Whether using a controller or a mouse and keyboard, the home gaming market has more or less always been split into two sides: console gamers and PC gamers. Console gamers are known for having a dedication to using controllers for everything they play, while PC gamers are given the fluidity of jumping between the tried and true combo of a keyboard and mouse, a controller, or a device that tries to meld the two, like Valve’s Steam controller. It was only a matter of time, though, before someone would try and close the gap between the two platforms on the console side. That time has come.
Microsoft has gone on record at several times in the last year or two, stating that they were bringing keyboard and mouse compatibility to the Xbox One. As Microsoft has once again promised that this is coming, the time has come to ask if it is needed. Unlike a lot of questions with black and white answers of yes and no, the keyboard and mouse versus controller debate is one that invites almost as much passion on both sides as iOS or Android and Xbox or PlayStation.
All Games Are Not Created Equal
PC gamers will be the first to admit that not all games are created equally in terms of what input device best suits the experience. While a keyboard and mouse are considered to be essential to competitive shooters like Overwatch and MOBAs like DotA 2, 3D platformers and action games often lend themselves better to a good old fashioned Xbox controller.
That isn’t to say that consoles haven’t had some great console shooters over the years. I’ve been playing shooters almost exclusively on consoles since I first played GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64 a few years after its initial release. PC shooters have also been ported to consoles over the years, including Doom and Star Wars: Dark Forces. These games translated fine to consoles due to the limited use of the mouse in-game and lack of actual mouselook as we know it today.
When shooters made their way to vast, open, 3D worlds where an attack could come from anywhere, freedom to look everywhere also became much more valuable. As a result, PC shooters began to use the mouse to control the camera, while consoles got stuck with the right joystick in most cases.
I’m a gamer who started playing PC shooters about a year ago with a proper mouse and keyboard setup. I can completely understand why members of the PC gaming community swear by a mouse and keyboard. The precision that is granted by using a mouse to aim is vastly superior to what is possible with a controller and the only controller experience I’ve had that has given me an even semi-comparable experience has been with the Steam Controller, made by Valve, which features supplementary motion controls to assist with aiming when enabled.
Do Gamers Still Use Mice?
Still, the quest can be asked of whether or not a mouse and keyboard are even still relative as a form of input for PC gaming. I recently read a great article about the upcoming PC port of Final Fantasy XV and the article contained a few useful pieces of information.
The most important was that Square Enix hasn’t gotten the keyboard and mouse control up to snuff compared to when you play the game with a dedicated controller. The writer of the article mentions to the employee at the event that he can’t perform one of the game’s most critical moves, the warp strike, and even the employee can’t figure it out. The employee goes on to mention to the writer that he was the first person to play the demo all day that had opted to go for a keyboard and mouse vs the various Xbox controllers they had at the event.
Some could argue that because the game is an RPG and the combat system doesn’t require any kind of precision aiming like Doom or a Call of Duty game would, that an Xbox controller is good enough.
When you look at the esports scene, you get told a different story. Esports competitors still use a keyboard and mouse as their dedicated method of input and they use the best of the best. The next time you go to pick up a gaming mouse or keyboard, look at the packaging. Chances are you’ll see one of the top DOTA 2 players on the package, endorsing it. It is not unlike a sports star and a kitchen appliance.
Developers: Proceed With Caution
When Xbox’s Mike Ybarra spoke at PAX West about keyboard and mouse support “definitely coming to the Xbox One, he did address the elephant in the room. “We have to be very smart in how we do that. We’ll leave it a lot up to developer choice,” he said, before addressing social media comments regarding fairness to all players.
That is, in fact, a legitimate concern when it comes to getting keyboard and mouse support for Xbox One games. If you’ve played any first person shooter for a decent amount of time on a computer, with a quality mouse, the accuracy is amazing. While it’s true that getting near perfect accuracy is an interesting combination of practice, DPI settings, and reflexes, it still has to be addressed that mice give gamers a huge advantage over those using a controller.
But Ybarra managed to hit the nail on the head:
And so, when we bring keyboard and mouse, we’ll coach developers and say… look, you’ve got to think about your multiplayer pools, if you have a competitive game, people are probably going to want the choice to say I’ll play with other keyboard and mouse people or I’ll play only with controller people, or that I’ll play with any of those.
It’s encouraging to see that Microsoft is opting to leave keyboard and mouse support up to the developers on a per game basis, while also giving them the guidance needed to make the experience a pleasant one for everyone in the community.
At the beginning of this article, I asked if the Xbox One needs mouse and keyboard support and the answer to that, normally, would be no. But with the approach Microsoft has taken to Xbox over the last few years in an attempt to unite PC gamers with those on consoles, things have changed.
Microsoft offers a lot of their own titles now that are branded “Play Anywhere”, allowing users who buy a digital copy of a game on the Xbox Store or Windows Store to receive a free copy to play on their other platform and keep everything in sync. With Rare’s upcoming Sea of Thieves, which will feature cross-play between Xbox One and PC gamers, a level playing field is needed. It’s only a matter of time before multiplayer first person shooter games enter into the equation.
At the end of the day, as long as developers implement everything correctly and give gamers the choice of whom they with, everything should be fine and this will be a great step forward to unifying console and PC gaming for a brighter future and an even larger community.
What do you think of Microsoft adding keyboard and mouse support to the Xbox One? Join in the discussion below and let us know!