In 2019, a select number of developers received a presentation from Sony explaining the PS5 “activities” feature. The presentation opens by claiming that “everyone knows single player is dying.”
Or so you could think if you simply looked at the list of the highest-grossing PS4 titles. GTA V, Black Ops 3 seem to dominate the charts because of their multiplayer modes.
As cited by VICE, the presentation goes on to disprove its own provocative opening statement. Moreover, Sony is actually convinced that “single player is thriving” as PlayStation owners repeatedly spend more time playing offline than online. That they know from a survey Sony conducted among roughly 3,000 players.
This survey, however, also helped identify problems players experience with single player titles:
“No idea how long I might need, don’t play unless I have 2+ free hours”
“Takes a lot of time to scan through long help videos when stuck”
“How to engage socially without risk of spoilers”
“Forgot what I was doing in this game last time, hard to get back in”
“In an ideal world, every player has the time to spend hours per day, every day, playing games,” reads one of the slides. “In reality, most people have jobs. Or kids. Or school. Or all of the above. Often, free time comes wedged between other obligations. An hour before bed. A 30-minute break between homework assignments. A few minutes before your online MP match.”
The problem is, then, not that people are not into single player games anymore. It’s just that they don’t have enough information to decide when and how to play a single player game.
And that’s where “activities” come in. It’s a set of cards accessible within a game that can do a number of things. The new feature can tell players how long it should take them to complete a mission or even allow them to jump directly to the quest that they think is the best fit for them right now. For example, in Miles Morales, you don’t have to swing your way across the map to the quest you want to pick up. “Activities” will let you right in, no time wasted on looking for an entry point. While some players might find the feature to disrupt the immersion, they always have the option not to use it. Others, though, will be delighted to find a different way to manage their playtime.
Another thing “activities” can do is launch walkthrough videos while still in the game. But how exactly the activitiy feature is implemented and what it does is up to each individual developer. They are free to figure how to make the most of the new function in the context of their game.
“We can change ‘should I start playing’ to ‘which part should I start playing?'” the presentation goes on. “The options are there. The choices are clear. The game is calling. Pick up that controller. It’s time to play.”
We are yet to see if “activities” will become a staple of the next gen. But the feauture underpins the overall vision Sony has for PS5. With the visuals aready at its best, the next gen experience, according to Sony, will have to come from something else. Object-based spatial sound. Haptic feedback technology. Or the new UI with a potential to revolutionize game design.