Blizzard Entertainment, the California-based company famous for such franchises as Diablo, Warcraft and Starcraft, announced yesterday that they had no immediate plans to port their blockbuster massively multi-player online role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft to gaming consoles, such as Sony’s Playstation or Microsoft’s XBox. Paul Sams, Blizzard’s vice president of business operations, explained why such a port was not currently in the cards:
“While there is an interest [from console makers] and while that sounds cool to us, we’re not going down that road at this time,” Sams told CNN. “Once we get to the point where we feel we’ve achieved best of class and it’s sustainable, then we’ll start contemplating those types of things.”
Blizzard was founded in 1994, and has concentrated primarily on developing games for personal computers. The Warcraft series of games started in the same year, with the original game Warcraft: Orcs and Humans following up on the 1992 release of Westwood’s Dune II, which set many of the conventions for what would become known as the Real-Time Strategy or RTS genre. Warcraft II came out a year later, and sported higher resolution graphics and music spooled from CD-ROM. It went on to sell over a million copies. The latest installment of the RTS series, Warcraft III, released in 2002, added 3D graphics and new game play elements such as heroes. It sold a mind-blowing 4.5 million copies on release day alone. The success of Warcraft III and the Warcraft franchise in general inspired Blizzard to come up with a persistent, massively multi-player online world set in the Warcraft universe. MMORPGs typically require a monthly fee to play, and involve the player choosing a character type (or class) and building up their experience, character levels and skills by killing monsters, performing tasks for non-player characters (NPCs), creating or trading in-game items, and participating in special events. While there are sometimes mini-storylines created by the game developer, there is no “ending” per se, which makes these types of games very lucrative for their publishers. The primary appeal for the player over regular games is the social aspect, which allows people to interact with thousands of people all at once, and to play in small groups of friends who may be located all over the world.
World of Warcraft has set MMORPG sales records with an estimated 4 million paying subscribers worldwide. 1.5 million of these subscribers are in China. As many as 250,000 of these players are online at any one time. These numbers have rocketed World of Warcraft over the former champion of MMORPGs, Sony’s Everquest.
Other MMORPG developers, including Sony, have ported their online game franchises to game consoles. Everquest: Online Adventures was released for the Playstation 2 in 2003, although the game was completely separate from the PC version and featured simplified game play. Square Enix released Final Fantasy 11 for both the PC and Playstation 2, with game play designed to work on both types of platform. However, sales for the PC version of Final Fantasy 11 reportedly dwarfed the PS2 version. With the next generation of consoles coming up, is there a chance for another company to beat Blizzard to the punch and retake the MMORPG throne?