Over at JoyStiq, Conrad Quilty-Harper has some interesting comments about my earlier post on the reason why console gaming won’t win over PCs for MMORPGs until consoles have keyboards (at which point, of course, for all intents and purposes they’ll be PCs).
The key part of Conrad’s comment is this:
Ian cites the lack of non-intrusive text input devices as a sign that MMOs on consoles will never reach the popularity of games like WoW on the PC. We disagree. Voice, no matter how intrusive, is much more efficient than keyboard based communication.
Voice is, indeed, a more efficient method of communications for certain circumstances. If you’re in a group and want to maximise the speed that you can react to situations, voice is infinitely preferable to keyboard. I play a priest in WoW – so I know how much quicker it is to shout “aggro!” than type it.
However, this misses the point about the popularity of MMORPGs, and particularly why the age range that play games like WoW is so wide (my own guild has a spread of ages from 16 to over 40, with the majority clustering in the mid– to late 20’s). While voice works well for the goal-directed parts of MMORPGs (raids, dungeons, etc) it doesn’t really work for the more casual, conversational aspects – the background level of chit-chat that characterises the average guild channel.
Voice also tends to split up guilds into smaller groups, which lessens the social aspects of the game. If you’re not using voice, when you’re grouped you tend to have both guild channel and your party channel on screen, and participate to a certain extent in both at the same time. That’s less efficient than voice, where you’re only in your group – but it’s also much more of a social experience.
Perhaps that’s one of the things that characterises the PC MMORPG gamer as different to the console gamer: PC gamers, especially older ones, enjoy the social aspects of MMORPGs as much as the goal-directed play. It’s not all about killing the level ?? elite mob: it’s about making friends and aimless chat, and for that, keyboard is a better form of communication.