18 Jun 10

The Multiplayer Bubble

I’m not sure if it’s a ‘South Africa’ thing, or just a ‘Gaming Group’ thing, but there seems to be a bubble around the multiplayer aspect of a new game. The bubble is fragile, and can be burst by a number of things … and as with real bubbles, the longer it goes on, the higher the chances it will burst.

Now I know that there’s generally a large community playing a game even after my particular friend group has abandoned it, and even though some of my friend group will still be playing it, it’s not the entire-game-list-consuming multi-fest that it is during that first bubble. I must also admit that few things give me as much joy as playing a game and having the entire lobby filled with my friends.

Now there are a few things that seem to be able to burst the bubble.

  • A new multiplayer game. Something that almost everyone has picked up, so everyone is playing it.
  • No multiplayer progression. Since Call of Duty: Modern Warfare popularised persistant multiplayer leveling, any game that doesn’t offer that kind of thing seems to fall out of favour faster.
  • Glitches/Exploits. If some players start abusing the rules of the game to get ahead, it turns off tons of normal players
  • In the case of sequels, any perceived difference from previous game mechanincs seems to turn people off. Probably the very same people who complain that most sequels don’t have enough fresh content/gameplay to be worth while.
  • A map pack is released. Often the price you pay compared to the content you get is pitiful, so some people will buy it, and others will pass, fragmenting a game’s community.

Sometimes the bubble lasts for months, sometimes, it’s a few days. With more and more games being released that have roughly half their content in multiplayer, choosing which games to spend money on becomes very difficult. With the rising price of games not helping the situation either.

There are notable exceptions, but they are very different models from the norm. Like Team Fortress 2. It has consistently had new, free content added after launch, drawing in a bunch of new players every time, and bringing back lapsed players back to see what all the new stuff is about.

No matter how it’s done, everyone seems to be trying to push the bubble to the limit, and prevent the burst for as long as possible … but in the end … it always pops.

3 Responses to “The Multiplayer Bubble”

  1. Mike Says:

    not to be a total douchébag (just a little douchy), I just want to point out that Cod:MW was nowhere near the first multiplayer game with a persistent mp leveling/unlocking feature. Rainbow Six Vegas 1 was one big title that did it before MW. ^__^

    also, can we expect to see more in the vein of Desktop Dungeons?

  2. Aequitas Says:

    Fixed. Yeah, it wasn’t the first, but CoD:MW definitely made it a *must have* for future games. They also went further than R6:V by adding the perks and killstreaks.

    Keep an eye on the site for news about DD as a ‘retail’ product 😉

  3. Cleric Says:

    Good read, and some very valid points. The one that rang most true for me is the release of map packs, specifically, overpriced map packs. It’s what got me to sell my MW2.
    That said, when All Fronts was released for Gears 2, it brought me right back into the game after months of neglect.

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