Monday, January 19, 2009

How Games are Played in 2009?

I've been thinking that the 1-on-1 fighting game was a dead genre. I am apparently wrong.

Lemme take a step back.

Developers have been receiving hints by the big publishers to embed multiplayer in their games (the Big 3: Sony, Microsoft, though less so by Nintendo) for a long ass time now, and by 'hinted' I mean they might say something ambiguous and subtle like, "We think that you should put multiplayer in your next-gen game." You know, the kind of subtle that occurs when you deal with giant corporations. While their talents at verbal subterfuge may be in question, it's hard to argue against their reasoning: their multiplayer architectures cost millions to create and will only attract gamers when there are games that take advantage of it.

But fighting games have fared poorly in attempts at network multiplayer. Latency and frame counting don't mix.

So it has seemed as if there was not much room for the genre and I had all but assumed it dead. Until 2008 kicked me squarely in the teeth with multi-million dollar investments in the genre (Street Fighter IV, Mortal Kombat vs DC, Super Smash Brothers, etc.) and sub-multi-million dollar investments (Street Fighter HD Remix). 2009 shows no signs of giving up on the little-genre-that-could, including a new Final Fantasy that's a pure fighting game. I'm not sure whether the fans of Final Fantasy are the same kinds of fans that enjoy a good 1-on-1 brawler, but there are literally millions composing that fan base so some measure is bound to be excited by it.

Which brings me to my point, and subsequently my question-- where are games being played? We've mentioned on the podcast that most games have migrated from the computer in your den (or dorm room PC) to the console in your living room. But I have been assuming that these are more and more single-player-local, multi-player-networked environments, overshadowing the previous several-people-sitting-around-one-TV kind of setup. And definitely not the kind that compliment fighting games where half the fun is looking at the person next to you and laughing in their face when you pile drive them.

Nintendo has always bet big that the several-people-sitting-around-one-TV setup is not just alive and well but is a large and viable market that can support even their gigantic annual cash flow as the market leader. But Xbox Live and Sony's online efforts seem to put most of their money behind networked play. The only four-player multiplayer games that demand all players on the same console for Xbox or Playstation are.... well, none. None that I can think of right now at least.

So why isn't this genre dead? Thoughts?


  1. I wholly see this as a factor in the hardcore vs casual and the atmosphere both play in.

    The hardcore have that internet connection and live and die by XBL or PSN. They want to find the best of the best, or at least others that know how to play, so they can get right into it. So Microsoft and Sony cater to that, as is their business plan.

    Nintendo is going after families, and group of friends who don't take it so seriously, and ENJOY learning and teaching to play with their friends. That is half the fun for them. Messing up causes laughter when you are in a group of people. But messing up over XBL or PSN results in your teammates railing against you with obscenities. And that doesn't mesh with what Nintendo is accomplishing.

    For my money, I want a game to do both. I want to be able to play over XBL with my friends, and when my wife wants to play, she should be able to join up and split screen that madness with me. And as that stands, very FEW games do that.

  2. Quick Plug:

    Little Big Planet; 4 player co-op

    Quick Plug #2:

    MORTAL KOMBAT VS DC NEVER EXISTED, the world nearly imploded when this game was released. The story mode has worst dialogue then the ones im currently writing, thats quite bad! Go check on youtube.

    Main issue:

    Seems most games are thrown into the network play group. Its getting harder to buy a game which doesn't have multiplayer nor added on replay value which boost the game. So far its doing very VERY well for shooters but fighting game wise, its needs a shitload of tweaking since 1 missed frame can determine a whole match. Unlike shooters, you always have the annoying grenade to get revenge on a lag-frag.
    Maybe we became less social than at that Ninendo era where you would WALK to your friend's house and play kung fu or super mario world, maybe network's more interesting for people who tend to show off their "virtual joystick length" since network keeps record of win and lose stats.
    Alot of games seem to add more achievements to Online plays so...
    Its odd but interesting to see.
    Maybe a company will decide to reward split screen coop with secrets.

    We'll have to wait and see.

  3. See now I've always been a big fighting game fan, I bought a SNES for Street Fighter 2 before reluctantly progressing to 3D with Tekken (Which is now my fav fighting game). It was a staple part of my University household. Everybody loved Tekken, and loved watching it, as the matches got heated and there was lots of fighting talk. Funnier as it was a house of both males and females. Even now, 6 years later, we talk about it and when we meet up, it has to be played. Fighting games, to me, are about beating the crap out of the person next to you (On screen of course) and laughing when they fail and vice versa. I can't play these gamesonline with people I don't know, the fun is lost... especially when its a whiny child...sorry I just hate online gaming...

    I like it when I can play a game with people I know in the same room as me, as we can play off each other etc.

    I'd hoped that Resistance 2 or Team Fortress would allow myself and my wife to play co-op or against each other, but found it wasn't true. However th enews that RE 5 is going to allow this makes it all the more interesting.

    I've ranted enough methinks.

  4. I think that there is something inherently bonding and even lasting about playing fighting or other versus games with your friends.

    First, you're right there with them in the same room, probably sitting next to them on the couch.

    Second, when all is said and done, fighting games aren't taken too seriously. Sure, you can get cranky and curse your friends for using the same move over and over again but that just adds to the back-and-forth, jocular bickering that brings people together.

    Third, those kinds of fighting games have a place for everyone. You can, indeed, win by mashing buttons in a panic. You can also win by knowing some pretty unstoppable combos. Both styles afford either party the joy of serving up a delicious ass-whupping with a side of sass and ribbing.

    Good times.