Fans of single-player video games have already had a pretty rough year, what with the announcement that the next Fallout game will be an online-only multiplayer experience. Red Dead Redemption 2 might offer some relief when it launches later this year, but given developer Rockstar’s recent track record we’re not exactly hopeful.
In a recent interview with interview, Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Rockstar parent company Take-Two Interactive, defended the importance of single-player campaigns in video games, but maybe he needs to start taking his own advice.
It’s been five years since Rockstar Games released any single-player content. That doesn’t bode well for fans who expect any extra narrative content for Red Dead Redemption 2 beyond release, even if Zelnick wants you to think otherwise.
“Single-player, in my opinion, is not dead, not even close,” he told VentureBeat. “Companies that feel like they’ll just avoid the hard work of building a story and characters and go right where the money is in multiplayer, I don’t think that’s going to work. I’d be surprised.”
It’s a bold statement, and one that Take-Two Interactive lived by for years. The company owns several prestigious single-player franchises including BioShock, Mafia, Max Payne, and of course, Grand Theft Auto. Grand Theft Auto IV was critically acclaimed not just for its own single-player campaign, but also for its spin-offs The Lost and the Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony.
The Ballad of Gay Tony was a particularly impressive work of video game storytelling, as it managed to deftly balance violence, humor, zaniness, and even deep moments of drama. It’s not everyday you see a story about a Dominican dude from the hood with abandonment issues finding a father figure in a gay white man who is a night club owner slash organized criminal.
Grand Theft Auto V, however, has not received any single-player DLC since it was released in 2013. This is despite the game selling over 95 million copies, making it the third best selling video game of all time, along with years of requests from fans who are hungry for more story.
What Grand Theft Auto V fans received instead is a steady stream of multiplayer updates and micro-transactions. Zelnick even referred to Grand Theft Auto V’s multiplayer as “the gift that keeps on giving” in a previous interview.
Unfortunately, it seems Rockstar just isn’t interested in the hard work of single-player that Zelnick talked about, at least not beyond the initial release. We already know that Red Dead Redemption 2 will include a multiplayer mode, and we can’t say we’re surprised. After all, it’s a lucrative market for multiplayer.
But with this new game, Rockstar and Take-Two have an opportunity to prove that they still care about single-player narrative experiences just as much (or even more) than online multiplayer. Only time will tell, but so far I’m not feeling very optimistic.