Microsoft's Inflexibility Has Failed MMOs on Xbox

There has literally been a dozen or more MMO titles announced with a planned Xbox 360 release, only to have their list of platforms reduced to only include the PC later down the road. Chalking it up to Microsoft's "inflexibility", the editors at CVG have put together a developer commentary-laden editorial about the challenges involved with bringing a massively multiplayer game to the popular console system:
The men of steel in this instance, then, were fighting for the other side. With DC Universe Online on PS3, Sony Online Entertainment not only delivered a superhero MMO to console, but defended its monthly subscription fee against critics. The game received mixed reviews and was buggy. It still is. But it's there, whereas Marvel Universe Online is not. Nor is its spiritual successor, Champions Online, despite Cryptic's switch to Microsoft's favoured free-to-play model and early intentions to bring it to 360. So what is it this time?

"I'll be honest, the business part of bringing MMOs to consoles has been really sticky," says Craig Zinkievich, executive producer of Cryptic's Star Trek Online. "Trying to get Sony and Microsoft to really understand MMOs, really understand what needs to happen for MMOs, and then figure out all the business aspects of those games, has been difficult for MMO developers."


Unsurprisingly, then, when we asked ex-Realtime Worlds engineer Luke Halliwell about it, he can't even remember where the idea of a 360 version came from. "But once the idea was out there, we couldn't get rid of it. It would come up in every single press interview, we'd say no, we're not doing one, and then the piece would come out and suggest that we were just teasing everyone. It became a bit of a running joke inside the company."

Was a 360 version of All Points Bulletin even possible? "There were very simple technical reasons (why not). Most importantly, we had an incredibly hard time getting memory usage down to 2GB to meet our minimum PC spec - four times the memory of 360! We only just squeezed that down in the final months of development. Popular opinion on the internet suggests this was incompetent, but it was in large part a consequence of the character customisation system. We needed enough memory to hold 100 unique usergenerated characters at a time.

"At the very least, to make a 360 version, we would have had to write a different, simpler character system and build all-new character art for it. And given that we were running out of money just making the PC version, this was obviously impossible."
Given how lucrative MMORPGs have become, there is no question in my mind that the limitations will most certainly be addressed in the next generation of Microsoft's console.