The Dwindling of Couch Multi-Player

I had a small gaming evening with 3 friends recently. We started searching for games that could be played with 4 players on one screen. It is a little bit shocking to see how small the selection turned out to be. Granted, we had only the Wii and a non-XBLA enabled Xbox 360. We ended up playing Mario Kart, Mario Strikers, Brain Academy, Rayman Raving Rabbits and Scene It. We also had some fun with Super Street Fighter IV and House of the Dead: Overkill even though those aren’t strictly 4 player games.

By the way, noticed anything significant in that list? Such as the dominance of Wii titles? Just saying.

Especially on the HD consoles, the vast majority of multi-player games seem to be on-line nowadays. It is a bit saddening. It’s lazy too. On-line multi-player doesn’t have to deal with game design challenges such as split-screen or the management of hidden information. And of course, playing the games on-line just doesn’t feel as social as longing on a couch with a bunch of buddies.

Looking for suitable game I found an interesting site, by the way. The blog lists all games with co-op modes and even tracks them in a very handy database.

And of course you have always the option to simply get a console from the former generations. I think the next time I whip out the Dreamcast for some solid 4 player action.

But I’m curious, did you have some good experience with a couch 4 player mode recently?

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

4 responses to “The Dwindling of Couch Multi-Player”

  1. Tim Miller

    Next time you get on XBLA be sure to download Zombie Apocalypse. It has a really fun 2 – 4 player same-screen coop mode! But I might be a little biased since I was the lead designer on ZA!

  2. GhostLyrics

    My tip for XBLA would be Castle Crashers.
    On another note, co-optimus was recently featured at lifehacker… just asking: did you get that information there?

  3. Gabe Glick

    No recent 4-player multiplayer experiences to relate, but this post did remind me; remember when Sony was promoting the PS3 as being awesome because it could connect up to 7 controllers wirelessly? Fat lot of good that ended up doing us, huh.

  4. One A Day Picks of the Week 19th – 25th July « rudderless

    [...] Majewski’s lament on the dwindling of couch-based multiplayer certainly struck a chord with me, as did Adam Englebright’s splendid – and relatively [...]


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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