the hype has died down. LawBreakers has seen a somewhat steady decline in concurrent players on Steam, a trend that's worrying to me. It isn't something, say, Boss Key Productions' Cliff Bleszinski is worried about since he's more interested in long term success, but it's concerning to me as a consumer. What of the money I spent on those games when they inevitably fizzle out?

When games like LawBreakers (or Overwatch, or other titles of that ilk) release, you can see them coming from a mile away. There are several diverse heroes with different types of weapons and quirky personalities. There's an emphasis on loot boxes or "crates" you can open to get new skins for your characters and weapons. It’s all in a bid to keep you jumping online every night after work or whatever obligations you have, partying up with friends, and conquering match after match. And these games are becoming a dime a dozen. You buy them, pay the entry fee and get all the additional goodies, and then what? Sometimes you get to keep playing, and other times -- most of the time -- you have to move on to the next game.

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There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, if that's what you're into. These games don't have to offer other value in terms of content you don't have to rely on others to play. It’s always entertaining to jump online and escort the payload or team up to take out a whole team of snipers. It can be irritating when the player count dips low enough that you’re destined for the same team and enemies match after match, but that’s to be expected. When these kinds of games, created specifically for online play, start experiencing player losses so low you can’t even hop into a game via matchmaking anymore however, that’s when things start to become hairy.

Because if I purchase a game like LawBreakers at retail price, even if it’s less than the usual $59.99 titles charge, I expect that I’m going to be able to play it for quite some time. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. With the exception of some multiplayer-only titles, so many just die out months to a year after their debut. With reports of game like LawBreakers experiencing lower player totals here and there not even a month past its debut, I become increasingly irritated. What kind of game is it going to be like in six months? In a year? In two years?

Case in point: Nintendo’s latest multiplayer title Flip Wars is only going to be good for anyone with a small amount of friends in real life or tiny groups of people online since there is no single-player content to speak of. It’s essentially the same as throwing your money away if you don’t know anyone with a Nintendo Switch or plan to group up with others online. It’s the same principle that can be applied to so many other lesser-known or lesser-liked multiplayer titles. Once you spend the money, you’ve got to count it as a loss if people just stop playing.

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Online-only games do well to fit a niche, of players who want little more than to have a flawless K/D, game socially, or work toward esports excellence, and I can completely understand that. For a short time, these games work well. But they feed into a cycle that perpetuates itself when the newest and latest trends in games shift. When it’s no longer fashionable to play battle royale games, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds will eventually fade away sometime — albeit a lot longer away than smaller, less popular games.

All I'm asking is for a little content I can enjoy regardless of what happens with a game's popularity. If I'm adding it to my collection, it's because I'm making an investment. And investments should continue to bring me returns, regardless of what others put into them.