The February 2020 update for Diablo 4 covered a lot of ground, mainly focusing on players" interaction with the game itself, from the way we control it to the way we get to see our skills etc, aka the UI. One big question has come out of it, however, as the update talks about both the (long awaited/asked for) addition of controller support for PC and specifics for the local co-op UI layout - but completely fails to mention whether the latter is also referring to the PC or if it"s console only.
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The actual title of the co-op section of the update is "Couch Co-Op UI". Now, nowhere in the update does it actually state that local/single machine co-op won"t be coming to PC, but as the couch co-op term is associated specifically with consoles only, there"s been some debate on this in the community.
Co-op in and of itself is obviously not a console only thing, as PC games (and Blizzard games specifically) have had a co-op focus for a long time now, especially with Diablo and WoW, with Diablo 3 even seemingly favoring the multiplayer aspect, based on drop chances, ease of farming etc (we actually even got comments from the devs on this for Diablo 4 already, as the intention is for solo play to be as rewarding in group play). So let"s take a look at the arguments for and against "couch" co-op coming to PC.
Why wouldn"t we get local co-op on PC?
First and foremost, local co-op isn"t really a PC thing. Not many games actually support it, as the multiplayer aspect is much more online-focused, with co-operative experiences being crafted based on each player having their own screen. With RPGs in particular, the added complexity of inventory screens, skill trees and a whole lot of stats to be read complicates matters, as screen real estate becomes problematic and hard to come by. The other big issue presented by additional players playing on the same PC is the fact that Blizzard would probably insist on them having their own accounts, with the argument being "so they can play their own characters and retain their progress", but in reality not wanting to lose sales (which is a valid concern). This would mean having to log in two separate accounts on the same PC, which is something online games REALLY don"t like, due to account sharing issues, and we know Blizzard have a firm stance against that.
So they"d either have to significantly change the way players log in to the game or allow "guests" to create characters on others" accounts. Or they could just allow PC players the same courtesy as console players, basically just letting anyone play any character on the same account on the same PC. This would mean that you couldn"t play local co-op at a friend"s house with your own characters from your account, but would rather have to level one up from scratch and keep it there. This adds another problem, as the game being online-only means that we"ll almost certainly have a limit to the number of characters we can create, which would mean whoever has a lot of friends coming over would have their character count severely limited.
Now all of the above options (and the many more I didn"t cover) and the problems they bring with them can be solved if there"s a willingness to add the feature, and while local co-op is pretty rare on PC, there are exceptions. Most notably these are turn based games with their "hot seat" options (the Divinity: Original Sin series, as well as the upcoming Baldur"s Gate 3 - although those are a mix of turn based and real time - and many, many turn based strategy games). Fully real time local co-op games are less frequent on PC, with most of them being indie-type platformers or, and the biggest one in recent memory being a console port/console franchise that already had built in local co-op for their console versions - aka Gears (of War) 5. Now if that particular franchise rings a bell with you in relation to Diablo for some reason...
Why we should and might get local co-op on PC
Since the rallying cry behind Diablo 4 so far has been feedback, feedback and more feedback, those of us that really want the game to get local co-op on PC need to speak up. Personally I"ve been searching for local co-op PC games all my life and played basically all of them (despite owning several consoles throughout the years) and playing Diablo 3 on Xbox with 3 friends in the same room is some of the most fun I"ve had with the entire franchise. There really isn"t anything better than couch co-op, in the rare times you can manage it (especially if you"re a little older) and action RPGs and Diablo in particular are some of the best examples of it out there, so not having it available to the biggest section of the Diablo player base would be a bit sad.
As the tech is already there for the console versions of D4 (minus the issues mentioned in the previous section), we can only hope that it also arrives for PC, but we also have to be vocal about it, letting Blizzard known it"s a feature PC players want. There"s also an overall push to integrate the various platforms Diablo 4 will be coming to, as we"ve already heard that cross-play is a goal of the game and Blizzard are excited about it, so that"s a positive indicator.
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As hinted to in the previous section, one of the big things in favor of local PC co-op is the recent addition of Rod Ferguson as the head of the Diablo franchise - as he was a crucial part of the Gears of War series from its inception, and Gears is famous for its co-op support. We even have one of the biggest examples for PC local co-op in the franchise"s latest installment, as Gears 5 features a 2-player split screen and even options for the local players to be joined by a third one online.