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‘Overwatch’ director speaks out against mouse and keyboard adapters for consoles

Gamers pull Xbox chief into debate over mouse and keyboard controls for consoles

Why it matters to you

When it comes to competitive multiplayer games like Overwatch, it's important that everyone starts on a level playing field.

When it comes to multiplayer shooters like Overwatch, there’s been a long-running debate over whether it’s best to use analog control sticks or mouse and keyboard controls. No matter which side you stand on, players on the same platform have long used the same control scheme. However, in this day and age, there are numerous third-party adapters that allow players to effectively use a mouse and keyboard on an Xbox One or PlayStation 4. This control scheme can give these players a distinct advantage over other console users.

Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan doesn’t appreciate players taking advantage of this competitive imbalance. “The Overwatch team objects to the use of mouse and keyboard on console,” said Kaplan on the Battle.net forums. “We have contacted both first-party console manufacturers and expressed our concern about the use of mouse and keyboard and input conversion devices.”

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To remedy the issue, Blizzard has been lobbying for first-party console manufacturers like Sony and Microsoft to make some changes. Either they can disallow the use of mouse and keyboard input conversion devices, or they can add support for mouse and keyboard for all players, eliminating the need for such devices.

“I encourage you to reach out to the hardware manufacturers and express your concerns (but please do so in a productive and respectful way),” continued Kaplan.

Shortly after Kaplan’s statement, users did just that, reaching out to Xbox head Phil Spencer on Twitter. “Clearly, in some cases, M&K [mouse and keyboard] is an advantage. I’m a fan of giving the tools to studios, and they’ll do what’s best for their games,” Spencer responded.

From his response, it seems that perhaps down the line, Blizzard could gain control over whether or not players can use mouse and keyboard controls in Overwatch on consoles.

The products in question use inputs from standard USB mice and keyboards, and emulate standard controllers through a number of hardware and software settings. It’s done in a way that makes them difficult for developers to detect. In competitive online games like Overwatch, the quick precision of a mouse can be a big advantage over players with analog sticks.

Despite these complaints, some game makers have been less concerned with different control inputs. Just last month, Gear of War 4 opened up cross-platform play between PC and console players. During a trial run in December, it was found that players on Xbox One and Windows 10 had similar results when comparing average kill to death ratio, score, and kills per match.

Allowing mouse and keyboard control options for all console players could be an easy way to balance things out, and it sounds like we are on our way there. Last summer, Microsoft said that official support for mouse and keyboard was “months away.”

The PS4 already supports USB and massively multiplayer online games. There is also the officially licensed TAC Pro, which is a mouse and keyboard peripheral made by Hori that is “designed to work seamlessly with the PS4 system and all games.” The TAC Pro can be found on Amazon for $150.

Updated on 2-07-2017 by Steven Petite: Added Phil Spencer’s comments