Horizon: Zero Dawn Proves That Single-Player Games Aren't Dead, Dev Says

"I think Horizon proves that there is a future for a really high quality single-player experience."

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Now Playing: GS News Update: Horizon Zero Dawn Proves That Single-Player Games Aren't Dead, Dev Says

Lately, the viability of purely single-player games has been making headlines. Can games that have no multiplayer component survive in today's market where games try so hard to keep people engaged with a steady flow of post-release content? According to a developer from Horizon: Zero Dawn studio Guerrilla Games, single-player games are not going anywhere, though they could become challenged by business considerations.

GameSpot spoke with Guerrilla principal game designer Tim Stobo today at PAX Aus. He pointed out that some of the most highly rated games of 2017 have been purely single-player, listing off titles like his own Horizon: Zero Dawn, along with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Middle-earth: Shadow of War.

"I think Horizon proves that there is a future for a really high quality single-player experience. [The upcoming story expansion Frozen Wilds] proves that again," Stobo explained. "We're really committed to delivering that high level, quality experience for players. It does seem like maybe there is a business shift in other parts of the industry. But at Guerrilla, we're just focused on telling amazing stories."

It seems pretty clear that single-player games will never completely vanish from the planet, but could they become more and more scarce as online-focused titles like Destiny continue to rise in popularity? Maybe, but that's not how Stobo is looking at it.

"I think it's better to look at it from the other perspective. I think we'll see more games like Destiny and I think there is a place for those," he said. "But you look at the best, more lauded games that have come out this year--there is Horizon, Zelda, Shadow of War. There are a lot of amazing single-player experiences. If we also get more always online experiences, I think that's great for the diversity of games."

Following the closure of EA's Visceral Games and the re-tooling of their Star Wars game--which was to be a linear, story-driven game--some took this as a signal that purely single-player games were going the way of the Dodo bird. Xbox boss Shannon Loftis said earlier this week that single-player games are here to stay, though she also acknowledged that their economics are "complicated."

Next up for Zero Dawn is the Frozen Wilds expansion, which comes out for PlayStation 4 on November 7. What do you think about the future for single-player games? Let us know in the comments below!

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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Avatar image for crazyintheface
crazyintheface

Multiplayer gets old & repetitive real fast for me. Single player games are so much better.

Avatar image for Gallowhand
Gallowhand

If the wider game industry stops making single player games, then I will stop buying games in the future. Simple as that. I have no interest in multiplayer at all these days, and stopped playing online multiplayer nearly a decade ago (before grinding for gear and opening loot boxes even became 'the thing'). I will continue to support developers who make good single player experiences, with good story-based DLC content after release. Many great single player games and the companies behind them have already been mentioned, so I won't bother repeating them. However, I will say a heartfelt 'Thank You' to those developers in bringing some truly memorable stories, characters and settings to us over the years, and I hope they continue to do so long into the future.

Avatar image for chemicalture
Chemicalture

I love beautiful games like The Witcher 3 and Horizon: Zero Dawn and I do not like MMOs that I consider to be traps for players. I would stop playing videogames if single player games were to disappear from the market.

Avatar image for cavindar
Cavindar

@chemicalture: Agreed

Avatar image for tevic
tevic

Strange how nobody thinks the best thing for everybody (publishers, players) would be, like in GTA 5, to mix a huge single player campaign with a huge multiplayer, all in the same game. You could even delay the beginning of multiplayer by several weeks (like GTA5 did at launch in 2013) so that people have some time to focus on SP before beginning MP.

I guess the next Elder Scrolls or Fallout could be that way : first an awesome SP experience (with like 100-150 hours gameplay), followed maybe 1 or 2 months later by the start of a huge MMO experience driven by microtransactions ("Elder Scrolls Online 2.0"), all included in the same $60 package. This could sell more than 50 million copies.

Avatar image for bsmith12
bsmith12

simple, no more single player no more gameing for me. for me gaming is like reading a book I get into the story and let my imagination loose to fill into the gaps.

Avatar image for darkelf83
darkelf83

You keep making those great games and I'll keep buying them. Super excited for the DLC next month.

Avatar image for swisdwag
swisdwag

I enjoy SP games. Wish developers would deliver more but unfortunately, they see MP as the cash cow. Gamers are toxic individuals and I don’t want to have to team up with them exclusively to get my gaming fix.

Avatar image for lostn
lostn

These are very uncritical statements. Single player is obviously not dead in 2017. We have a string of great SP titles in 2017, but these began production years ago. We won't feel the full effect of the changing trends in gaming until a few years from now, which is when Hennig's Star Wars was due to release. Will there be 'pivots' in SP games that are entering pre-production now? That's the real question.

The games that are already in development we can assume (unless they're made by EA) they will release as SP games. But future games I can't be so sure. At the very least I'm expecting a lot of post-release monetization. i.e. skins, loot boxes, pay to win, a steady stream of DLC.

Please don't talk about Horizon. That game went into production years ago when the gaming landscape was much different. The design was based on trends that were current at the time it went into production. Star Wars' new "pivot" is based on today's trends. EA doesn't think it's profitable to make a linear story based game in 2017. And if EA doesn't think that, neither will the other big publishers.

Persona 5 is a great single player game. But it also has a ton of costumes that sell for $7 each. You can buy the "Ultimate" edition for $125 that includes all of these costumes but no actual new content. I can see this being common in a lot of single player games going forward. P4 had a ton of costumes also, but they didn't cost extra money to unlock.

I can see indies carrying the torch for traditional SP games. The AAAs will look for another model. If they do make SP games, they won't be the same. And MP will be shoehorned into them. That's where the real money is made.

Avatar image for tevic
tevic

@lostn: very interesting comment. But I would add that Horizon is a First-party title, and maybe console builders will continue making big budget SP games for the reputation of their console and ecosystem, more than to make a big profit on that particular games.

For PC maybe purely SP games will in the future be more "AA" than "AAA" with lower budgets than multiplayer games. This could be disappointing but actually not necessarily a bad thing for the educated gamer (a little like the distinction in Hollywood between blockbusters and authors movies.

Avatar image for lostn
lostn

@tevic: I certainly hope you're right, but if everyone else "pivots" it's a matter of time before first parties do it too. It would be goodwill for them to continue making games people ask for as opposed to what makes more money, but they also have added expenses third parties don't. Such as subsidizing console prices, paying for exclusivity deals, and other such first party spending. If they're not making as much money as third parties on the games they make, they might eventually not see a point.

I still think there will be single player games. They just won't be the same. There will be more and more microtransactions creeping into them. It's already started happening.

Avatar image for ribhu672
ribhu672

So this games proves something that has already been proven? It isn't that special. Nier, wolfenstein 2,super Mario odessy,botw,ac origins etc all have been released this year only.

Witcher 3,fallout 4 and many others already proved single players are here to stay.

What's surprising to me is that out of all the big greedy publishers it's Bethesda that is pushing for single player experience.

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SOul_FUNk

single player mode of Destiny 2 looked uninspiring, not so engaging as Wolfenstein 2

Avatar image for playstationnovusx
PlaystationNovusX

Here we go folks Damage Control article to save the day " Single Player games are for Pussies " and all of them or most are like that trash Horizon zero dawn linear garbage

We don't want no more single player they are all garbage that need to go bring on them Multiplayers and Co-op related game

Avatar image for cavindar
Cavindar

@playstationnovusx: Are you being paid by EA.

Avatar image for tevic
tevic

@playstationnovusx: You should take english lessons and anger control therapy before continuing commenting here.

Avatar image for soliaired50
Soliaired50

While I do enjoy an occasional few rounds online, SP games will always triumph for me especially now that I don't have much time to play game. With how competitive MP is and how easy it is to fall behind on them, I can rest easy knowing that I can take my time with SP and just play it whenever knowing that I won't be missing out on anything, especially when the MP servers will eventually get shut down after a few years, rendering those game worthless while I can come back to SP anytime. Also, not as easy to get scammed with microtransactions and such.

Avatar image for sakaixx
sakaiXx

I understand why many companies dont really want to do single player focussed games. The dev time is long building lore and stuff, but it can kill the game very early like mass effect if the story sucked or the game got bad rep.

Anyhow i am glad dev in sony, in nintendo, bethesda among others still making great single player games. Single player games is the best.

Avatar image for Jimbowesker
Jimbowesker

Man, single player adventures are what paved the way for video games today. Of course, the future is never void or empty of single player games. They are the core, foundation, and future of the video game industry. They will always be a contributing and main contributor of the public/developers. So, screw whoever hopes for this future that consists solely of multiplayer or online mp games. The idea of multiplayer games only would be a terrible one, it would mean the death/extinction of video games!! You cant have a video game future without single player campaign/adventures. one does not exist without the other!! mark my words. they are HERE TO STAY!!!!!!!!

Avatar image for xtne
xtne

put it on pc and then i will care about this game

Avatar image for sakaixx
sakaiXx

@xtne: have you signed a petition for it? 😂😂😂

Avatar image for playstationzone
PlaystationZone

Single play still sale phil don’t like single player game because he thinks do not sale. Rockstar games doing both .

Avatar image for jscummins
jscummins

What a great article about something no one is saying. Nobody thinks ALL single-player games are dying, that'd be STUPID. People are lamenting the loss of AAA Single-Player Linear games. You have to include ALL of the adjectives to discuss the issue.

Avatar image for tevic
tevic

@jscummins: I'm personally not THAT interested in linear games. Non-linearity, side-quests, open-world is what makes gaming interesting for me (I only play SP games, never connected any console to the internet).

Rise of the Tomb raider is a good example of a traditionnaly linear series that has gone successfully non-linear without becoming fully open-world. That could be a way for the future of SP gaming (in parallel to full open world).

Avatar image for thefiresidecat
thefiresidecat

thats just silly. I'd buy single player high quality games all day long if they were offered to me. so far this year I've only seen a couple to play. I want more content to buy not less. if all the world becomes like destiny I'll stop buying consoles eventually. don't get me wrong I love it when the best releases also have some mp to offer along with it. uncharted 2 and three had a stellar mp. I played those for years after the game was released. (tlou and uc4 had a crap mp though) I do like it when the games offer a simple fun multiplayer. but I'll still buy the game regardless if it is a high quality thing.

Avatar image for IgotHigh13
IgotHigh13

First of all, single player games was never dying off. Witcher 3 proved single player was still relevant in the Gaming community, so I don't know why horizon dev was making it sound like no one was buying single player games.

The problem with single player games that do come out in the market are just bad, short game play, bad story line, or just crap.

Avatar image for nadsat-77
Nadsat-77

Hmm lets see just this year we got Horizon, Zelda botw, Mario Odyssey, Persona 5, Nier Automata, Final Fantasy XV, Dishonored 2, Nioh, Yakuza 0, Uncharted 4, Uncharted Lost Legacy, Wolfenstein 2, Evil Within 2, Gravity Rush 2, Prey and i'm sure i'm forgetting about half dozen other great single player games out there all very successful in their own right and guess what none of these games had the need to have any shitty microtransactions in it to be successful.

Now lets look to the close upcoming titles in no particular order, we got Ni No Kuni 2, Dragon Quest XI, Vampyr, Kingdom Come Deliverance, Monster Hunter World, Days Gone, Red Dead Redemption 2, Shen Mue 3, God Of War, Psychonauts 2, Darksiders 3, Metro Exodus, Detroit Become Human, Code Vein, Spider Man, Kingdom Hearts 3, and 2019 and beyond, The last of Us 2, Cyberpunk 2077, Death Stranding, Beyond Good and Evil 2, Final Fantasy VII remake. etc...

Single Player games are healthier than ever, its MS, EA, Activision and a few other a**holes who want to twist things to fit their own agenda.

Avatar image for sakaixx
sakaiXx

@nadsat-77: u can sell cosmetics in mp focussed games.

Avatar image for crashmer
crashmer

The huge marketing campaigns and ps4 bundles also helped.

Avatar image for sakaixx
sakaiXx

@crashmer: yeah, really amazing it can outsell botw for some months, good games.

Avatar image for Xristophoros
Xristophoros

thank god for sony and its focus (mostly) on single player games. we don't need EA and Microsoft should they go the online lootbox route! (EA just cancelled the single player SW game and microsoft pr spoke out against single player experiences just recently so... assume what you will).

Avatar image for todddow
Todddow

@Xristophoros: EA just cancelled the single player SW game

Yet they just pumped out another run and gun Battlefront, which is garbage.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

Are these people that claim single player games are dead the same idiots who claimed PC gaming was dead, and horror games are dead, and point and click adventure games are dead?

Avatar image for teddyboy46
teddyboy46

I am really digging zero horizon dawn. if they stop making single player shooters than i stop playing video games.

Avatar image for Musharasur
Musharasur

I will always choose an amazing single player experience over an online only multiplayer experience.

Pave your own way developers. Don't follow EA and their ways because EA are at the mercy of their shareholders.

Avatar image for deactivated-5c7fea2e578b4

Check out @_Geotherma’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/_Geotherma/status/923581554160553984?s=09

Went over this yesterday lol

Avatar image for todddow
Todddow

EA ruins EVERYTHING they touch.

Avatar image for asneakypoptart
ASneakyPoptart

As much as I'm enjoying Horizon right now, I hope somewhere another Killzone is in development at Guerrilla. Shadow Fall was OK. They just need to make it like Killzone 2 or 3 and I think the majority of fans would be more than happy. The MP was probably one of the best of the last generation of consoles too.

Avatar image for gamingdevil800
gamingdevil800

@asneakypoptart: The plot just wasn't great like we blew up their planet, so lets give them half of ours!

Avatar image for DaGoyaMan
DaGoyaMan

This argument is so stupid; because the idiots at EA decided to shut down visceral games, now all of a sudden single player games are dead?

Gaming journalism going full retard again.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@DaGoyaMan: Remember, they claimed gamers were dead too.