A hot potato: The rise of multiplayer and live service games over the last decade has been phenomenal. Few companies can testify to this quite like Take-Two Interactive, parent of Rockstar Games and 2K Games, though its CEO says that when it comes to single-player experiences, claims of their death have been greatly exaggerated.
Speaking during a recent earnings call (via Gamespot), Take-Two boss Strauss Zelnick said: “The folks at Rockstar Games intended to create a powerful single-player experience a story-driven experience. And Rockstar has always been known for great stories and great single-player experiences and then developed in addition, a massive multiplayer opportunity over the past years.”
Grand Theft Auto V has moved 140 million copies, making it the second best-selling game of all time behind Minecraft. With “expanded and enhanced” versions coming to the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, the game’s commercial success will extend into a third console generation—it arrived on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in September 2013, just before the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One, both of which didn’t see versions of the game until November 2014.
Both GTA V and Rockstar’s other flagship, Red Dead Redemption 2, saw record player numbers last year, despite neither of them ever receiving any single-player DLC. And it’s all thanks to their multiplayer elements.
“I think it’s a reminder, not that we needed one, that Rockstar Games can do both of those things [multiplayer and single-player] at the highest possible level of execution in our business,” Zelnick said.
Steam’s bestsellers list is populated with multiplayer or multiplayer-focused titles, including Valheim at number one, Rust in second, RDR2, Raft, and Sea of Thieves. It’s led to renewed calls that single-player gaming is dead, replaced by multiplayer titles and live services that are a constant source of income for the companies behind them; it’s an argument that’s been around as long as “PC gaming is dead.” You might imagine Zelnick would agree, but he’s in the other camp.
“There was an argument just a couple of years ago […] in some of our competitors’ offices, that single-player is dead, that it’s all about multiplayer,” he said. “We didn’t believe that. I said specifically and publicly that we didn’t believe that—our labels don’t believe that.”
Sadly, with Rockstar focusing on their multiplayer elements and the PS5/XBSX versions, we’re unlikely to ever see any single-player DLC for GTA V and Red Dead Redemption 2. Let’s hope GTA VI doesn’t take too long to arrive.
Do you think the industry is heading more towards multiplayer and live service games, leaving single-player-only titles in scarce supply, or will there always be a market for solo experiences?