With the largest selection of games we’ve ever had to choose from and the coolest technological capabilities gamers have ever seen, there’s one question that often comes up after the recent success of a game like Tom Clancy’s The Division—why aren’t more online games made available to both PC and console systems? The tech’s certainly there. Even MMORPGs have been successfully ported over to consoles. A few months ago I wrote about the success of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and how the console port helped save the game in more than one way. Other online games have also seen success across multiple platforms. Diablo III, SMITE, Final Fantasy XIV, and Warframe are the ones that generally spring to mind first, but I think this list should be much longer.
Instead of continuing to segment gamers to either PC or console, why aren’t game developers focusing on making games available across multiple platforms? Online multiplayer games, especially, are perfect for cross-platform treatment. A game like FFXIV: ARR, for example, uses both platforms to pull players together for PvP matches, raids, and dungeons, letting players group together and build communities. After all, communities are built from the actions of players, but not without the tools to do so.
After examining what other possible MMORPGs might be excellent fits for cross-platform treatment and console ports, I realized that the MMORPG wasn’t the only game genre that would benefit greatly from joint PC and console communities. The MOBA and action RPG (sometimes referred to as the ARPG) are both prime genres that haven’t completely bridged the gap between PC and consoles. Typically, both genres are only generally seen on the PC. It’s kind of a shame, really.
Why aren’t League of Legends and Dota 2—as immensely successful as both are—available on console systems? Why aren’t more ARPGs taking Diablo III’s example and being made for multiple systems?
Part of that answer lies with the issue of the game’s platform/control system. Some games are designed to be more easily played using PC controls while others suffer a bit performance-wise when played on a console as opposed to a PC. PCs have more customization options that generally allow them to be more flexible and adaptable gaming machines. Game developers have to essentially dial back on some UI/control options to ensure both sets of players are able to have the best experience possible when a game is created with both console and PC systems in mind. This takes more developing time and effort, naturally.
The issue of competitiveness also needs to be considered. In FFXIV: ARR’s raiding community, for example, some console players are looked down upon slightly due to the fact that the game plays a little smoother on PC and allows macros to be created. In a highly competitive game like League of Legends or Starcraft, if such ports were to happen, they would need to be developed with extreme care. Ranked/competitive matches would have to be segmented by platform if there were any noticeable performance differences caused by the system, user interface, or control differences.
For these reasons, game developers will often only make a game cross-platform when it’s created from the ground up with multiple systems in mind. Blizzard’s Overwatch is a great example. After playing Overwatch’s beta on PC, it seems obvious that the game will play intuitively on consoles due to the game’s field of view and limited set of controls. Everything, from the way the cameras work to the controls, seems intuitive—and this is how it should be. That isn’t to say post-release ports aren’t possible, but in terms of time and money, they’re simply not always possible to pull off.
One of the most successful post-release ports is Diablo III. The game’s controls are fairly simple across both platforms, which made the game an easy switch. ARPGs like Path of Exile and Trion’s Devilian would be perfect candidates for similar treatment and would increase the popularity of both games significantly. Devilian, especially, is an interesting case since it has more MMORPG elements than most ARPGs, so its community would be formed by a broader spectrum of gamers. In the case of games with a smaller player base, a cross-platform move can breathe new life into the game and its community.
Community, essentially, is the number one reason why MOBA/ARPG developers shouldn’t be afraid of creating a game that crosses over from PC to console systems. Increased accessibility not only lets more people try the game, but it allows communities to flourish under the right circumstances. After Diablo III’s somewhat painful launch, many a naysayer felt the game would die a cold, hard death, but thanks to Blizzard’s reworking of the game for the console launch, the game’s doing extremely well and sees a huge flux of players every time a new season starts.
As far as MOBAs are concerned, SMITE was also created from the ground up with multiple platforms in mind. Unlike League of Legends, SMITE features a third-person camera angle and a 3D view that’s ideal for console and PC play. There’s no need for a top-down view with the way the camera is set up, and therefore no need for a map that necessitates mouse controls. Players move on the PC using WASD controls which translate really well to console controllers. The game isn’t cluttered with a billion items (unlike many other MOBAs), either. Paired with the game’s simple yet effective skill controls, SMITE might be the perfect example of a MOBA created with accessibility in mind.
Heroes of the Storm, League of Legends, and Dota 2 would all benefit from crossing over to consoles. In fact, Heroes of the Storm would probably benefit most since it’s still fairly new and most likely has the built-in tech that would allow Blizzard to port the game over without too many changes. It’s actually kind of peculiar that Blizzard hasn’t tried releasing its MOBA to consoles, especially with how well-received Diablo III and Overwatch have been.
In the case of Heroes of the Storm, many UI changes wouldn’t even be needed. HotS features a simplistic UI as well as graphics that would look great on console systems. The largest hurdle would be a necessary rework of the map and control system. Not to mention the game stands the best chance of growing its community by branching out instead of trying to squeeze in between the Big Two MOBAs.
On the other hand, League of Legends and Dota 2 would need a fairly serious rework to successfully survive a console port. The top-down camera and control systems are obviously designed for mouse and keyboard controls. While console systems have access to these tools, the developers would be better off creating a new game mode that lets players choose a different camera and control scheme that’s more 3D in nature—almost similar to SMITE’s controls. This new game mode could be made for both PC and console players, and the developers could create a new ranking system that only takes this new game mode into consideration. This would be a test drive of sorts, allowing the community to take on new members without the possible effects of console players affecting the professional/serious ranked matches. If the port is successful, the rankings could eventually be merged.
While complicated on paper, such a move would give these games a wider audience, too, potentially making both MOBAs more welcoming to newcomers. The separate ranking systems would effectively enforce a natural separation within the community while giving the games a serious rebirth that would encourage quite a few veteran players to give the genre another try.
On top of the learning curve, it’s no secret that MOBAs currently receive some flack in the gaming community. They’re often known to be “toxic.” Attracting a wider audience would help dissipate some of the “exclusiveness” within the community while still allowing the competitive nature of both games to remain in place.
Game developers have a lot of options here. We’re directly in the middle of a bright, new dawn in gaming, and frankly, now’s the time for developers to open their doors to wider, more diversified communities. Online/multiplayer games fall extremely short without a vibrant community, and there are far too many games out there now to battle for our attention. It’s time to let us play with all of our gamer friends—not just the few who happen to own the right type of system.
Laura Hardgrave is a staff writer.