Even though almost every game includes multiplayer to some extent, there are very few which keep players returning over and over again. This is because many developers include multiplayer simply to entice consumers into buying their product, without putting in the necessary time and effort required to dethrone the behemoths of the online gaming world. But what are the key ingredients which combine to make one of those behemoths? Read on to find out and, as always, leave your own choices in the comments section below.
EMPHASIS ON TEAMWORK
There is no moment in gaming which incites a greater sense of accomplishment than when you and your teams' strategy pays off. Whether it's a simple case of six men running for the objective whilst the other two carefully monitor them with sniper rifles, or whether you're implementing a flanking system in order to defeat your rivals, thwarting your opponents with a well-worked plan is enough to make you want to reach through your TV screen and joyously chest-bump your teammates.
Examples: Team Fortress 2, Battlefield series, Left 4 Dead series
VAST AMOUNT OF UNLOCKABLES
If we're going to invest a large period of time in a game's multiplayer, then we want to feel as though our efforts have been worth something. While practically all of this generation's games have incorporated a levelling system at this point, the games which get players returning to their multiplayer modes again and again are the ones which reward players for doing so; a typical example of this would be the Call of Duty series, which frequently gives players XP for killing enemies/completing objectives that they can then use to buy and customise their weaponry and personalise their account by virtue of callsigns and emblems.
Examples: Call of Duty series, Forza Motorsport series, Halo: Reach
THERE'S A MODE FOR EVERYONE
Not everyone who plays video games are Major League Gaming approved, and the best multiplayer games not only recognise this little fact, but also embrace it. Unranked game modes often turn out to be the most fun as players can forget about frivolous things such as their K/D ratio and simply enjoy the fundamentals of the game. A prime example of this would be Halo: Reach, where competitive modes such as Team Slayer are joined by Infection, Team Swat and the fan-created Grifball (which is being turned into a fully-fledged mode as of Halo 4).
Examples: Halo: Reach, Call of Duty: Black Ops
Although many developers spend a large amount of time and effort refining their games' multiplayer, oftentimes a game thrives when it is left to the players to create their own fun. Games such as Minecraft and LittleBigPlanet put the player in control of how they experience the game, giving them the tools to create their own worlds/levels and then letting them run riot. Those who want more creativity in their games are often PC gamers, as mods and custom-built levels are common features of games such as Counter-Strike and Team Fortress 2.
Examples: Minecraft, LittleBigPlanet series, Counter-Strike
Even though the majority of gamers will spend more time going toe-to-toe with people who aren't in the same room as them, we should never forget that going online isn't the only way to get your multiplayer fix in the 21st century. Games such as the Super Smash Bros. series have proven time and time again that there's nothing quite like beating an opponent who is in the same room as you, as that way there's no escaping your ceaseless taunts and fist pumps. But be careful of how much you celebrate – those Wii controllers can make for some pretty brutal weapons.
Examples: Super Smash Bros. series, FIFA series, Rayman: Origins