Some developers think that consoles are the future of the MMORPG, so we checked out who is hopping on the console train for their future MMO titles.
As the MMO industry gets stuffed with more and more competition, and World of Warcraft keeps eating that competition (kidding!), it seems that all developer eyes are now focused on new paths of innovation to reach different demographics of the gaming world. We've already seen CCP's EVE Online suck up the unemployed Math graduate demographic, SOE's Free Realms and Kingisle Entertainment's Wizard101 are both steadily converting all of our younger gamers to MMO fiends, and I'm sure between BioWare's Star Wars: The Old Republic and Cryptic's Star Trek Online, most sci-fi gaming fans will be mighty pleased (this could have been you, Star Wars Galaxies!).
Interestingly, however, as other MMO developers think of some great new innovations to stay in the industry, like Funcom's The Secret World and Icarus Studios' Fallen Earth, there is another barely tested demographic that bigger game companies have now set their sights on, and it goes by the name that Final Fantasy XI players have rallied against every time they hear the dreaded issue of "PS2 Limitations." What we're talking about is the console MMO and how it seems to be the trendy new thing for MMO developers.
It's no real secret that the industry is racing to capitalize on the console MMO market, as Turbine has already invested upwards of $20 million in their latest console MMO. Craig Alexander, Turbine's VP of Product Development, argues that offline RPGs, like Fable 2, Fallout 3 and Oblivion have each hit more than 3 million copies sold, while PC titles can rarely boast of these kinds of numbers. In this way, Craig predicts that this generation of MMOs will most likely be making the move to consoles, and whoever can launch the first solid console MMO title may be able claim market dominance, much in the same way that World of Warcraft did for PC MMOs.
Of course, while Turbine may be one of the most vocally supportive companies for console MMOs, it's really no secret that other developers have been inching their way to get a slice of that pie. If we look at the hilarious trifecta of Superhero MMOs (was the demand really so high?), City of Heroes, Champions Online, and DC Universe Online, it's interesting to see the level of "consolization" that seems to be taking place as we move along the line.
City of Heroes was the earliest released of the bunch, so it's sticking to its roots and staying on the PC, while Champions Online has announced that they should have an Xbox360 version launching sometime in Q4 of 2009. DC Universe Online, on the other hand, has really embraced its console focus and they seem to be really pushing a PS3 and PC simultaneous release. Aside from the sad fact that there will soon be three Superhero MMOs in the market (and no Pokemon MMO!?), it will be interesting to see how console ports will help or hinder these three competitors.
Also on the list of console developers would be CCP, creator of the thinking person's MMORPG: EVE Online. They've recently announced that their next project will be Dust 514, a console based MMO/FPS where players can interact with EVE Online players, wage tactical wars, and even act as mercenary units for their EVE comrades. Truthfully, given the massive success of first person shooters on console platforms (look at Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 or Halo!), a console based MMO/FPS could very well be the game that takes the market cake.
Finally, while NCsoft has not revealed much information on their upcoming martial arts MMO, Blade & Soul, it should be noted that NCsoft has already declared their intention to one day release a console MMO - there was even talks of a Sony and NCsoft partnership to develop an MMO for the PS3. From a stylistic point of view, it really does look like Blade & Soul could fit a console MMO port perfectly, but only if they manage to make combat as smooth as possible. Seeing the huge success of games like Street Fighter 4 and Blazblue, it would be hard to deny the plausibility of an MMO fighter for the PS3.
Ultimately, within the next few years of MMO development, it really does seem as though the there are a lot of big name companies looking to break into the console industry. Will any of them be able to dominate the show early, and become the next console World of Warcraft? Or, on the other hand, are console MMOs even a good idea, given the fact that most MMORPG players are fairly loyal to their PCs? Only time will tell for the years 2010 and 2011.