Dishonored's Harvey Smith on why there's still life in single-player games
The day after the launch of Bioshock Infinite, it doesn't seem too controversial to suggest single-player games are alive and well. But - as the free-to-play funding model grows in popularity - there are numerous examples of developers doubling down on some form of online multiplayer content. Speaking to Game Industry, Dishonored co-director Harvey Smith says that he thinks that the overall audience for games is growing, leaving plenty of room for both types of experience.
"What people say each cycle is, 'Fill-in-the-blank is the new thing.' And if you're old enough, you remember when it was live-action video games," Smith said. "At another point it was MMOs. At another it was social games. At another it was multiplayer shooters.
"None of those things are bad; they're all great. But what the reality seems to be is we keep adding types of games and finding new player groups for those. The market seems to be expanding."
Smith points out that while the industry tends to focus on a specific area - right now the thriving free-to-play MOBA market - that doesn't stop players from appreciating more traditional genres too. "It seems like our attention focuses on the new thing, but in reality, there are still plenty of people that like a particular kind of game. Every time someone announces the death of the single-player game, something like The Sims or BioShock Infinite comes along and does different things well.
"So far we haven't capped out. It's not like DOTA fans are buying DOTA and not playing Skyrim, or buying Dishonored and therefore not buying Madden. I think there's a bunch of different audience types and we haven't even hit the limit yet."
The trick, Smith argues, is for developers - and publishers - to become comfortable focusing on the type of game they want to achieve, rather than needlessly bulking up a feature list. "I hope people are specializing and going deeper on given mechanics. And I actually hope it gets to the point where there are so many people competing - indie developers or commercial developers - and they're so good at this one thing they do that in order to win. You have to differentiate.
"You have to do something well that the other guy's not doing. That'd be nice, right? Instead of a handful of games that all try to do the same thing, I hope there's some specialization happening and people are going to have to do one thing well or three things well instead of trying to do the same 12 things everyone else is doing."
That's not to say Smith didn't receive messages from fans requesting multiplayer for Dishonored, but says people more frequently thanked him for keeping it a solo experience.