It’s been yet another year that I sit back and I gaze upon the internet and see yet again the rumors of the past rear their heads, and the incredible outrage that immediately follows it. I feel like I can open a lot of stories with this line. Whenever it comes to bringing PC games to console, a particular crowd seems to become more unruly than usual. Come to think of it, the same goes for when console games get poor PC ports, or when Epic Games seems to strike an exclusivity deal. But then there are stories that shouldn’t raise an eyebrow and have no bearing on the community as a whole. Yet, condemnation still occurs. Blizzard adding controller support to an otherwise PC exclusive game opens the floodgates for scrutiny, and this begs the question: Will World of Warcraft be on consoles? Is it even possible?
Launch and Performance
This might be my shortest section of this, but there is a couple of things up front that could hinder the experience right out the gate. World of Warcraft is a part of the Battle.net launcher, meaning that like many other game companies out there, Blizzard insists on having their own launcher instead of opting for Steam. This isn’t that big of a deal as many games that operate on launchers seem to just skip right to the games splash screen. Cutting out the launcher aspect could be simple, as Blizzard have found a way to do it with Diablo 3.
The launcher does more than act like a preamble to your gaming experience. It also acts like a friends hub where you can see what friends are playing and what they are doing. You can even message people through you phone even if you are not playing. The important thing that it does though, is set up your connection to their servers before you start playing the game. Currently, other games have you wait on a menu until your connection is established, and if I was a betting man I would say that World of Warcraft (WoW) on console, would need one too. Yes, our machines are most likely already connected to the internet, but now we are attempting to login to an additional service and server. Your computer also shares that similarity.
When it comes to the graphics and performance of WoW, it’s not too demanding. It doesn’t require a lot in order to perform well, and the game runs absolutely fine on everything I own. If we are to go by next generation specs, or even current generation specs, the console market should be able to handle the game fine. I could see problems when it comes to larger parties or even attempting to meander down the dirty pathways of Orggrimar. WoW seems to start to bend a little when it comes to external interference. The game can get bogged down when you start loading up a ton of addons.
Addons and Fueling Change
Blizzard announced that in the coming future of World of Warcraft , controller support will be available. Granted this isn’t available right away at an official, Blizzard supported capacity; controller support is still available through the use of addons, in this case one called Console Port. Addons are external programs that you can download that enhance your experience in one way or another within World of Warcraft. Damage Per Second (DPS) meters, resource gathering maps, and even cartography addons help other players navigate through the world of Azeroth. This concept isn’t exclusive to this game too. Other titles such as Elder Scrolls Online support addon support.
The only drawback when it comes to some addons is the support behind them. Deadly Boss Mods, another addon that helps with endgame raiding assists players in what to do when bosses deliver various attacks, but it also requires a lot of work to keep up to date. Currently, the creator of the addon supports the program as a full time job thanks to massive support from Elitist Jerks, a past World of Warcraft guild. I’m not going to go into the history of this particular developer, but if you wish to know more or support DBM, you can visit his Patreon here.
But with every massively supported addon, there might be some that are not updated enough, popular enough, or are just useless and bad. Several addons might even be looked down upon by Blizzard themselves for various reasons. As it goes with the addon ClassicLFG, a group finder for activities within World of Warcraft Classic. As reported by MMO Champion, it was shut down because it went against what Blizzard wanted for the World of Warcraft Classic experience.
It is clear why Blizzard would be interested in an addon that enables controller support. If anything, it should be a celebrated occurrence within the community. As what Kaivax said in the WoW forums, “We always want to make WoW more widely accessible, if possible, so in Shadowlands, we’re attempting to add some support for keybinds, camera, and turning a character on controllers such as the Xbox Adaptive Controller.”
We don’t know the extent in how this will work, what it will include, or how it will even look. Currently, WoW uses a mouse and keyboard setup, which gives players ample ways to perform the tasks within the game. With may years of WoW experience under my belt as well as experience with many MMO’s, it will be interesting to see where this could go. With this seeming possible, the actual possibilities tend to come to a halt right when you take a step back.
Addons, how important they are to WoW, and their implementation is rather complicated. Addons may not be able to get on consoles for several reasons. The first one being that in order to install these addons, it requires file management systems which I don’t expect Microsoft and Sony to allow. You can download and install addons manually or through the Twitch client. As we all know, Twitch is owned by Amazon, and who knows if Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo want anything to do with them.
Blizzard could very well develop their own console addon client baked right into the core game. We could see something akin to how mods work with games like Fallout or Skyrim. Being able to download outside assets is imperative and sure, you can play without them, but it comes at a cost. That cost doesn’t pay when it comes to endgame content and the unfortunate truth: not having these addons will exclude you from the pack. If this is the case, I couldn’t see PC players and console players adventuring together at all.
The MMO and the Controller Confines
I don’t want to say all, but I will say many games use controllers or have some sort of controller compatibility. If you have a console, clearly every game will use that controller as it is a standard for the consoles. PC games is where controller support becomes a much controversial topic. Mouse and Keyboard are seen as the superior style of control for people who prefer the PC platform. It offers more buttons to hit, better means to control your character, and for some people it is more comfortable. The utility of the mouse and keyboard is what really dominates the landscape, especially within more competitive games such as League of Legends, CS:Go, and (the new up-comer) Valorant. Controllers are seen as inferior in the PC market, but not necessarily useless.
After all, if having controller support for some MMO’s was a bad thing, we wouldn’t see some games make it to the console market. Traditional MMO’s such as Neverwinter, Skyforge, and Phantasy Star Online 2 (Xbox/PC exclusive) all have respective communities on consoles. Other games like Path of Exile and Diablo also have modified controller styles to meet the console market. It was even announced by Blizzard that Diablo 4 will have controller support on PC.
The only problem is that when you take an MMO that has a traditional point and click style with tab targeting combat, the game as a whole could become bland quickly. Equipping items and navigating around menus can easily become cumbersome and irritating. An overhaul to the entire system would need to be addressed, and then you start to develop a degree of separation between the two. For instance, I consider Diablo 3 on the consoles to be the optimal experience over the PC version, and I know I am not alone in that sentiment.
Other games are able to get around control schemes by making games more action oriented. Games like Tera and Neverwinter have a reticle in the center of the screen which signifies where your character will deal most damage. If you swing your axe and the reticle is not on the enemy, you’re not striking with optimal damage if at all. WoW currently does not have this type of a system. Instead it’s tied to a system that involves you hitting keys, and waiting a second or two till you can hit another attack, or perform another move.
Another way that other games utilize a controller is by allowing players to socket abilities into face buttons. Almost every game does this in one form or another, such as Dragon Age. Very much like Dragon Age, abilities are accompanied by hitting a shoulder or trigger button to access additional pages where abilities could be placed. The only problem is that additional abilities will be coming to each class. There could be a lot to manage, but this is also kind of a moot point. If controller support is coming to WoW on PC, this entire problem might not even be something players are worried about in the first place.
The Numbers, Mason
According to this Venture Beat article, Neverwinter has a playerbase of 17 million people, and they are closing in on 18 million soon. Although this is in the lifespan of this game and is based across PC and console markets. Skyforge averages 400,000 players, Phantasy Star Online 2 has about 1.7 million players; and it is hard to beat World of Warcraft which had 10 million active subscribers back in 2014. Currently, Activision-Blizzard claims that WoW has doubled it’s playerbase, but accurate numbers are nowhere to be found.
So now that I threw a bunch of numbers at you, we can only think about if it’s worth throwing a game like World of Warcraft onto the console market. We know that right now it is possible with some fine tweeking mentioned above. Alas, how do you get people to buy a game at full price and make them pay a monthly subscription? This is a concept so foreign to most people that it literally kept many parents from getting the game for their kids in the first place. With games like Neverwinter being free to play, World of Warcraft starts to look like a pretty steep purchase for people who don’t know what to expect.
The only one game has been able to deliver a full priced experience and subscription based model is Final Fantasy 14; which is both on PC and Playstation 4. Lo and behold, it also has controller options for the PC version of the game. It might not have the subscription numbers, but it is still in the top six MMO’s of all time. The latest expansion titled “Shadowbringers,” has seen mostly positive reviews. Final Fantasy 14 still has a lot of steam in it’s engine and there are no signs showing it will ever slow down.
The fact of the matter is with the new Shadowlands expansion coming out soon, it’s going to open up doors for development one way or another. Battle For Azeroth (the current expansion) has been noted as a dumpster fire by fans, with many unsubscribing from WoW until the launch of Shadowlands. From there, Blizzard has 30 days to see if fans will stick around for more, or if the crowd moves to something else.
World of Warcraft is a personal favorite of mine. I have played it for the last fifteen years of my life, and every expansion seems to define moments of personal experience. But no matter my personal bias towards the game, working out the complications might not pay off for Activision-Blizzard. But if they did manage to work around it, perhaps even I would give it a try. As long as they release a sweet mouse and keyboard bundle.