Full-blown MMORPGs on mobile devices like the iPhone or Android tablets are becoming more common, the most popular of which is Gameloft's World of Warcraft clone, Order and Chaos Online. But there's no question that fans of the popular PC offerings wouldn't mind a version they could slide into their pocket and play on the go, picking up where they left off without streaming the entire desktop. For subscribers to World of Warcraft, a mobile version is still a possibility.
While visiting Blizzard's HQ last week, Eurogamer spoke with Senior WoW producer John Lagrave about bringing the popular MMORPG over to Apple's coveted smartphone. "Here's your platform, you've got to put an interface, what do you do? So yes we have [looked into mobile] and we always are," he said. "Maybe we'll stumble on the great way to put WoW on the phone - maybe we won't, but we're certainly looking into it."
What's surprising is that the conversation didn't cover the iPad or any other tablet. With a wider canvas, MMORPG developers could seemingly cram more hotbars and windows into the UI, especially on the larger models, allowing for an experience similar to the PC versions. Yet games like Order and Chaos were built from the ground up with smartphones and tablets in mind, so squashing World of Warcraft's UI down into a handheld form factor is undoubtedly no easy feat.
"We won't do it until we think it's decent," he said. "But it's interesting and the world is evolving towards that little handheld device - I'd have fun on it, that's absolutely the case. It would be foolish for any game developer to not be looking at that and we're not - we don't think - we're foolish! So we certainly look at that, but we just haven't solved it. What we've done with WoW on mobile devices is very simplistic: view the armory, you check your auctions - not just on mobile but also on web."
He said that once the team has "an epiphany," everyone will know.
Outside of bringing the full-blown MMORPG to the mobile environment, there's still a possibility that certain playable aspects could include tablets and smartphones like pet battles. "You can look at fishing and say, 'Is fishing tailored to being on a table or on a mobile?' That would be awesome, right? You're sitting at the airport and think 'I'll just go fishing'. We certainly look at pet battles too, but right now we're focused on PC - that's our bread-and-butter, PC and Mac," he said.
Would Blizzard gain more subscribers if World of Warcraft was natively playable on smartphones and tablets?