Are Online Only Video Games On The Rise?

In five days, Ubisoft’s The Division sold somewhere in the ballpark of $330 million and attaining the distinction of being the fastest selling new Intellectual Property in video games history, beating out Activision and Bungie’s Destiny. That’s not to say it’s without controversy, however. From the beginning, one of the main complaints has been that the game heavily focuses on having an internet connection. Seeing as the game is a massively multiplayer online shooter RPG, it makes sense why they would be invested in the online only approach, many gamers have a problem with the fact that an internet connection is required even for single player play.

For an otherwise great game, this seems like an important thing to leave out. Want to play it on a plane? Not going to happen. Wireless router on the fritz? Nope, try again later. Ubisoft’s servers go down? Sorry, you’re out of luck. What makes this whole decision more confusing is that there’s precedence for this sort of thing angering gamers: All one has to do is look at a little old game called Sim City.

Released in 2013, EA’s triumphant return to the ever popular Sim City franchise after a ten year absence had lofty goals and for the most part delivered on them, gaining mostly positive reviews upon release. Much like The Division, Sim City required an internet connection to play. Before long, EA’s servers had a very hard time handling the traffic of people trying to play and predictably, there was an abundance of players who were not allowed to play the game they had purchased.

It didn’t take long before those once-positive reviews took a decidedly negative turn, and the games brief popularity sputtered to a crawl. After a metric ton of outrage on the internet, the ability to play offline was introduced, but the damage had been done. This whole scenario is what I call a bad case of the Diablo III‘s. Just under two years later, Cities: Skylines was released and must have been taking notes during the Sim City disaster, as Skylines is considered to be far superior to Sim City in almost every regard.

Why mention the release of Cities: Skylines? Because the gamers (with exception to gamers who buy every annual Call of Duty or Assassins Creed release regardless of how terrible or cookie cutter they are) are a fickle mob. It’s not that the Sim City itself was inherently bad, but the decision to make it require an internet connection absolutely ruined how the game was viewed to consumers, even after the problem was remedied. While The Division seems to have avoided the untold levels of anger that Sim City had, it’s something that developers should keep in mind when making the decision to make a game online only.

Consumer trends aside, what benefit is there to an online only game that justifies cutting out offline single player? It just seems unnecessary. Hell, they’ve already bought the game, there’s no reason to require an internet connection. While the MMO aspects of a game like The Division make the game much better than if you play it by yourself, it certainly doesn’t justify requiring an internet connection if somebody wants to play single player. Personally, games requiring an internet connection join pre-ordering and in-game advertisements as industry trends that I want to die a horrible death.

Call me idealistic, but I’m of the opinion that games shouldn’t be restricted by how you play them. If you pay the $60 to get a copy of Call of Duty: Mountain Dew Warfare, (this isn’t a problem the CoD franchise has ever had, but you know what I mean) you shouldn’t have to wait for servers to be online to play. But hey, that’s just what I think. Agree? Disagree? Let me know why.

Have your say!

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  1. What I feared several years finally creeping into reality. Gamers were successful in getting EA and Ubisoft into dropping their always-online DRM but deep down I knew it was not the end. I feared that they will try to ease the always-online feature bit by bit until it becomes the norm. Just look at how persistent EA was in trying to get people to accept that DRM: they ruined Spore and Sim City in two attempts but that didn’t deter them from it in the the most recent Need For Speed.

    Now, publishers found a way to add always-online DRM: by making their games designed as multiplayer only games or pseudo-MMOs, all thanks to Diablo 3. Just as gamers scored a win in getting Ubisoft to drop their always-online DRM, millions of hardcore fans allowed Blizzard to get away with their own DRM in Diablo 3. Months before Diablo 3’s release I saw a forum had a 200-page thread about how they hated the Diablo 3 DRM but upon launch the same creator/moderator of that thread was blasting at critics of the game/DRM in another thread. It was frustrating to see. Diablo 3 have opened the gateway of always-online DRM gaming that publishers have been looking for.

    There’s a lot of games that I’m interested in but most of them are online only. I’m not against online gaming but I don’t want to see them as the dominant way of gaming. I can see the reasons why people like online gaming but it’s negative traits have more heavier impact. Online games will die the moment its user numbers reached a certain limit. Online games are also depend on the whim of their devs and publishers who can pull on the plug on older versions. We don’t see see such problems in singleplayer games. We can still buy games from late 1990s because they are either singleplayer or multiplayer with bots and dedicated servers. I don’t think we can say the same with modern online games.

    • “Online games will die the moment its user numbers reached a certain limit.”

      I really hope you’re right. Playing an online game is fine, as long as it’s on my terms. But the ability to play offline when someone chooses is so, SO important, and it seems like some publishers either don’t understand that, or choose to ignore it.

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