Online multiplayer is a tricky beast. There’s couple of things that make it bit difficult to decide from an indie dev perspective:
1) Online multiplayer is cool. Like the coolest way to play games. NHL ’10 gets boring playing against CPU… but put there 12 human players on the ice and you are looking at a totally different experience. Left 4 Dead – I tried it like once solo (boooooring), but go for online multiplayer and it rocks. (Versus mode makes it even rockier).
2) Player base.
That point number two is the tricky part, the part that makes online multiplayer slightly painful for indies. In order to get players, there needs to be players. But in case there’s no players, new players won’t appear.
(The AAA game publishers have sort of figured out a solution to this puzzle: pour millions and zillions of money into advertising and building hype. Then the game might have a chance.)
With indies, it’s slightly trickier.
Even AAA studios were vary of online multiplayer only games. Battlefield 1942 was an “online multiplayer” only game and publishers were staring the devs like a rotten fish or something (a true event based story I just made up) when they heard that it was going to be online only. I recall that it was said to the devs that they should get single player campaign or that game would never succeed.
Well, they didn’t. And the rest is history.
In case you don’t remember the game’s history, I’ll tell you: they made BF1942, they got an publisher, I bought the game, it was the most excellent game I had played for long time and I spent tons of time playing it several years ago, other people also bought tons of games and now the devs pretty much have a solid brand and tons of money in their pockets. Not sure about that last point, but the bottom line is: that game was a success.
The point is. I wonder if it’s monetary wise to even consider doing an online multiplayer only game as an indie. Businesswise my brain is telling me “stop thinking that, do a hidden object game”. The other side of the brain is saying “well, what kind of games do you play? Online multiplayer? Would it – like you know – make sense to focus on doing a game that you know you will truly like?”