Local Multiplayer, Dead on Arrival

Is the internet to blame?

Has the internet ruined local multiplayer games? Does society even have time for them? The obvious issue is, you need someone else there to play with, get mad at, and gloat at when you eventually win. Most of my friends aren’t local, so we play together online; I’m sure this trend is becoming more common. The internet enables us to converse and game together even though we’re miles apart.

Don’t get me wrong. I still really like sitting down, in the same room, to play with people. I’ve fond memories from growing up, going to friends’ houses to play console games, and on occasion, my parents helped me lug my PC and massive CRT monitor to LAN parties – puts on old man hat – this was back in the days of  56k internet connections.

While local multiplayer is great, developers drastically reduce player counts and potential purchases when they don’t offer online play. I’ve played some awesome games at conventions to find they only offer local multiplayer; I’ve also died a little knowing I’d probably never play them.

Overcooked is a good example. It’s a cracking game where up to 4 players rush about a kitchen trying to prepare and serve food; at least that’s how it’s meant to go. It more commonly ends up with someone accidentally preparing the wrong ingredients, burning the soup, forgetting to wash the dishes and throwing food away by mistake. All this happens before one person breaks down in the corner. The game just wouldn’t have the same atmosphere and charm where it online. However. I’d play it a lot more.

Screenshot from Overcooked

 

PC’s have their own issues, my jury-rigged system of cables to link to my PC and living room TV is great, until you realise the controllers don’t reach! The majority of systems aren’t in communal areas, so they’re arguably worse for local multiplayer than consoles. Who wants to crowd in an office to play? At least solutions are becoming available, such as the Steam Link.

Programs like NVIDIA GameStream and Team Viewer allow you to play local multiplayer PC games online, but not everyone will want to, or be patient enough to set them up. NVIDIAs solution wasn’t fully meant for this function either. To make it work you need to smurf an NVIDIA Shield. To my knowledge, there aren’t any similar solutions for console games.

Source: Steamcharts.com

This isn’t to say that having online multiplayer will make the game instantly a hit. For every successful one, there are countless others lacking players. Not every game will end up as popular as Overwatch has.

Invisigun Heroes, a game of hide and seek with guns (you only see yourself or other players if someone makes a mistake or crosses-terrain, like water), recently released. Sadly it lacks enough players to find a match quickly. At the time of writing this article, Invisigun Heroes has just one concurrent player, not enough to even start a match.

Cult of the Wind, another online multiplayer game, sparked my interest with its crazy sounding blurb. You dogfight as kids, pretending to be aircraft. Unfortunately, it too lacks players, meaning I haven’t picked it up.

I won’t even get started on VR online multiplayer games.

So why then, after painting such a bleak picture, does the Nintendo Switch, a console with local multiplayer games in mind, intrigue me? It’s partly down to its portability, letting me take my games to a friends place, or convention. Although I’ll still be in the same situation I am now, it’s easier to take a Switch with me than it is to lug my PS4 or PC. Its inbuilt, albeit, small screen solves the issue of some hotels locking out their TV’s HDMI inputs too. All this combined somehow makes purchasing local multiplayer games seem worth my time.

This isn’t to say the Switch is the savior of local multiplayer; its games list is very stark right now. I suppose we can give it a break though, as it has only just released. At least its games list is growing, and the line-up has attracted me.

The question still remains, are local multiplayer games dead? In this world dominated by the internet, no I don’t think they are. They have very specific times in modern society to be relevant though. A few of the Out of Lives team regularly play local games with friends and family often, which I love.

This doesn’t detract from the fact that if a developer decides they’re only going to offer local multiplayer, it’s their decision. But, the majority of us will unfortunately decide to avoid it, even more so for PC.

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Andy spent his childhood staying up late, playing games and eating junk food. He now writes about games too, nothing else has changed. You'll mostly find him playing Overwatch and streaming games badly on Twitch.tv.
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