Some may believe that the golden age of couch co-op is behind us. Sure, we aren’t tossing controllers back and forth in between gulps of Surge, but couch co-op is alive and well, even in the face of online multiplayer and Battle Royales. Games like Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes or Cuphead show that the magic of couch co-op is still mesmerizing gamers. If you’re a developer, you should know that integrating couch co-op into your game comes with unique opportunities, and it could change the trajectory of your game’s reception.
Splashy AAA online multiplayer games steal headlines, but couch co-ops have features that most online titles can’t capture. Those include:
1. Co-ops build camaraderie. Couch co-ops bring people together. Co-ops are fun to play through, but they also help friends—and strangers—connect. While this is also true for online multiplayer games, the difference here is proximity. Because your gaming companion is right beside you, you build trust while seeing and feeling their emotional reactions to the game.
We’ve watched this powerful force create friendships between strangers at conventions. When we have multiplayer demos setup in our booth, strangers often join forces to play through a section of the co-op. This small bonding experience connects two people and starts conversations they may never have had without the game to pull them together.
2. Communication is easier. When you play online with people around the world, communication is limited by your microphone and your ability to describe events in detail. If you want to tell a teammate where you are in a new level, you need the language to describe your surroundings in a way that your teammates immediately understand.
That’s not the case with a couch co-op. While you and your co-op partner play in the same room, you can benefit from in-person gestures and communication. When we watch people play REZ PLZ at conventions, we frequently see co-op partners point at different parts of the level on the screen to work out their strategy.
3. Co-op reduces the difficulty level. Some games, like Mega Cat Studios’ upcoming Bite the Bullet, are difficult by design. Co-oping on these titles removes some of the barriers by allowing players to work together with an extra set of weapons and the opportunity to press on even if one person dies.
As a developer, you must make the decision on whether or not co-op makes sense for your game. Questions to consider:
When we originally began working with Mega Cat Studios on Bite the Bullet, a fast-paced run-and-gun platformer, they didn’t have co-op in mind. But once they introduced a second playable character, we knew there was an immediate opportunity.
Since Bite the Bullet is a tough platformer inspired by titles like Contra, we knew co-op could be a natural fit. With a co-op partner, gamers would have an easier time slugging through Bite the Bullet’s brutal levels and enemies.
Now gamers have the opportunity to play with both Chewie and Chewella at the same time, unlocking all three of the couch co-op’s advantages in Bite the Bullet. While Bite the Bullet is still a tough title, gamers can enjoy the challenge together.
Couch co-ops may not grab headlines like Fortnite or Call of Duty, but fans still hold these experiences close to their heart. As long as video games can bring people together, couch co-ops will remain a popular genre among gamers.