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Vicarious Existence

To blog about what is going on in the MMO genre from a casual MMO player's viewpoint.

Author: UnSub

Champions Online Xbox 360 Version Delayed: PC Comes First

Posted by UnSub Thursday March 12 2009 at 2:23AM
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From an interview between Eurogamer and Cryptic Studios' Bill Roper:

"Eurogamer: So the console versions will be coming out some time afterwards?

Bill Roper: All I know is it's coming out first on the PC. We really, really want to bring it out on console, the consoles are just hungry and perfect for an MMO, and we've done a lot of work to ensure that there's nothing to prevent us from doing that. It's an area beyond my control at this point, I just work on the game."

It's not clear who is driving this change to the release schedule, but it is a big blow for Cryptic. First they move from announcing their intentions to be a successful independent MMO studio only to sell out to Infogrammes (understandable, given the economy and their lack of revenue); now they've delayed their Xbox 360 version that has been trumpeted since ChampO was announced. Some issues have been placed at Microsoft's door in that the Xbox 360 QA process slows down the release of patches / content on that console, but this has always been a known issue.

The reason I see this as a big strike against ChampO's potential success is that releasing just on the PC puts it up against pretty much every other MMO in existance, both launched and unlaunched. On the Xbox 360, the only MMO competition is FFXI and that isn't exactly a powerhouse. Although a risk, the Xbox 360 is an open market for the first current-gen MMO who goes for it. Yes, there is risk in a new market, but all the "console players won't pay a sub fee for games!" is exactly what was said about PC players about a decade ago and ignores that a lot of console players already pay regular fees to access online content.

Ultimately, this seems a bad move for Cryptic. If they've been developing both the PC and Xbox 360 version side-by-side (or the combatibility for both platforms) dropping one platform will only see that code get further and further out-of-date and resourcing issues related to ChampO's post-launch support and Star Trek Online's development and launch is only going to make it harder for that Xbox 360 version to see the light of day.

It could work in the Xbox 360's favour to be delayed - launch is always a rough time and getting additional content after launch from post-launch updates would help hold the Xbox 360 player base - but I can also forsee it ultimately mothballed as Cryptic focuses on other development areas.

All of which leaves to door open for someone else to crack the Xbox 360 / console MMO nut for this next generation of titles.