It isn't important unless you already payed for the service. For example, when I first got my x-box I could care less about online stuff, I just got games I thought would be fun. Now that I have XBL I do keep an eye open for games that are fun, but that may have an online componant to them. And while I was in the same camp as ekedolphin for awhile, once you start playing online you realize it is a ton of fun, and trust me my XBL has more than payed for itself already.
Lisa: They used it to settle fights at taverns Homer: She said tavern! I'm going to Moe's Marge: I never agreed to that rule
It is completely up to the game. If it fits the game, then it is necessary, if it doesn't I really don't want to see it. Too many developers are feeling pressure to add online play. Take Resident Evil for example, I haven't played the new game, but why would I want to play a game that is supposed to be like a horror movie online with other people? It just doesn't sound good.
But then practically all FPS NEED online play. It usually won't take away from the time spent from developing the single player experience. The ability to patch and update PC games really gives them an advantage in this area, although it can lead to some buggy releases.
So is online play important to me? What game are we talking about? I'm not sure that the console market has really come to where it needs to be for it to put out good online games.
Depends on the game and whether or not you're willing to pay a monthly fee, as has been indicated already.
For me, the online aspect has freshened up the PS2 immeasurably. I'm currently playing Final Fantasy XI since its release last month. What's attractive about it is the communal aspect, being in guilds, participating in contests, getting help and advice from other players, etc.
Of course, it's also a lot like this board - there's always the danger of being overrun by idiots. But so far, I like it. I'll eventually get sick of it and stop playing, but every game has a lifespan. I think the online ones just have a much longer life, because they're so much more open-ended and non-linear, espcially for role playing games.
I don't think such games are for everyone. CarlCX had a great post about FF and made some good points about tedious play and Square's overbearing tendencies. And if you don't like paying the fee, then you're probably not gonna pick it up to being with. But there's really no way to test drive these games, by the time you've bought an adapter and hooked up to the Internet, you've already invested significant time and money, even before buying the game.
But regarding the OP, yeah, online play is important to me. I think it'll become the norm as broadband and cable connections saturate the market. The big problem, as I see it, is if the quality of the games suffer. Online or not, a crappy game is still a crappy game and things like plots and good, engrossing gameplay cannot be substituted.
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