The future home platform of MMOs by Thomas Brown
Apr 13, 2007 17:12:41

In the future, MMOs will appear on major home videogame consoles first. Titles like Warhammer Online and Age of Conan, which were originally slated for PCs, are now being ported to Microsoft's Xbox 360. This is starting to happen because of the technical specs, the install base and communication options, and payment transactions and security on major videogame consoles.

One of the problems facing MMO developers is the inability to deliver the maximum graphical experience to all the users playing their MMOs, because they cannot be sure what graphics card their users have installed. This leaves players either tweaking graphical options or taking the recommended settings. The tweaking option is time consuming, with no guarantees of a positive outcome and the recommended settings option can be visually displeasing. Consoles allow the MMO developers to build their games knowing each person will have the same graphical experience. Home consoles (with the exception of the Nintendo Wii), in particular Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PS3, are capable of delivering high-definition graphics on the level of a high-end graphics card. MMO developers also have to consider each PC users memory, sound cards, and processors when making a MMO, which wouldn't be a concern for developing on a console.

While MMOs have become very popular the average PC buyer isn't purchasing a PC with playing graphically intensive games in mind. The Xbox 360 has an install base of over 10 million users, the PS3 has over 2.7 million users, and the Nintendo Wii has over 5.8 million users. By the end of the year each console will have an install base of at least 15 million units. People brought these consoles with the intention of playing games, especially online games. Square Enix is already using the PS2 and the Xbox 360 to booster their player base. They get around any limitations by using their own servers to host their MMOs. Control wise, the PS3 and the 360 are capable of working with keyboard and mouse, controllers, built-in headset functionality, and easy access Friends List. These features are the reasons users purchased the systems. The developers can continue to build the games without having to give up keyboard and mouse functions while gaining access to a large install base looking to play online games.

The payment options and the security available on the major home consoles fit MMOs, the traditional way of paying monthly fees work on the 360 by buying Microsoft Points, the PS3 by adding cash to your PS3 wallet, and the Nintendo Wii by buying Nintendo points. There are a multitude of games that have downloadable content that the players pay for extra content to extend the life of their games. This model has a particular appeal for Korean MMO developers that use a micro transaction model. The developers would be able to maintain their current method of charging for additional content without having to overcome the PC standard of paying monthly fees for a MMO. Piracy is a big issue facing MMO games. It's simply a matter of downloading a copy of the game and finding a private server. On a console you have to download the game, burn it using specialized programs and your console has to have a mod chip installed in it to play burned games. Then you have to connect online, at this point a validation program runs and if the game is found to be illegal your online access for your console, not your account, is banned permanently. This process is too complicated for your average console user and too risky for your advanced console user.

With a current install base of 18 million units and rapidly growing, improved security measures, micro transactions, and one set of technical guidelines to design games with, home console offer a very attractive deal for MMO developers. In this generation of home consoles the line between home consoles and PCs are completely blurred, with the next generation the line will completely disappear giving MMO developers access to a new audience without having to compromise their vision. Once a MMO is developed primarily for the home console we will be able to gauge the success of MMO on the consoles, however MMOs like Age of Conan and Warhammer Online will be a decent indicator of the potential success of console MMOs then we will see the direction that MMO developers go in.

-Thomas Brown

Submitted by Brent on Apr 13, 2007 17:12:41 CST (comments: 1)


'Logical, but wrong imho' by scytale2
Submitted on 2007-04-14 04:31:00 CST
It's interesting to consider that what are they called, oh yes "consoles" will be the future of MMO. Logic might dictate this and it may be very handy for the developers, but there are some very significant reasons why this is a dangerous strategy.

The first one is that many PC owners would not be seen dead with an XBox 360. For a start it's a "gaming machine" and it's expensive and the games cost a lot. I use my PC about 30% of the time for gaming and the thought of having to buy another machine to do what I do now does not appeal. Nor would I want an "icon of gaming" in my house - I got rid of those, when I was 20.

The second thing is that XBox 360 owners don't in the main have credit cards, or at least there are very many who don't. It takes a lot for a U18 to allocate £10/month in this way ad infinitum and only a few have the means to do this, more as they approach 18, of course.

What I would be interested in is a graphics card, which can be put into a USB slot and can be used to create the ideal platform for a particular game. Paying £40-£50 for such a card, which might enhance my existing card to meet the specifications of the game would be fine, as you know that if you like a game you will play it for a long while.

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