Now, if you have already checked out our website, or have been to a LAN party yourself recently, you would have noticed that LAN parties are not "dead"; they are clearly still going. So, any thoughts of such fun marathons of electronic gaming goodness in close physical proximity to friends and opponents, being considered non-existent, are simply wrong. A fairer train of thought would be to wonder whether or not they are perhaps closing down in general, or "dying".
In my opinion, LAN parties are not simply "dying", as many testosterone-fuelled teens would have you believe. They are, however, struggling to remain open to the public. A more accurate view would be that they are in a state of decline.
There are often multiple reasons for why LAN parties close down, become inactive or go on hiatus, which can be as simple as a lack of interest in events being hosted in a particular area, a lack of advertising of events from administrators, or financial difficulties. More complex are personal issues in the lives of administrators, often managing their time over other commitments, such as study, work, friends, family and relationships.
Other historical factors have unfortunately come in to the fray, such as the Global Financial Crisis back in 2008, and the Australian government's recent stance on reducing the country's debt, ultimately making it tougher to pay to keep things going, especially for not-for-profit organisations. However, one factor in particular has been talked about more recently - the disappearing "local play" or "LAN" feature in games.
It would appear that game developers are fazing out the local play feature, in favour of focusing more on the Internet capabilities of games.
At a panel that I attended recently in AVCon, four LAN administrators from four LAN parties in the state of South Australia, discussed the future of LAN parties to a small audience. For the most part, they were fairly optimistic about keeping LAN events going. While one of the concerns discussed was about keeping people interested in going to events, their primary concern was about the local play feature of games being sidelined.
The administrators were of the opinion that, in order to help retain attendance at their events, they would have to keep a solid Internet connection running at their events, accessible to event participants. Unfortunately, this was said to be difficult to achieve, as many venues suitable for hire in Adelaide do not have access to reliable, high speed Internet connections. There was mention of the National Broadband Network possibly helping in the future, but they didn't appear to be holding their breath for that.
It was also mentioned that LAN parties would have to look at changing overall, to remain relevant in the future.
So, do LAN parties still have a chance of remaining relevant? Can they last for at least another 10 years? My optimism matches that of the LAN administrators I saw at the panel. We are not done yet.
- - Tristan Bailey (a.k.a. OUTCAST)
Representative of The LAN Link Network