The console MMO: it’s time to embrace the future

By Patrick Garratt, Tuesday, 16 September 2014 08:17 GMT

Destiny, an MMO in all but name, signals the inevitable direction of console triple-A.


Destiny set the tone of this console generation last week. Its connectivity connected us. Like it or not, that’s a powerful attribute.

Destiny has shocked core gaming. It’s usual to see annoyance and joy surrounding new mainstream titles, but rarely has one polarized so definitively. The remonstrations are varied and often as contradictory as the confused review scores, but one thing is clear: for a game so many people are so apparently unhappy about, it’s being played a gigantic amount.

The reason is obvious, and it’s one constantly dragged up by detractors; Destiny is an online-only console game, and its front of offering a single-player adventure is the weakest of pretenses. Activision’s massive gamble is a significant step in the games industry’s biggest players’ readiness to bet on always-connected consoles. If you want to play it, you need an IP address. After much nervous chattering in the last generation’s final hours, the expected outcome of the single-player game being threatened by the internet has taken an unexpected twist; it’s co-op, not competitive multiplayer, that has golden-gunned the solus campaign.

The transition from offline-with-demi-connected-frills to dedicated, console-designed online RPGs has been seamless. The new wave of PlayStation and Xbox MMOs (“It isn’t an MMO!”), spearheaded last year by Rockstar with GTA Online, is set to redefine TV video gaming wholesale. Good examples of the impact the new generation of consoles is having on the mainstream game are Ubisoft’s seasonal blockbusters. The 2014 editions of Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed will both provide story-based co-op, and while Unity’s version runs alongside the more traditional single-player campaign, online action with friends is now expected, a box that must be ticked on any serious big budget release. Competitive multiplayer has been dropped entirely from the latest Assassin’s Creed.

Assassin’s Creed Unity. Competitive multiplayer out, co-op in.

Online console gaming has never been as vibrant, or as surprisingly pleasant. In all my time with Destiny, I haven’t once been called a “dumb-ass,” or even a “fucking moron”. My entire PSN friends-list has been playing Destiny’s story mode since launch, and it’s been brilliant to play alongside people I’ve known for years but never met in-game. Every session’s ended with, “Let’s do it again.” I’ve heard several times in the last week that Destiny is a decent game but the company has been amazing. While some haven’t been wholly enjoying Bungie’s shooter, they’ve been kept playing for dozens of hours by the social glow.

Connected console gaming has marched forward in the last year, both in technology and confidence, and it’s clear the internet will never be far away from any future major release. The advances are here and now. If you’re running Far Cry 4 on PSN, for example, you’ll even be able to invite friends to play regardless of whether they own the game or not. Who wouldn’t want to? You can play for free with people you like? Why not?

The re-release of GTA 5 in November will seal the deal on the future of the online console blockbuster. GTA Online is co-operative, competitive, free-roaming, single-player and multiplayer. It’s whatever you want it to be. It’s an MMO, but one built around controllers and headsets and TVs and sofas and friends, and it’ll keep the pad in my hand for endless hours. Again.

Destiny set the tone of this console generation last week. Its connectivity connected us. Like it or not, that’s a powerful attribute.

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