One of the greatest gaming memories for plenty of avid gamers is playing co-operatively with friends on the same console, with couch co-op being one of the biggest lures of gaming during the first few years of the millennium.
Games from sports simulators to platform games and shooters all regularly featured couch co-op, ranging from arcade modes to a fully co-operative campaign, but those opportunities have rapidly declined in the modern era.
Microsoft’s flagship Halo franchise was one of the best cooperative games in history but a controversial decision was made for the fifth instalment of the series, with develop 343 removing couch co-op from the game- and facing a wrath of criticism in response, which led to confirmation that future games will include split screen.
Unfortunately, it’s not just Halo that is guilty of overlooking split-screen. The majority of new release don’t offer the same couch co-op opportunities as they used to, with Call of Duty: WW2 providing only a single-player campaign but handing co-op in the form of the popular Zombies mode.
The decline of co-op in games has gone hand-in-hand with the rise of competitive game modes, with the likes of Call of Duty and FIFA shifting towards a competitive-orientated online presence and pushing into eSports as a result.
Whilst couch co-op has suffered dramatically, with few games offering the chance for two people to work together on the same console, there has also been a decline of co-operative play in general, which is a massive disappointment.
You can, of course, argue that Call of Duty’s online mode is cooperative and competitive, as you work with a team against human opponents, but it’s not quite the same- particularly for younger gamers, who may find the jump from AI opponents to human players extremely difficult.
Now, couch co-op seems geared towards the younger generation of gamers as the stand-out games to include cooperative opportunities on the same console includes the array of LEGO games available and addictive arcade cooker OverCooked.
What can be done?
Cooperative gaming isn’t dead though, with Destiny 2 showing how great online co-op can be, but further cooperative opportunities need to be provided on a split screen and competitively, an area that is somewhat lacking.
Split screen gaming can help bring a family together in an age where technology is so decisive and the past decade has shown there’s scope to succeed in this area, with the Nintendo Wii being a must-own product during its prime years.
Competitively, however, there needs to be massive improvements as there is a general consensus that gaming is an individual past-time. Whilst eSports games often include a number of team-based games, there isn’t quite an area where gamers truly work together to overcome an objective.
Playing in a team of five or six is completely different to playing as a pair and it would be a breath of fresh air to see a game target it’s competitive mode as two-person, which would result in some very interesting tactical battles across a range of games.
More than ever, football teams are sponsoring Esports Gamers. The industry is one which is thriving and as a result sports teams are looking to enter the industry. When looking at FIFA, some of the top teams in the world including PSG, Ajax, West Ham, and Manchester City have all got their own recruitment competing in the Esports division. In addition to football teams, online bookmakers are also sponsoring some big names in Esports like NiP for example.
The issue, however, is that gaming is an extremely competitive environment for companies to work in and the industry is very cut-throat. Every game release comes with massive risks and, as such, developers are more likely to stick to an approach that they know works.
Some games have tried, and failed, to break the mould, with a stand-out example being the highly-anticipated release of No Man’s Sky on PC and PS4. Offering an mind-boggling amount of planets to explore, the procedurally generated games fell short of expectations and earned a lot of criticisms.
As such, developer Hello Games has faced an uphill task ever since to win over consumers and a lot of effort has gone into improving the game. Whilst it’s safe to say they have turned things around, they lost a lot of support in the process and there will be huge questions asked ahead of their next release.
Games, unfortunately, die on a regular basis. Popular RPG Marvel Heroes was recently announced to be coming to an end at the end of the year and it’s unfortunate that many other popular games and franchises will turn to dust.
Thankfully, there’s scope for the future as new games arrive every year and there’s plenty of excitement regarding new developments like 4K and VR. If they can go hand-in-hand with a revival of cooperative gaming, then the new era could be very good indeed.