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Saturday September 8, 2007 3:53 pm

Games With Online Multiplayer Sell More

Multiplayer, Globe with Halo 2 Lobby

A research paper from Electronic Entertainment Design and Research has been released that suggests that games with online support can be crucial to a game’s retail success. Not surprisingly, another way to boost sales is to create a quality game (defined as those with a 90+ score on Metacritic), with these well-reviewed titles outselling the average release well above 5-to-1.

While making good games typically means making good money, naturally, it is a bit surprising to see the report indicate that sales can be doubled by dropping in an online mode. With online games selling twice the number copies that offline titles do, it’s curious to note that over half of games released don’t offer even basic online support.

Read More | Ars Technica

All of which makes the success of the a little hard to reconcile. is fairly well known for its mediocre online presence yet it is the top-selling console of the last year by far. Even more confusing is that Nintendo ships every Wii with online capabilities yet even recent news about obvious online games like have been plaugued with “will-they-or-won’t-they” rumors.

The other possible connection is that while they may perhaps be lacking in online mode, the function of online play—social interaction—is built into most Wii hits. Games like 8 and Wii Play are by nature social games and if the driving force behind gamers demand for mulitplayer titles such as is to play with others, it makes a little more sense. The desire for community can readily be met by games with complex network play strategies but for some it may be just as easy to enjoy some multiplayer by inviting over a few friends.

Some other interesting tidbits in the report include the fact that the obviously desirable critical success (90+ on Metacritic) is pretty tough to come by: In the period examined in the study (November 1, 2005 through June 1, 2007) only 2% of games achieved this mark. But it is still significant to note that critical success translates into increased sales (the 5-to-1 mark is identified as being a 531% increase in gross sales over the average of $11.5 million). Sometimes games like get rave reviews but flop commerically and speculation persists that critics and ratings are irrelevant, but according to this study, that just isn’t so. The study also notes that the Nintendo Wii is releasing more games than any other system provided you factor in downloadable games () but the has the highest average review score on Metacritic at 73 compared to the overall average of 69.

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Forum Discussion

It makes sense in a “Well, isn’t that just how it is?” kind of way, to me. Though having it in writing worries me to a degree. I could see major publishers pushing for more online situated games and marginalizing further the singe-player component of half-and-half games now that they’ve got “proof” of it being better for sales.

This kind of echos the nagging worry I got reading a few stories a while ago about single player games coming to an end. (A good portion of the links to the stories are here.) Though for the most part the author of the linked-to article considers having multiple people watching a person play a game where only one person can play at a time, possibly swapping controllers and providing input on decisions, a multi-player game.

Still, I really can’t see single player only games dying, but I can definitely see publishers pushing for more online whether or not it comes at a sacrifice to the offline bit. I think hell would have to freeze over before we would lose our Metal Gear Solids and our Final Fantasies. (Unless you count FF11, but you get my point.)

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Comments:

Having an online mode is definitely important for games. No longer is it viable to just have a game a play be yourself like solitaire and tetris. Today’s sophisticated gamer is more in tune to online collaboration and communication. Nice read.


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