When you think about AAA titles you usually think some giant, sprawling adventure that includes lots of faceless, nameless bad guys you mow down with a Hollywood-ready hero with plenty of one-liners, a typical villain and an easy-to-follow save-the-world plot. Well, one of the other standard inclusions of AAA blockbuster games is multiplayer, and the lead designer of World of Wacraft feels that in the near future there won't be a game out there that focuses entirely on the single-player experience.
In a lengthy interview with Gameindustry.biz, executive vice president of game design and lead designer on World of Warcraft, Rob Pardo, replied to the question of whether single-player games are becoming an endangered species, and he stated that...
“I don't see there being a great business model for [single-player] these days. It's really sad, there's just a lot of elements out there that conspire to make those games difficult to make now. Between pirating or the ability for people to rent games, it's hard for publishers to pour millions and millions of dollars into a game and not necessarily see the return they need to make those budgets realistic.”
All truth be told, the single-player from larger studios is being axed out not because it's not profitable (i.e., Skyrim, L.A. Noire, Uncharted 3, etc.,) but it's more-so that publishers like to control what gamers play. Blizzard instituted always-on for Diablo III to dictate playing habits and control the way players interact with the game thanks to loot control and server-side mobs.
There's also the whole thing of tying online components to single-player story arcs, like the whole multiplayer battle points for Mass Effect 3 that potentially affect the outcome of the single-player ending.
Pardo is right, though, publishers don't want to dump millions of millions into single-player only experiences, not because they don't sell but because it's hard to control gamers that way. With EA shutting down multiplayer servers for games every two years it paves a way to open up more sales for newer games, keeping revenue fresh with old and new players alike.
Thankfully, there's still the indie scene that focuses on good, well-rounded single-player adventures like McPixel,To The Moon and FTL: Faster Than Light to name a few. While big publishers move inevitably into the free-to-play arena, we can still count on the little guys to deliver.