Including some form of online play is turning into something of a must-have for many games these days. Once, it was the domain of a few PC first-person shooters, now it’s literally everywhere. I used to enjoy a good bout of networked Quake / Unreal Tournament a number of years ago, but my interest in testing my metal against online opponents has waned over the years. It’s mostly because, whilst I still enjoy playing games, I do it now just for the enjoyment of the experience, not because I have a need to utterly master every game I come across. Do I care what my global ranking in game X is? Not in the slightest. Do I want to invest hours practising the same game to improve that ranking? Nope. Do I want to spend a half hour or so playing a game and have guaranteed fun? Yes. Guess what - single player is a lot more consistent at being fun than competitive online play.
I actually much prefer cooperative play these days. It’s a social experience and everyone can have fun. The inescapable problem with online competitive play is that someone has to lose. Losing is never any fun - it’s not so bad if the match was close, but often with online play, despite the best efforts of systems to match up people with similar skills, the matches are often very unbalanced. Now, if you’re the kind of person who will just pour time into a game until you get good enough to win most of the time, that’s all fine, since you’ll remove your annoyance at losing by mastering it. However, casual gamers aren’t like that - if something isn’t much fun, they’ll go do something else. I have to include myself in this category now - I have a hell of a lot of things I can be doing, most of which are more productive than gaming, so my gaming time has to be fun, or I’ll spend the time elsewhere. I’ve found this with Mario Kart DS, Counter Strike, Call of Duty - the online versus modes turn me off really fast, mainly because of the extreme variability of opponents (even in ‘Rivals’ mode on MKDS). There are lots of people out there that are better than me at all these games, and that isn’t going to change because I’m not interested in investing the required time to become a master. I just want to have fun, playing as I do maybe an hour or three a week. In a competitive game, that just isn’t enough since in all likelihood, you’re going to play against people who spend a lot more time than that.
It’s a shame that I’ve reached this stage just as online play goes big - I’d have loved to have this when I was in my late teens / early 20s when I put far more hours into gaming. I still enjoy cooperative play though; my wife & I have enjoyed playing RPGs together over a LAN in the past so if a fun but relatively undemanding MORPG comes out perhaps we’ll partake.