In a world of broken promises, this was one that I mistakenly hoped wouldn’t be one of them. When Microsoft announced back in 2018 that it would be bringing mouse and keyboard support to the Xbox One, I couldn’t have been happier. As a long time PC gamer who has a computer in desperate need of an upgrade and a laptop that was never purchased with the intent to game on, this was a godsend. Finally, I would be able to play all the FPS games I had been missing out on—due to controller preference—with an interface that I was most familiar with. And yet, here we are a little over six months later since Microsoft’s announcements, and only 12 titles that currently support the feature.
Where are the rest?
It may seem like an incredibly superfluous thing to want mouse and keyboard support on console games, so much so that one may wonder why even bother mentioning it. To me, this couldn’t be any further than the case. As gamers, we should always be supportive of new ways to play, and part of that is through interfaces. Yes, controllers do work, but they are hardly the end all be all when it comes to playing games—anyone who has owned a Wii should be fully aware of this. There are better controller interfaces, especially when it comes to the type of genre one is playing.
Going back to the Wii and Wii U, both which made extensive to decent use of motion controls, several titles wouldn’t have had the same quality gameplay without it. Two such examples of this were Metroid Prime 3 and Pikmin 3. In both cases, motion controls were used successfully to provide better aim and selection. For Pikmin 3, being able to direct, gather, and control with motion controls proved to be a far more excellent way of playing when compared to a traditional controller that was more cumbersome. Metroid Prime 3 had similar—albeit less pronounced—differences when using motion controls in comparison to the original lock-on system, enabling players to have more control over their aim and camera movement. In both cases, using a traditional controller certainly would have been possible, but that hardly means that it was the best or preferred method to play. Instead, it was motion controls that made both games reach their true potential, and without it, wouldn’t be nearly as good titles.
Mouse and keyboard are no different, both enabling a different type of interface that lends itself better to different titles. Genres such as FPS, Strategy, and even RPGs can all benefit from mouse and keyboard controller scheme, making it all the more critical that consoles support them. For ages, game developers have attempted to work around the lack of a mouse and keyboard when it has come to certain genres, most notably when it comes to RTS (Real Time Strategy) games. There is a reason these games are almost always exclusively found on PC, and much of that has to do with the interface. Attempting to control entire armies while also juggling one’s products and resources can be very cumbersome when done on a controller. There is a lack of precision and speed, in addition to a disconnect in how one’s actions move the cursor when compared to a controller that makes the overall experience subpar. Since the lack of a mouse and keyboard generally produces a lacking experience for the genre or requires a game to be reconsidered entirely to make it work, RTS titles don’t exist on consoles in any meaningful way.
RTS titles may be one of the more extreme examples, but it can be seen in other genres as well. Take in slower paced, in-depth RPGs or even turn-based strategy games like Civilization, where the amount of information attempting to be conveyed is enormous in any given moment. Complex UI’s in titles like these never fair well when ported to a console, primarily due to being restricted to using a controller. However, once that dark cloud has lifted, much like the case for Civilization VI being ported to the Switch allowing for touch controls, the problem quickly dissipates. Now consoles that traditionally have not, or supported specific genres very poorly, would be enabled to support this broader array of genres which now may be able to find a place on a home console finally.
But allowing more genres the accessibility they need through mouse and keyboard support isn’t the only reason consoles need to be able to use this interface; there is a far simpler reason—it enables choice. Much in the same way that Microsoft announced the Adaptive Controller to provide a better and more customizable experience for those with limited mobility, mouse and keyboard support should be pursued for similar reasons, enabling more choice in how we play games. If I want to kick back and play Halo Wars 2 on my Xbox One, I want to have the ability to play on a mouse and keyboard, rather than a controller. It is a better experience to me to play that way, and having the option to do that from a home console would not just be something great for myself, but great for the industry on all fronts.
Plus if consoles ever hope to compete with PC Gaming, mouse and keyboard support is a must!