Anyone looking forward to zipping along rails in the floating city of Columbia, siccing flocks of flesh-eating crows on bad guys with a group of friends should adjust their expectations: BioShock Infinite will not have co-op. Nor will it have competitive multiplayer modes. Ending months of speculation, Irrational Games’ head Ken Levine confirmed on Sunday that BioShock Infinite will be a single-player only affair. Responding to fan questions via Twitter, Levine put it simply: “No multi.”
The plan previously was to include a number of different multiplayer modes into the game, but when the first-person adventure was delayed into 2013 just before E3 2012, there was some doubt about whether these modes would be in the final game. Later in August, a number of key staff working on Infinite left Irrational Games. This included design director Jeff McGann, producer Joe Faulstick, and systems designer Ken Strickland amongst many others. Sources within Irrational told Kotaku at the time that the game’s multiplayer modes had been scrapped due to low quality. The two multiplayer modes described by the source were a mode called Spec-Ops wherein four players would tackle levels from the game’s single-player mode together and another that was a take on tower defense.
It’s an encouraging sign that Irrational has abandoned the effort to tack multiplayer onto a game whose central appeal is its story campaign. The original BioShock’s greatest moments are deeply personal, born out of how an individual chooses to approach its challenges. The series’ identity is in single-player. Beyond BioShock, though, the cancellation of these multiplayer modes is a good sign that publisher 2K Games and its parent company Take-Two Interactive have learned there lesson about forcing multiplayer into every game on store shelves.
It’s backfired on them before. Spec Ops: The Line, 2K Games and Yager Development’s video game retelling of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, was a game built solely to affect players with its disturbing, vicious single-player campaign. Convinced that the game wouldn’t be a commercial success, 2K Games insisted that another studio, Darkside Game Studios, create a co-operative mode for the game. Even though, the mode played fine, it sullied the message of the game by implying that its violence should be fun. Director Cory Davis called it a “cancerous growth” on the game. “[Multiplayer] was literally a check box that the financial predictions said we needed, and 2K was relentless in making sure that it happened,” said Davis in August.
With the cancellation of BioShock’s multiplayer, it seems 2K is more willing to devote development resources to a quality single-player game rather than shoehorn in a mode that will be ignored by consumers entirely.