Video games and gaming in general used to be simple and not as complicated as it is today. You used to just pop in the game disc or game cartridge, load up the game and start playing. As games have become more advanced the times have changed and features have changed in the gaming industry. With this new generation of consoles, you need to install games onto the hard drive before you can even play the game.
While that still isn’t a big deal, a lot of games in recent years are requiring you to be connected to the internet just to load up and play the game. Sure that is obvious with games where you jump into the multi-player aspect of the game, but you would never think that is required on the single-player portion.
It’s getting increasingly popular to buy a game and have it need an internet connection. The list is getting longer and longer. Games like Titanfall, The Crew, Need For Speed, The Division will need you to be connected to the internet to play. Other games like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Watch Dogs aren’t required to be online, but you’ll have a better experience if you choose to play connected to the internet.
There are positives and negatives to having a game being always connected to the internet, just like with anything. If it’s also the right game, it can make sense to be always-online, but some games just don’t belong into that category.
I’m sure if you asked enough people you’d find that there are people on both sides of the argument with games being always-online. Erik, from Xboxachievements, spoke to me about his thoughts on the matter and told me that, “Some games just benefit from being always-online like open-world games where the developer can make quick changes”. That is one of the benefits. If something in the game is glitching or making something over-powered, the developer can step in and do some quick fixing. If a game wasn’t connected to the internet that’s not something the developer could do so easily.
A good example of this is Just Cause 3. It’s an open-world action game that requires you to be connected to the internet to play the game. The developer is always looking for ways to improve the game if anything comes up that needs fixing or adjusting. The developer is also being open and discussing and letting fans know the patch notes and what is being fixed before an update is applied.
Some games like Just Cause 3 are just so big that being connected to the internet is almost required. There’s just so many possibilities that could go wrong within the game at any time, if the game was an offline game then they wouldn’t be able to make changes so easily.
This always online feature is also seeping into the racing genre as well. Last year’s release, Need For Speed, is just one of the racing games that require you to be always-online. Although the developer does have their reasons for making a racing game “always-online”. They state that having constant internet connection allows them to always be able to update the game and add new features.
One of the problems with this feature is the fact that you aren’t able to pause a game that is always-online. If you’re in the middle of a mission or the middle of a race and you need to go to the bathroom or something else needs attending while playing, you can’t just pause the game and go. You’ll either have to die/crash or finish your task at hand and go take care of business. This is more of a “first-world” problem, but it is one that gamers get annoyed with because of this feature.
Certain games like Destiny and The Division, which broke sells records, are ones to wonder about. Seeing how well they ended up selling makes people wonder if this will entice developers to lean to “always-online” for future games. This is something that can put a worry into some gamers. Max, also from Xboxachievements, speaks on the topic saying, “I’m slightly nervous about some of the bigger selling games doing so well with an online-only feature. I fear that more and more games will go this way and we’ll start losing the old “single-player-offline” experience that we used to have so much”.
This is the other side of the argument about this online feature for games. We might end up losing the traditional gaming experience that we used to have years ago. You used to be able to buy a game go home and play it without having to worry about if your internet connection was good enough. Now with online-only, always-online games if you have a crappy internet connection that could lead you have having a poor playing experience in your game.
Another thing to consider is that not everyone that wants to play video games might have access to the internet. Or not every area of the country has reliable internet. So because of this new feature that seems to be getting popular, it might keep some people from experiencing certain games. And even if people do have internet, not everyone has the best connection as well. If you live in some more rural areas of the country, you might not have as good a connection as someone that lives in a more populated area.
Even five years ago this online-only feature wasn’t so prevalent as it is today. In another five years what could the gaming industry look like? Will every game be online-only? Will it decline? It’s only a matter of time for us to see what happens and where we end up. Maybe there won’t be another leap in this feature until we reach the next generation of consoles or maybe it will happen in this generation, but either way the video game industry is always evolving and changing.