By John Finnell ‘22
Recently, I had the pleasure of enjoying one of my favorite games, Castle Crashers, while at a friend’s house. Simple minded fun is the name of the game, cracking bad jokes while our team of multichromatic knights marched across the screen. For many, these words are already invoking a sense of nostalgia. Hours spent with old friends on Halo 3, Battleblock Theater, and Call of Duty: Black Ops, in a screen peeking mix of cooperation and competition. However, one thing all of these games have in common is that they are very old. Halo 3 was released in 2007, Battleblock Theater in 2013, and Call of Duty: Black Ops in 2010. This all points to a disturbing trend: that split screen games are dying.
Certainly, the old guard of local Co-Op isn’t out yet, but it has suffered a serious blow. Even series known for their split-screen madness like Call of Duty have relegated the feature to a pitiful sideshow on a handful of game modes. Even worse, countless people report cases of being unable to access it and of horrible optimization when it actually works.
This all raises the question: Why? If local play and split screens are so beloved, why are companies abandoning them? Simply put, it doesn’t make money.
Senior Joseph Pfiefer ’22 said, “There’s no incentive to add split screen, it’s so niche that nobody will buy a game just for local play.”
Unfortunately, he’s right. With how easy online access is, and how impossible in person meetups can be nowadays, most people will always opt for online.
It seems like the evidence all points to the fact that Split Screen is dying. According to Forbes, “It remains unclear why progress in this area (online multiplayer) had to neuter local multiplayer.”
Therefore, things look less than fantastic for the nostalgic passtime. With it dies a massive part of social gaming, old stories of triumph and failure killed off by corporate indifference.
So, is that it? Will local multiplayer die out, not with a bang, but a somewhat pathetic fizzle? Perhaps not. Fantastic games crop up from indie and triple-A developers alike. Enter the Gungeon, Cuphead, and It Takes Two are all fantastic games with fantastic co-op.
Josef Fares of Hazelight Studios puts it best: “We wanted to push forward with local co-op, to take it to the next step.”
So why not scratch that itch? Call up some friends, bust out the extra controllers, and see what a little teamwork can do. (Or petty violence; we don’t judge.)