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Casual Multiplayer Games – too shallow to succeed?

Content of the article: "Casual Multiplayer Games – too shallow to succeed?"

Let me set the stage.

You’re in a voice-chat in Discord with your friends. Maybe you’re already playing League of Legends, or any other popular game. A lot of the most popular games are competitive and often stressful, so something more relaxing and silly to play together might be a nice alternative after losing 10 matches in a row. You and your friends agree to find a new casual multiplayer game.

After spending too much time searching, pitching and debating on what to play, you all buy the same game on Steam (perhaps the one that's on discount), play it for some time (an hour or two, maybe), before moving on to something else.

Here comes the issue though; what happens to the casual multiplayer game afterwards?

In my experience, most of these games suffer a tragic destiny of collecting dust in my Steam Library for perpetuity. And if the game was ditched within two hours of playing, it might result in a refund.

It doesn't help that these casual games don't seem to afford much interest after the initial experience, and some of them are so similar that a lot of them are just not interesting anymore (yet another cute top-down arena brawler, how exciting!).

Steam recently had an event, where a lot of soon-to-be released games put out demos for you to download and play. Several were casual multiplayer games (RAWMEN, Aeolis Tournament, etc). Playing with friends, I asked them if they would buy these games once they came out. The answer was generally: "No, I feel like I've already experienced what it has to offer". Too bad for the developers, I guess. It’s like these games rely so heavily on accessibility, spectacle and the players' interpersonal interactions that they become sort-of shallow experience-wise. The value is seemingly not there in the long run, which is a shame.

Read:  Animal Crossing New Horizons, and why if you've been patient this long, you should keep waiting.

I've asked around, and several people I know seem to have experienced similarly. I even heard from one guy that he and his girlfriend play Dark Souls together instead. While difficult, it at least provides rewarding depth, engrossing moods and a challenging goal to reach. It's a game that you return to. Is there a reason that this can't be the case for casual multiplayer games?

So, have you experienced this as well? And what can game devs do? Provide more of a single player experience as well? Focus more on online matchmaking? Invest in user-generated content? I'm interested in hearing some other perspectives on this.


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