Hennig: People Ask for Story Based Games But Aren’t Necessarily Buying Them, They Just Watch Them

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Jan 17, 2018
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Amy Hennig’s Star Wars game in development at Visceral was one of the most anticipated titles among action/adventure, single-player fans. As you probably recall, the project was canceled a while ago as Visceral Games was closed down by Electronic Arts.

This happened at least partly because Hennig and her team were developing a largely linear game, as the publisher eventually admitted.

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The game director and writer, known mainly for her work on the Legacy of Kain and Uncharted series, has been silent on the matter so far. She finally opened up a bit while talking with Campo Santo’s Founder Sean Vanaman of Firewatch fame on the current challenges within the game industry (via Polygon), though, diving into hot topics such as rising development costs, loot boxes, games as a service and whether gamers actually want linear single-player titles anymore.

I think we’re in an inflection point right now. Obviously what happened with our Star Wars project didn’t come out of the blue. A lot of too-dramatic articles were written about it — the death of linear story games and all that kind of stuff — but look, there is a real problem: this line we’ve been running up to for a lot of years, which is the rising cost of development, and the desires, or the demands even, of players in terms of hours of gameplay, fidelity, production values, additional modes, all these things. Those pressures end up very real internally. If it costs you, say, $100 million or more to make a game, how are you making that money back, and making a profit?

And the $60 price point can’t change, right? There’s a lot of negative press around monetization, loot boxes, games as a service, etc., but these things are trending now in the industry, especially for larger publishers, as an answer to the problem of rising development costs. Budgets keep going up, the bar keeps getting raised, and it starts making less and less sense to make these games.

There is also this trend now that, as much as people protest and say, “Why are you canceling a linear, story-based game? This is the kind of game we want,” people aren’t necessarily buying them. They’re watching somebody else play them online.

She does have a point there. As much as people clamor for single player, story focused games, they don’t seem to buy them as much. The featured image at the top of the article portrays what is perhaps one of the finest examples of this phenomenon: Arkane’s Prey was an outstanding title in this category and yet it sold poorly despite strong critical reception. Similar issues were faced by other titles, such as Dishonored 2 (also by Arkane, incidentally) and MachineGames’ Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.

It’s hard not to link Hennig’s words with Remedy’s recent statement on the problems of triple-A single player games development. The Finnish developer clearly stated they will add cooperative multiplayer to increase replayability and they’re not the only ones abandoning the single-player only label. While CD Projekt RED reassured fans that there will be a full-fledged story campaign in Cyberpunk 2077, we know that the highly awaited roleplaying game will also feature multiplayer elements, unlike The Witcher trilogy.

Do you think AAA story focused, single player only games still have a place in today’s industry? Let us know below.

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