Everyone remembers their first multiplayer…
Think back a mere twenty years and it’s amazing how much the gaming landscape has changed. Not just the graphics, of course, which inch ever-closer to photorealism, but in the way we all play together. The days of needing your mates to pop round and play is almost a memory; just hop on Xbox Live or PSN and pit your wits against the entire world.
But this is with a sense of sadness on my part. No longtime gamer will ever forget those nights huddled around the Mega Drive or SNES, minds being blown by the collective experience of Golden Axe. Little did we know that a two-player input would be a no-frills option not even a decade later.
1997’s GoldenEye for the N64 turns twenty this year, and the Bond game is significant for giving many console gamers their first taste of multiplayer. Indeed, the FPS developed by Rare is looked back on fondly with a sense of nostalgia largely because of its multiplayer and not because of the single-player movie adaptation (which was awesome, too, may I add). Now, the screen would cut into four sections as each of us killed our friends in a “Deathmatch” (familiar to PC players weaned on Doom). It was somewhat revolutionary on consoles, and gamers needed more…
Naturally, the world was waiting for the Internet to open the floodgates, and at the turn of the century, we got the first wave of consoles with net-capability. It’s difficult to remember those halcyon days of the first Xbox and the PlayStation 2, but the possibilities were endless. New acronyms soon entered the lexicon; RTS (Real-Time Strategy), MOBA (Multiplayer or Online Battle Arena), and MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online game). The Net only only gave us the opportunity to play against someone on the opposite side of the planet, but it also changed the way developers thought about games. Now they were only limited by their imagination and the player’s service providers, turning the FPS (First Person Shooter) genre in particular into a profitable standard. It has been said that revenue from online gaming – particularly pay-per-play options like Warcraft – will reach $35 billion this year, a sharp increase from 2011’s $19 billion.
Developments have also meant that the gaming demographic is more diverse than it used to be, especially when you can now play games on anything from your mobile to your tablet. Many will tell you that most gamers are male, although recent numbers have determined that up to 48% of all players are women. Is it the games themselves or the fact that the Internet has made gaming more sociable and easy to embrace?
Online gaming has also opened the doors to online betting within your Internet browser; an increasingly profitable business that has plenty of choices for the daring player. Whether it be sports or online casinos, they’ve managed to cook up something for just about everyone, from Ladbrokes to William Hill to SkyBet. This has also meant co-opting licenses from movies, comics or video gaming to make the experience all the geekier for gamblers.
What does the future hold for the medium? As the world and developers get to grips with VR technology, it seems that online gaming will only get grander and more ambitious with each passing year. After all, where do you stop innovating when you can literally bring the world to your living room?