Perfect World Entertainment is the latest company to be taking its MMOs to consoles. A press release today announced the creation of a “console division targeting current and next-gen consoles,” with both “prior and upcoming” titles ripe for adaptation.
Perfect World isn’t the first company to take MMOs to consoles, of course, but considering the paucity of core MMORPG titles – discounting “MMO-other” games like World of Tanks, PlanetSide 2, and Warframe – available outside of the PC, this move positions them quite favorably to be leaders in the console MMO field.
Neverwinter, in particular, seems like a perfect (ahem) title to port to a console, with its action-based combat, limited hotbar, and Dungeons & Dragons tie-in. That last bit shouldn’t be overlooked; apart from World of Warcraft’s Azeroth, do you think the average console-only player has much knowledge of MMO settings like Norrath (EverQuest), Tyria (Guild Wars), or Telara (Rift)? But dangle “Dungeons & Dragons” or “Forgotten Realms” out there, and you’re bound to garner some interest, even among diehard Madden and Battlefield fans. Star Trek Online also has strong name recognition, though its gameplay seems somewhat less well-suited for consoles.
In case you’re wondering, PWE-published shooter Blacklight Retribution is self-published by the developer, Zombie Studios, on PlayStation 4. I spoke to Perfect World General Manager of Publishing Andrew Brown about the announcement, which he viewed as a “huge opportunity” because “consoles are embracing the free-to-play business model,” which they haven’t always done in the past. “They’ve changed their policies, they’ve changed how they work on the back end, and it’s much easier now to publish a free-to-play game on the console and continue to service that game than ever before.”
While next-gen consoles are certainly the future, Perfect World isn’t abandoning the older PlayStation 3’s and Xbox 360s. “There are going to be products we have that fit on all platforms. If the game fits, we feel we should still be on it. We don’t want to narrow our scope or our strategy too much.” That extends to both Sony’s and Microsoft’s products in general: “In terms of tech, they’re [the PS4 and XB1] both about the same, and there’s no difference in trying to get onto those platforms.” Brown also quoted the nearly identical sales numbers of both new consoles as another reason to branch out into both.
With expansion comes challenges. Perfect World will be building its console division from the ground up starting early next year, and then will come the arguably more difficult task of properly monetizing their games to a user base that’s not used to free-to-play and all it entails. “The one advantage we have is that we’ve been through the grinder before. We know how to entice players and we know if they’re not comfortable with it. When Perfect World entered the market here, free-to-play was still a bad word to say. We’ve been fighting people not wanting to play free-to-play games, or not wanting to pay… we’ve been through that before. Now it’s just a different medium. We’ve solved all those issues before and we’ll just use the same tactics and we’ll learn if anything changes.”
As for when we’ll hear more specifics on exactly what Perfect World plans to do on consoles, that’s not too far off. Brown expected that the company would have more to say an “official announcement about particular projects” in January or February. It should make for a very interesting start to the year.