The Decline of Split Screen Multiplayer

Aug 26, 2014

My first experiences with video games were the original Nintendo and cheap educational computer games.  At the time, I was in love with the console not only for its then-superior entertainment value, but the ability to play the games with my friends.  I was later lured back to the computer when I, accidentally, spied my pops playing Doom.  He hesitantly showed me how to play, as long as I didn’t tell mom, and I was hooked.  But while I thoroughly enjoyed the single player campaign, it was deathmatch mode that had me coming back for more.  I still fondly remember trading taunts with my ‘ol man, and often his friends as well.

I tell you all this because for me, and many of my friends, half the fun of most videogames is playing them together.  In the same room.  Preferably with beer.  Together we have slaughtered the masses in “Griff Ball” while shouting out plans and exchanging high-fives, all on a dinky screen split four ways.  We’ve happily blown each other up in nearly every game that offered a deathmatch mode, and in recent years I’ve even learned that co-op campaign mode is an awesome experience as well.  After I learned to stop trying to kill my teammates, that is.  Old habits are hard to break.  I believe multiplayer is so much better when playing in the same room.  Hell, it makes that co-op campaign extremely easier to coordinate.

Unfortunately, the gaming industry does not seem to feel the same way.  My player two and I keep getting hyped up over new games boasting unique multiplayer experiences, just to find out the only way to play is online.  Other recent games have shown amazing split-screen potential, but it was never pursued.  It was even rumored that Titanfall contains abandoned coding for a split-screen mode.  When I step on you with my titan I want to be able to laugh in your face, not into a headset.  And while I’m not trying to knock online multiplayer at all, I want the ability to play online and split-screen at the same time.

To some, it’s simply the companies getting rid of an annoying feature.  To me, it’s a pathetic cash-grab.  Computer games require you to play on separate machines because, well, they’re computers.  You just kind of have to.  But consoles?  There’s really no other reasoning than to force players to buy separate machines, separate TVs, and separate copies of the games. For Xbox1, this also means separate Live accounts, because paying ridiculous isp prices isn’t enough.  My player two and I can’t afford that setup, nor do we have room for it in our apartment, and watching someone else play isn’t all that fun unless it’s a RPG.

It’s strange to watch the rise of multiplayer videogames but the decline of split-screen.  My excitement for Evolve has died down, as well as that for Titanfall and Destiny.  Gearbox, however, has us in high hopes with their Borderlands Pre-Sequel and Battleborn.  We’re crossing our fingers in hopes that Battleborn features split-screen at the time it comes out.  Until then we have our Wii, our Halos and our other Borderlands to replay again, together.