Some interesting almost-news came out of the Blizzard fan community, ahead of the latest World of Warcraft expansion. For the new expansion, called Shadowlands, some dataminers found an interesting tidbit in the game’s new code. Buried in the control options were various configurations for Sony controllers, including identifying language for the PS4, PS4 Pro, and even the PS5. So while the news there isn’t as exciting as it seems (for now), could controller support or a console version of World of Warcraft work well?
Fans immediately jumped to conclusions, assuming that these lines of code meant a current and next-gen console version of World of Warcraft is on the way. And there’s certainly precedent for this, as Blizzard has made console versions of recent titles Overwatch and Diablo III. The latter being a more drastic example, as Diablo is such a historically PC-oriented series (yes, I know there was a PS1 port of the first game). Blizzard was quick to put the kibosh on the idea, however.
According to statements from Blizzard, the code is merely the first step to making the PC version support controllers, due to some players using third-party tools for such a reason. The key here is accessibility, with many players not physically able to hang with a traditional mouse/keyboard. To that end, this doesn’t seem to be full controller support. Rather, players will be able to do things like map some keys, control the character, and control the camera. To me, this signals that a true console version of WoW probably wouldn’t work out well.
Some MMO games are on consoles, such as Final Fantasy XIV or Black Desert Online. Both of these games are built with console play in mind, and have accessible, logical UI and control-binding options. The whole UI of Final Fantasy XIV shifts when you use a pad for example, and setting up your items, skills, and more with the pad is easy and comfortable. You can also use the PS4 touchpad to emulate a mouse for specific uses.
World of Warcraft just isn’t built that way. There’s too much going on in that game, it’s MMO as hell and not in a great way. That’s not a drag on the game, it’s just a truth that the UI is crowded and full of stuff you have to deal with. And on higher paced content like raids, forget about it. Even though the gameplay concepts are similar and use similar verbs and UI elements, Final Fantasy XIV is built with controllers in mind as part of the initial framework, including the pace. WoW is far too removed from console play to go beyond the basic support Blizzard is rolling out for PC.
Frankly, I’m not surprised the news ended up being simple controller support for accessible PC play. World of Warcraft probably isn’t in enough demand for console players, considering the lower requirements and age of the game, along with its steady (sometimes lowering) user numbers. Diablo III’s controller options are famously great, but there are compromises to make it work. World of Warcraft’s core play, especially at high levels, would drastically suffer in comparison. Granted, if a console version was a real goal Blizzard’s team could probably figure it out, but it would be a gargantuan task for sure.