Over the last two generations, we’ve seen the rise of many new console MMOs that looked to cater to the need of those looking for rich story-driven experiences that expand with new factions and lore. While some of these titles have been able to have some degree of success, they do not have the same staying power or the longevity as a PC MMO title which begs the question, is it even worth it to try to create a console MMO experience?
Let’s take a look at a PC MMO juggernaut that we all know (and millions) love to this date with World of Warcraft. The game has been around for almost 14 years and is still going strong with new expansions and a legitimate install base that exceeds the million player mark day in and day out. The reason for this constant support of players is how Blizzard treats the game, by delivering constant new updates, an already larger than life world to explore and a rich story behind it that would need you to play both rival factions, and each class to truly experience it all.
Not only that, but Blizzard has also tried to evolve the MMO with the times by offering new ways to play, expansive storylines throughout each and every expansion. Even when the player base was dwindling between the times of Cataclysm to Warlords of Draenor, World of Warcraft still manage to recuperate and deliver an all-new enticing experience to players with Legion with a more story-driven expansion that has a much more focus in terms of both narrative and player development.
This looks to be carrying over with Battle for Azeroth expansion which will once again pit rival factions against one another all while enriching the story and lore behind World of Warcraft’s main characters. It seems to have been an easy fix for Blizzard to do as the demand for a more story is driven experience seems to have been what players have been demanding from the game for quite some time and for the most part, WoW has succeeded in offering it to its player base and maintaining the title as one of the most profitable and played MMOs of all time.
Now, this article isn’t to say that every console MMO needs to be like World of Warcraft as that would be comparing both types of games as apples and oranges and I personally do not find it fair to even draw that comparison, but the one thing that is worth pointing out is the fact that even for a 14-year-old MMO, World of Warcraft is what any other game in the genre should be striving for to achieve in some way, shape or form, but again, that seems like an unfair expectation, giving how the console market varies in comparison to the PC market.
The market has been shifting more towards a longer time span with the last generation of devices being the longest in recent history, but even that doesn’t allow enough time to build up an MMO on home consoles without having it be considered “old news” a few after its release. And this has been an issue with many blockbuster titles of late, as there is a general anticipation for these major releases, only to have numbers dwindle fairly quickly a few weeks or even days after launch and without that constant flow of new players and longevity, it makes it quite difficult to allow these large console releases to thrive for much more than a few years.
Which has developers planning sequels for newer hardware and not plan expansion sets. Yes, both the Destiny and Tom Clancy’s: The Division titles have had their own expansions and updates, but having to buy yet another $79.99 CAD title just to follow-up on a story that lasts roughly a year all while the assets for a previous game was already set in place seems unfair. The argument can be made against any other MMO, but what most of them do offer it the framework to allow new players to be part of the current content and have a starting point for new players to explore rather than cutting them off because of a new release.
The biggest argument that can be done for these titles is cross-platform play as not allowing so will take away any opportunities for growth or longevity that the console MMO could have. Once again his argument goes for other multiplayer titles, but the fact of the matter is, without any ways to play with other who play on let’s say a PS4 or an Xbox One, you are already setting yourself up for a short-lived multiplayer experience and it is nice to see that some rival companies have worked together and with Microsoft allowing some titles to have cooperative play from their home console and to PC is the steps in the right direction, but there is much in terms that still need to be done on this front.
While the concept of a console MMO is still relatively new on the market, there are still many steps for the genre to take before it can find success on the home devices. Mirroring its PC counterparts won’t be enough to bring success to these titles are the console market fluctuates are too often for it to have much of a base to work with, but it can still incorporate many of its assets to provide a generational for many to enjoy. Having said all of this, I think there will be a console MMO that truly brings all these aspects together and delivers on the traditional multi-million player aspect, but the tools are not yet set in place to offer such a product as of yet.