It’s almost 2 years ago that I was thinking about the changes more powerful consoles could bring to the gaming landscape, and more specifically what that would mean for a feature I’ve missed dearly in a lot of high-end titles: Local Splitscreen Multiplayer. I had hoped the Xbox Scorpio, as we still believed it to be called at the time, would mark the return of the feature. (You can read my opinion piece on it here)
Of course, today we know that the Xbox One X didn’t make a difference in that regard as it was just a more powerful version of an existing console, playing the very same games as the Xbox One or Xbox One S (or even the PlayStation 4 Pro if you look at multiplatform titles). Though the hardware could theoretically be up to the task, it was still a large ask for developers to cater only to people that bought a console that could run multiple instances of a demanding title on a single unit.
But that last expression is perhaps the key here: the very definition of a single unit, what constitutes a gaming platform is being challenged by Google’s Stadia. At their keynote talk, they showcased that multiple people could be playing the same game on the same screen, but each would be playing on a different Stadia Unit in their own server farm.
How many concurrent players would be able to play a game at the same time in the same household, wouldn’t be limited by the processing power of a single console, but rather how many screens you could fit on your TV at home and what your internet connection is capable of. That’s a big factor to take into account and only the future will tell how fast we’ll have adequate services available to us to allow this feature to be taken advantage of to the maximum amount.
But just a simple promise of bringing back local split-screen multiplayer for titles like Forza Horizon 4 or Doom Eternal would be enough to sell me on the worth of the platform alone. You can’t imagine how I’ve missed playing certain titles versus friends in my own house. Sure it may have been a decision developers made because they thought it wasn’t a necessary addition, but more often than not I believe it was the hardware limitations that stopped games like the last SSX game to even consider having split-screen capabilities, and that’s a game from one whole console generation ago. Having recently bought a Nintendo Switch myself, it was a revelation and a harsh reminder just how much this means to me as a social way to experience my favourite pastime: my wife started gaming together with me again as we could easily play Mario Kart 8 on the same screen.
It’s also interesting that not even the screen-size itself would be a blocking element in defining the maximum amount of players, as you could use any other screen available to join in on the game: a phone, a laptop, heck even your fridge if it can run Chrome.
There are ofcourse a few obvious limitations still holding all of this back: both the speed of your internet and your data limit will determine whether or not this new Streaming service will be for you. But just looking at Belgium alone, where I live, the investments are currently being made to have fibrewire in all of our streets and 5G mobile internet is being considered in all major cities.
It’s an exciting time to be a social gamer again and perhaps someday soon we’ll have high-demanding split-screen games gracing our home screens once more.
What do you think? Is this also something you’ve been missing? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!