Spider-Man: Miles Morales – single-player by design (pic: Sony)
Gamers spend more time playing offline than online but struggle to find the time, as Sony’s new approach to single-player on PS5 is revealed.
Much of the PlayStation 4’s success is due to its line-up of critically acclaimed first party exclusive games, almost all of which are primarily single-player, and it seems that’s no accident but the result of careful research into player habits.
An internal Sony document obtained by Vice refutes the idea that ‘single-player is dying’ – a common refrain a few years ago, often attributed to publisher EA – and instead insists that ‘single-player is thriving’.
Sony’s internal tracking data shows that PlayStation users regularly spend more time playing offline than online and the only thing that puts them off is finding the time.
The report apparently led to the creation of the PlayStation 5 Activities cards, which allow you to quickly re-enter a game to tackle a specific goal or collect a specific item.
This was a response to the main issue players had with single-player games, which boiled down to a lack of time and becoming stuck or unsure where they were in the story.
The report presentation highlighted four main complaints that will be familiar to any gamer and which the Activities cards were designed to help address:
- ‘No idea how long I might need, don’t play unless I have 2+ free hours’
- ‘Takes a lot of time to scan through long help videos when stuck’
- ‘How to engage socially without risk of spoilers’
- ‘Forgot what I was doing in this game last time, hard to get back in’
To what degree Activities do solve these problems will become clearer over time but it’s interesting that one of the major new changes to the PlayStation 5 interface was specifically designed to support and encourage single-player gamers.
Rather than a multiformat publisher like EA, who have since gone on to have great success with the single-player Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, the one company whose approach has always seemed the most different to Sony is console rival Microsoft.
We asked Microsoft Studios boss Matt Booty why he focused so much on multiplayer over single-player back in 2018, given Microsoft must have access to customer research similar to Sony.
He never offered a convincing explanation but more recently Microsoft has begun to purposefully acquire developers best known for their single-player games.
In a more recent interview Xbox boss Phil Spencer said, ‘I’d like to see more single-player games from our first party, just because that over time we’ve kind of grown organically to be more multiplayer-driven as an organisation.’
That’s easy to say and harder to deliver on but everything so far suggests that if anything the new generation of console will see more of a focus on single-player games than ever before.
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