Couch multi-player can be satisfying

IS COUCH multi-player dying?

I truly hope not. For many years I played games on an entirely single-player basis. I had dipped my toes in the online multi-player waters, but was never that into it.

Then the demo for Left 4 Dead 2 came to the Xbox 360, and on a tiny TV in a tiny apartment, my co-op buddy and I played and played it, then bought the game and played some more.

I live with another gamer. I love local multi-player modes, and I feel they add considerable value to a game. But I won't buy two systems and two TVs so I can play local multiplayer on consoles.

When you look at the line-up for the new generation of consoles, there aren't many local multi-player games to be found. Granted, a couple of big titles have local modes - Call of Duty: Ghosts, Diablo III, Killer Instinct, Forza - but many don't.

Many titles ignore it altogether. There's the Xbox One's flagship launch title Ryse: Son of Rome, as well as Dead Rising 3 and Battlefield 4. While Forza has a multi-player mode, NZ Herald games guy Chris Schulz tells me it's buried in menus.

And imagine my disappointment when even Peggle 2 announced it had ditched local multi in favour of going fully online.

Thankfully, PopCap has announced it will add local multi-player in free DLC.

The problem isn't limited to this generation of consoles. Many games with popular multi-player modes have been online-only for most of the Xbox 360 and PS3's reign.

Battlefield has never included splitscreen multi-player. Neither has Assassin's Creed, or the Killzone series.

It's not difficult to see why a developer might eschew local multi-player in favour of online.

What I don't believe is that multi-player being exclusively online is designed to encourage people to buy two copies of the game, and two systems, for one house.

For a long time gaming has been seen by outsiders as an anti-social hobby. But it isn't, and it hasn't been.

The social aspect is a huge part of the enjoyment.

Sure, I still like online multi-player but I never have as much fun as I do when I have a group of people in the room with me.


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