While it doesn't expect the controller to suddenly usurp the keyboard and mouse's position as the best way to play real-time strategy games, Relic Games has come up with what it calls a "plausible solution" for making the genre work on consoles.
"There was always a talk of strategy games on console," Relic game director Quinn Duffy told Eurogamer. "We were just like, 'Oh my God, how do you do that?' We think we came up with a plausible solution, which I'm not going to talk about. There's some stuff that's been back burnered for years because we wanted to see how technology, the market, control and touch emerged. Hopefully we will be positioned to adapt to some of that."
Relic is known as one of the preeminent developers of real-time strategy games on PC, having developed the Company of Heroes, Homeworld, and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War series. It's developed a pair of games, The Outfit and Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, for consoles, but neither was a strategy game (though The Outfit did contain some strategic elements).
Consoles have historically been a difficult place for strategy games to establish a foothold. Halo Wars stands out as one of the few strategy games to enjoy much success on consoles, but it's also been five years since it was released without any word on a sequel, save for Xbox head Phil Spencer expressing interest in eventually making one. Spencer has also said he expects RTS games on consoles to see a resurgence during this generation.
Duffy doesn't foresee an RTS coming out that allows console and PC players to play against one another because of the advantage PC players would have, but he does see many of the existing elements of RTS games working on consoles. That said, he noted, "But not in the same way. There would need to be some changes."
"The things I love about Company of Heroes on the presentation side would translate, no problem. But the tactical squad control and cover, those would be harder to mechanically translate to a control pad, " he added. "It's exciting. We've got an idea."
Lest you begin to think this is evidence that Relic is already working on an RTS for consoles (seeing it work on Halo Wars is a dream of mine), Duffy shot down the notion. "It's not an admission that we'd ever want to put it on console, but we think we've found a plausible way of doing it," he said.
Relic is currently at work on a standalone expansion for Company of Heroes 2, Company of Heroes 2: The Western Front Armies (pictured above). It's due out on PC on June 24 and introduces new U.S. and German forces.