Microsoft’s original Xbox had very limited online functionality, but the Xbox 360, released several years later, brought with it an incredible upgrade in the form of Xbox Live, Microsoft’s online gaming hosting service for the platform.
For a small monthly fee, gamers could play endlessly with others from around the world. However, Xbox Live is a relatively new contender in the realm of online gaming. Other offerings from companies like Blizzard and Valve with their venerable Battle.net and Steam online communities, respectively, are also fantastic examples of online video game services. Nor can we forget the MMOs with their millions of players.
These kinds of games are here to stay, and they will become even more popular as these services mature.
Online video games are the true tests of a gamer’s ability to play a certain title. Single-player modes only feature AI opponents. While AI has come a long way from old games (in Medal of Honor, enemy soldiers would charge directly at the player, for example), it still has a long way to go before it can truly mimic human instincts and tactics.
However, they accomplish just that by pitting players against players, forcing gamers to adapt instead of settling into a set pattern of strategies for victory. Multiplayer alone vastly increases a game’s replayability factor and can breathe hundreds of hours of game life into a title that has already been thoroughly explored.
If you’re looking to test out a game, try out any number of online video game rental services. Before, gamers had to shop at a store like Blockbuster to try out a game for a few days. Now, gamers can often stream demos and temporary copies of full games directly to their computers or consoles which automatically disable and uninstall after the rental period is up.
They can also rent games online directly and have the physical discs shipped out to them through the mail. Also, many online games, like MMOs, have trial versions of the games available, so players can try out a certain game for a week or so to see if they genuinely enjoy it.
The main difference between an online video game and a single-player one is that the former keeps gamers interested for much longer. Even an “extensive” single-player game like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion with tons of fan-made mods and downloadable content installed will only keep gamers interested at most for fifty to one hundred hours outside of game-time.
On the other hand, online video games like World of Warcraft can keep players interested for a thousand hours of game time a year or even more because new content is added on a regular basis to keep players interested.