With less than a month to go before both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 finally make their way into the greedy little hands of gamers and eBay moguls everywhere, it’s time to face the possibility of a new generation of MMO players. We’ve had various console MMO offerings since early 2001 when Phantasy Star Online was released for the Dreamcast, but they’ve been few and far between since. They also haven’t been the most well received games in the world either. This style of game has long been the domain of primarily the PC, but a new day may be dawning.
Next month, both the Xbox One and PS4 will be released and from a pure hardware perspective, it appears that they’re both capable of handling the requirements of today’s MMO. Before we take a closer look at a few system requirements by a variety of today’s popular MMOs, let’s take a peek under the hood of the upcoming new consoles.
Xbox One Basics specs
GPU: AMD Radeon w/786 shaders (theoretical processing power - 1.13 trillion floating-point operations per second)
Memory: 8GB (GDDR3)
Hard Drive Storage: 500 GB
PS4 Basic Specs
(speed unknown - some sources say 1.6 GHz)
GPU: AMD Radeon w/1152 shaders (theoretical processing power - 1.84 trillion floating-point operations per second)
Memory: 8GB (GDDR5)
Hard Drive Storage: 500 GB
While some of the system specs aren’t exact (they haven’t been officially announced yet), we can see that both consoles are set to deliver a powerful gamer experience. As we’ve seen in the past, raw power alone doesn’t mean anything if a development team can’t squeeze all that power out of the console they’re working with. During the life cycle of the PS3, it was expected to blow the Xbox 360 away in graphical prowess from the moment it launched, and yet for years we saw no indication this was the case. At best, the graphical differences between game versions were remote.
At initial glance, it appears the new systems would be able to handle modern MMO titles with little to no modifying (NOTE – obviously, this is a comment on the game system requirements, not the coding that would be required to port a game to an entirely new platform). Here are the recommended specs for three popular MMO titles (the Guild Wars 2 specs listed are the minimum requirements since the company does not include the recommended specs in their FAQ):
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Core 2 Duo (3 GHz)
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 8800 / ATI Radeon HD 4770 or higher
Guild Wars 2
Duo (2 GHz)
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 7800 / ATI Radeon HD 3000 or higher
Core 2 Duo (2.8 GHz)
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 8800 / ATI Radeon HD 2990GT or higherz
As you can see, the new consoles meet most of each game’s requirements. The only apparent problem lies with the estimated console CPU speeds. Since each game only require a 2-core CPU, it would still be possible to get each title running smoothly, depending on how much each title was programmed to take full advantage of multi-core CPUs.
When it comes to graphical prowess and required memory, the new consoles would have no problems. The GPU of both the Xbox One and the PS4 are both rated to handle over one trillion process calculations (the above mentioned floating-point operations) while the video cards recommended for each games lists their calculation power in the billions, rather than a trillion. In other words, the graphic speed of the new systems should prove no obstacle to the MMOs of today and, as we’re going to see with such titles as Elder Scrolls Online, the future.
There is one final piece of the MMO puzzle that consoles have always struggled with though and even with Elder Scrolls Online, I fail to see how this is going to be satisfactorily resolved – the keyboard. Is it an old and antiquated form of input? Perhaps, but even so, it’s still the most useful form of input for myself and many other gamers like me. I realize how one solution would be to force the use of voice chat, but I can’t stress how much I oppose this. I’m the type of player that “grew up” needing to type during such games as EverQuest and I don’t want to chat with people over a headset when I’m trying to play a game.
Am I crazy? That’s an entirely different conversation we may have one day. Am I old and cranky? That’s normally a given, but until developers come up with a way to make player communication easy without the use of a keyboard or forcing voice chat, I don’t see console MMOs being anything more than a continued experiment. I certainly don’t ever see them being as popular as their PC brethren. What do you think about the future of console MMOs? Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter!