Skyrim, Social Games, and Social Needs

So, yes I'm still playing Skyrim, as is apparently everyone on the planet.  Of course this has me thinking about gaming trends and what they mean for careers because this is me.  I've leveled up my News Speculating to 100 and bought several perks.

Anywy, lame game jokes aside, I wanted to toss out a thought about the geekonomy and gaming trends.

Let me build up to my thesis carefully.

  • First, we have seen a lot of social games out there.  We've also seen social games that we normally don't call social games in the form of MMOs.
  • Secondly, games are still able to deliver serious single-person experiences as Skyrim and Arkham City show.  In fact, I'd say that removing the social/multiplayer element at times makes it easier.
  • Third, despite #2 there's been a big focus on #1 in the industry.  I think this has been because of social media and increase use of computers, so it's totally understandable.
  • Fourth, people are social about games period.  People talk about them, trade tips, make fanfic, etc.  However sometimes people want to play with others and other times they don't.

So my speculation is this: a successful game is one that people can socialize about, but not necessarily with.  I wonder if social gaming and multiplayer aspects have obscured the fact that people have different wants and needs, and those markets can change.

Here's what I'm wondering then – has social gaming and multiplayer gaming gone too far (or is in danger of going too far) in the market at the expense of single-player experiences others do want (and as we can see, will pay for)?

I don't have an answer to this since it'd require a lot of number-crunching and research, so I'm willing to toss this out there in the vague hope someone who gets paid to do this wants to examine it.  I just can't shake the gut feeling that somehow social/mutliplayer has gotten emphasized so much (say, with certain modernesque shooters of warfare) that it's not in sync with what people want – or won't be if trends change.

For instance, Skyrim is going to get SERIOUS attention on single-player RPG experiences.  This may (A) indicate a need, or (B) create one.  With games in the que for 1-5 years, can the market shift if this – or some other factor – swings the trend back to single player games?  Is the everything-is-multiplayer madness already gone too far?

I wonder.  People have varied and changing social needs in gaming.  I'm not sure as I think this over the market is responding so much as responding to what it thinks is there.

Steven Savage