The best part about the old consoles was that you could always sit down in front of your TV, grab a controller for you and your friend(s) and partner up or compete against each other in your favourite video games, and there were a lot of offline multiplayer video games to choose from, from Crash Team Racing, or Baldur’s Gate, to classics like Quake II.
When the internet began rapidly growing into the world-changing phenomenon it is today, it only seemed to offer more potential for the video game industry. No gamer expected that they’d be using that extra controller less and less, but you probably are. When the PS3 and Xbox 360 were released in 2006, there were plenty of multiplayer games such as Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Resistance 2, the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series, and many more.
So what happened when the PS4 and Xbox One were released back in 2013? There are an abundance of online multiplayer games, but few that allow for local. The Call of Duty series for example, began allowing a maximum of 2 players for local multiplayer. This was obviously due to the subscription services both Microsoft and Sony began aggressively offering, Xbox Live Gold and Playstation Plus, respectively.
On last-gen consoles, these subscription services were completely optional. If you signed up for them, you’d have access to a few special discounted video games, exclusive demos, and a few other things that people wouldn’t miss if they chose not to subscribe. The problem with the current-gen consoles is that they’ve locked network gaming for those who haven’t subscribed. It’s aggressive marketing and it’s the reason why there aren’t that many games that allow for local multiplayer anymore. Make no mistake, you still have a variety of video games to choose from for friends, siblings, or anyone else you invite to play next to you on the couch— Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Star Wars: Battlefront, or Mortal Kombat X, to name a few. But there certainly aren’t as many as there were on PS3 or Xbox 360.
Meanwhile, a slew of online multiplayer video games have risen to prominence in the past few years, such as Tamriel Unlimited, GTA Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Evolve, Tom Clancy’s The Division, and Assassin’s Creed: Unity. Offline multiplayer is a rarity these days. Whether or not this is the cause or effect of Microsoft and Sony pushing their subscription services on audiences, is up for debate. This isn’t about that, this is about whether or not you should get that controller you’ve been thinking about getting for those friends you sometimes invite over, or your spouse who may want to join you.
Some people may argue that a second, or even a third controller, is worth getting simply because it’s always good to have a spare lying around, for when one breaks or when its battery dies right when you’re about to finish that last skeletal opponent in Dark Souls. But are you willing to spend about GPB49.99 for the sake of convenience? A fair number would answer with an immediate, “no way in hell”. They’d be justifiably astounded seeing as how, with the decline in local multiplayer, prices for extra controllers have steadily been on the rise.
What about the future? So far, we know that Injustice 2, Battlefield 1, Gran Turismo Sport, and Resident Evil 7 are being released in the near future. Those are some of the only ones we can be sure will offer local multiplayer. A few other multiplayer games being released in the near future are Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands, For Honor, Call of Duty: Infinite War, Watch Dogs 2, Ark: Survival Evolved (official launch), and more. Those will not offer local multiplayer, or at least, have been hinted to not contain that feature, in favour of online multiplayer.
It should be noted that last year, Sony raised the prices of its subscription based services, followed by Microsoft, which increased prices for a few countries. It’s uncertain if this is likely to be repeated as the number of online multiplayer games continues to increase this rapidly. This is likely to become especially true after the release of Playstation VR. Soon-to-be-released games such as Eve: Valkyrie by CCP, offer a first-person shooter virtual experience you can share with your friends through a network, or occasionally, in the case of Rigs, at home— something that cannot be done easily due to the obvious impracticality of it, at least, with current prices.
As technology develops, it seems the logical step for companies such as Sony and Microsoft to take would be to continue to provide subscription based services for an ever increasing price. This was justified by Shuhei Yoshida back in 2013 when he stated, “Considering the cost, to try to keep such a service free and consequently lower the quality would be absurd”. Obviously, from a financial and technical standpoint, that decision makes sense. The less people are able to play on one console, the more likely they are to pay for the online experience, and therefore the better the quality of said online experience. The technical resources required for local multiplayer are also substantial. Everything from fame rate drops to regular crashes, are all consequences of local multiplayer gaming in a time where the video game industry prides itself on their games’ immersive capabilities. This is the reality of the situation, even if you don’t care about frame rate drops, as long as you can sink into the soft cushion of your couch and battle the hell out of your friends and loved ones.
So, in the state the video games industry is in, in regards to network gaming vs local multiplayer, is it worth buying an extra controller? If money is no issue, the general consensus recommends it. It’s always good to have a spare lying around. Anything more than 2 however, and you might find you’ve wasted money. Obviously, there are exceptions. If you and your gaming buddy enjoy regular bouts of Call of Duty matches, of course you’re going to buy three extra controllers. But for the rest of you, who don’t really play those kinds of games, stick with 2, because the future doesn’t hold much in the way of local multiplayer anymore.