Let the People Decide: Online Co-op vs. Couch Co-op: RESULTS

The people have spoken, and the results are in!

(Original post is below the results.)

About a hundred of you weighed in on the poll (which will remain open), and it appears that the overwhelming majority of you prefer couch co-op to online co-op. Almost 80% of you voted that you would always prefer to play online games on a single screen rather than play online with a screen to yourself. This was surprising to me considering how popular online co-op is these days, and the increasing number of games that are nixing split-screen/single-screen play altogether.

It seemed to come down to the fact that, if you get to choose which way you play a game, most people always prefer to do so on the same screen. Let's take a look at what some of you had to say!

Ellen J Miller explains that growing up playing games a certain way has a big impact on current preferences.

Also I spent so much time in my youth playing couch Phantasy Star Online split screen on the Gamecube. It's what prompted me to get my own Gamecube. I've always felt more comfortable gaming on a couch than with a microphone/headset."

Unimplied mentions having a specific console for local multiplayer, and a PC for online games.

"I own a PC for online multiplayer, and a Wii-U for local multiplayer. There's not that many local PC multiplayer games to begin with, but it's always been my platform of choice. It's also a nice bonus that there are a large amount of games to play with your friends on the Wii-U as opposed to other consoles— I think I only own maybe one or two games that can't be played as such."

DamsonRhee speaks to playing games with a partner, as well as raising the next generation of gamers!

"Being part of a gaming couple, I love having local co-op. It will actually get me to think about buying a game at launch instead of waiting. Also, since my daughter is really getting into gaming, things like Skylanders and Mario games with local co-op have been a blessing for teaching proposes."

Shardik-the-man-bear brings up a good point about the almost complete neglect of LAN play in most modern games.

"I dislike the overall fading away of couch co-op, but I can afford to make it work. What bugs me is the death of the LAN/system links. I have 2 systems, 2 TVs, and 2 copies of the game, but most games now require me to have 2 online subscriptions to play with someone in the same room as myself. That has pretty much singlehandedly forced me onto PC, and all but ditch the inferior consoles."

Deadlyfatalis mentions the necessity of online co-op for long-distance relationships.

"For me and my friends, we're busy people. Asking any one of us, let alone all of us to book off the same time on the same day and get together can be a logistical nightmare, and that's with people within the same city. From there, you generally want to play for a long time as you don't want to waste having to get to whomever's house we're going to play a single game of something, etc, so just dropping in and playing a quick match of an FPS/Fighter isn't really feasible. Asking to play a local coop game with a friend across the country is basically impossible. But with online (I play primarily on PC), we can talk to each other through Skype, etc, and it can mimic the experience to a certain degree."

In the same conversation, Deadlyfatalis also brings up a valid point about the reality of playing with friends.

In an ideal world, I'm sure everyone would like just get together and play games whenever they want to, however, the time is just not there for a lot of people. When we can mimic what it's like to be next to each other through things like Skype, but get a lot of convenience of things like not even having to leave the house, online can seem very appealing.

Finally, astronaughte provides an opinion that was echoed by several others in the discussion.

I enjoy third person couch co-op like castle crashers, gauntlet, arcade Simpsons, tmnt, etc.

I was never a fan of split screen. I tolerated it, but I always found it distracting.

That is where I personally stand on the subject. I will always prefer online co-op for FPS games so I can take advantage off a single full-resolution and high framerate screen. That said, the CoD franchise has featured split-screen for a long time, and it works well. In addition, many would argue that more powerful hardware should allow for better and better split-screen experiences, not fewer!

Thank you to everyone who participated in this first LTPD article! If you are just now reading this, feel free to review the original post below and continue to contribute to the discussion. Remember that I will be posting a new LTPD every Monday, then summarizing the discussion every Friday. I plan on tackling tougher (and more controversial) topics in the future, but if you have a specific idea, feel free to tweet it to me @thesmi1ey!

Original Post

Many people don't care about the lack of split-screen support in modern games, but a growing number of gamers are still clinging to "couch co-op" with everything they have. Let's settle this discussion once and for all!

I love a good discussion, and I love polls, so I've decided to create Let the People Decide™; a weekly TAY article that presents a topic and a poll on Monday, then summarizes the poll results and discussions on Friday. Let's see how this goes!

There has been a lot of talk about Destiny over the past few months, and the discussions are only heating up as we approach the September 9 release date. One of the conversations that Bungie's sci-fi space opera has prompted involves the complete lack of split-screen play. Bungie's Halo games have always offered the ability to play as the Chief (or two chiefs!) with a friend, loved one, or sibling physically at your side, but Destiny went in a completely different direction by forcing online as the only way to play cooperatively.

Bungie isn't the only company that has done away with a split-screen mode for their games. Playing with a single screen has become increasingly appealing to both players and developers alike. Developers don't have to sacrifice any of the visual flare they add to the game to accommodate the GPU having to render the game twice (I know this isn't exactly what is happening, but I'm trying to keep things simple!). Players don't have to worry about dealing with a smaller, lower-quality view of the action. With the invention of online gaming, playing with your friend from the comfort of your home while having a full screen to yourself seems like a no-brainer.

But what about those of us who were raised playing games with our friends beside us? Some of my best childhood and teenage memories came from playing games like GoldenEye and Halo with my friends - "with" being used in the literal sense, of course. I have friends to this day that wouldn't exist without the LAN parties of the 90s. On top of that, there are a slough of couples who love playing games together on the couch - my wife and I included. What about us?

I suppose the final question to all this is: why can't we have both? The Call of Duty franchise has had split-screen functionality for a long time now, even when most people seem to prefer solo play. Developers often state that it simply takes too much extra time to develop split-screen play, while conspiracists swear that studios like Bungie are in-bed with console manufacturers to force people to buy two consoles to play together.

I'm going to list some of the reasons I've heard from both sides of the discussion below, and then I expect you to do two things: vote in the poll, then add your own thoughts to the comments below!

Arguments for Online Co-Op

  • Developers can make games looks their best, without having to worry about "dumbing down" anything for split-screen.
  • You get an entire screen to play with.
  • You don't have to leave your house.
  • Most people have an internet connection, so online play isn't a big deal.
  • You can play with your friend/sibling/loved-one who lives far away.
  • Far more people prefer online co-op, so why include something few people will use?

Arguments for Couch Co-Op

  • You get to play right next to my friend/sibling/loved-on.
  • You don't have to listen to your partners voice over a crappy headset.
  • You don't have to deal with party issues (particularly on Xbox One... yeesh).
  • You don't have to buy a second console and game to play with your partner.
  • You don't need an active internet connection.
  • Who cares if the game doesn't run at 60fps? Graphics don't equal fun!

Let the people decide!

You can follow Matt "smi1ey" Dunn on Twitter @thesmi1ey, and learn more about him here.