Tobold's Blog
Thursday, November 26, 2015

Syp of Bio Break has a retro gaming column in which he plays 20 year old games again and makes a journal of his experiences with those games. Personally I rarely play games more than a few years old, but somehow it is good to know that I could, even if I have to solve a few technical difficulties first. That contrasts sharply with an observation Cam did yesterday in the comments, where he stated that: "Multiplayer-only games have no shelf-life. No longevity.".

I'm not saying that his observation is an absolute truth, you can still play Meridian 59 from 1996 or even LPMud. But just like the WoW subscription curve, the number of players of a multi-player game rises for a while, and then declines. Depending on the game mechanics a decline can have more or less serious negative impact on the remaining players: Longer waiting times in queues to get a number of players together, for example. And then there is the danger of the servers being switched off, and the game becoming totally unplayable. lists 260 dead MMORPGs, and the list gets a lot bigger if you include other types of multiplayer games.

As Cam says: "Everyone's playing Battlefront now, so who's playing Splatoon, Rocket League, Titanfall, Evolve, Brink, or any of the literally HUNDREDS of indie 2D arena-battlers who are all languishing in the 'mostly negative' reviews bin with the predominant complaint being: "Empty servers."". The advantage of MMORPGs is that there is still a lot of game left if you were the only player on the server. Those arena-battlers or other types of multiplayer PvP only games simply become unplayable if there are not enough players online to form even one game.

"Games as a service" has replaced "Games as a product" because developers couldn't find a better idea to combat piracy. As a result even some games which are from gameplay fundamentally single-player experiences now only work after you've logged into a server online. The day the company goes bankrupt or closes down the server because the cost outstrips the revenue, you can't play that game any more. Which means that any game that uses servers has no guarantee that you can still play it 20 years later, and might die much faster than that.

Part of the problem is the over-supply of games these days. There are so many games of any given genre coming out every year now that it is simply mathematically impossible for each of them to hold their players for long. Of course some blockbuster games will last for decades, but not many games can achieve that any more in such a crowded field. As much as I like to pick up games on Steam for cheap a year later, I must agree with Cam that with multiplayer-only games the months or year after release can become the only opportunity to play the game at all before it withers and dies.

Which multiplayer game of 2015 do you think will still be around in 2035?

2035? Interesting! Technology moves so fast - Moore's law would hope systems would be nearly a million percent faster (2^(40/3))

20 years ago Windows 95 launched - will 2035 be as different as the last two decades that brought iPhone, iPad, Cloud computing, digital media? Will Windows drivers be any better in 2035?

Along with the obvious guesses - WoW and EVE, I would add WoT. My complete guess is that WG does not have EA or ATVI's issue of public shareholders. If Victor wants it up, it will be up.
Counter-Strike will still be around for sure. Us vs Them. Very little can change. A solid idea, which is destined to survive.

World of Warcraft? Probably as standalone servers on user's side. There is still a lot of quests I have not done there.

Looking at another side of the problem, let me remind you that Valve is not going to publish Half-Life 3 because making multiplayer games like DOTA brings more money.
Probably just WoW.
Given what can be played now that was around 20 years ago thanks to services like GOG, I'd say a lot more than we think.....but yes, the server death phenomenon, as well as the half-life of consoles can mean we may be playing more 40 year old games in 20 years than we are current titles....
2035? None. Not even WoW. There will be new versions of course but games actually out right now? None.
I don't really care that multiplayer games have a limited shelf-life. If anything, I find that an advantage because I have an excuse to throw away those games that I have finished with instead of leaving them languishing in a pile somewhere.
I don't think my opinion will change unless I get burnt on buying a game that only lasts a few months before closure.
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