Monster Hunter: World seems to be prioritizing the PS4 over the Xbox One
Monster Hunter: World (MHW) has been an unqualified success for its developer Capcom, with over five million copies shipped across the PS4 and Xbox One in less than a week. Unfortunately, it’s become apparent since release that players who chose to buy the game for the Xbox One are getting a slightly worse experience than their PS4 counterparts.
As a newbie to the series myself, I’ve enjoyed finding out what so many people around the world have known since the series debuted on the PlayStation 2. It’s a lot of fun to plan your attack, bring down a beast many times your own size, and then turn it into pants. It’s even more fun when you can join up with a friend or three and coordinate your attack, covering each other’s weaknesses and working together to destroy a monster none of you could handle on your own.
While PS4 owners were able to team up from day one, Xbox players had to wait about a week to enjoy that particular aspect of the game. When it shipped, the options “Matchmake,” “Online Session,” “Join a Quest,” and “Respond to SOS” were all disabled. Attempting to connect would consistently result in a “No sessions Found” error. Some players could use a workaround to team up with friends, but for many Xbox One owners, MHW started as an entirely single-player experience. A tweet acknowledging the issue garnered more than 650 angry responses. While Capcom and Microsoft were quick to release a patch fixing most of these issues, some players were still having trouble connecting with others as recently as yesterday.
— Monster Hunter (@monsterhunter) February 1, 2018
This didn’t make the best first impression on Xbox One owners, who were already feeling snubbed after their console of choice got skipped during the beta testing phase. PlayStation 4 owners were able to try three different online demos before the final release, and the data from these sessions may have helped Capcom avoid some networking issues on the PS4 when the retail version released. MHW is the first Monster Hunter game ever released on a Microsoft platform outside of Japan, and a beta period may have helped Capcom figure out some of the unique challenges connected with the Xbox One’s network infrastructure.
Although the multiplayer issues have largely been dealt with, hunters on the PS4 still get some benefits their Xbox counterparts can only drool over. Right now, there’s a PS4-exclusive quest that allows you to dress your Palico (cat sidekick) as a robot inspired by the creatures from last year’s Sony exclusive Horizon: Zero Dawn. While the stats on this outfit aren’t amazing, it’s a cool look and reasonably helpful in the game’s early stages. A promised future quest will allow PS4 players to dress their hunters like Aloy, the heroine of Horizon: Zero Dawn. While outfits inspired by Street Fighter and other Capcom games will eventually make their way to both platforms, the Horizon livery will remain a PS4 exclusive.
Putting aside these cosmetic items, the game may perform slightly better on Sony’s hardware as well. Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry compared the game on four consoles: a PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, as well as the base models for both consoles. While the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro performed similarly, the base model PS4 outshone the standard Xbox One in all other tests.
The apparent focus on the PS4 version goes all the way back to Monster Hunter: World’s announcement in 2017. The first trailer debuted at Sony’s E3 press conference on June 13, and Microsoft’s version didn’t release until ten days later. While this may be due in part to the financial relationship Sony and Capcom have (Sony helped pay for Street Fighter 5, which is why it’s a PS4 console exclusive), the two companies have a long history of working together, and there’s probably more at play here than just money.
Monster Hunter began as a PlayStation 2 exclusive when it debuted in 2004, and the series really hit its stride when it was ported to the PSP in 2005. While the series has been explosively popular in Japan, it’s been a niche series in the west until now. Sony and Capcom are both Japanese companies, and there’s no sugarcoating the fact that the Xbox One hasn’t sold well at all in the East. The install base for the Xbox One in Japan is less than a fiftieth the size of the PS4’s. Capcom may have been hedging their bets by focusing more on the PlayStation version of Monster Hunter: World, but it makes sense when you consider the target audience. If World had failed to catch on in the West, it wouldn’t make financial sense to devote significant resources to such a small playerbase.
The good news is that Monster Hunter: World is a hit on both consoles, and Capcom seems to be doing its best to make sure hunters can connect with one another regardless of their chosen platform. Hopefully the lessons learned from the Xbox One’s rough start will be taken into consideration when the PC version of MHW releases this fall.