Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 owners are eagerly awaiting the first next-generation MMORPG for their consoles. While the hopes of an eventual Age of Conan port, the recent announcement of Champions Online and the ambitions of Huxley occupy the blogspace, we take a look back at the brief history of console MMORPG's.
The first console MMORPG was Phantasy Star Online, released in 2000 for the Sega Dreamcast system. In 2002, PSO was released on GameCube and Xbox, becoming not only the first MMORPG for console systems, but the first multi-platform MMORPG. In January of this year, the last of the PSO servers went offline, leaving unofficial servers as the only method left to play the game.
In February 2003, Sony Online Entertainment release Everquest Online Adventures for the Playstation 2. The game takes place in the world of Norrath, but 500 years before the popular Everquest PC MMORPG. SOE had high expectations for EQOA, but due to low subscriber numbers, over time the game saw less and less attention from SOE as other more successful PC based MMORPG's were released by Sony. Although Final Fantasy boasts more subsribers than EQOA, it has been hailed as the best of the console MMORPG's by sticking to traditional MMORPG standards, interface and content.
Eight months after EQOA was released, Square Enix released the widely popular Final Fantasy XI MMORPG in October 2003, set in the FF world of Vana'diel. At its peak, Final Fantasy boasted over 500,000 subscribers, while Sony's console MMORPG was claimed to never break the 50,000 subscriber mark. While it was more popular than any other console MMORPG released to date, it never gained the widespread appeal that other Final Fantasy titles had achieved.
While past console MMORPG releases have been somewhat lackluster, the industry is now looking ahead to promising new console MMORPG titles such as Champions Online, Age of Conan and Huxley, all currently in development. However, we probably will not see any of those titles in our living room before 2009.