Massimo Guarini, director on Grasshopper Manufacture's critically acclaimed but poor-selling Shadows of the Damned, has come out in fervent defence of single-player only games, but acknowledges that business models and price points need to come under serious consideration.
In an interview with Gamespot, Guarini states that 'in [Guarini's] opinion, single-player-only games are nowhere close to being doomed. The problem rather lies in how they’re produced, through which channels they’re sold, and at which price points'. He also goes on to talk about the difficulties facing new IPs and the differences he perceives between Japanese and Western development processes.
Guarini, although bullish over the prospects of the single-player only game, is concerned that there's a disparity in terms of content expectation given the high retail price points of games, a high price that he suggests are largely driven by huge development costs.
I can't see in any way a single-player experience being less engaging or interesting because of the absence of multiplayer. Instead, I can definitely see how players who pay 60 or 70 bucks for a game can be quite sensitive to the lack of additional features that can justify their investment.
Once again, the business model must evolve. We're still selling at incredibly high price points because we're still operating like we were five years ago, with just higher production costs. Instead of changing our perspectives, we're still struggling to pack games with features, extras, bonuses, achievements, in order to barely justify that price tag, which is given by excessively high development and licensing costs. - Massimo Guarini
Furthermore, although Guarini notes that there is a significant difficulty and risk in launching adventurous new IPs in the current climate, he believes that this is an 'obvious sign an era is ending' and that this in fact bodes well for the next generation of platforms: 'The ability of launching new intellectual properties will actually be the industry of tomorrow. There is no market in the world that I am aware of that can survive without the constant injection of fresh, new products.'
Guarini hopes that his new studio - Ovosonico - will be something of a blend of cultural development styles, having worked in Europe, Japan and North America. Maintaining that Japanese and Western development styles 'are deeply complimentary', Guarini did not shy away from outlining what he sees to be the strengths and weaknesses of either:
Japanese development tends to be characterized by a creative overwhelming chaos, where productions are often driven by a tyrannical single creative mind and development practices tend to be quite old-fashioned and, at times, extremely inefficient. On the other hand, Western development is generally characterized by an efficient, well organized, risk-averse sort of democracy; actual creativity and strong vision get diluted, if not sometimes completely lost, in endless brainstorming sessions driven mainly by market analysis rather than creators.
We definitely want your thoughts on all of this. Do games have to have a multiplayer component? Should price points and developmental processes be revised? What did you think of Shadows of the Damned - visionary masterpiece or technical mess? Let us know your thoughts below.