I agree, but I think you’re actually proving my point completely! Humans are social animals, but very few humans go out and meet random strangers (except for romance, and even then it’s decreasingly common and we have special match-making software to ensure we maintain some control!). Humans want to interact their friends and acquaintances.
Publishers are not very interested in getting us to play with our friends or acquaintances, except in that they might get some additional sales through peer-pressure/keeping up with the jones and the like. You can see this, because every time publishers are forced to choose between enabling people to play with friends/acquaintances better, and making more money, they pick making more money.
A key example has been the extreme long-term resistance to cross-platform gaming, even where it makes sense. Forcing people to only be able to play with people on your own platform is innately more profitable, for what I hope are obvious reasons. And that includes for most publishers, who for a very long time, happily went along with this, knowing sometimes they’d sell multiple copies of a game to the same person because that person needed them to play with friends. Only when it became obvious to MS that they’d “lost” this generation of the console wars to Sony did MS suddenly become very pro-cross-platform - and naturally so, because it could only help them! And with games publishers, it took a game which was FREE (and thus no profit to be made from multiple sales), and a massive phenomenon (and partly a social one) to actually bully Sony into allowing cross-platform play, Epic’s Fortnite. Had Fortnite been succeeding despite costing say $40/platform I suspect they would have been less insistent.
Another recent example is Artifact, Valve’s “trading card game”, where you can’t actually trade cards, not even with friends, even though that’s been one of the key draws of TCGs historically (IRL ones anyway). You can only buy/sell them via automated markets on Steam. Why? Because Valve gets a 10/15% cut
Equally a point can be made generally about how poor the friends systems are in virtually all ecosystems. The vast majority of them are either designed to encourage “keeping up with the jones”, or are bare-bones functionality in place solely to stop people using the cross-platform social stuff that popped up in the 2005-2010 era, and which returned with a vengeance recently with Discord.
Or how Steam did some incredibly perverse stuff with gifting, which screwed over anyone with friends/relatives abroad. The dealt with an issue where you could buy something in a very cheap region, and gift it to someone in a less-cheap region. Initially they did this a fairly reasonable way, by making it so that some games had region-specific versions, which could only be played in those regions, and then by excluding only the very most extreme regions, cost-wise, from gifting (which I think was later reversed). But then they came up with a truly idiotic scheme, whereby if a game (or DLC or whatever was) +/- 10% (a tiny margin) of the price it was in YOUR region, you couldn’t gift it to someone in another region. This appeared to be based on constantly changing currency-conversion rates, too. So even if a game had been set at a price where it was equal in two regions, if one currency dipped, and the other rose, that could (and was) easily enough to take the rates out of sync, and make it impossible to gift that game. If the publisher had set prices that were even slightly different, perhaps to account for small local taxes at one end or another, then you could never gift that game to/from people there. And notice this was +/- too - so you couldn’t even gift a game where it was more expensive to you! Further, you couldn’t just buy the game at the correct local rate, even though Valve knew exactly what it was, and was using it as the basis of these calculations! So instead of enabling interacting with friends and socializing (which very much includes gift-giving - the bottle of wine or beers you bring when you go to a friend’s house, for example, or all the social gift-giving holidays), you were largely blocked, because Valve just couldn’t be arsed to come up with a sensible scheme, and simply wanted to lazily crack down on some grey market, and who gives a fuck if they hit huge numbers of legit users (who were actually making them money).
I could go on and on, but this post is too long anyway.
Publishers frequently pay a lot of lip-service to “play with your friends”, and I don’t doubt that, on some level, they’d love to see that. But there’s a clear lack of real appetite for, real prioritizing, in both the design of the social systems around games, and of many games themselves, which often make it far, far easier to play with random strangers, than with friends.
I disagree, as I said (unless I misunderstand what you’re saying here).
Gamers (as different from “people who play games”) are generally pretty okay with forced-multiplayer, always-on multiplayer, multiplayer with strange weirdos, abusive Midwestern fourteen year-olds and so on. Gamers are the ones who enjoy harsh PvP environments or set up elaborate griefing methods. Gamers are the ones who play the games that support all that stuff. Sure they might whine, but it doesn’t for the most part, stop them playing.
Whereas “people who play games”, are, in my experience, far less keen on it. They are not “in on it”. They largely seem to want to avoid it. If they are interested in MP at all, it’s MP with friends. There are exceptions, and some games work better for playing with strangers than others, of course, but as a rule, I would say “gamers” are far more keen on MP than people who play games.