The console is a brave new world when it comes to massively multiplayer games and according to Rob Pardo, the executive vp of game design at Blizzard, they still have a few obstacles to overcome before making the leap. A couple of the obvious hurdles is the lack of a keyboard/mouse setup and ample hard drive space to support the dynamic nature of subscription-based MMORPGs. He comments about those very topics in an interview with Industry Gamers: “…there’s a lot of challenges. I’d say challenge #1 is the input device. So if you’re going to port a game like WoW how does that work? Do you ship a keyboard and a mouse? Do you try to make a game that [adapts] to all the different controls and buttons? That’s a porting issue. The bigger issue would be things like hard drives. I think WoW now is about 10 gigs and we’re always pushing out more content.”
Besides the space and input issues, Pardo also points out issues with the patching process currently in place for the Xbox 360 and its pitfalls that hinder MMO updates: “Another big issue is how to actually do patches because the certification process is pretty arduous to do that. I know that’s something Microsoft is trying to work out so you can do more updates and the certification process is faster, but it’s not going to be nearly as fast as we can do it.”
Finally he talks about the finical road blocks that prevent games like World of Warcraft and other MMORPGs from appearing on consoles which include dipping into developer’s revenue and licensing costs: “Right now, Microsoft and Sony charge platform fees for retail, but if you do an MMO there and it’s subscription-based, they’re going to want a cut of the subscription revenue too, and so that becomes a hurdle.”
While all this may be true for traditional MMOs and the porting of popular MMO titles like WoW, there are games coming out that are challenging these hurdles. APB and Champions Online are heading to the consoles not to mention there already is a Final Fantasy MMO out there as well as a new one on the way. If an MMO is designed with a console in mind it’s clearly very possible to develop and support an MMO on these platforms. If you’re looking to release on the consoles, developers need to break out of the mold that is traditional MMOs and craft a game that works with multiple platforms and it appears some developers are doing just that.