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Microsoft's Shannon Loftis says single-player games have complicated economics now

However, are single-player experiences really dying? We don't think so but according to Shannon Loftis, the general manager of Microsoft's Global Games Publishing, their economics have become "complicated." Speaking with GameSpot, Loftis said that quality single-player titles come with a high price tag. She added:

I don't think that it's dead per se. I do think the economics of taking a single-player game and telling a very high fidelity multi-hour story get a little more complicated. Gamers want higher fidelity and they want higher resolution graphics.

Delivering these high-quality experiences increases the production budget and publishers may be afraid of putting so much money into a single-player project when the returns aren't guaranteed. What if the game wasn't received well by the audience? What if it got poor reviews which further impacted sales? All of these are factors that play a major role when developers and publishers decide to fund games.

Single-player games have limited revenue streams because you can't really add microtransactions or charge for expansions the way a series like Call of Duty does. Multiplayer titles just have more potential revenue streams beyond the initial purchase made by a consumer.

Games like Assassin's Creed Origins and Middle-earth: Shadow of War have received some flak for the way they incorporate loot crates into single-player games despite the fact that they aren't necessary to the experience. It seems like with growing budgets, developers need a way to make sure that their titles are profitable and this is a new norm.

When it comes to single-player titles, gamers have to realize that "AAA" ones will probably become more frequent and contain microtransactions. It's the only way developers can guaranteed that they'll make sufficient returns on their investment. As Loftis said, the "complicated" economics will lead to new models to fund such titles. Single-player games aren't dying, but they are changing.

Keep an eye on WindowsCentral.com/Gaming for all the latest in Xbox and Windows 10 gaming, accessories, news, and reviews!

Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.

58 Comments
  • Drinking game!!!!! Every time a game developer or publisher says the word "microtransaction" in relation to a full-priced AAA game you take a shot. I bet I'm hammered before work ends today. This is getting out of hand quickly.
  • Its simple, every time I hear "microtransation" in relation to a PC game, especially AAA game, I close my wallet and blacklist that game; plenty of other games out there from decent publishers.  
  • I'm doing the same thing. Since Mafia one is back on sale at gog.com I'm gonna go get it since it's a single player game with a great story and no micro transactions
  • Same. And they aren't really that interesting to begin with. Otherwise they'd sell on their own merits. THey're usually "blockbusters", which ends up meaning that they're predictable, samey, safe games with a repetitive gameplay. Personally I don't even play those games anyway.
  • All of these are factors that play a major role when developers decide to fund games.
    Studios and Publishers decide to fund games.  Developers want to make fun games but often get their hopes and dreams quashed by the former.
  • Nice article. There's a lot of truth here, and the economic advantages of massive multiplayer games have been apparent for several years now. I think another potential issue is just the volume of games available. There's a lot to choose from and it can be hard to keep up with all of the titles. I still prefer gaming alone or local multiplayer but gaming in general has definitely shifted away from this model.
  • While it is a popular pastime to lambast greedy game developers. Here is a pretty good article about game price history. https://shadowofthevoid.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/do-games-cost-too-much/ While the data ends in 2012, game prices have pretty much stabilized the ~ $60 range for awhile now. Considering development cost are just going up it is pretty obvious studios and developers need to find new revenue streams.
  • Here is a video for you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHSso2vufPM&feature=youtu.be&t=49
  • Speak for yourself. Games are $100-$120 here in Australia.
  • Did they just raise to $100-$120 or have they been that way since the 360 days?
  • I am happy that games include micro-transactions. Without them, it wouldn't make financial sense to develop a lot of these expensive and beautiful games.
  • I think you're right... but still *happy* about micro-transactions? Come on now
  • @moruobai No he is not right. Some of these companies are driven by greed. FIFA is making 800m bucks per year with a game that hardly takes much in development. All that is done is reskin, add new music, change the UI. Most of the budget goes in marketing and trying to make people buy the game. And that money has nothing to do with money that needed to make the game. Selling free 2 play type of games at full price is unacceptable.
  • No new mode, physics simulation or AI animation / active ragdoll?
  • Yup it cost them $800m for this. lol They need to use free 2 play model to finance 2-3 "innovation" that are marketed as major changes... I wish company "fans" stop making excuses to these anti-gamers policies...
  • *All* of these companies are driven by greed
  • Nope, it's about profit. Make a business sustainable as they go for long run. These companies (driven by greed) will take the risk to destroy the gaming industry so they can make a quick buck. They are ready to frustrate and anger their consumer, make as much money as possible and if gaming becomes less popular they don't care. 
  • Lol, go troll somewhere else.
  • He's right.  How else would you suggest these games get funded?  Are you ready to pay double or triple the $60 price today for a game?
  • A full game already cost more than $60 right now. We know with all the different version, DLCs and microtransactions. AAA Games are a lot more than $60.
  • Thank you for reinforcing my point...these games cost much more to make today than they did 5-6 years ago.
  • @toddpart Do you have proof of that or are you just making it up? Nowadays a lot more money is going into marketing than 5-6 years ago. Having said that; they do spend a lot of time to develop these microtransactions elements. They modify gameplay to frustrate players so they pay money. Now they do lock basic in-game features that were in the game behind lootbox. So maybe they have more time to waste with this crap... I can't believe some people actually supports free 2 play type of games at full price. What's funny is that it's the bigger studios doing it. Look around. There are so many games that are financially succeful by not using these bs... It's because of people like you these companies get away with these anti-consumer bs...
  • I'm a main programmer in a major game studio (over 4k employees), all I can say is... game does cost more to make year after year. With retail price fixed at $60...
  • I'm a programmer too and I know how all this bs works. Do you know the marketing budget of these games? No one is telling studios to overspend for their games and add microtansactions, lootbox or pay to win bs. Oh and what's your PSN, Hirox K?
  • You seem to be missing the point that these companies, like most businesses, do this TO MAKE MONEY. That's the whole point. What, should they just be making games for the sheer pleasure of making people happy? Should they be trying to do it to break even? What's the point of that? Businesses exist to make as much profit as possible. So, who care what their marketing budget it is if they are making a handsome profit...that's the whole point. If you don't like it, then don't buy the games...plain and simple. The laws of supply and demand, doesn't get much simpler than that.
  • @toddpart Oh ofc I understand it. But what you don't seem to understand is that I DON'T CARE about these companies. I'm a CONSUMER, I'm a GAMER.  These companies are trying to change gaming as we know it. Just like paying to play online on console, just like how cutting a game into different DLCs... The great thing about gaming and gamers is that some of us don't stay quiet and let these company **** us. MS tried to take a cut from used games market with their DLC, always online 24 hrs check... bs in 2013. Gamers rightly rejected it. When Sony refused mods for Fallout 4. It's gamers trashed Sony and they had to make that u turn. And more recently gamers take-two mod problems...
      
    These companies are trying to change gaming because of greed and because of they need to satisfy investors. 
    Trying to make microtransaction in full price games a gaming standard. Trying to introduce bs lottery system with loot box.  These companies will only focus in making money and they don't care if they kill the gaming industry in the process. If you look well, it's only the major companies doing it. The MS, EA, Activision,  Warner Bros...
    What's funny is that other companies manage to make games and financially successful ones without this bs. Oh believe me, I won't buy all these games doing this and I'll encourage everyone here who cares about gaming not to buy the game or at the least least not buy these microtransactions... There is a limit to everything. Modifying gameplay to frustrate players so they pay money like mobile phone games, hide basic features behind loot boxes, pay to win game modes, hiding ending of games and story content behind DLCs... All this is crossing the line.
    Well, sorry for not going down without a fight and let these company **** me. I'm no company "fan", I'm a gamer and have every right to fight for gaming and the future if this industry... even if it upsets company "fans"...
  • I certainly have friends from Bandai, Konami and other studios, I'm also surrounded by people who's been working in the industries for 20-40 years. We chitchat, we go to onnsen. I was introduced to Yakuza's director at some occasions.
    Not all bad news tho, but recently, we've a game earned us 210m usd, minus all the cost and things, profit us -30m. Game has DLC, no lootbox.
    * I did a rounding, those are not actual figure. > Oh and what's your PSN, Hirox K?
    Why would I want to share my personal detail in the public? Every services I use are all set to private anyway. Sure, no one's forcing anyone to increase the budgets (salary, lib, tools, loyalty, etc), but do you wan to see a world without Wolfenstein, Fallout?
    Froza, racing game might all look the same. It's just a box running alone tracks, but with better HW, they still have many can achieve imo. Havok still have many potentials. Softbody physics, use more detailed convex hull for collision, not just gpu but also cpu sand simulation, etc. F7 has weather system, cost $0 to make?
  • Over the years I've come across a lot of people claiming to be industry insiders or experts while they fight their console war.
    Sorry but you sound like one of them. ofc I would like to believe you and not waste my time with a fraud. You see when I say stuff like I don't have a XB1 but I have a X360, that I have many original XB games like Crimson Skies or that I own and finished quantum break even though I don't own a XB1. I can prove it. Now you're saying you own a PS4, $2k desktop, $2.5k Alienware. Why don't post proof of that by posting pictures of them? Why don't you post your PSN trophies or steam achievements while hiding your username? I'm not sure why you're talking of Wolfenstein, Fallout. These games do not misusing microtransactions. I've played hours of Fallout 4 and not once was I sold stuff to make things go faster... And all your talk about Forza or Froza as you like to call it.
    No it doesn't cost $0 to make BUT F7 is not free now is it? It goes from $60 (basic package with missing stuff and where you'll get the game late) to $100 (where you'll have more content and get the game on time but you'll still need to pay more to get stuff)... It is basically a free to play game that is sold at a starting price of $60!!! ofc you MS "fan" will support this... LOL 
  • LOL Are you the ultmate troll or are you serious? if you are serious then 1) companies should not spend so much on marketing. 2) no one is making them overspend to make these games. 3) There are many games that don't need these microtransactions to be financially succesful. Take a franchise like Forza for example. They will keep using the same engine, many times use the same assets and hardly actually change much from one version to another. 
    As it is, making the game shouldn't cost as much as making a game from nothing, having to come up with a real good story line, voice actors...
    It should be able to get the money back the money back as it is. But they'll sell this game $60-$100, release the game late unless you pay money, the game has plenty of DLC that are sponsored by companies, product placements, it is packed with microtransaction, silly loot boxes,... They tried also tried to screw people with their VIP passes...  I don't know what your intentions are but it's because of people like you that companies get away with this bs...  
  • Sure, every game has its balance point, every company has their measurements & tolerance.
    But still, cost increase + retail price stays the same == profit raise?
    What typpa game people wanna get / expect from those huge game studios? Low budget games? Games with 1997 era programming concept like Dragon Quest or Dragonball?
    Even Assassin's Creed's engine changes overtime. Ubi's kinda heavy dynamic-keyframe-animation investor. They do GDC tech talk very often. > Take a franchise like Forza for example.
    > They will keep using the same engine,
    > many times use the same assets and hardly
    > actually change much from one version to another.
    You so sure?
    F6, F7 both are on xb1, no doubt there'll be limitation from the HW. But still, they've managed to add weather, wind shake, tire / track temperature, personalizable driver model, etc.
    Personalizable driver model eats more cpu, memory and load time of course.
    Weather affects gameplay dynamically. Sand occasionally blew across the road affecting grip and handling, rain puddles's drag and collider size needs to be recalculated time to time.
    Wind shake... I'm not from Turn10, I cannot tell you if it's just an "illusion" or gameplay related HavokWind.
    But anything gameplay-related, will need tuning. Adding things to F7's gameplay == work to do.
    "If" F6 has maxed out xb1... adding things to F7's gameplay means something need to be compromised & removed == more work to do.
    * F7 is also on xb1x, but because they cannot add anything that affects xb1 gameplay (cpu-oriented), xb1x enhancement will prob focus more on visuals (gpu-oriented).
    If there's work, there's cost. F8... Like I said, Havok still has a lotta to offer, features they couldn't achieve in F7 due to HW limitations can still be reviewed/reopened in the future. Back to "will micro-transaction affects gameplay"?
    If you are a programmer, you know simple if else. * Can you offer in-game-merchant in menu for quick access? Sure.
    Will this design make a game more grindy? No. Is this greedy? No.
    Can you make it more grindy (maybe you think because it's now easier to access, you want to lengthen the playtime), Yes. Greed? No. * Start offering in-game-merchant-in-menu for real money for those who are lazy to run around, kill monsters, earn in-game-credit.
    Will this implementation make a game more grindy? No. Greed? No.
    Is it possible for dev to design a game to be grindy to irritate player, in order to promote real-cash-box? Sure. Greed? Sure.
    Is it possible for dev to leave the gameplay as it is? Sure. Greed? No.
    Is it possible for dev to take away legendary gears from in-game-credit-box, offer'em ONLY in real-cash-box? Sure. Greed? Sure.
    Is it possible for dev to leave legendary gears in in-game-credit-box as it is? Sure. Greed? No.
    Can real-money-box implementation affects no gameplay, affect no normal progression. Sure. Greed? No. Does Middle Earth or Forza's team design their game to irritate player, just to promote real-cash-box? No. Micro-transaction's no evil, evil or not, depends on the application. To be fair, you'd have to view every game independently, case by case.
    If you wanna preach... maybe you should write a "before" and "after" or "with" or "without" analysis on Forza or Middle Earth.
  • I don't mind micro transactions but tying micro transactions to player progress is a no go for me. It depends on the mechanics and implementation.
  • True, it depends on the mechanics, implementations.
    Micro transactions may or may not affect progression, it all depends.
  • Pardon my French, but this is total bullshit, and the kind of excuse people with no talent and only capable of scamming people would give. It's all your fault, guys, for buying awful, unimaginative games from awful companies who don't care about games nor people, and who are just greedy corporations. Now the gaming industry has become an ugly monster. But yeah, enjoy buying your Nth iteration of the exact same game.
  • Ok, mister expert. Come up with a business model that will allow the development of AAA games in native 4k HDR, 60FPS and keep the per game cost at ~$60.
  • I think this is correct. AAA games have new market pressures they didn't face historically coming from the rise of casual gaming on phones. That business model looks VERY different where micro transactions are almost expected from consumers. I know most readers on here are probably heavily invested in quality gaming and part of the PC Master Race, but I think the gaming industry faces real competition for consumers time and the cost differences between developing a AAA title and then competing with some goofy app game that is quite literally close to a buck.
  • Bethesda.
  • "Nth iteration of the exact same game." TRUTH A lot of these can be super repetitive. FPS is a prime example. Others are still quite good like Breath of the Wild. It's just not that common to have genre defining games like DOOM, or Warcraft for RTS, or Minecraft for sandbox. I think a huge potential for genuinely novel gaming experiences is VR. The tech hasn't quite scaled yet but it may...
  • Maybe complicated but more than often best games ever
  • Micro transactions, have turned the gaming world, into a greedy mess.
    Especially thru the mobile world.
    Now its time to destroy the PC world.
    Great :(
  • "this is a new norm" Stop with this complete and utter BS and trying to make excuses for incompetant developers and crap publishers that only want to fleece the gamer. Microtransactions and pay to play crates have absolutely no place in a $60+ AAA game period, end of story. These sort of idiotic and ill conceived articles pandering to the publishers, help no one, least of all paying consumers. Next why don't you write some more BS, about how piracy is killing the industry; when we can clearly see DRM Free games having huge success when they are done by competent and consumer oriented developers/publishers like CDPR.    
  • You sir, are delusional.  AAA games have remained at $60 for well over the last 7 years....while the costs associated with producing them has certainly risen.  So, where do you propose the money come from?  By your logic, a gallon of milk should still be .99 and 4K 60" LED TV's should just be a couple hundred bucks.
  • Games at $60? Here is a video for you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHSso2vufPM&feature=youtu.be&t=49 There is NO excuse for this greed...
  • 10 years back free 2 play games used to be... FREE. Now it has a starting price of $60. LOL
  • Yeah, this is a crock, plenty of developers can manage to make single player experiences without microtransactions or loot crates and continue those experiences in future games. It might be difficult for new developers to get their ideas out there but that is why there is such a massive burgeoning indie scene.
  • Once a friend of mine criticize me for buying 40$/70$ games, he said that is ridiculous spend so much for a game. The same guy a time ago have spend more than 2000$ (not included 3g data plans and mobile phones) in a single game the Clash of clans, and then get banned from it. Totally speechless 😶
  • Some companies don't make single player epics anymore, because they CAN'T. They want to do the least amount of work possible. Luckily, Machine Games have the opposite view, and it seems, the talent to make single player better than any multiplayer offering. I hate multiplayer games. Every multiplayer I have played gets boring REALLY quickly. I don't want to buy the game and then have to be nagged into spending more money for playing... Come on Wolfenstein 2!!!!!
  •  "complicated" economics because it's more difficult to sell microtransactions, lootbox... Single player games can't be "games as a service" so MS wants to kill them...
  • Ahhhhh I just know EA games is going to screw up SW BF2 with this crappy new gaming model. : ( So much potential just wasted...
  • Yet developers like CDProjekt are still producing masterpieces like Witcher3. Even coop-focused games can have excellent SP, look at Divinity Original Sin. If the "Big" companies leave there are plenty of developers that will gladly sell to that market. I think it more that certain conglomerates have become addicted to microtransations and can't see game design without them.
  • While not to decry the awesomeness that is The Witcher III, CDProjekt don't really count because they have GoG which I imagine they make a lot of money from.
  • Stardock, larian studio, etc.
  • They are used to the revenue from micro transactions and the way they've built their business model around it so that it won't allow for a decrease in revenue. What is a shame is buying up studios that do it well, converting them to your business model, and then when they fail shut them down. Or be like gaben and sit your fat ass on steam and make **** games like dota2 and csgo micro transactional and ignore hl3 and other wonderful games they have the ability to make. Same with blizzard they aren't innocent in this either.
  • I don't mind paying (appropriate costs) for DLC that includes additional missions, improved gear, etc, but I'm not paying for temporary boosts, mystery boxes, loot crates, cosmetic items or what have you. I'm not saying they shouldn't do these things, because I know there are people out there with money to burn who like those sorts of things, I'm just saying don't make that your primary focus when making a game. Make a great game and people will buy it. Make a ****** game with all these microtransactions that give you the only method for progressing in a game or even "pay-to-win" and people are going to close their wallets so fast.
  • Unfortunately, the strategy is mostly to frustrate players to make them spend more money. Gameplay is mostly being changed to frustrate players... 
    They have already locked features that were present in previous version behind loot boxes... 
  • This is so true. Pay to win is just awful. As a baby form the 80s, I do want to point out that games have come a LONG way in terms of frustration levels. Some of those early Nintendo games OMG. lol
  • Single player can be per series or chapter like telltale.  purchase an episode for $5 and purchase more if positive.  want to buy the whole season. pay $60 or minus whatever episode currently owned. i  
  • it didn't seem complicated for CD  Projekt
  • What a load of BS.