Are Online-Only Games Ruining Gaming?

The World Wide Web has become a normal component of modern day life; we use it for social networking, videos, news, even gaming. Customarily, an Internet connection is established as an optional item to play games—usually allowing players to connect on servers to play against each other in multiplayer matches or together in cooperative experiences. However, recently a trend has appeared in the gaming world in the form of “Online Only” games. With these types of games it is mandatory to have the Internet to play the game at all—even in single player (if there even is one).

Many people wouldn’t think twice about this, as it’s been common practice in PC gaming for years with the endless amounts of MMOs and games played from the Internet browser. In spite of it being typical within the PC community, it is fairly new in console gaming—especially with recent titles such as Respawn Entertainment’s “Titanfall” and PopCap Games’ “Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare.” The “Online Only” trend on consoles in itself isn’t too recent however, with the introduction of indie games published through Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, but these games weren’t available on discs sold within retail stores.

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So what is the problem with this? Many people use the Internet at all times, so why is “Online Only” a problem? It’s not; if you have Internet that allows you to play online without incessant problems. With that kind of Internet, one could play online whenever the game calls for it. However, what about those that don’t have this kind of Internet connection? What happens if they can’t connect to play their newly purchased copy of “Titanfall” all because their Internet is too slow? The developers are oh so sorry, but that person just paid for a game they’ll never be able to play unless they get better Internet. C’est la vie.

Nowadays people would think this isn’t much of a problem; however being from central Texas I’ve seen how rural it can get and how scarce Internet can be. I’ve been to homes that have no Internet at all filled with people who love to play video games; and you can imagine some of these people being excited for some of these games that pique their interests. But can you imagine how disconcerted these people felt when they learned some of these games they wanted required Internet to play? I’ve seen the pure anguish of an avid gamer learning that they couldn’t even play their newly purchased game due to it requiring Internet—and it’s not pretty.

The disappointment doesn’t stop there either. Imagine what will happen in five plus years when the servers for these particular games are stopped in order for them to be used towards something else. All the money you spent on that game went to those servers, and once they flip the switch to off everything disappears. Sure games like “Halo” and “Borderlands” turn off their servers and people still play them without being online; but that’s the most important part—they can be played offline. With “Online Only” games there is no chance to do so—once the servers are turned off the game is done for. Does that seem fair to anyone?

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With all this, can you imagine what it would be like if every new game developers released to the market required you to be online constantly (even to play the single player campaign)? Those with Internet capable of doing what’s asked of it will have no problem with this; however those without such Internet capabilities will be left without new games to play. With this type of business model it excludes those gamers without Internet, causing the developers to lose part of its audience. So who wins then? No one really.

Is “Online Only” gaming necessarily a bad thing? Depending on who you ask it will be the deadliest sin of all or a simple necessity to enjoy the game as long as possible. However, coming from an aspiring developer point of view, I find it hard for this business model to work out well in the end. Not because of the lack of Internet per say; but because in the end everyone loses money. The developers, the publishers and the consumers. A different approach to this business model may be to release an “Offline” version of the game once the servers go dark; but this time the hype of the game’s release will have already disappeared.

In the end, it’s up to the consumer to decide if “Online Only” games are worth their time. But we all must keep in mind the lingering question about them:

How much are we willing to sink into a game we won’t be able to play once the servers are turned off?

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About Miah Roberts
Aspiring game designer and devoted to anything of the horror genre, I spend most of my time self-teaching myself the art of making video games and analyzing the very things I love. Will play anything and everything, all while paying close attention to the stories! However, when I'm not around games you can find me acting and ghost hunting