The Death of Local Multiplayer

March 21, 2010

Remember when split-screen in video games used to be the thing to do? A ton of games back in the PS1/N64 era had split screen, and although the majority of them were shooters or racing games, the best ones were addictive and kept you (and your friends) coming back for more. But what happened? Online gaming happened. And although I do not hate online gaming, I hate what it has done to the industry: killed local multiplayer. 

Goldeneye 64…what a game that was. As one of the first exclusive console shooters, Goldeneye had it all: incredible missions, good controls (for the time at least), and best of all, four player split-screen multiplayer. This is what kept everyone coming back for more. And the fact that you were in the same room with three of your friends, the experience became all the better. PC gamers had to rely on online only for their multiplayer. Sure, there are LAN parties, but that seems like a lot of effort when you can just pop in good old Goldeneye for some good times.

Nothing is more fun than playing a good game with friends in the same room, and it’s been that way forever. Do you really want to play board games online? No, nobody really does, it’s no fun until you have a good group of friends in the same room with you. No matter what game it is you are playing, there is no denying that it just becomes that much more enjoyable with a group of friends.

So, what happened? PC games had online, but clearly console games could have it too! Online capabilities on consoles truly began with the Sega Dreamcast, which had a few stand out titles, including Phantasy Star Online. From there, Sony and the newcomer Microsoft stepped up and decided to continue the trend. Sure, during this era there were still plenty of split-screen games (Halo being a big one), but they were beginning to dwindle. 

Xbox Live came around soon after, and it became incredibly popular, especially with the release of Halo 2. Being able to finally play Halo online was dream come true for many gamers, but I guarantee if you ask any of them, they had the most fun back with the original and group of friends in the same room. Sure, the Halo series still has local multiplayer, but many games seem to no longer support it. Even a lot of racing titles seem to downright abandon it.

These days, online multiplayer (and now online co-op) reign supreme. It’s hard to find a game without either of these features, but it’s almost as difficult to find a game without the ability to play these features locally as well. It’s nice to see that local multiplayer still is not dead, as evident by the new racing title Blur and its strong focus on both local and online multiplayer. But it has never and will never be the same again.

Although local multiplayer may be dead to a lot of gamers, there are still those who hang on to this idea that playing games with friends in the same room is fun. It’s crazy, I know, but we do exist. Not much else we, as gamers, can do about it, except dust off that N64 and start playing some Goldeneye. It may not hold up to “today’s standards,” but a lot of us would never want it to.