We all have the memories.
Sitting huddled together with our friends with our legs bent under us on the floor of our living room. Our eyes are fixated on the TV screen above us, leaning in as we hammer away at our controller buttons.
We don’t even realize the sun setting as the room turns from light to dark. The only thing we are aware of is what is happening on the TV screen.
Then we cheer, and our friends groan. We playfully push our best friend who we just beat in a game of Smash Bros or Call of Duty. We’re bonding over the competition and forming memories that will last the rest of our lives.
I remember when “multiplayer” was synonymous with “local multiplayer.” Even when games started going online, if they had online multiplayer they were also going to have local multiplayer as well. That’s just how it was on consoles.
Sadly, we live in an age where local multiplayer is hard to find. The biggest recent multiplayer titles like Overwatch, Ghost Recon: Wildlands, or any other, major AAA title where multiplayer is a major selling point do not have local multiplayer as an available feature.
There’s many reasons for this.
One reason is that is that developers and publishers care about graphic fidelity and frame-rate and consider these to be major selling points. Running two or more separate screens in an environment makes frame-rate drop and makes it harder for them to make the games look as nice as they would like.
Another likely reason is that publishers are greedy, and they want everyone to buy their own console and their own copy of the game, instead of playing at their friends house.
Even a franchise like Halo, that has stood as the last bastion of AAA split-screen multiplayer went away from local multiplayer with Halo 5: Guardians.
Many feel like this is driving gamers apart and into isolation. Sure, online multiplayer is fun, but it is not the same as playing in the same room as friends.
There is hope, however.
Local multiplayer exists if you look for it.
Couch co-op is becoming popular recently, being able to work with your friends in the same room to accomplish an objective is fun. The best cooperative games I have played (Rayman Origins, Rayman Legends, Divinity: Original Sin) have come out in recent years.
As far as competitive multiplayer goes, it’s a safe bet that we will always have Smash Bros and Mario Cart games on Nintendo consoles, and 343 industries recently made the promise that every future Halo game will have split-screen again.
So, for those who look, there are great experiences out there for competitive multiplayer, but we will probably never see a golden age of local multiplayer again.
And that makes me sad.
Thank you for reading, and God bless!