Online Gaming Predictions (2015): The Year of the Great Console/PC Switch
By Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Everyone is talking about what MMO is going to be big on PC; is it Final Fantasy XIV, which had an amazing year, World of Warcraft, which drug itself out of the dirt after the disappointing Mists of Pandaria? Will the Elder Scrolls Online make a daring comeback and surprise not only me, but everyone else? That last one seems a bit less likely than the others. But there are more important, interesting things going on in the world of online gaming in 2015. Traditionally speaking, fighting games are relegated to the consoles, after being displayed with the fall of the arcade empire. While arcades still exist, truly great ones only seem to exist on the two coasts, and even then, far and few between. The Fighting Game Community (FGC) has had little room to rejoice on the PC; Ultra Street Fighter IV is probably the first truly big fighter to hit PC. Oh, sure, Blazblue came to Steam, but it was about two expansions behind. Something large looms on the horizon, and it’s going to change how the community experiences fighting games. Possibly forever.
MOBAs and MMOs are changing again as well! Consoles had a few MMOs, but not many. Final Fantasy XI held its own on PS2/Xbox 360 for many years, and Monster Hunter also enjoyed success on the PS2, and still has success on the Nintendo consoles as a multiplayer game. That is not quite the same as an MMORPG, but it is a step in the right direction. However, a few companies are making big plays in the coming year, namely Sony Online Entertainment, Perfect World Entertainment, and HiRez Studios. Being forced to make a choice, console or PC, is never a fun or enjoyable decision and while there are plenty of gamers who have both, that is not always an option; it leads to hurt feelings and the inability to play certain games with their friends. That is another big change I predict in 2015. The field is changing, and companies are finally catching up to technology.
Street Fighter V: FADCrossplay
It has long since been a dream for players of fighting games to be able to play with their friends cross-console. Now, that’s not what I’m seeing for this year, but I’m seeing the biggest step in that direction yet. Street Fighter V was announced at the end of 2014, and some gameplay was seen at Capcom Cup 2014 in Mike Ross playing a pair of rounds versus Combofiend. It was also announced that it would have crossplay, PS4 and PC; it is also exclusive to these. Apparently Microsoft isn’t ready to embrace PC/Xbox One crossplay, costing their fans this opportunity. Perhaps one day they’ll see the light and utilize their exclusive license with Killer Instinct to do so. Though you can’t overlook that Sony helped finance Street Fighter V, to prevent it from being years in the making, so that may have something to do with the lack of a Microsoft release.
What is important to take away is this: Street Fighter V is an experiment that we have not seen before, Console and PC fighting games crossplay. When and if this succeeds (and it is this journalists suggestion that it will), it will become more prevalent, perhaps within 2015. This is a test, and Capcom cannot afford to fail it. My official prediction is that SF5 is going to be a huge success; many professional Street Fighter players are playing IV on PC as well as their console, as if they were gearing for playing it on a PC. Expect tournaments across the world to embrace SF5 and create a whole new crop of fighters eager to show their skills off, since they can practice no matter which machine they choose to play on. I also feel this will help Sony’s sales in that they will have an exclusive fighting game, and a huge one at that.
Console MOBA/MMOs? Madness!
Perfect World Entertainment’s (ARC) Neverwinter did not create waves, but it can be considered a replacement for the waning DDO (Dungeons and Dragons Online). It is an action-MMO, with lots of footwork, tumbling and rolling, and could fit in easily on any console. And that’s just what they plan to do. Putting an MMO back on a console is a bold move, one that only Square-Enix truly attempted (Diablo 3 was/is on console sure, but that’s a multiplayer game, and not as massive as Final Fantasy XI in terms of how many players group and play together at once). Though Neverwinter is not the only MMO being ported onto console in this time; SOE (Sony Online Entertainment) did the same with their DCUO (DC Universe Online) and entered US beta testing today for Planetside 2. ARC is following in SOE’s footsteps, hoping to make waves with their action-MMO, Neverwinter. Action style RPGs show no signs of losing popularity in the console world, so I feel that Neverwinter will slip right into the existing line-up to find success. Maybe not as huge as Final Fantasy XIV or World of Warcraft, though certainly better off than Elder Scrolls Online.
And MOBAs. MOBA style gameplay simply does not succeed on console. The only one that comes to memory was the short-lived Lord of the Rings MOBA that has all but disappeared. SMITE is seeking to change that. At the SMITE World Championships, attendees went hands-on with arena bot matches on the Xbox One client. Not just press, we’re talking general populace already hopping into the game. While that is all well and good, I’m not seeing a MOBA going the exclusive route from PC beginnings. Sony is in a pretty strong position right now, especially with SF5 coming, and SMITE executives will see the dollar signs, and writing on the wall; they’ll offer it to Sony as well, no matter how Microsoft might feel about crossplay. No doubt Sony will bite if SMITE shows promise on its competitor’s console. It is a big step for the gaming community, and in 2015, we’re going to see lots of exciting things; long-standing traditions are switching and changing. I’m truly excited to be where I am, fortunate to see how these things are going to change. It’s going to be an exciting year!
At least until people start playing SMITE with a guitar hero controller. Son of a -!