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Editorial

How Microtransactions are Invading Single-Player Games

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As online multiplayer games have grown in popularity, so too have their unique monetisation schemes that push players to spend real money on in-game content such as items or cosmetics. They seem harmless, but as the FTC investigates loot boxes for potentially being unregulated gambling, microtransactions have proven to be dangerously anti-consumer — and they are making their way into single-player games.

Until fairly recently, companies have not been bold enough to implement microtransactions into anything but mobile and multiplayer games because they are specifically designed for these experiences: players can easily be incentivised to buy a small item to speed up gameplay in Candy Crush or free-to-play MOBAs like League of Legends, but single-player games and fully priced multiplayer titles have traditionally lacked such features. Instead, they received DLCs which were generally received well by players, providing them with hours of additional content.

However, as consumers have slowly come to push back against more recent DLC which often offers too little for too much and divides player bases, companies such as EA have been forced to phase out its infamous season passes and content packs in order to at least appear pro-consumer. In their place now are even worse business practices: loot boxes, pay-to-win gameplay systems, and content that is locked behind expensive paywalls, all easy to implement and extremely profitable long-term.

As with DLC, consumers eventually came to recognise that microtransactions were bad for them and the industry, but by then the time had already passed. They had become the norm for most big $60 releases, and even great scandals as with Battlefront II did little to prevent future use of the practice.

Now, as companies have realised the enormous potential of microtransactions to make additional profit, the real threat presented by them is the one they pose to single-player experiences. As mentioned before, microtransactions are specifically designed for multiplayer and free-to-play mobile games which feature gameplay that encourages small purchases — lacking such features, the only valid way to implement microtransactions into single-player games is to force them at the expense of their overall quality.

For example, while games once allowed players to unlock content by completing challenges and mastering their gameplay, the process is now simply a matter of players collecting enough virtual currency to buy a loot box and hope it has the item they want; in the case of games such as Middle Earth: Shadow of War, engaging gameplay and earned rewards are replaced by repetitive, random slot machines that sacrifice the consumer’s fun for the publisher’s profit.

Alternatively, even basic progression systems in RPGs such as the recent Assassin’s Creed games have clearly been intentionally throttled, allowing players only a few hours of natural, satisfying progress before they are forced to grind for experience just to complete the next level — making a few quick purchases all the more attractive.

This worrying, Irrational design philosophy, in which money takes precedence over gameplay, threatens the future of gaming as a whole, and despite enormous backlash and various boycotts of publishers, microtransactions are not going anywhere. One can only hope respected developers such as Naughty Dog and CD Projekt Red will continue with their explicitly pro-consumer practices and that proper legislation will reign in those that do not.

For more coverage on your favorite single player games, as well as new and exciting upcoming releases, stay connected with OnlySP on Facebook and Twitter!

Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in July 2019

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Three Single Player Games (July 2019) - Sea of Solitude, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Wolfenstein Youngblood

July, the middle of winter down here in Australia. Even in the bizarre New South Wales climate, the biting cold makes for a great excuse to stay inside and play games. 

Weirdly for single players, quite a few prestige games this month include additional co-op modes. With acclaimed designers behind them, such games will hopefully avoid the pitfalls of accommodating multiple players, as too many games have done in the past.

Sea of Solitude

Release Date: July 5, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

At first blush, Sea of Solitude looks like yet another story of a young adult struggling with questions of identity and mental health while exploring a beautiful but harsh fantasy world.

Actually, that’s what it is. ‘Quirky, life affirming indie adventure’ is a whole cottage industry these days, but the fact that such games are now more prevalent should never dismay.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a masterpiece of refined design and storytelling, and Sea of Solitude appears be something similar—this time dealing with a fantastical vision of depression that turns ordinary people into literal monsters.

Players take charge of Kay, who has sought out the eponymous Sea—or rather, a flooded city based on Berlin—in the hope that there is a cure for monstrosity. However, despite its name, she is not the only person in the Sea. Avoiding the other monsters of the Sea seems to be a major part of the gameplay. These tense encounters are likely to provide rhythm and variety to the adventure and keep it from being a just walking simulator. (Not that being a walking simulator is inherently a problem.)

Although published by EA Originals, one would do well to remember that EA the company does not actually profit off the Originals that they publish. With a focused story and themes that still are not often explored in bigger games, Sea of Solitude should be of great interest to single player fans in a month otherwise dominated by multiplayer titles.

 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Almost certainly the biggest single player release of the month, and tied with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 as another massive Switch exclusive, Fire Emblem: Three Houses might be exactly what single players need right now.

Lately the Fire Emblem franchise has exploded in both its popular profile and sales success, buoyed by a hunger for both deep anime RPGs and polished tactics games. Three Houses seems to have doubled down on exciting trends and features in both genres: particularly a Persona/Harry Potter inspired magic school setting and an even deeper tactical battle system that ditches the rock-paper-scissors for more nuanced character progression options. As with many Japanese RPGs, the story is also a major focus and hinges upon a time-jump.

The early part casts the player as a teacher at the Officer’s Academy, situated in the center of the game world and attended by students from the three most powerful nations. Five years later, the second and likely larger part concerns the drama between the player’s teacher and their former students, whose nations are now locked in a massive three-way conflict.

As is to be expected for a series finally coming back to consoles after a long time on the 3DS, Three Houses is a massive technical leap over its predecessors. The game boasts better realised battlefields, more detailed armies, and a slick animated style that appears much more consistent compared with the three or four different art styles on the 3DS.

With such improvements, as well as the overall pedigree of the Fire Emblem brand, Three Houses should have no trouble satisfying single player fans looking for a meaty middle-of-the-year RPG.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

The recent Wolfenstein revival series is such a remarkable achievement in traditional shooter design and great, if goofy, sci-fi worldbuilding that the co-op focus of this latest instalment is somewhat disappointing.

Yes, as with F.E.A.R. 3 and Dead Space 3, following a well-received second chapter the Wolfenstein series now pivots to a co-operative focused chapter. Though the game is not a mandatory multiplayer experience, combat encounters and puzzles have been redesigned to accommodate the two player mode, giving single players an AI-controlled partner and bullet sponge enemies.

However, all hope is not lost for Wolfenstein: why else would it be the third game on the list? The narrative has been pushed forward in time, as B.J.’s twin daughters are now in their adolescence, now giving players a glimpse at the 1980s of Wolfenstein‘s skewed universe. Additionally, the level design itself is more freeform thanks to development assistance from Arkane, the developers of the Dishonored series.

Will Wolfenstein: Youngblood successfully deliver more of the series’s goofy charm and crazy alternate reality? Almost certainly. On the other hand, will the game be as fun to play alone as in multiplayer? That remains to be seen. Last month’s E3 demo that raised such concerns was naturally only a snapshot of a game in development, so MachineGames and Arkane have had plenty of time to resolve these potential downsides to a co-op focused game.

Those are our three big single player games to look out for this month. Other interesting titles coming soon include Stranger Things 3 on July 4 and Attack on Titan 2 on July 5, both games hitting Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

On July 12 we will see the sequel to an almost-fantastic Minecraft-like RPG spinoff, Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Switch and PlayStation 4, as well as the Switch port of “anime Monster Hunter”, God Eater 3

The week after, July 19 brings us Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, and at an undetermined time during the month Klei Entertainment’s anticipated survival-sim Oxygen Not Included will finally leave early access on PC.

Have we missed anything that you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below and be sure bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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