It’s no secret that the Real Time Strategy, or RTS, is one of my favourite genre of games, but it is a genre that is almost exclusively available to PC gamers. They seem to have the life of Riley, frolicking about with their Age of Empires and Starcrafts, leaving console gamers in the dark. But what exactly is it that is stopping RTS games from taking off on consoles?
A lot of gamers argue that the complexity of the control scheme is just too much for a simple console controller to handle, and only a full keyboard and mouse set up would suffice. You would be inclined to believe they are correct, 8 buttons or so would restrict a game from having as much depth as it would have on a PC, but games like Halo Wars have proven this wrong by providing an accessible and easy to learn control scheme. Granted Halo Wars isn’t the most complex of games, but it does provide the fundamental mechanics for a successful RTS. So why haven’t other developers followed suit? I believe the answer lies a lot deeper than controls.
I believe it is the mentality of gamers that is prohibiting the genre from breaking through onto consoles. Generally speaking, PC gamers seem to have the patience to sit down, work out a games mechanics, play through multiple tutorials and then apply what they learn. What they get in return is a much more rewarding experience. The trends in console games however, sees the opposite happening. Console gamers don’t want to have to learn! No, they want to be able to pick a game up and immediately know how to play. When was the last time you seen an Xbox game with a tutorial lasting longer than 5 minutes? It is this mentality that is crippling a lot of developers and forcing their hands into releasing yet another war based FPS or sci-fi third-person shooter. In today’s fast paced, quick hit market the RTS doesn’t stand a chance.
Sure there have been exceptions to this rule, the aforementioned Halo Wars had somewhat success, although there is no doubt that it owes a lot of thanks to the Halo name for this. Civilization Revolution, while strictly speaking not an RTS, is another strategy game that sold well at release. However these were both released quite some time ago, and while there are a few players kicking around the servers, they are all but dead when compared to the millions of players online at any one time on Starcraft 2.
The console market isn’t doing much to help this, as per usual, it comes down to money, and simply put RTS does not sell. Why would the likes of EA invest in something new, fresh and challenging when Call of Honor 7 Advanced Ops will sell out in a matter of days? Are the publishers to blame then? Partly, but we as gamers must take some of the burden of responsibility for the declining variation in games. It is our sales that publishers use to gauge the success or shortcomings of a game. Either way, it looks as thought RTS games are on their way out, and when that day comes it will be a very sad day indeed.