2023 has seen the closure of more big multiplayer games than, well, any time I can recall in recent memory. One after the other, developers’ dreams of making the next big Destiny-like have gradually collapsed in on themselves. Like a deflated concertina, their last honks of life have been crushed down to desperate, fizzling squeals as servers lie empty and the cost of maintaining them spirals out of control. Some are still hanging in there, sure, but the genre as a whole feels like it’s at a tipping point – and I couldn’t help but sigh as five more multiplayer shooters joined the fray last night as part of Sony’s PlayStation Showcase.
Not only were they great in number, but none of them felt – as much as CG trailers can feel – in any way new and exciting. One, even, was a soulless Splatoon rip-off, while another has managed to arrive on exactly the same idea as Sega’s Hyenas several years too late. A third, still, looked like the blinged up lovechild of Watch_Dogs and the baffingly bad Rockay City.
But the more important question is this: who are these games hoping to court? I’d wager that most multiplayer shooter likers have time for one, maybe two of these in their lives absolute maximum, and most of the big hitters like Destiny have either already swallowed their playerbase whole, or burned them to crisp with their incessant grind. Heck, I can’t even make room in my life to try even half of them these days to see if they’re worth sticking with – perhaps because I know deep down that they’re almost all guaranteed to fold within their first six months like so many of this year’s casualties have done already. There’s simply too of these games now. We have reached saturation years ago, and it’s time to say: no more. I’m sorry, Concord, Foamstars, Marathon, Fairgame$ and, well, maybe Helldivers 2. RPS in peace.
The flight of PVP shooter Concord was all too brief
Concord’s reveal trailer gives no inkling this will be a PVP multiplayer shooter game. I was all ready to love this sci-fi whateveritis with its weird space burgers, detailed ship innards and enigmatic blinking lights. But oh no. The PlayStation Blog post for it revealed the sad truth. It tells us it’s “a bringing together of peoples”, that each log on will bring you “a new adventure” and every match “is an opportunity for a new story”. But what does that tell us, really? Nothing. I’m willing to put this one’s funeral on hold until we see some actual footage, but be truthful now, are you really going to ditch Destiny for whatever this is?
Here lies Helldivers 2, the co-op shooter who dove too far
All right, I know Helldivers The 1st is legit good. This one might get a pass, if only because it’s co-op, thank god, rather than competitive. I can get behind a good co-op shooter. Heck, it’s often how I prefer to enjoy them these days (big up Gears 4 and Gears 5). But Helldivers 2 certainly didn’t help itself by struting out four caped super soldiers that looked like they’d just walked off the set of The Mandalorian. I’ll stay this one’s execution for now… but I’ve got my eye on you, Helldivers 2. My beady, beady eye.
Extraction shooter Marathon ran before it could walk
Don’t get me wrong. Marathon’s reveal trailer looks rad as heck. I love the oozing paint spirals. I love the cold, white plastic faces of its crash test dummy robot characters, or Runners, if you want the official term. And Bungie make great shooters. There’s no denying that. But Marathon is a PVP only game, with no single-player campaign or anything to suggest that its drive for “player-driven stories” won’t 100% always end with me getting headshot halfway across the map every 30 seconds before I take a single step into its persistent, evolving maps. And heck, if this ends up with the same cracked moon’s worth of tangled and convoluted season passes and story expansions as Destiny 2… I mean, god save us all.
Life clearly was not fair to competitive heist game Fairgame$
Sega’s Hyenas isn’t even out yet, but Fairgame$, from Jade Raymond’s studio Haven, looks like it’s gunning for exactly the same template, albeit without every loot crate stuffed full of Sonic plushies and gold-dipped Dreamcast tat. It’s a PVP competitive heist game where you and so-many mates steal from the mega rich and give to… yourselves? Listen, I know the exact history around Robin Hood is a bit iffy, but playing as a bunch of pepped up loot monkeys (literally, see right) just makes me want to face plant into my desk.
The concept, admittedly, isn’t all bad. IOI’s Hitman World Of Assassination Trilogy does an excellent job of bringing mega-rich spaces to life, and Fairgame$, too is promising “emergent sandbox gameplay”. But the tone of an extraction shooter is so hard to get right, and none of its CGI reveal trailer suggests Fairgame$ knows what it wants to be. A Watch_Dogs wannabe? Hitman? God, could it be worse than Crime Boss: Rockay City? I mean, it has a $ for an S. I think that tells you everything you need to know.
Finally, we authorise Splatoon to give 4v4 party shooter Foamstars the deepest swirlie imaginable
Sssh, listen, I know Foamstars isn’t actually confirmed for PC right now, but come on, Squeenix. Respect the ink. This couldn’t be cribbing Splatoon’s homework harder if it tried, and its blatant attempt to stand out by also ripping off Prey’s glue gun shall not stand. I won’t allow it. Pull the plug. This one’s destined for the drain.
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Multiplayer shooters have been a mainstay of video game entertainment for years. Whether it’s Call of Duty or Counter-Strike, these games have provided endless hours of fun for players around the world. Unfortunately, this long-held tradition is now being threatened by a barrage of quickly created clones with little to no ideas of their own.
These new games often lack any spark or innovation, simply copying the formula of their predecessors and swapping stunning visuals for low-budget assets. They often appear in the market for a brief time and then quickly fade, as the player base exhausts itself exploring what the game had to offer.
We need to call for a stop to these quickly made “me-too” multiplayer shooters. Instead, developers need to focus their time and resources on creating games that push boundaries, innovating new ideas that help the industry grow. Separating your game from the pack is essential to its success, and that can only be achieved through a combination of creativity, development expertise, and a willingness to experiment.
With the gaming industry more competitive than ever, developers should realize that hastily made shooters will not do the trick, and that it’s time to put in the effort to achieve true innovation. Let’s have multiplayer shooters that are built for longevity, and focus on delivering genuine experiences that last.