http://www.screengurus.com/2016/10/22/v ... esurgence/
The next generation, which saw me switch sides to Sony with the PS2, was probably the most multiplayer dominated of them all. I invested literally hundreds of hours into TimeSplitters 2, played numerous NHL games with my brother, co-oped through Lego Star Wars and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, spent many birthday parties playing Eye Toy with a room full of friends, and put days into split-screen racing in the likes of SSX3 and Jak X.
Around the same period it also became a daily ritual of me and my friends to take our PSP’s into school, spending the time before first bell, our break times and lunch times linking up to play Syphon Filter, Star Wars Battlefront and Monster Hunter. On balance I was probably playing games more with other people, in the same room, than I was on my own – and I was playing a lot of games on my own.
Suffice to say local multiplayer and gaming with other people has been a massive part of gaming for me, and one of my favourite ways of playing since my earliest days with the medium. Some of my most vivid and well-cherished memories growing up involve playing games together with friends. As a way of experiencing games local multiplayer is incredibly social and goes directly against many of the stereotypes people associate with the medium. Nurturing friendly competition, teaching cooperation, and all with real, physical human interaction. This is something games are almost uniquely able to offer as an entertainment medium.
Which is why, as you probably guessed, I am about to lament the loss of much of these experiences. With the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 came online gaming into the mainstream. Now people no longer had to meet up to play games – they could play across the internet with hundreds, even thousands, of strangers, whenever they wanted.
This is no bad thing. Online gaming has been an amazing revolution in many respects. Online shooters alone have been a phenomenon that have changed the gaming world, but almost everything that was once a game shared between two people on a sofa became able to be played online. This would all have been good apart from one simple fact – with the massive rise in popularity of online gaming, local multiplayer dropped out of the mainstream. Developers no longer saw it worth their time to add in local multiplayer modes, either due to a lack of demand or because technical limitations with split screen meant cutting back on game performance elsewhere. Where local multiplayer was catered for it was often half-baked or unrefined, added as an afterthought. The PS3 game Starhawk is the perfect example that I tried to play recently with my friend – it took us twenty minutes of internet searches and trial and error to work out how to set up a local split-screen match, all because of a user interface designed almost exclusively for online matchmaking.
Of course there still are local multiplayer games and always have been. Nintendo consoles over the last two generations have been a bastion of local multiplayer and split-screen. Partly that’s because of Nintendo’s continuing commitment to offer these experiences, partly it’s because of the unparalleled success of the Wii in the casual market that saw it become a machine of party games, enjoyed by families and friends over Christmas and other social gatherings, and partly it’s because of Nintendo’s disappointingly slow and troubled foray into online gaming.
The market for local multiplayer experiences is out there. You only need to look at the recent success of critically acclaimed games such as Towerfall Ascension, Nidhogg and Overcooked. After rushing headlong into the excitement of online gaming, the medium is beginning to realise that there is still a place for local multiplayer outside of casually oriented party games. There are bubblings of a resurgence.
It’s against this backdrop of a bubbling resurgence, of a method of multiplayer gaming that is regaining both popularity and demand, that Nintendo have now announced the Nintendo Switch. Local multiplayer was front and centre in the three-minute reveal trailer. The ability to detach the controllers from the side of the handheld unit in order to create two simple pads for multiplayer is integral to the Switch’s concept, and Nintendo seemed incredibly keen to show off all of the possibilities the Switch will offer for multiplayer experiences.
As a docked home console the Switch will offer classic couch gaming of both the split-screen and pass-the-pad variety. As a portable the Switch is still designed to be played by more than one person thanks to the uniquely designed detachable controllers and generously sized screen, with a built in stand for keeping it propped up on a surface. The Switch can also offer more traditional handheld multiplayer, linking up wirelessly to another Switch console. At one point in the trailer two switches were seen standing back to back, with two players playing on each, offering four player local multiplayer across two linked consoles. The possibilities are numerous and well thought out, and the most convincing argument for the Switch being a truly “hybrid” console. What else offers both handheld-like and console-like multiplayer?
To answer the question poised by this article’s title then, following the announcement of the Nintendo Switch it does feel like local multiplayer could be on the verge of a resurgence, with Nintendo leading the charge. Whether it takes off remains to be seen, and much of that will be down to Nintendo’s marketing between now and March. With the possible future of local multiplayer hanging in the balance, I am awaiting the release with bated breath. Until then, can someone please just release TimeSplitters 2 HD?
Here's the topic of conversation - do you think the Nintendo Switch will help lead a resurgence in popularity of local multiplayer?