It’s inevitable that in 90% of titles you purchase for your 360, whether it be a retail disc or an Xbox Live Arcade game, the online portions will soon be rendered useless. It goes without saying, of course, that an alarming amount of multiplayer modes are tacked on to start with, so perhaps this is only an expected stage of a game’s life cycle. Since a great deal of games do depend on their online content to push and extend sales, this can be detrimental in many ways to how successful a game truly is. You have mammoth successes like Call of Duty, Halo, and Gears of War, but as for the lesser-known, less-hyped titles, they drop off the radar not long after appearing on it. So, what does it take to target and captivate an Xbox Live audience? What aspects make up a successful multiplayer experience, and what can be done to attract and keep players? Here are five ways that developers can keep an Xbox Live audience.
1. Exterminate Those Bugs!
Gamers love fun, variety, challenge, and games that run smoothly enough to provide such things. For this reason, for any title that expects to maintain an audience with the masses of gamers worldwide, solid gameplay is imperative. Simply tacking on a multiplayer mode near the very end of a game’s development will not ensure any bugs have been worked out, glitches have been solved, or that the game will be up to standard. While Gears of War has fallen victim to this pitfall, it has survived based on the fact that the original Gears garnered so many fans who did not mind waiting for the bugs to be worked out. If you have a new title attempting to prove its multiplayer worth, however, this will not always be the case. Similarly, incomplete or meager modes will likely be ignored right off the bat. For instance, Battlefield: Bad Company featured only one multiplayer mode at launch — hardly enough to keep gamers satisfied long enough to keep them playing. Aside from the fact that releasing buggy or incomplete multiplayer modes is not going to retain a player base, it’s just plain bad game-making. Who wants to purchase a horribly-crafted, glitchy title, let alone go online with it? So, if you want to operate a smoothly-running, popular multiplayer mode, be sure the game it’s packaged with runs correctly first, or at the very least get it patched up, pronto.
Let’s face it – Team Deathmatches and variants thereof will get old. Gamers will grow tired of hopping online only to gun down the competition in the same old hackneyed ways night after night. What do the most successful titles contain that the failures do not? Variety! For instance, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: World at War both contain staggering amounts of gametypes that should satisfy anyone, depending on their style of play. More defensive players can enjoy Headquarters, Domination, or Search and Destroy, while more offensive gamers will find their calling in deathmatches, War, or the Hardcore games. This variety leaves the field open for different types of people to enjoy the types of online fun they want to have, rather than forcing them to conform to one style of play. Even if you’re extremely versatile, playing the same modes repetitively will soon begin to grate on the nerves. Bottom line: attracting and keeping an audience is possible if multiplayer gametypes are diversified. Perhaps madness by reason of Team Deathmatches night after night, or rounds of Slayer is what causes the irrepressible team killing disease.
If you’re going to offer any kind of respectable multiplayer modes, offer goals for players to reach. For instance, the coveted tenth prestige of Call of Duty 4 is a sensible reward to reach after putting in long hours of fragging every night. At the very least, multiplayer achievements are a worthwhile reason for some to log some ridiculous hours. Unlockable weapons, secret characters, or even new maps would keep players plugging away long after the fun would have normally dissipated.
4. Keep It Simple!
You want to know the reason games like Left 4 Dead are so universally adored by online gamers? They’re clean, simple, and fun. There are no overly complicated rules to memorize or muddled control schemes. No strange methods to perform tasks that you would expect to be easy – they just flow. Simply by jumping into most games or by reading the description, you should be able to comprehend what to do and how to go about doing it, at least for the most part (save for when an abundance of strategy is involved). When too many variables are thrown in that the masses cannot take the time to understand, the amount of players begins to drop drastically, which is obviously counterproductive. Keep it simple, stupid!
5. Listen Up!
When gamers find fault with multiplayer titles, spot problems, or need to report issues that are going on within, it’s imperative that the appropriate team takes note and makes it a priority to change. If there are altercations, it’s the responsibility of the creators to take charge and solve problems. Without strong communication between gamers and those responsible for creating the whole shebang, the project can quickly become unraveled, rendering the multiplayer bits useless as people scramble onto other projects where they can be heard. Bungie does an outstanding job of listening to and respecting its fanbase and diehard Halo fans. Take this same mentality and apply it to future prospects and gamers will flock to the establishment that treats them the best.