Consoles and the MMOG Industry

The title may be more extreme than intended, but if the marketing teams of some big name companies are to be believed, 2009 (or perhaps 2010) will be the “Year of The Console MMOG.” *Cue loud bombastic music!* Normally after hearing a statement like this, it would take all of my self control to avoid pointing and snickering like a group of junior high cheerleaders watching the fat kid scarf down his lunch. For all of those that are currently trying to contain your own laughter, I understand completely.

But, believe it or not, the marketing groups may not be lying this time.

For well over 10 years, we've all heard how PC gaming is dead, consoles will rule the world, and Duke Nuke 'Em Forever is almost ready for release. PC gaming may have its slumps, consoles are certainly more popular now than they have ever been and Duke... well, that dead horse has been the butt of more jokes and taken more beatings than Pee Wee Herman (I couldn't resist). In spite of my normal reaction when the idea of MMOG's on consoles is brought up, there are some signs that the concept should be taken seriously by everyone.

Wasn't Huxley suppose to be out over 2 years ago?

First and foremost, a number of companies are getting involved in the movement, and I don't mean some Mom and Pop independent development studio. Big name companies, with big name IP's are getting ready to step up to the plate in their attempt to bring console players around the world into the warm and seductive world of MMOG's. Both upcoming titles from Cryptic, Champion's Online and Star Trek Online, are set to release on both the PC and console. Turbine has been working hard on pinning down the console market, posting job offers every few months and constantly being hammered with questions regarding their two current MMOG franchises and an eventual port over to the consoles.

In my opinion, the biggest confirmation in this new movement came from Sony Online Entertainment. Not only are The Agency, Free Realms, and DC Universe Online being created for both the PC and the PS3, this past October, MTV Multiplayer blog writer, Tracey John did an interview with SOE President, John Smedley in which he confirmed that all future SOE MMOG's would also be created for consoles. While I was initially shocked by the announcement, I was even more convinced that this was just a natural progression for them in the scheme of things. SOE is one of the very few companies to have a successful (or any) MMOG created for a console. Everquest Online Adventures, despite its age, is still alive and maintains a diehard community.

Despite all the big wigs that are getting ready to jump into this pool, I'm still having a hard time accepting the idea of multiple console MMOG's having any chance of actually being successful. It's not that I don't have faith in the companies behind them, but faith alone is not strong enough to overcome some of the basic obstacles that every PC-to-console ported game has faced. The lack of a keyboard, limited number of possible button combinations on a controller, and other dilemmas all hinder the eventual release of MMOGs onto console platforms. Will the console editions be stripped down versions of their PC counterparts, or will the PC gamer be forced to suffer with a limited number of abilities/options to accommodate their less evolved brethren?

Get ready for DC Universe Online!

In terms of communication between players, I imagine it's possible to circumvent this crutch by either forcing players to purchase a controller added keyboard, or allow them to use voice communication. There's one significant problem with that idea; some of us, like myself (big surprise), absolutely despise in-game voice chatting. Sue me, but I want to log into a game to play and relax. I want to get away from everyday life for a little while, but inevitably, someone always insists on talking about something going on in his or her lives. Unless they've come up with a third solution I haven't thought of, I have a hard time believing you'll be able to have any meaningful (or relevant) communication in a console MMOG. I've got all three current consoles (along with a few older ones), but I don't have any urge to try an MMOG on one.

Let's face it; anyone that's spent a decent amount of time playing online games with their consoles knows just how obnoxious and virulent the trash talking can become. It makes the general chat channel of any PC game seem tame by comparison. Consoles also have an image of being "kid friendly" despite the fact that Little Johnny is swearing with his CoD4 buddies worse than a grizzled Marine that just found out his leave has been cancelled. The language spewed about in some of these channels would peel the paint off the wall of Mom and Dad’s living room. I have a difficult time believing the community in console games wouldn't be ten times touchier than a badger in heat.

So what do you think? Will console MMOG's be the new rage in the coming age? Will the communities consist of mainly players that are new to the genre, old time PC players, or a good mix of both? Does one game have a better chance of being successful on a console than the others? It's all up in the air right now, but a lot of solid companies are making a huge investment on the gamble. I wish them the best of luck, but I'm still not holding my breath.

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