Economics of single-player games have become “more complicated”, Xbox boss admits

One of video games’ most important executives has admitted that the viability of single-player games for triple-A publishers is becoming less certain.

The debate was reignited last week when EA announced big changes for the Star Wars adventure title previously in development at the now-closed Visceral Games.

“It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design,” executive VP Patrick Söderlund said.

“We are shifting the game to be a broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency, leaning into the capabilities of our Frostbite engine and reimagining central elements of the game to give players a Star Wars adventure of greater depth and breadth to explore.”

Now Xbox boss Shannon Loftis has told Gamespot that while triple-A single-player experiences will live on, the business model that underpins them has become more challenging.

"I don’t think that it’s dead per se," Loftis said about the single-player market. "I do think the economics of taking a single-player game and telling a very high fidelity multi-hour story get a little more complicated. Gamers want higher fidelity and they want higher resolution graphics.

"I don’t think that there is ever going to be a time when there aren’t single-player, story-based games. I do love the idea of building a community around the experience of these games."

Speaking to Waypoint recently, former BioWare Montreal developer Manveer Heir claimed that “it’s definitely a thing [that EA] are generally pushing toward more open-world games” because the company “can monetise them better”.

However, former Visceral level designer Zach Wilson has told Games Industry that: "The assertion that single-player linear games are going to disappear is totally absurd. EA might not be the company that carries that torch, but there are so many groups out there that are passionate about this kind of game that they won’t go away. Personally I’d like to see fewer games with higher quality across the board, which is probably what will happen.

"We’re also going to continue to see developments in production pipelines that will dramatically reduce the cost of asset generation, which will benefit everyone. There’s no one single narrative that can be derived from this event other than games are incredibly difficult to make, and the fact that any game or movie gets made at all is a cause for celebration."

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