YouTube and Twitch streamers are changing the landscape of single-player games for the better

As the culture, business, and platforms underpinning live-streaming evolve, aspects of the gaming industry and culture change in kind. As an example, the battle royale genre exploded largely due to its popularity with top streamers, and the variability of the content. No two matches are ever the same, and any viewer can be matched with any streamer at any given time. It’s damn near a perfect gaming formula for live-streaming.

Other aspects of the gaming industry have been slower to adapt but that may well be changing. recently published an article that dove into the impact live-streaming and recorded video platforms (e.g. YouTube) have on narrative-driven single-player games and campaigns. Coincidentally, it was nearly one year ago today that we wrote that live-streaming was not killing single-player games, in response to this video from IGN. Our argument - that stories sell games, and that people will continue to purchase games that are immersive and compelling. Turns out we were on to something. And, brother, does it feel good to be right.

In this latest article, they chat with Quantic Dream’s David Cage and Hazelight Studios’ Josef Fares about their experience developing titles like Heavy Rain, Detroit: Become Human (D:BH), and A Way Out, and how the evolution of video content platforms like Twitch and YouTube are now helping them to sell more games.

If you missed our article from last year, here’s the gist: we argued that if you’re a single-player game developer and you’re worried that live-streaming platforms are hurting your ability to sell games, then you’re games just aren’t good enough. That may come off as overly harsh, but the market has spoken and it’s either adapt or die. What may have been a successful single-player game 6 - 10 years ago may fail to resonate with an audience that’s increasingly taking purchasing direction from streamers and YouTube creators. A game you’ve watched to completion is understandably not as interesting any longer because you’ve experienced the outcome. To stand a chance, developers and publishers either need a truly remarkable story, or they need to evolve how their stories are told. And that’s exactly what Cage and Fares have done.

Man sitting behind a desk live-streaming with his computer in the foreground and sign that reads
Streamers, their content, and their audiences are influencing game developers and how they approach single-player game development.

They remarked that anywhere from 25-30% of players actually finish games they start, but for their games (Heavy Rain and D:BH) that number was closer to 78%. What did they do differently? For starters, their stories were deeply engaging. They were creative with incorporating replayability into their games, encouraging players to want to complete the full game. It’s a clever tactic - appealing to the completionist in many gamers’ psyches. Additionally, for D:BH, players had access to an outcomes flowchart. They could actually visualize every possible outcome, not just those they’d personally completed. Want to know how choices X and Y ultimately play out, here you go. Want to see it in action? Then get to it! Clever indeed.

Cage wrapped the article with a comment that summed up our point perfectly. He said, “It is about taking risks, it is about going where people maybe don’t want you to go. Maybe they don’t believe in what you’re doing, and that’s fine - because I’m willing to take the risk”. And he’s precisely right. It’s this kind of boundary-pushing, and adaptive initiative that will win the day. Rather than take a combative stance on streaming’s role in the video game industry, why not jump at the opportunity to evolve in tandem?

Stories matter and they always will. It’s ingrained in our DNA. It’s how we first communicated and it’s as natural a tendency for us as it is to breathe. No medium is going to change that truth. However, what does change, are the vehicles through which we share and consume our stories. Cage and Fares get it, and the community at-large is all the better because of it.

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