Is There a Future for Local Multiplayer in Modern Gaming?

Advancements in technology have vastly contributed to the world of gaming, bringing better graphics and larger scale adventures.

One of these advancements has that has become standard in the industry in the concept of online multiplayer. Being able to connect with friends and strangers anywhere on Earth in an instant.

Some of us still pine for the days when we’d gather around a solitary TV with our partners, friends or siblings. No amount of online chat will ever provide a suitable substitute for the comradery of local multiplayer.  

But the rise of online multiplayer has almost eradicated this concept. It is today seen as a secondary feature but there are still modern games that would benefit from local multiplayer. Call us nostalgic but we’re not ready to see the concept disappear altogether.

Take these prominent examples as proof that there could still be a future for local multiplayer in modern gaming.

Team 17 and Nintendo Couch Co-op

Indie developer Team 17 and industry juggernaut Nintendo are two prominent studio who still offer couch co-op. Nintendo have been criticised by some hardcore gamers for their adherence to family-friendly titles in recent years. They are making real strides back into mainstream culture though with the Switch.

Classic Nintendo staples like Mario Kart, Mario Party and Super Smash Bros. all have new releases on the Switch and all maintain the tradition of couch co-op. All of those franchises benefit from getting friends together and serve as long-standing examples.

Team 17 are another studio famed for their ‘party’ style titles and announced an Overcooked sequel at the latest E3. Overcooked is a franchise that practically demands couch co-op, the more cooks the better. The studio are also pushing their latest franchise Mugsters which will also have a heavy focus on local multiplayer.

Recent adventure titles such as Kirby Star Allies maintain the classic drop in, drop out multiplayer system. A staple of huge Nintendo series’ like Kirby, Donkey Kong and Super Mario.

A Way Out Local Multiplayer

It’s not just family-friendly titles though, the hugely successful A Way Out proved the concept still has a future in AAA games. From director Josef Fares had recently released the multiplayer based title Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.

In Brothers, a single player controlled two characters, one with each stick, from a top-down perspective. The story centred around the bond between the titular brothers as they try to help their ill father. Fares took this a step further in A Way Out by introducing multiplayer, with a story that centred around the bond between two inmates.

The game was controversial as it was only playable in multiplayer but it proved to a huge success. Second-hand copies of the game sold for higher than the original list price as EA did not anticipate the demand for the title.

“I think people underestimate the power of telling stories when you’re together. If you look at a movie you can experience a great story together. Why can’t you do that in a game, as well?” – Josef Fares Director of A Way Out

Earthfall and The Future of Multiplayer

Upcoming co-op shooter Earthfall is being billed as the spiritual successor to the Left 4 Dead series. It is also the perfect example of a game that should be built for local multiplayer but isn’t. The Left 4 Dead series forced players to cooperate as it was not possible to take a horde on by yourself.

The local multiplayer was one of the most significant draws of the franchise and fans have long been clamouring for a sequel. It seems strange then that Earthfall developers Holospark would overlook this in favour of bots or online play.

The popular Call of Duty series has continued to employ split-screen multiplayer, with it expected to feature again in Black Ops 4. There’s no reason why shooters can’t offer local multiplayer with both players on the same team.

There is definitely still a calling for this feature, A Way Out proved that with its successful sales. We’d love to see more games with a focus on story feature local multiplayer elements. Better technology doesn’t always make for a better experience and we sincerely hope there will be a future for local multiplayer titles.

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