Will Free MMOs Ever Come to Consoles?

Will Free MMOs Ever Come to Consoles?

Console gamers and PC gamers can’t resist poking at one another once in a while. Console gamers make fun of the PC enthusiasts’ adoration for processors and gigabytes and online downloads and what all else. On the flip side, when a console owner snuffles, “When will there be a good free to play massively multiplayer online game (MMO) for a console?” the PC gamer can laugh and say, “How about ‘never?’ Is ‘never’ good for you?”

With a few exceptions (namely, Phantasy Star Online for the Dreamcast, Final Fantasy XI for the PlayStation 2, and the near-disastrous Final Fantasy XIV for the PlayStation 3), MMOs, free to play online games and MMORPGs are rarely developed for consoles, or even simply ported. Why do so few of these sprawling quests make it to our consoles? Any chance that developers will change their tune in the future?

Not likely, said our Scott Steinberg in a Q&A with Mashable.com. “On the PC, [MMO developers are] able to reach a larger audience more affordably, and more cost-effectively deliver games with greater functionality,” he said. “Profit margins are also better, as you don’t have to split dollars with an intermediary (e.g. a console manufacturer or wireless carrier), and enjoy greater and more direct access to your own customers.

“The issue isn’t one of ‘can game makers like Blizzard deliver top-tier MMO experiences on consoles?’ It’s whether or not it’s worth the time and effort, given that their resources and energy may be better rewarded by being spent somewhere else.”

We’re witnessing some of the most exciting industry shifts in the history of gaming. When a developer or a console engineer believes in an idea, we end up watching movies on our consoles, playing online with friends who are thousands of miles away, and playing 3D games without the aid of glasses. But so far, developers haven’t been gung-ho about bringing MMORPGs–or even massive multiplayer online games in general–to consoles. And it’s probably not going to happen in the foreseeable future.

“[P]laying an MMORPG on a console just isn’t practical,” a blogger named Michael K wrote on mmohut.com. “One of the biggest parts of an MMORPG is communication and typing on a joypad is just downright ridiculous.”

Most modern game consoles offer USB keyboard support wherever it seems necessary, but few console gamers are eager to sit on their couch with a keyboard on their lap. There’s also the question of mouse interface. Most MMOs are heavy on the point-and-click action; would console gamers alternate between a game pad and a keyboard? Or would they have to find a spot for a mouse on their coffee table? On top of everything else, why bother engineering an answer when the PC MMORPG market isn’t exactly hurting for subscribers and microtransactions?

We don’t know what the future holds. For all we know, some developer somewhere is working on something really awesome for the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3. For now, though, the world of Azeroth clearly belongs to PC gamers.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.


  1. Phantasy Star Online (Dreamcast, GameCube, Xbox)
    Final Fantasy XI Online (PS2-PS3, Xbox 360)
    EverQuest Online Adventures (PS2)
    Phantasy Star Universe (PS2, Xbox 360)
    Final Fantasy XIV Online (PS3)
    DC Universe Online (PS3)
    Free Realms (PS3-PSN)
    DUST 514 (PS3, PSV) Release Date: Q2-2012
    The Secret World (Xbox 360) Release Date: 2012

    The Agency: Covert Ops, cancelled (PS3)
    Age of Conan, cancelled for the Xbox 360
    Huxley, Xbox 360 release date on hold (cancelled?)

    I believe its possible and with the brave souls at Funcom (Anarchy Online, Age of Conan) and CCP Games (Eve Online), it may be done… I hope people don’t give up on Console-MMOs, but looking at DUST 514, it looks really unique and promising. They’re combining MMO and RTS style gaming with FPS/TPS (a console favorite). This will either be amazing or horrible, but from what I seen at E3 I’m very optimistic.

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