A repeated concern coming into this year’s E3 was a lack of focus on single-player titles. The recent rise of online multiplayer games, particularly the battle royale archetype initially seen in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite and now making its way to Call of Duty and Battlefield, has left players feeling wary of single-player gaming’s future. In OnlySP’s E3 predictions, Michael Cripe asked the question “is single-player dying?”—thankfully, EA has provided an answer.
EA kicked off E3 2018 with its press conference, and single-player games remained prevalent throughout the presentation. The single-player story campaign continues to be an important part of the Battlefield series with Battlefield V, continuing the narrative structure from the previous game; more story details are promised to come from Microsoft’s press conference tomorrow. Following this, EA announced that it is bulking out the single-player portion of FIFA 19, focusing heavily on the newly-added Champions League, which extends the single-player campaign from previous games.
Two new EA Originals were also revealed: Unravel Two, though available to play cooperatively, is a charming platformer that allows players to solve puzzles solo, while Sea of Solitude is a single-player, narrative game focused around isolation and loneliness, exploring the darkest parts of the protagonist’s life, inspired by the developer’s own life experiences. Finally, BioWare also opened up about the story of its action RPG Anthem, confirming that the title is “not an MMO, not a multiplayer game with story sort of bolted on the side.” Executive producer Mark Darrah shared that the studio is invested in creating characters and choices that the player can truly connect to, confirming the developer’s interest in making compelling narrative experiences.
Despite some of the positivity towards single-player games, not all titles shared the same kind of love. In contrast to FIFA 19‘s extended single-player scope, EA Sports appears to be taking a different approach with NBA Live 19 and Madden NFL 19. As part of the usual EA conference routine, both games were revealed and discussed, but the presentations focused entirely on multiplayer elements, with no introduction of new single-player modes for the games. While the NBA Live and Madden NFL series are known and loved for their multiplayer components, their single-player modes are also popular and respected among players—last year’s Madden NFL 18 even introduced a new story mode in which the player’s performances and decisions determined the outcome of the narrative—so EA’s decision to omit any discussion of these modes is concerning.
Hope is not completely lost, however. Little is known about Microsoft’s conference tomorrow, hopefully allowing the publisher plenty of time to reveal and show off some of its upcoming single-player games—some predictions include Forza Horizon 4 and a Rocksteady-developed Superman title. Bethesda has also remained quiet about its own projects, besides the first-person shooter Rage 2 and the mysterious Fallout 76. However, the publisher’s pledge of support for single-player games in December 2017 leaves faith in the rest of its conference. The conferences of both Square Enix—expected to show off single-player games Kingdom Hearts III, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and Final Fantasy VII Remake—and the PC Gaming Show—predicted to reveal CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 and Remedy Entertainment’s P7—also leave hope in single players’ hearts.
Sony’s press conference, however, is perhaps the most hopeful. The publisher promises to offer demonstrations of four of its most anticipated games, all of which are expected to be strongly focused on their solo narratives: Death Stranding, Ghost of Tsushima, Spider-Man, and The Last of Us Part II. This deeper exploration of narrative-focused games, as well as the publisher’s pledge to support single-player projects, is reassuring, and ensures that single-player games are not dying anytime soon.
EA may have kicked off E3 with some promising single-player titles, but some concern still remains for the rest of the expo. Thankfully, it appears that some studios—Sony in particular—are prepared to dismiss any quarrels. For now, the ball is in Microsoft’s court, and all eyes are on tomorrow’s conference.