Over the Christmas holiday, Internet pricks were able to disable both XBOX Live and Playstation Network services, effectively disabling all online gaming for a period of days for gamers. Those of us with Playstation are still reporting service interruptions on our systems. Over the course of this outage many of us gamers had conversations about how in the ‘old days’ before these systems were so connected all we had to do was blow on a cartridge or wipe a disc clean to get our games to work. Now, at the hands of dick-heads across the globe, the entire network of gamers were unable to fully enjoy their holiday gaming.
This got me thinking really hard about just what exactly we need our connections for in gaming anyway. Now this is not an argument about going back offline, because obviously we’re not going backwards, and the benefits of our console’s being online are many. Online gaming is huge and important for many people. In fact, games like Journey or No Man’s Sky wouldn’t be possible without online connectivity. But I just want to play Devil’s Advocate for a moment. I want to look at how being online affects the quality of video games as an entertainment experience.
When I think of the best games that I’ve played in my life, over my entire gaming life, very few of them were reliant on being connected in any way. I’m not just talking about the classics either. It’s easy to point to Chrono Trigger or Mario 64 and say “THOSE didn’t need DLC or to be updated to be great!”. I’m looking at games like The Last of Us, arguably the best game of the last two years. While The Last of Us had an online versus mode, and a DLC story add-on. When you think about what was so great about that game, the campaign, that experience was all on-disc, offline, and amazing.
Look at some of last year’s best games with online features, and think about how much would be detracted without it’s online. Would Mario Kart 8 be any less fun playing local multiplayer than online? I would argue that local multiplayer is even more fun than online! Dragon Age: Inquisition while sporting a 4 player online mode, still depends on it’s grand offline campaign to make that game amazing.
And looking at online reliant games in 2014, we all know the problems that have plagued Driveclub, Destiny, and Halo: MCC’s online experiences. I just don’t know that using online as a crutch is a smart play at this point. We obviously have a long way to go before we can call these services reliable and fool-proof. By hitching some of our biggest games to features that can be crippled by a 15 year old with Daddy issues and a laptop is just proving to be a bad move.
Now again, I love the online features of gaming these days. I love being able to share my game feed with the push of a button. I think Share Play-like features are a foundation for revolution in gaming. And of course online multiplayer is extremely important to many gamers (not really me, but many others).
I just think that it’s been shown this year that we cannot continue to depend on online gaming to carry the load of our gameplay experience. There are too many outages, ddos attacks, hacks, server overloads and viruses out there to put our eggs in that basket. Imagine if XBOX One had gone ahead with the originally planned feature of that system needing to be online ALL THE TIME to work. Disaster waiting to happen if you ask me.
As we look forward to one of the biggest years in gaming in a long time, I hope that companies learned something from all of this mess in 2014 and we have a much better, and much more stable 2015.