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EA's Gibeau Claims Single Player-Only Games Are 'Finished'
EA's Gibeau Claims Single Player-Only Games Are 'Finished'
December 8, 2010 | By Simon Parkin

December 8, 2010 | By Simon Parkin
More: Console/PC

EA Games label president Frank Gibeau has claimed that games that lack an online component are “finished” in business terms because “online is where the innovation, and the action, is at”.

Speaking to UK trade site Develop, Gibeau said: “I volunteer you to speak to EA’s studio heads, they’ll tell you the same thing,” he said. “They’re very comfortable moving the discussion towards how we make connected gameplay – be it co-operative or multiplayer or online services – as opposed to fire-and-forget, packaged goods only, single-player, 25-hours-and you’re out."

"I think that model is finished," he added. "Online is where the innovation, and the action, is at.”

Asked as to whether EA demand that their studios add a multiplayer component to every game, Gibeau said his job is more to "inspire" developers to consider the commercial ramifications.

“It’s about collaboration – looking at being both critically acclaimed and commercially successful,” he said to Develop. “It’s both, and I like to give studios a lot of creative autonomy, and that’s certainly proven by the types of games we’ve brought out over the last couple of years."

"I mean, EA used to be against M-rated content," he continued. "Go check out Dead Space [laughs]. It’s one of my core cultural studio values to allow developers to decide more on what they want to build. And a studio’s creative call needs to be balanced against a commercial imperative, and if you look at online these days – that’s the place to be."

Gibeau's comments echo themes given by CFO Eric Brown at the UBS's 38th Annual Global Media and Communications Conference, who discussed how EA is trying to "extend the revenue derived from a physical disc in the digital world" through online, downloadable content.

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Nick Green
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Some people think that making bold predictions about the future makes them look good. Most of the time they end up looking like fools when their predictions don't come true. But in this case....

I definitely don't play as many single-player games as I used to. Once upon a time I'd buy, on average, 1 a month. Now it's more like 1 a year. Multiplayer games are generally just so much better value for money both in terms of longevity and the added social component.

Tim Carter
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It's like that legend of the US Patent Official who, in the late 1800s, proposed shutting down the Patent Office because "everything that can be invented has already been invented".

andrew easter
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Single player games are engrossing, pausable and give meaning to the whole idea of playing games for me. Of the 100's of games I have played, I think 20 were played online including 5 mmo's.

Kill off the single player model and you finish gaming for me.

Ujn Hunter
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Yeah, same with me. I spend thousands of dollars a year on games... single player games... I'm not interested at all in multiplayer... that's a lot of money they'll be losing if they think single player is dead.

Jamie Mann
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I wonder if he's actually thought this one through? A quick search turned up a top-ten list from about six months ago:

1. New Super Mario Bros Wii - Wii

2. Pokemon SoulSilver Version - DS

3. God of War III - PS3

4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - Xbox 360

5. Wii Sports Resort/Wii Motion Plus - Wii

6. Wii Fit Plus w/Wii Balance Board - Wii

7. Final Fantasy XIII - PS3

8. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 - Xbox 360

9. Mass Effect 2 - Xbox 360

10. Pokemon HeartGold Version - DS

Of these, I'd say that 5 are strongly singleplayer, 3 are singleplayer/local multiplayer, 1 is singleplayer/online multiplayer and 1 is online multiplayer. That's 9/10 games where singleplayer has played an important part in the game's appeal.

Beyond this, there's the fact that a multiplayer games generally have a very short retail lifespan - a significant part of their value comes from the user community, and when people move onto a new game, that community quickly dies. As a result, you have a very finite commercial window, whereas a game with a singleplayer component can be resold on a budget label or bundled into a compilation.

Finally, there's another point: multiplayer-only games have to be far, far rigorously tested and balanced before release, as people are far less forgiving of MP faults/glitches/exploits. Any bad publicity during the initial release phase could kill your game off before it has a chance to make an impression...

Jason Withrow
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Always the devil's advocate, I'm doing to say that I don't think he said single player is dead, just single-player only. Of course, your list is still half that and he has not really gained ground to stand on.

Glenn Sturgeon
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"Frank Gibeau has claimed that games that lack an online component are “finished” in business terms because “online is where the innovation, and the action, is at”.

Maybe he should explain that to the people at Bethesda? Even though the (off line only) fallout titles have sold at least as well as any given EA title during the same time period.

The DLC added play time but hardly if any innovation.

These days online inovation seems more like old school spin offs with MP built in (social games) and massively unbalanced FPSs with a Serious Sam (zombie) survivial mode added on.

Oh i forgot hunderds more diablo spin offs, now in full 3D and with even more grind time needed!!

Thats just from what i've been exposed to.

I will say i'm glad coop is becoming more main stream.

The most innovative thing i've seen in an online title in awhile is demon souls tip system where you leave a tip and if someone rates it as good your character gets its HP filled up.

EA makes some great titles but they seemed to stop innovating after the early 32bit days.imo

Morgan Ramsay
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February 10, 2006

"The single-player game is a strange mutant monster which has only existed for 21 years and is about to go away because it is unnatural and abnormal." -Raph Koster

Justin Keverne
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When your entire career has been with multiplayer games of course you are going to believe they are the only future worth pursuing, your continued relevance depends on it.

Eric Geer
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Single and Multiplayer both have their job to do in gaming---I don't see either of them staying or going more than the other---

I would opt for more co-op games opposed to more versus games--point and shoot games are fun for some time--but I would rather work with someone else through a campaign.

The only real innovative multiplayer game I see in the near future is Brink.

Jason Bentley
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Take this in context: the large publishers are looking for any and all ways to cut out used game profits that they don't get a chunk of.

EA has already tried offering first-buyer only content and this push to make each game have a substantial multiplayer component is simply another tactic in that battle.

Paul Waterman
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...hoping Bethesda doesn't listen so Elder Scrolls 5 comes out single player: like it's meant to be.

Ujn Hunter
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Nah... apparently that's dead... it'll be Online Deathmatch only, because that's... you know... innovative... or something.

Brent Mitchell
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Aye, I was going to mention the Bethesda games as well. Sure, a co-op addition could have a ton of potential, but these games are still meant to be single-player focused. And my god to they make an amazing experience with it.

Eric McVinney
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I could see games evolve their single player experience into what Demon's Souls had; Where you could play single player mode online, but the chances are there of being invaded by an as- I mean black phantom... And you could summon blue phantoms for help, but that was optional.

Single player will never go away, because there are titles out there that can only be as great as they can be by only having one person play the game (i.e. Final Fantasy XIII, God of War 3, NEIR, Donkey Kong Country Returns).

Logan Foster
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I heard this same claim back in 1997. Back when online multi-player games started to hit the market and the industry saw huge retention rates from people playing stuff like Quake for months and months. The end result was that all the AAA publishing lemmings ran off the cliff and nuked anything related to single-player game modes from their PC games and made the industry suffer for years.

What I really want to know though is when are these EA VPs going to learn to talk amongst themselves internally before making assinine comments? You cannot possibly tell me that the RPG/Bioware group is going to agree, nevermind listen to this guys recommendation. Sorry but IMHO this is a moment of stupidity from a VP looking to make a play for a higher role at the company, but is going to bomb out.

Jonathan Jennings
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Arkham asylum says hello.....if singleplayer is done right it is a great experience, it's when the singleplayer is half-assed or uninspired that it becomes an unfulfilling experience.

Jan Goh
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Even Arkham Asylum has a multiplayer component: the challenge levels. That's all it takes to keep people coming back to the game even after they've finished the single player story.

It wasn't big, but I probably played AA a good 5 or 8 hours more because of those challenges, trying to inch my way up the global scoreboard.

Roberta Davies
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I have no interest in playing games online, and there's no argument that would ever tempt me to do so. If (by some remote chance) all new games became online-only, I'd avoid buying any new games and just stick to my existing stockpile.

(To be honest, I've calculated that I probably own more games than I could finish in my lifetime, so a ban on new ones wouldn't be too much of a hardship.)

Carlo Delallana
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Maybe we're moving away from single-player "isolated" to single-player "social". Most facebook games are single-player experiences 90% of the time (more or less). I play by myself but i'm never alone.

The single player experience isn't dead, its evolving.

Rey Samonte
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Actually, the opposite has happened to me. There was a time when all I did was play online PC games whenever I was awake. Now with my busy schedule, I have less time to dedicate playing games online and gravitate towards games I can play on my own pace. IMO, I don't see that changing because although there will always be new players to online gaming, you'll also find veteran gamers moving towards single player games as they mature in life.

Daniel Martinez
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Because Fallout, Grand Theft Auto, and Metal Gear Solid were so lame... way to reinforce you're not a gamer but a hollow businessman, Gibeau.

Jan Goh
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The important word to note in his comment is 'component'. He's not trying to take the single player game away from people, he's just saying that adding MP adds another level of interest and interaction that extends the playtime of a game well beyond its original single player element.

If you look at NFS:Hot Pursuit, you can play all the races single player, but something that keeps me coming back is definitely the online interaction with race times. That's all it needed to add the 'multiplayer component'. You see the same thing in iPhone games.

Carlo Delallana
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Yep, this is what the torch-n-pitchfork crew are not seeing.

Adam Bishop
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I don't think he's talking about player interest, I think he's talking about business models. I own very few games that I've ever played online (though I love local multiplayer), but I understand what he's getting at - there's a fairly fixed revenue stream you can get from single-player, full-game-on-disc experiences, while there's a lot more room to experiment with things that have a heavy online component.

That being said, as others have pointed out, companies like Nintendo and Bethesda have shown that if you understand your market, there's still a lot of money to be made in the more typical retail channels.

Lo Pan
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I still wonder what the ROI is for creating a compelling SP or MP mode if it is not game changing in that space. I would look at games like Assassins Creed and Dead Rising and see if the work involved to create the MP component was worth it. I'd wager the active players enjoying/engaging MP is these games is quite low. I'd rather have a killer MP or SP mode than a compromised one to complete a marketing checkbox.

Megan Fox
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Again, to try and head off the torch-n-pitchfork crew: read the article, not just the flamebait quotes. No one is suggesting that the way forward is to cram an MP mode into every single title.

What he IS suggesting is means of making the SP experience more connected and supported, rather than just dropping the title at the curb and forgetting about it at release. Having the developer throw up challenge rooms or special events every few weeks, keeping up a stream of DLC content, showing off your friend's achievements to make you one-up them, being able to play a social game that levels up your SP character, a thousand little side things that still keep the game absolutely single-player, or co-op at most.

No one is suggesting that we start cramming MP VS modes into everything. That is not what he is saying. SP games aren't going anywhere.

Mark Harris
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Holy crap! Someone read the article and responded to his actual point instead of jumping the shark and roasting him alive!?!?!?!? Kudos.

And, since you're right, I'll give some examples of your rightness.

Dragon Age online profile with your characters, stats, story progression, etc. with various bits you can share.

As Jan mentions above, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit with the whole "auto log" or whatever that constantly updates you with new challenges and taunts you when your friends beat your top scores.

Connectivity, not omnipresent deathmatch.

Luke S
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The second paragraph is key, not the soundbite in the third. Connected Gameplay speaks to gameplay-integrated leaderboards and Twitter connectivity, as much as it does to forced matchmaking. Seeing how my score ranks in the world at Pac-Man CE DX is as relevant to Gibeau's point as someone that suggests a subscription model to Call of Duty.

What no one realises is EA also plans to start selling you Friends-Who-Aren't-Racist-Teabaggers to play online deathmatches with. So really, everybody wins. :)

John Mawhorter
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Only took the industry 11 years since the release of Counter-strike and Starcraft (12) before they realized that maybe online play is more rewarding and interesting than single-player for a lot of folks...

Eric Kwan
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But, at the same time, single player is more rewarding for others—like me—who play games to relax and want to do so without having to wait around for other players.

I do enjoy online components, like trophies and achievements, but I don't much like online gameplay.

Chris Taran
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I could not have less interest in any game with multiplayer in it.

Aaron Casillas
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hmm...the big draw for me to online is competition and avatar customization if it exists....perhaps tying in singleplayer to meta multiplayer game could be a draw in the right direction? say you finish objectives in singleplayer which change the multiplayer world? "go do this mission" you go alone, finish the objective, and the player's in mp can see the change...maybe the portal to the sp experience can be found in mp?

This way you can have that compulsion loop (avatar transformation and mtx etc) from sp to mp and have player to player exposure...

Just throwing out ideas (some rehashed from other games)...

Victor Boone
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Online gameplay is great for a lot of people, but I'm not a masses kind of guy. Unless I'm in a private session, most of the time my mic is off when I play, and frankly I wish some would turn theirs off as well. My favorites all involve a deep solo campaign or the capability to play as different characters, I hope no one puts any credence behind this guys opinion.

Christopher Plummer
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"games that lack an online component" != multiplayer. I'm not sure why this surprises anyone, or how anyone can disagree with this. Every piece of hardware that you can play a modern game on has some form of online connection in it which is why, online components are a win/win for the creator and the customer.

What game couldn't benefit from a connection to the outside world in any way?

Buck Hammerstein
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i agree with Gibeau's statement, that tacking on online multiplayer features to any game is a must nowadays... no matter how poorly it is done and how much dev time/money is sidestepped into this to detriment of the single player experience. Gibeau sees the future as needing a bullet-point on the box of Cooking Mama saying "now play online and beat your friends at cooking a 3 minute egg!!!"

didn't everyone think Bioshock2 was so much better because of the Team Deathmatch feature? wasn't Kane&Lynch2 better with the addition of a revamped Fragile Alliance which people played one time and then never again?

i think CoD Black Ops would have been an even better multiplayer experience if they had made the single player game only 2 hours long rather than 5 hours so that they could have worked longer on the poor spawn system. and this is his dark, sad vision of the future... to the point that the single player experience is shunned into a tiny footnote on game boxes to make room for the huge blurb, "Kill Anonymous Online Gamers in Gears of War 3 on 5 Slightly Different Maps!!!"

Mark Wong
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Single player games aren't dead...

You just can't sell them at a $60 price point anymore, and you can't have 30 hour epics.

I'm a busy person. I love games, but I can't dedicate much time to it. That's not to say I should only be playing casual games. There is room for a game like Mass Effect that gives the player a satisfactory conclusion in a hour. Yes, what I'm describing is the basis of episodic content. The problem with everything that is out there is that it is still too long and drawn out. Make an A-quality game that respects a players time... and you will be rewarded for it financially.

Brian Tsukerman
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You know, at first, I admit I felt significantly annoyed by Gibeau's comment, probably due to how much I enjoy single player games. And after the time I've spent reflecting on it, the fact of the matter is that Gibeau himself says that "his job is more to 'inspire' developers to consider the commercial ramifications." So all he's really saying is that he, as EA Games label president, is pretty highly focused on making a big fat profit. If this surprises anyone, then clearly you need to familiarize yourselves with the "industry" portion of "videogames," and in particular with EA.

As for single player, I feel it's very important, especially in making a game "epic" as opposed to just "cookie-cutter." But having some online component essentially provides game companies with a relatively dependable anti-piracy method. Plus, if done well, the fun that gamers have playing together will increase the games lifespan significantly. Hell, it's pretty much what's keeping Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and the Call of Duty series going.

But online and multiplayer does not guarantee success. There have been plenty of games that have had both and failed or struggled. In fact, there were two big disappointments this year from both APB and Final Fantasy XIV, though I doubt that came as a surprise to those who tried their open betas.

Honestly, I find it disheartening when I hear executives at game companies speaking like this, because it reveals how utterly focused on profits they are. Maybe it's just my opinion, but I'm still under the impression that gaming success tends to stem from the provision of quality gaming experiences to the consumer, regardless of whether it be from its single-player, multiplayer, online or social capabilities.