For many of us, gaming will always carry a sense of nostalgia in our hearts. Often people have a habit of looking back at past franchises and wishing they would have continued. Likewise, we reminisce about how woeful the graphics were, yet how fun it was to play them. It was a rite of passage to huddle around the TV and play ‘Mario Kart’, or stick on ‘Just Dance’ and absolutely butcher the on-screen moves. However, it’s rare to see the near disappearance of a whole gaming genre. Now, there’s definitely a noticeable push for gamers to play exclusively online instead of playing together in person. The sharp rise in cost for second controllers, and every new game seems to only focus on the online modes and single player story, begs the question; what place do party games still hold today? Is this the death of party games?
It may not be a totally miserable time for party games. The genre still thrives somewhat, with Nintendo releasing major multiplayer titles that encourage the gathering aspect of gaming with the Switch. Nintendo are making a stronger attempt at infiltrating the online multiplayer target by improving their online offerings and service, but still remain intent on the in-person social aspect of gaming. Titles like ‘Mario Kart’, ‘Super Smash Bros’, ‘Mario Party’ are just some of the titles Nintendo have continued and will continue to release for the Switch. It is a system that boasts a usability of the same gamepad for both multiplayer and single player games. The recent release of the smaller sibling of the Switch, the Switch Lite, is a testament to the market that Nintendo are appealing to; the on-the-go gamers who still desire the social aspect of gaming in person, but also don’t want to forego the online functionality of a console. Using the example of ‘Just Dance,’ we can see that social gaming is still maintains an audience. The worldwide sales figures for the original ‘Just Dance’ were just over 4.3 millions copies in under a year of its release on the Wii. According to VideoGame Charts, the Switch version of this game has sold 750,000 copies worldwide. A definite drop in sales compared to the original, however when it was first released it was a wildly new concept for a revolutionary console. Still, 750,000 sales is not a figure to look down upon, and shows that although the market for party games like ‘Just Dance’ is becoming more niche, there is still a market for it. Also, the release of ‘Just Dance Unlimited’ is an attempt to appeal to the subscription loving service culture that we have and demonstrates how the franchise is modernising, retaining their ability to keep hands in customers’ pockets. The aim is to run like the Spotify subscription service, and in exchange for €24 a year, the user gets access to their limited-400 song catalogue, including hits like, ‘The Pacman Song’.
A huge part of why party games might be in decline is not because companies aren’t releasing multiplayer-oriented titles, but because of the massive push for online gaming. Games like ‘Red Dead Redemption’ never had a multiplayer mode for split screen playing. These games never had the same intention as party games, and with their ever-growing popularity, the developers of ‘Red Dead’, may never develop such projects to be played socially, outside of the online mode.
Games like ‘Call of Duty’ have their roots in being party games. The act of having friends over to play ‘Zombies’ became a staple of childhood gaming, but the push for social gaming to evolve and primarily be an exclusively online experience is what is, and what will continue to happen. Party games will never completely die, however because the online experience will never replace the feeling of playing in person with someone, or a group of friends for many players. Party gaming will always hold a place in the gaming world, and although the selection of party games might be limited, companies like Nintendo are still striving to preserve their future.