Blizzard discusses console MMOG pitfalls

Rob Pardo says hard drive space and business model problems are big obstacles to non-PC massively multiplayer games--but promises the market will flourish eventually.

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Many developers have tried to tap into the relatively untouched console massively multiplayer market, but few have succeeded. Microsoft scrapped its Xbox-bound True Fantasy Live Online in 2004 and its Xbox 360-bound Marvel Universe Online project in February 2008. Funcom promised an Xbox 360 release of Age of Conan after its PC release in May 2008, but it has yet to materialize.

One notable exception is Square Enix's Final Fantasy XI, which is available on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 2 as well as the PC. The Japanese publisher has apparently had enough success on consoles that it announced a new massively multiplayer online role-playing game for the PlayStation 3 and PC, Final Fantasy XIV Online, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo earlier this month. Later, Square Enix executives also said they would be open to bringing the game to the 360 as well.

Rob Pardo, executive vice president of game design at Blizzard Entertainment.

However, the biggest MMORPG publisher in the world isn't in a rush to bring its properties to consoles. In an interview with trade site Industry Gamers, Blizzard Entertainment executive vice president Rob Pardo outlined the obstacles that have discouraged the World of Warcraft maker from doing so.

"There's a lot of challenges. I'd say challenge number one 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," Pardo said. "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. That's something cloud computing could eventually solve, but in the current generation of consoles that's a lot to deal with. You'd have to eat almost the entire hard drive, and there are Xbox consoles [sold to consumers] that don't have hard drives."

Pardo also believes that MMOG developers shy away from the console market because console makers would want a prohibitively large slice of the monthly subscription pie. Still, he thinks that massively multiplayer games will ultimately arrive on consoles--and will flourish.

"The other big issue is the business model. Right now, Microsoft and Sony charge platform fees for retail, but if you do an MMOG there and it's subscription-based, they're going to want a cut of the subscription revenue too, and so that becomes a hurdle," Pardo said. "So there's definitely a lot of hurdles right now for doing MMOGs on a console, but it all can be overcome and I think in the next generation of consoles it'll be much easier."

In the interview, the executive VP also said that Microsoft approached Blizzard for "advice in the MMOG area," though it is unclear for what project. Similar comments ignited a firestorm of rumors at the Game Developers Conference this past March--until the developer-publisher shut them down.

Discussion

100 comments
Lone_Wolf94
Lone_Wolf94

wtf... I predict that this will be an EPIC FAILURE!! because most MMO belong on Pc (Not macs or consoles), unless you give all the consoles a keyboard compatibility (xbox360..) and mouse compatibility. i would no see this working, since most MMO need a mouse function and a way to chat, know that they could use mics but i could not seeing some people, like me spending 50$ for a mic and using it alot... yes there would be the profits but why would i spend 15$ a month(WoW) why there some other good ps1 games and free MMO out there...

Incubus420
Incubus420

I think this is a big deal. MMORPG's are a great bang for your buck and is also the single handed reason why Blizzard is one of the most profitable gaming companies out there. The monthly subscriptions are key to seeing profits. However console players won't invest as much time as hardcore computer gamers. A good reason why they should create content for consoles could be a solid way to get more players (kids) interested in MMORPG's. I think this first test of a Solid MMORPG on this new generation of systems will be shown in FF14. Then Blizzard can make a decision from there.

bowlingotter
bowlingotter

@LewyDeng2: They are... and it's becoming more and more evident the more non-game content continues to roll out for consoles

citybeat1200
citybeat1200

this would not work because you would need keyborad a mouse and a bigger harddrive and the biggist is 120gb on xbox and then u will have to pay for XBL gold the then pay fees per month to play wow and yes u will have to buy the game so the way i see it TO MUCH MONEY IN THE END

prioritymail
prioritymail

I think I would play the 360 version of FF14

zunit88
zunit88

@-Unreal- actually Xbox Live does have 20 million subscribers for a service but not all of them have the gold membership so not all 20 million can play online games

fiskefyren
fiskefyren

so ehm... who cares? i dont play MMO's and i never will so... meh, i dont really care and everyone else that plays a MMO is going it on a pc so... yeah...

LewyDeng2
LewyDeng2

So....according to jpsaply, consoles seem to be becoming more and more like actual desktop cpus

jpsaply
jpsaply

Revan said:" Besides it will not work with the X360 controller, WoW with that no way." No need for a controller since Most usb keyboards work with 360. They just need to implement the games to use them.

Revan_911
Revan_911

Don't see why this is necessary. WoW can be played on almost any computer no matter how old it is. Besides it will not work with the X360 controller, WoW with that no way.

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

Regarding the Subscription required for a console MMO, dont you think MS should subsidise this by use of our Gold Subscriptions, just a though, but i think it would be a great move by MS personally.

jpsaply
jpsaply

Since we are on the topic of WoW. I played it for 3 years. It wasnt the content that attracted me, as the content textures and parts are recycled throughout the game, but from day one I made many friends on that game. It was the friends who kept me going. To this day, I play with allot of those friends in other MMO's. The morall of the story, its not always content that drives a MMO, but the community.

cyborg100000
cyborg100000

Icehearted, I don't think anyone's going to play a game for so long if they don't enjoy it. Many people enjoy WoW and see it for more than a grind fest. You're just an idiot if you play it for so long and see it as work.

Icehearted
Icehearted

[quote]Why did you even bother paying 12-15$ a month to play the game for 3 years if you didn't enjoy it. I'm sorry but i'll call BS on this one![/quote] One of the things people will often say when you don't enjoy WoW is that you "have to give it more time" or "you're just starting out" or "the best stuff is in there but it could take you months to get to it". I gave it years, and figured out by expansion #2 that no matter what I was doing, it was all the same, and none of it was any fun. The game is an endless road of chores, and nothing in the high level instances changed that, and I to get there. You don't have to believe me, but there are a lot of people that still play that mess and confess freely that it's a grind-o-rama, and nothing more.

-Unreal-
-Unreal-

Xbox Live has 20 million subscribers for a service allowing players to play an entire catalogue of games online at a very small fee per year (in comparison to WoW). Yet WoW costs more per year, is a single game, is a PC game (apparently the PC was dying yeah?) and still manages to reach over 11 million subscribers. You need to take this, and what i said down this page, into consideration when bringing an MMO over to the consoles.

uberjannie
uberjannie

@skunkpants : you will soon ; The agency @gamespot : you forgot to mention that The Agency is coming to the PS3 as well.

Gamerz1569
Gamerz1569

If mmos come to consoles then I expect subscription fees to be around 20$ to compensate for the chunk MS or Sony will get.

Khasym
Khasym

nurse_tsunami Not as true as it was once. MS' community games section, gives out a lot of tools to develop a mod or addon for MMO's. The biggest hurdle for it though, is that the mods would be evaluated by Microsoft, not the game makers. There's a lot of trust that would have to be established between an MMO and MS to get that kind of access, but it can be done.

pwnzord
pwnzord

Wow that was a waste of time. Console gaming tough. They want money. I think we make console gaming sometime. The End. Seriously? This isn't worth the digital space it takes up.

Melty123
Melty123

MMOG on console I love the idea because I'm bored of playing them on my PC and I like X360 better than my PC. Hope they make some good games on X360.

skunkpants
skunkpants

I have a PS3 and a 360 and I don't want to see a MMOG on either of them. It feels like they will dumb down on the interface to meet the limitations of a controller if they choose that path and if you have to port a keyboard and mouse then I have to get a table to use them on infront of my gaming chair :( I rather play MMO's on my laptop where I have all the keys and can customise the commands and macros.

nurse_tsunami
nurse_tsunami

One big hurdle I would think with a console version of WoW would be all the add-ons and interface mods that people have developed over the years and people have come to depend on. I think the customization that WoW offers has helped make it a success among many. Also Pardo is right that a current console controller would probably be too limiting in a MMO, especially for things like raids and such. Still, it would be cool to see some come next gen.

TrayaFrost
TrayaFrost

Zloth2: Wow may be an older game, but that's exactly why it takes up so much space. It has five years worth of content and two expansions. It will be a lot bigger than a fresh new MMO. Somewhere around 10gigs after five years is not bad at all. Thats plenty of time to save up for a bigger drive if you really need that space. Not to mention most people have the 40-60gig ps3's. Sony would want a part of the subscription fee. That does not mean they are entitled to it. Whether or not sony got part of the fee for FFXI on the ps2 doesnt even matter since it did not raise the monthly fee (less than WoW). So you want be seeing any higher than normal fees. So yes getting online for free is VERY relevant. Because its incredibly hard to go grab the keyboard from the other room and plug it in. Or god forbid you spend 20 dollars on a keyboard thats 30 bucks cheaper than a extra controller.

Zloth2
Zloth2

Midnightshade29: PS3 minimum hard drive size is 20 gig so even an older game like WoW takes up half of it. Sony will want a CUT of the subscription fee. Whether you can get online free or not is irrelevant. (XBox Silver can get online just fine for free.) PS3's built-in keyboard/mouse support are pretty irrelevant if people don't have a keyboard or mouse to plug in. And how many consoles out there are at a desk where you can use them?

NeoTaintedAngel
NeoTaintedAngel

Rob Pardo! World of Warcraft needs your love again! Hopefully he won't get moved off the next MMO team like they moved him off the WoW team after patch 1.12. That was a moronic move, Blizzard.

Midnightshade29
Midnightshade29

Solution....PS3.... Hard Disk on every system minimum selling at 80gb...PS3 will not run without a hard drive unlike the 360. PS3 has no subscription fee for online gaming, making a mmo sub more tolerable, who is going to put out for 2 monthly subscriptions? PS3 has built in keyboard and mouse support, it works with unreal torn 3. Ps3 also has linux, technically if sony gave access to the rsx, the ps3 could run wow at max with little effort and full kb/mouse support on linux....but that isn't going to happen. Personally I could care less. My pc can run crysis at high settings at 1920x1200 and wow bores me! But I will get Final Fantasy 14 though....love me some FF and this is built for the console too, so it will work! Actually the ps3 has a slew of mmos coming to it, DC universe online, The agency, Free realms and FF14...... wow is getting old and I don't see what's so fun once you max level you spend way to much time for some item you may not get if your luck isn't on that night once the boss mob is killed...risk vs. reward is terrible at that point.

Genodude
Genodude

I doubt that even if WoW was eventually ported onto consoles that it'd have any vast amount of popularity....

2bitSmOkEy
2bitSmOkEy

@peachka2 what you say is true for ALL of blizzard's games. Go ask a professional warcraft 3 or starcraft player to use a gamepad in their next big match. Not happening. It might sound like pc elitism but its true, the pc simply has more buttons and more precise controls. You can move a mouse alot quicker than you can a gamepad thumb.

Leonagard
Leonagard

ok I see that the wiselly ones will come to play Diablo 3 and forget about MMOs soon as it hit the stores

peachka2
peachka2

The keyboard and controller issue varies depending on what you like. Take wow for example. A big portion of it's player base derives from PvP. I guarantee you if you play on a controller in a bg or arena with people on a keyboard, you will get destroyed. Personally i keybind about 10 keys and use shift for a secondary skill on each of those keys (and find myself wishing for more). If you aren't into pvp, well then it's a different issue, only time you need to be on top of your game is with certain fights (heigan dance for example), unless you are in a random group with idiots that is. A controller would drive me crazy, but that's because i love pvp and i'm very competative.

haichuu
haichuu

I don't see HDD size being a issue. I personally have a 500 gig in my PS3 and a 120 gig in my 360 so 10 gigs is not a big deal in the slightest... I played FFXI for over 5 yrs starting on my PS2 (which I now have 500 gigs in as well btw) and when it came on the 360 I played it on that as well (depending on the Tv I got to use for the day, my wife played her account on the other system but at the same time). Mouse input can be simulated well enough that it works on a controller, and while it may not be as accurate it certainly gets the job done (I actually have a friend who played FFXI on the PC and used a PS2 controller until I got her a 360 controller w/ the wireless gaming receiver). For communication and text based commands (including macro sets), I used a mini USB keyboard that worked on both my 360 and my PS2 (and still use for input on my PS3, 360, and Wii). So the way I look at it is that they are having pricing issues (aka they don't want to pay to put it on the consoles...) Kinda sad really there have been a few MMO's that I've really wanted to try but am not willing (aka to lazy to get a computer up to speed to run it. My current computer barely plays WOW, and on top of that I would need 2 of them for my wife to play as well) to give them a chance, because its not on consoles... Unfortunately I have been converted to the dark and will break down and get some computers up and running so I can play Star Wars: The Old Republic...

NobleEskimo
NobleEskimo

If an MMO came to the 360, I would have to choose between installing that game or keeping my Rock Band tracks.

mouthforbathory
mouthforbathory

A big draw of gaming on PCs is the ability to game on an easily portable notebook, assuming it has the GPU power to make a game run. Plenty of WoW gamers are playing on their notebooks they otherwise use for school. Since WoW is pretty low end hardware friendly, you have a rather large potential base, and it's the same for Sims fans. You think some college girl or mom is going to want to have to buy a console and be able to only use it on an HDTV at home? No, they can easily get it up and running on their laptop. Laptops are very convenient, and quickly catching up to desktops in terms of capability/dollar. I have the same mentality with laptops I do with desktops: you already have to have the computer for the practical reasons, and the cost of getting a console on the side can get you a much better video card that can easily out do either the PS3 or 360. There is an MSI laptop on Newegg that's only $750 dollars with a decent Core 2 Duo, Radeon 4670 with 512 MB GDDR3 VRAM, 4 GBs DDR2 RAM, 320 GB Hard Drive, and a 16.4 in screen, and best of all it's easily portable and much more capable than an Xbox 360 plus it already has the screen attached. No HDTV needed, and it's capable of doing better than 720p rendering easily. And yes, MS has very little control over what a PC developer can truly do. No PC developer has to use Direct X, they can use OpenGL, and of course there are games that also support Mac OS X and Linux. WoW natively supports Mac OS X. PC may be a bit more of a hassle for devs and the gamers, but the rewards I think are better, not to mention it's potentially more powerful. I do fear Steam is becoming the next Xbox Live though, however Valve has stayed very humble it seems, and games on their are never more expensive than retail box copies, they're usually cheaper.

-Celeste-
-Celeste-

I "played" wow for abut 3 years and never enjoyed a minute of it. Oh I tried, but no matter what I did it was always about the same thing... grinding and fetching. ---- Why did you even bother paying 12-15$ a month to play the game for 3 years if you didn't enjoy it. I'm sorry but i'll call BS on this one!

-Celeste-
-Celeste-

Why does everyone say you need a Gold XBL subscription to play MMO's on consoles? FFXI doesn't require a Gold subscription. Secondly, why is the guy at blizzard assuming that console makers would want a piece of the subscription fees if blizzard has NEVER put an MMO on the console. Why wouldn't it be just like a regular game where they get a cut of the actual game data sold. Christ, these games already run 60$ in addition to the monthly fee. The ONLY way i would see console makers wanting a cut of console MMO's is if it somehow used either XBL or PSN to setup groups, chat, or whatever that is independant of the actual game. Both X360 and PS3 allow connection to the internet by bypassing both the PSN and XBL servers.

ropumar
ropumar

Microsoft canceled lots of mmorpg and age of conan on 360 was a myth. Sony with free realms/agency and DC universe will own console mmorpg. At least until SE launches FF14. And Sony wasn't cheap like Microsoft and released hard drive on every console with easy upgrade options and superb keyboard support, so blizzard issues are only about the 360. But the question is it really necessary a console mmorpg? I think that anyone interest in mmorpg pretty much has a gaming PC or is playing WoW in moms laptop.

point-n-shoot31
point-n-shoot31

@smzel I think if Microsoft would put out an MMOG on the console, I would believe that our Xbox Live accounts would cover the online play since the money we pay goes straight to Xbox Live anyway. Its only if a third party publisher were to put out an MMOG on a console would we be paying for both Live and monthly subscriptions to that specific game.

henry4th
henry4th

First of all, Blizzard never made a console MMORPG, so it's not in real position to say it won't work. Second, all the problems it outlined only applies to Xbox360. As to PS3... 1 it supports key board and mouse input already. 2 it has way more than 10GB of harddisk 3. You don't have to pay stupid xbox live 4. A number of MMORPGs are coming out for ps3. 5. screw WOW

Decrate
Decrate

you need a keyboard to play an mmorpg. with all the different menu options and controls and all the macros you make, theres no way to fit it on a console controller.

hatieshorrer
hatieshorrer

In other words Blizzard wont port WOW to a console.

caocca
caocca

I think the problems are REAL problems because they're the ones making the games not you "Icylobster". I mean, they are pros but aside that the problems he mention seem rational because they are MMO (MASIVE remember) games not only for people who have xbox with hard drives duh! and why would they help microsoft getting profits if they developed the game but also they would be helping microsoft sales go up and they're gonna charge for that? doesn't make sence to me...

Icylobster
Icylobster

From what I can think of and have read these are just excuses and not real problems. How hard is it to connect a keyboard and mouse in the xbox usb port (for example). Also if you actually get a console without a hard drive and expect to game a lot on it your wrong, anyone that is serious has a hard drive and the hard drives that are available work. I really don't understand why everyone is saying its such a hard task. There must be something that I'm really not seeing, if knows the big problem please tell me because I'm clueless. As far as monthly fees go, they really aren't that bad, they look a lot worse than they really are. If you find an mmo that you actually like and play then chances are your getting your moneys worth. To see a movie in theaters its around $10 for 2hrs of entertainment, that's expensive compared to this.

smzel
smzel

It sucks to have them on 360 since your paying for live and the game.

PabloEscobar20
PabloEscobar20

WoW is evil,it sucks u in and then its hard to get out lol,i barely quit after 3 years of playing.

nappan
nappan

@Icehearted & @Innoconnux: Yep... MMOs are futility on a disc. Inconnux is right however, only the clicking of a keyboard and mouse acts as the proper metronome as your time and life slip away into the ether(net?). I played EQ, and tried WoW. They are quite simply the same games. Yes, there are changes here and there, but it's the same fundamental experience, unvaried, uniform, and en masse. It's horroible. :/

Icehearted
Icehearted

[quote]but for a $60 disc, you may get 10 hours of playtime on a new game, then it's old, and you never play it anymore[/quote] I "played" wow for abut 3 years and never enjoyed a minute of it. Oh I tried, but no matter what I did it was always about the same thing... grinding and fetching. I payed $62 on two games for my 360, GTA4, and Mass Effect, both of which I've clocked in well over 100hrs each (amazingly), and I can say that the time spent on those games were easily above and beyond clicking numbers and macros to collect Murlock fins or Defias headbands or other such junk objects over and over again. Look at it like MMO = bulk oatmeal for a month vs $60 game = eating out for a week. One will get tiresome way before another, and I still struggle to call what WoW offers as "game play".

FinalDuo1886
FinalDuo1886

Most people I know that are into MMORPG's prefer PC over the console, which is mainly cause of the fact that you don't have too go out of pocket and buy a new HDD just for one game. If the profits go down, then I can see it happening. But WOW is still holding strong with just being a online PC MMORPG. Why do I get the feeling that Activision has a big part in this.