Why Console MMORPGs Can't Cut It

Yesterday, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata stated that there would be no MMORPGs on the Wii. This got me to thinking about why there aren’t many MMORPGs on consoles, they definitely have a large player base than the PC. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but currently the only MMORPGs that have been released to consoles have been Phantasy Star, Final Fantasy XI and EverQuest Online Adventures. Phantasy Star appearing on both DreamCast and Xbox 360, FFXI on Xbox360 and PS2 and EQ just on PS2. Wow, who knew they ported EQ to the PS2? Anyway, even with Microsoft’s Xbox Live service there were no MMORPG on the first Xbox and there are currently none on PS3, although there are a few that have been announced for the PS3.

So whats stopping consoles makers from releasing a successful MMORPG on there given platform? I mean if the dying PC gaming market can boost dozens of MMORPGs with 10’s of Millions of gamers, why can’t console makers?

It comes back to the fact that PC’s are just a better gaming platform then consoles for certain genres of gaming. MMORPG’s and RTS games are just not as good as they are on a PC and probably never will be. But lets break down what that really means.

Communication – Obviously a big part of MMORPGs. Using a controller is not an option when you need to communicate in-game. So you need to either get a headset or a keyboard if your console supports it. This adds to the cost which might turn away some console gamers as keyboards can be expensive.

Interface – The interface of MMORPGs today is very point and click. This again can’t be done quick enough with a controller to make it effective. A controller only has so many buttons. Have you seen some of the MMORPGs today? In LOTRO I had 4 complete bars full of actions, items and skills so that I could use them instantly. Having 8 buttons just isn’t good enough.

Fees – Gamers are already paying a monthly fee on Xbox Live, so to charge them again per MMO, would be pushing it. I think developers know this and are worried that the player base will be very small because of it. On the other hand P3’s online service is free, so go figure.

Information – Ask any MMORPG player and I would guess that 99% of them have used websites while playing to find locations, complete quests or just to find out what to do next. This isn’t possible on a console. Theres no CTRL + ALT + Delete to minimize your game, check out a map of your gaming world then quickly switch back. If you want to use your consoles browser, well your looking at at least 5 mins before you get back into your game. Log out, open browser, search, log back into game, not to mention all the loading screens. Or you can go to your PC to find the info. Then again, I have 2 monitors so I have all my info right next to my screen while I play, can’t do that on a console.

Competition – Consoles have a much larger gaming library compared to the PC. Sure the PC gets all the best games ;) but they can’t match the volume of games produced by console makers. I would think this might have some impact on developers worried that they would not be able to keep a hold on gamers like the PC can. With a major game release what seems almost on a monthly basis, console gamers might move on too quickly.

System Hog – MMORPGs are single player games when it comes to the console. So if you have a MMORPG gamer on a console, they are not only hogging the console to themselves, but also the TV. I WANT TO WATCH AMEICAN IDOL DAMMIT!! (j/k)

So what can console makers do to get a piece of the MMORPG pie? We’ll they can make there next console a PC :)


  1. i believe that some of your statements are correct but i still think that the best mmo will be console exclusive. If they add more action and more intuitive controls then I would say for sure they could make the mmo for the console and it would be a lot more fun than just clicking a guy and watching you guy kill him while you cue up random moves for him instead it could be you directly control your character and do not just tell him to go attack some one and then watch as your sequence of attacks is carried out

  2. Age of Conan is set to be released on XBox 360 which I feel may be the next true test of MMORPGs on console platform. Depending on how AoC does on Xbox, it may show just how successful MMOs can be for consoles. You bring up many of the important points, but I would like to add one. Screen Rsolution. Xbox 360 has a screen resolution of 1280×720 (720p) which is much lower than many monitors that support 1280×1024, 1440×900, and 1600×1200. Screen real estate is very important when you start adding up all those raid and action bars.

  3. Who uses ctrl-alt-del to alt-tab out to their browser?? You open the browser before you go in, then you swap out as necessary.

    Consoles will never be good MMORPG platforms until there is a new control scheme. It is strange that Nintendo is saying they won’t consider MMORPGs, since their system is the only one on the market with the controller hardware to adapt effectively to an MMORPG in an effective way. What if, instead of having layers of hotkeys for powers, you used the Wii-mote to perform little movements that trigger spell casting? You could use the same controller for melee, for ranged attacks . . . it could be a true revolution in how MMORPGs are played.

    True, it would never be as *complex* as PCs can be, and as such will never replace PC MMORPGS, but I could present an argument that if you have to play with four full layers of hotkeys stacked up that, as a developer, you are starting to miss the mark when it comes to complexity in play.

    One way you can help get to this is with hard drives or flash memory on consoles where you can store customized chains of actions rather than have to individually perform 15 different movements. Or hell, incorporate voice commands into spellcasting along with movement. These aren’t portable systems such that you’re going to have to worry about shouting in public the way you have to do with some current DS games.

    If Sony and Microsoft decide in the next generation or two to follow Nintendo when it comes to control schemes, you’ll see some intrepid developer take the plunge with a radical control scheme on new controller hardware, possibly incorporating voice.

    Unlike the last post here, this one is not just possible, but likely within the next two generations of consoles. Given the large potential market, this is a given.

  4. I don’t know what to tell you guys. I open up Firefox. I start LoTRO or WOW (not windowed, full screen). Mid-game, when I need to swap to the browser . . . alt-tab. Bang, I’m out to the browser. When I’m done, click on the game down on the taskbar and bang, back in.

    Are you guys seriously saying that doesn’t work for you?

  5. Most games allow you to Alt-Tab and minimize the game correctly. Older games did not, but I usually play in a window anyway, so no issue for me switching back and forth.

  6. dont agree with this, with the old ps2 u could play online monter hunter with a usb keyboard….
    “Sure the PC gets all the best games”
    question, are you the GOD of humans to decide what is good and what is not? cause i like soul calibur and tekken online, but i cant find them on your godly platform.
    this article fails, try harder.

  7. Well I dont see why they don’t make the game cost a little more and give you a wireless keyboard and mouse like with guitar hero you have to buy the seperate guitar controller you know what i’m saying. it’s that simple really.

  8. Problems with premise as follows:

    Communication – The XBOX360 comes with a headset.
    I Have used it with no problems. Keyboards are lame.

    Interface – Contollers can accomplish what is needed, provided the game has
    a user adjustable interface. 8 buttons is a low count. 10, 14, 20, 24?
    Combo buttons can achieve the same goals as hot keys and actually be more
    of a challenge.(GAME??!!)

    Fees – This is a response to a strange point. There is no monthly fee for
    XBOX Live Gold. (unless you divide $49.95 by 12, Then it would be $4.16)
    Sony online does not compare to XBOX Live. (Silver??)
    If an MMORPG was sold for $59.95, that would be more than a year of ‘Live’.
    (Guild Wars anyone?)

    Information – While playing online, most people I know, have:
    a.) Shortcut to Windows/Internet.
    b.) Second PC. (Laptop, PC2, PC3, etc…)
    While playing WOW, or any other MMORPG, in battle,
    do you really don’t have time to surf?
    NO TIME!??! (“Should of thought of that earlier, dude!!”)

    Competition – A great (or even good AKA acceptable) MMORPG would most
    undoubtedly be welcomed and enjoyed by many current PC gamers.(We love Game)

    System Hog – What? Only one TV? Please.

    I am not partial to any one system.(I only can speak from my own experience)
    It would be great to have a functional MMORPG on a console,
    I think It is possible, and should be done.
    Just think of all the (more) money these companies could be making.

    This is one persons opinion at one given point in time. This opinion is not
    the opinion of the original poster, this website, or even my dog. (I think)

  9. How does system cost factor into the equation? It seems to me that users pay less for new consoles compared to new PCs. It seems like there could be a greater consumer audience for console game versions.

    As software evolves it requires greater system abilities. And it seems less expensive to buy the latest console every two or three years rather than a new PC. It just makes sense to me that publishers could profit more heavily from console versions because it seems likely that there is a larger audience.

    That factor, I hope, will drive developers to work out the communication and interface challenges.

  10. I wouldn’t mind an mgs mmo for the 360. Counting thumb pad, bumpers, triggers, d pad, and stick clicks, you have up to 18 buttons, and if built from the ground up…I think Ms could make a 5/mo killing. I would like to see something designed for consoles, not a port.

  11. I have to disagree with you on this one man, i will admit i am not a long time gamer seeing as im only 17 but that doesnt mean im not a fan of mmorpgs, ive played most large scale mmos such as DAoC, WoW (which sucks i might add >.>), EQ, AoC and so on so although i may not have as much experience as most gamers who have been playing for years i get the main idea of it…there was one thing that really stuck out to me in this article which was the communication part of it…most xbox 360 owner (Im speaking only for xbox 360 because that is all i own at the moment) has a headset, its standard when you buy one and also about the control, hasnt anyone thought of buying a usb keyboard/mouse, sure they may be a bit expensive but its well worth the money besides have you not seen the system requirements for most new games coming ot to the PC? in my personal opinion it cost a hell of a lot more to upgrade your pc just to keep with the new age games coming out than it is to spend maybe a total of $50-60 dollars. Which brings me to what you were saying about cost, personally i think Daojedi said it perfectly “Fees – This is a response to a strange point. There is no monthly fee for
    XBOX Live Gold. (unless you divide $49.95 by 12, Then it would be $4.16)
    Sony online does not compare to XBOX Live. (Silver??)
    If an MMORPG was sold for $59.95, that would be more than a year of ‘Live’.
    (Guild Wars anyone?) i really couldnt have said it better myself, again i just thought id add my own opinion into this and maybe give an idea of what us younger gamers are going into so please dont insult me on my ideas or opinions…this isnt youtube people >.>

  12. Whatever if Nintendo even started a rumor that Zelda the MMORPG was on the way people would be out in the highway
    for days do get a copy of it. Not making their biggest names into the biggest game market of it’s time is stupid..STUPID.
    Final Fantasy online is still one of the top 3 mmorpgs out there
    and is in no way in trouble of dyeing soon, so that whole argument is total bullshit.

  13. The problem is not so much what the console can’t do but what people expect from it. An MMO on a console only falls down if you are thinking of it in terms of traditional PC based MMO’s…i.e. a keyboard to chat, loads of quests that need constant help from external sites, too many skills to use at any one time…monthly payments aren’t required…guild wars managed to survive without it.

    Let’s look at possibilties….

    Communication: well most players who are already playing console games online will inevitably have a headset. Realm-wide communication wouldn’t be possible but nor would it be needed. inter-group communications via headsets would be fine. Different channels can be switched between via a menu to go between guild chat and group/party chat.

    Point and Click abilities: Maybe it would be a problem but there are ways around this. Combo’s of button presses on the controller would increase it’s range (i.e. X may be one but LT+X or RT+X will be separate controls etc…)

    Simplicity of game: A console game may not need to have all the bells and whistles a PC games needs to be successful. It doesn’t have to be a Warcraft clone to be an MMO, fantasy isn’t the only setting and why not appeal to console’s main online audience as a 1st person shooter? BF2142 or an even better example is Tabula Rasa (which should have been a console game rather than a PC one in my eyes). There can still be missions (quests) manufacturing (proffessions) and instanced raids as well as the all important PvP aspect. What makes an MMO playable is the constant need to upgrade gear, explore new areas and group up with fellow gamers to take on that uber-hard boss. Why can’t this be done in a tactical based shooter game?

    As far as longevity of games goes for consoles, yes there are a great many games coming out each month, but there are still people playing COD4 rather than the new one, simply because they are familiar with it and they may not afford the new one just yet…if an MMO is popular enough then it will still be played, and the company can release new material via downloadable content and i’m sure they can fathom some way of incorporating hard-drive use to store information and game data makign access quicker and expansion packs possible etc…

    The approach just needs to be different, and thought out for a console market not to compete with what a PC offers and i’m sure it could be very successful if done right. It doesn’t need to be as in-depth as WoW to be a good game, but different would make it unique and a different option. Let’s hope someone has the bottle to take the idea further and to make a good job of it.

  14. Anyone heard of EQoa for PS2 ? lol where have you all been
    That game is frickin awesome too bad the population is too low. Didn’t advertise enough maybe.

    And yes it was easier to cast all spells with a controller.

    I am dieing for another Mmorpg to come onto console.

    They would Sell 2 more ps3’s or xbox360 whatever to me.
    Just for one good mmorpg i would buy 2 systems!
    for wife and i.

    lates yo. :)

  15. listen kotor 3 has just been announced as an mmorpg
    it will come to 360 and pc with the large xbox live community if im right people will be queing for hours to get a copy if they put enough effort into it its the next wow if they even so much as think of monthly fees nobody will buy it

    but my point is consoles can cut it

  16. You know that Age of Conan are gonna come to xbox 360. So, i hope this will be a good game. Cose it would be fun to how a mmorpg game will work at a consol=) Cant wait!

  17. MMO’s like Warcraft, dont make good games for console solely because of the type of game it is (point and click). Games which are more action based (like Fabkle, Overlord, Zelda) would be good consoles.

    Communication- would be a problem, if you want to talk to your friends that are online but no where near you

    Interface- can be adjust depending on how the game is built, like MMOFPS

    Fees- this one is complicated and proabably will be the major issuse for any MMO, regaurdless of platform

    Competition- not much of a standing argument. there are plently of gamer that would buy a (good) MMO on a console

  18. hmmmm most of those reason aren’t really anthing to worry about
    and i can imagine a controller easily being able to work with these types of games
    not eight buttons
    actually a minimum of 14 on modern console controllers

  19. Communication – Xbox live has voice comms

    Interface – Oh please, WoW is more like a console game than a PC one

    Fees – It would either be covered by the xbox live subscription or a small additional fee would be added using xbox points.

    Information – That will change and it won’t be any great loss. More community within the game perhaps as people seek info from other people.

    Competition – This is actually a good point, console games don’t have the same staying power, however halo is evidence that it is possible.

    System Hog – There are far too many people on xbox live who just sit there and play for hours and hours. I for one plan to join them as soon as this: http://www.gamespot.com/news/6129036.html comes out

  20. I think an mmorpg would work perfectly fine on a console seeing as if u utube WoW xbox 360 controller ppl manage to play WoW perfectly with a controller and for hot keys they could be like kingdom hearts click like the L button and theres ur actions. theres more ppl on consoles than pcs and lastly u mentioned a tv hog well two factors one almost everyone has tvs all of their houses and two ever thought about someone hogging the pc most ppl have more tvs than pcs so this proves that consoles can work they just need better advertisement for mmos cause i havent even heard about any released till i read this

  21. I believe that as consoles continue to evolve the mmorpg genre will eventually port to them. I feel this way for two main reasons. The Wii’s controller, as well as the 360’s NaTall peripheral. Both use body movent for input, which means casting spells by handgesture, or in the NaTall’s case, by use of vocal command as well. Of course eithre peripheral could be developed for the PC and/or MAC as well, but.. they haven’t. Voice communication is already included in online console gaming so there is no need for Vent.

    The main hurdle I see, and it has been mention in the opining post, is the subscription costs associated with mmorpg’s. It would take one killer game for me to want to pay both my Live subscription, as well as an additional subscription for an RPG.. but this can be handled (in my opinion) but offering a diferent type of subscription. Say for instance call it RPLive and have a price bracket est $20/month.. $55/3month.. and $100/semi-annual, which would be close to paying both subscriptions, while reflecting the disounts for buying in ‘bulk’.

    Of course, this may sound ignorant to some, and it may well be, but it’s my 2 cents

  22. All you need to do is add USB keyboard/mouse support to the 360…..it cant be that hard (listening Microsoft?)……. and port it. The 360 after all is a closed loop PC.

  23. You know, all things aside EQOA for the PS2 was a very functional MMORPG on a console and had a rather large following until Sony slowed updates and stopped putting effort into the game on their end.

    So it can be done, and has been done.

    *Shrug* Im sure its just a matter of time before there is a new one. All the new consoles and all.

  24. While some points are valid, such as the multiple applications that can run while on a PC MMO (web browser along side is the big one), I disagree with the lack of controls to use.

    EndWar has a very unique voice command system that has worked flawlessly for me with a little practice pronouncing my words correctly. This game is also an online multiplayer. I don’t see why the next gen of MMO’s couldn’t incorporate this as well, hit one key on your controller/keyboard and use speech commands to activate abilities.

    An example could be like this:

    for Spells:
    Hit required button: say “cast x”
    X could be spell name, or an associated number ID for faster commands

    Hit required button: say “use x”
    see x description above

    Hit required button: say “drink x”
    see x description above

    This is basic, but it shows that it could possibly work on both consoles AND pc’s (since most PC users tend to use a headset for TS/Vent anyway, and console gamers usually aquire a headset for online shooters).

  25. Is everyone thick? lol games arent about having the same old control system and graphic resolution, the gaming industry is adapting and these adaptions are what seems to be making things sell these days.
    First of all communication is getting simpler on consoles with ways like the headset or the xbox 360s controller keypad, also keyboards can be plugged in using the usb ports on the consoles.
    And the communication is clearly linked with networks like the ps3s or the famous xbox live and the less popular wii wi-fi.
    As for controls, who says you have to have bars for skills, final fantasy style menus would fit all of that in and things like shortcut buttons and combos could simply be customised and used. Besides if the action was real time like final fantasy 12 had then that idea wouldnt be so different from what already exists in mmos. Even better depending on class etc you could have different control styles. For example the typical warrior class could have ninja-gaiden like controls and the mage class could alernate weapon choice of magic (hold trigger and button combo kinda thing) or staff (just normal button pressing). Using a console would even increase the range of characters that could be included with inspirations from other genres such as first-person shooter which would bring in a larger audience and lift the stereotype slightly that mmorpgs are for geeks. Ultimately for many people grinding levels would be far more entertaining and less frustrating if controls like this were introduced.
    Anyway since i didn’t intend on even reading let alone commenting on this kinda thing im gonna go ahead and shut up now haha.

  26. Oh yeah and in terms of movement, anyone heard of an analogue stick? haha directional arrow buttons could be used to move the screen around if its really necessary and analogue could move the character. If you prefer point and click then just look at games like halo wars, command and conquer, tales of monkey island they are all point and click type games so its not impossible to create an mmorpg at all just think outside of the box

  27. With you saying not possible to change screen to see a screen or map and stuff like that, it is possible if you think about it and create your own game interface for the controller that could work…Like console games like Final Fantasy 12, you just need to push the Select to go to the map and Select to go back with as well looking at different map types by hitting other buttons, I don’t think it should be hard to make an MMRPG for a console…I’m pretty sure if someone just design a good interface (which may include using all controller buttons) can be the best experience ever in an MMORPG…I sure would like to see an MMO where party’s can perform team combo attacks ^^

  28. Just thought I would mention that the Xbox 360 has a keyboard that attaches to your controller called a chat pad, for all those saying that it needs a cheap usb keyboard.

    The chatpad is small, cheap (imo) and attachesdirectly to your xbox controller so no shuffling between controller and keyboard. I use mine all the time mid-game when I don’t feel like plugging in my headset.

  29. I truly think the future of gaming is mmo’s on consoles. 1st as far as the interface if u for instance hold a trigger button in conjunction w another button u have @ least 24 more function keys so thats doable. I have both Sony’s & Microsoft’s consoles & both communities want this & r willing to pay for a quality product as long as its reasonably priced. I think for developers its a matter of execution somebody’s got to be 1st & no one wants to be remembered for failing. Bottom line its going to happen someday and its about time for companies to adjust to what gamers want instead of the sure sell. Innovation and execution are all that matters ppl will play if its fun & they can experience that with they’re friends.

  30. Technically an rpg is any game where you play in the role of a character, and also technically Call of Duty is an MMO, yet also has a campaign, so therefore Call of Duty is a console MMORPG.

  31. if they make it exclusive for say ps3 I think it could be a great success, and im hoping the new ff XIV will open up the console market for mmorpg, I dont think it will be as big a success as wow has been on the pc, but it might open up the genre, now what im hoping is that say Bioware, will release a couple more dragon age games and than make a online version, I like playing mmorpg’s but sitting on the pc for several hrs a day playing wow just wont cut it with real life and relationship wise, gaming on ps3 is more social and way more justifiable for some reason. I wouldent mind buying a wireless keyboard and mouse and a head set for say dragon age online ( being they made the lore abit more specific) and if dragon age 2 is a success and they manage to keep the series alive the fan base should become even larger, even a call of duty mmorpg might work, there should be no problem getting a steady customer base, being the current franchise is vastly popular all over the world, if they have the budget and have a team working on it while they keep the series alive i think one day in the future mmorpg’s can make its way to the consoles!

  32. The reason MMORPGS haven’t hit it big on consoles yet is because decent quality MMORPGS haven’t been released on consoles. Once they are, they will slowly but surely erode the PC Base until ultimately the PC versions become a niche, hard core market for people who demand the myriad options and complicated dynamics that keyboards and mice offer.

    How do I know this will happen? Because it basically has happened with EVERY video game genre. It’s a basic trend of the industry.

  33. *sigh*

    I think it’d be pretty easy…

    Look, everyone is thinking “point and click” and have all those bars for your skills… you don’t need that…

    Here’s how I think it could work:

    1. Selling game in bundles with a controller keyboard with it and/or a headset.
    And selling the game by itself.
    Now you got what you need for communication, you can talk to anyone anywhere with the keyboard and people around you with the headset.

    2. The Control Scheme –

    (If they give you the ability to custmize at least some the controls that’d be even better.)

    Back/Select button: can serve many purposes but the map seems like a good purpose.

    Start: Bring up your menu with tabs, quest friends list item and all that stuff.

    Left Analog: Character Movement
    Right Analog: Camera Movement (and similar function as in kingdom hearts 2 i cant remember if kingdom hearts 1 had the saame kind of controls)

    R3/Right Analog Click or L3/Left Analog Click: for changing chat channels?

    Left Trigger: (Kingdom hearts again)

    Right trigger (kingdom hearts)

    A/X: Action

    X/Square: attack (and similar to kingdom hearts Look it up if your wondering :P)

    Triangle: idk i have to go dang

    but see how it can work?

    yeah :P

Comments are closed.