Wait, Is The Mouse And Keyboard Dying, Or Is It Not?

Wait, Is The Mouse And Keyboard Dying, Or Is It Not?

Bungie co-founder Jason Jones said something recently that, depending on how you choose to look at it, could have been taken at best as an inaccurate assessment of the control preferences of the PC gaming market.

It’s sparked an interesting to-and-fro between two websites, Ars Technica and Rock, Paper, Shotgun, the former declaring the “keyboard and mouse are losing the FPS market”, while the latter predictably offers a very convincing rebuttal.

If you’ve got any stake in PC gaming at all, it’s worth a few minutes of your time to catch up on it all. Start with the Ars piece first.

Sorry to say it, but keyboard and mouse are losing the FPS market [Ars Technica] Mouse & Keyboard Still A Major Player In FPS Market [Rock, Paper, Shotgun]

Computer Keyboard designed by Andrew Forrester from The Noun Project, Mouse designed by Anton Håkanson from The Noun Project.


  • Been meaning to check these out.

    Anyway, I should point out the Wii Remote/Nunchuk option is still incredibly under-rated.

      • I thought I’d agree, until I played Resistance 3 with Move. I’d loved Metroid Prime 3 and Killzone 3’s respective use of motion controls, and had very high hopes for Resistance. Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn’t complement motion controls in that you can’t effectively circle strafe enemies while aiming. Killzone’ s level design and stop-and-pop gameplay works perfectly for slow paced and precise aiming, and Metroid has the lock-on feature.
        I found that playing “traditional” FPS’ like Goldeneye and The Conduit had the same control issues I encountered with Resistance. Those controls need the gameplay to work in synch to be better than a controller – or a mouse. When it works, though, it REALLY works.

    • The tl;dr version is basically that consoles have just started catching up to PC rather than anything diminishing. The Ars writer (who has a bit of a reputation for not being good at writing about games) tried to use fancy maths and sales figures to argue that PCs were being way outclassed by consoles in terms of FPS games, but RPS basically pointed out that his math sucked and to stop being an idiot.

  • I find, even on PC, somethings are so much better with my controller

    Just Cause 2 goes from being a horrible amount of keys spread out all over the keyboard to everything you need to do confined to the controller

    Its not that controller is better or mouse and keyboard is better

    Or that mouse and keyboard is dying

    It is all preferece

    I loved playing Max Payne 3 on my PC more with the mouse and keyboard than I did on the xbox with my controller

    Battlefield 3 on my pc with mouse and keyboard

    Skyrim on my pc with the controller

    You may lose the precision of the mouse but you gain the advantage of ease of access that the controller brings

    • Skryim with a controller O.o
      I played an archer, wouldn’t have even considered playing it with a controller.

      (Did you mod the UI, the standard UI is pretty crap)

      • Skyrim with a controller indeed

        No UI modding

        Right now running around with twin ebony war axes

        Sneak and archery aren’t good enough yet for me to consider going back to mouse and keyboard

        • You should check out the SkyUI mod, it’s fantastic. It makes the menu system so much better for KB/mouse, and general gameplay, as it allows sorting, etc.

          • Thanks man, I shall take a look at it this weekend

            I may still end up using the controller

            An orc with twin war axes doesn’t need the kind of accuracy that the mouse provides 😛

      • I’m with you Pont, because I play an archer too (and not a pussy one like Orlando Bloom!) and the controller just seems far too hamfisted to gain any level of accuracy. That said though, my Wife’s been getting into Skyrim heavily lately on my 360 (and she’s never been a Mouse/Kboard player), and when she gets into trouble by tear-assing into a camp of brawlers and picking a fight with the largest of them whilst simultaneously forgetting she has no health, no potions of any kind and dud weapons, she panics and wants me to take over to save her ass (this takes place, like 5 times per session). In the process of doing this, I’ve found the movement on the analogue controller to feel much smoother than using WSAD. Now normally, I would never use a controller for FPS– I just can’t, the shitty freelook– I don’t wanna think about it! But this made me ask myself some hard questions. Uncomfortable questions.

        I don’t see how the two sides couldn’t meet in the middle though. An analogue stick on a KBoard, or a game pad like the Atari Jaguar and it’s 1400 button controller or more dual Kboard+mouse/controller support rather than either/or? Why not have the best of both worlds?

        • I played a spell sword – definetly prefer m + kb, partly for aiming the spells, and partly for the hotkeys. Otherwise I’d spend long periods in that pause mode.

    • No one is making the argument that the controller is the best fit for all circumstances so you’re really only beating up a strawman here, but just for giggles please list all the RTS games released in the last year.

          • That’s the typical response for a person who either doesn’t, or otherwise refuses, to see the point being made.

            I’m not actually arguing anything.

          • You never made a point. You told me to make the point, therefore, the point could be that the sky is green. In which case, you are wrong.

          • My point, which was obvious, is that RTS games are not an appreciable portion of the current gaming market, and therefore your argument that the mouse is integral to the RTS experience is kind of like reminding me to wind my fob watch. It’s accurate, but unlikely to be relevant.

          • @kermitron, “RTS games are not an appreciable portion of the current gaming market”? I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’ve never heard of the Starcraft series, Dawn of War series, or any of the DOTA clones (DOTA 2, League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth), all of which are pretty widely popular.

          • @zombiejesus Technically some of those are MOBAs which are a variant of RTS, but I’ll still count them particularly given how incredibly popular they are, and the fact that they still need some degree of micromanagement.
            Secondly, I didn’t say there aren’t any, just that their popularity pales in comparison to just about every other game type out there, especially when it comes to releases in the last 12 months.
            Thirdly, it was nothing more than a thought experiment to see if the person putting forward the RTS argument could actually name any of these popular RTS titles or if they were just playing devil’s advocate.

          • @kermitron, are you sure about that? League of Legends alone has 70 million registered accounts, 32 million active players and 12 million daily logins. DOTA2, which is still in early access, has 3 million active accounts. Starcraft 2, despite its controversies, has over 3 million active accounts. In comparison, Battlefield 3 stats-keeping sites seem to agree on a figure of about 11 million unique logins over all of 2012. I think you’re seriously underestimating the size of the segment.

  • Just yesterday I was having a conversation with a gentleman at my local game store.
    He was buying a Triton headset for his xbox, and he seemed to be pretty in-depth with the current console trends.

    He told me about his obsession with Black Ops 2, and gave me a run-down the current state of online gaming for consoles.
    When I confessed I was a PC gamer, also currently playing BO2, there was a sudden spark in his eyes.
    He said that gaming on PC is on “A whole new level.” — He admitted that he couldn’t get into it after gaming for so many years on console, but the same shooter is apparently a lot more visceral on the PC platform, and that he just couldn’t compete with the speed of the game on PC.

    I flashback to my glory days of CS1.6 and I remember how fast it was in terms of general game play mechanics.

    There’s something about keyboard and mouse gaming that consoles can’t emulate, and that’s a 1:1 human input. The precision that a mouse allows is unfathomable from a control stick perspective, and while you lose that precision when you switch to console, the heart of the game is still there.

    TL;DR it really boils down to the individual playing the game.

    We tipped hats and went our separate ways. But I’m now interested in playing Black Ops II on xbox/PS3 now to see how ‘the other side’ works.

    But for now, I’ll stick to Ni No Kuni and P4G on my consoles, thanks.

    • i dont know i thought 1.6 was a pretty slow game back in the sday compared to like quake 2
      that game was so fast its not funny lol

      • Or Quake 3, where you could kill someone with a rocket launcher, only to have him kill you and take it from you, then kill you with it again, then you kill him to take back your godamn rocket launcher. MINE, dammit! All in the space of about ten seconds.

  • for me, FPS, RTS, anything isometric, & adventure games, I’ll always prefer keyboard & mouse.

    Third person games could go either way, depending on what mouse I’m using.

    FIFA & fighting games always with a controller.

    • Pretty much this.

      Although I actually prefer using a M/KB with 3rd person, most games in that genre are console ports with horrible PC controls (negative mouse acceleration anyone? I’m looking at you JC2!) so I’m usually forced to use a controller to actually enjoy them.

      • Yeah, I see a lot of, “But so-and-so third-person action game plays better with a controller!” but the reality is that’s likely because they programmed it to. Other games in exactly the same genre have proven very capably that if you ALLOW IT TO, the keyboard/mouse combo can in fact do a much better job. You just have to allow it to.

    • And a controller for racing games (if you don’t have a wheel).
      Obviously anything that requires (or benefits) from an analogue input (other than aiming) will benefit from a controller.
      Otherwise the speed and accuracy of a mouse in unbeatable.

      • havent played a proper racing game in years. though when I did, I used a controller.

        the only racer on PC i’ve played in recent years is Blur, which was perfectly playable with M&K.but I think a more in-depth racer would pretty much require a wheel.

  • I prefer the keyboard + mouse for pretty much all games, only exceptions are for when I’m ‘flying’ I use a joystick.

    This is also due to the fact there are no controllers designed for PC that I like (closest I’ve come is using the PS3 controller with it, but it’s not exactly ‘plug and play’).

    • Here’s where my weirdness shines. I’ve worked on aircraft, mods and total conversions with flight-sims since approx 2004, and in that time, I’ve never been able to get the feel for the flight stick or HOTAS. If I’m sitting in a rig that mimics a cockpit (hotas, pedals, MFD etc), I can ease into it nicely, but home, I just can’t do it. I think it’s because I played Ace Combat for years (before it got shitty with Ace 6 onwards!) so I’m used to the controller and/or Keyboard. I know people who swear by sticks for Freespace and Wing Commander too, but I just can’t handle it unless it’s Keyboard or controller. But FPS, even third person (ie GTA, Saints) games I need stupid levels of accuracy in, I’ll never abandon the mouse.

  • The controller vs mouse/kb war will live on for a long time, just like the console war; nothing new I guess. It’s not really about what’s better anyway, it’s just preference like many have said; because even if one particular method may be “better”, it doesn’t really matter if you aren’t enjoying the overall experience IMO.

    Me for example: Basically all of last year I switched my main gaming focus over to PC; but no matter what I tired, I just couldn’t get myself as comfortable with mouse/kb as I did when I had a controller in my hand (FPS games included). Yes I know a mouse will provide better precision, but I just struggle so much to enjoy the experience, that the tradeoff isn’t worth it. Oh well. 😛

  • I’m coming back to the whole PC thing after a 15 year hiatus of purely console gaming and I have to say I prefer the controller for playing a FPS. By cranking up the sensitivity you almost get to mouse like precision if you’re good enough (though admittedly it is still worse than a mouse and keyboard) and I have to say it’s a hell of a lot more relaxing to play using a controller because you don’t need to think about what buttons to press so you can concentrate more on the action that’s happening on screen.

    Also it’s a lot more comfortable for playing on the couch in front of the TV, I haven’t found a comfortable way to use a mouse and keyboard there for a FPS. RTS and the like are a different story though.

  • this BS again?

    whats infuriating here is a gamepad makes some games damn near unplayable for me….look if you NEED artifical assistance with aiming then your systm is BROKEN

    rmemeber that part in ME3 with all the banshees in the temple? I played both on PS3 and PC, PC I barley died once…PS3 it was a nightmare…same difficulty

  • There is nothing to gain from this topic. I feel sorry for those, whom feel obliged to convince others, that their way of doing things is superior. Who gives a damn, play FPS with joystick for all I care.

  • RPS said it best, about the “PC is dying” myth.
    The PC is as strong always, but the consoles have grown significantly. PC might be getting less of the pie, but the pie is a lot larger than it was.

  • Yeah. I used to use an xb360 controller for racing games, platformers, flight and emulator games.
    But then I got a racing wheel kit and a flight stick. FFB racing wheels are so fun. Still use it for emulators and Rayman Origins though.
    And once in a blue moon I might be in a strange enough mood to turn on my 360 and struggle through a bit more of Halo 3, so that one day I can eventually get up to Reach, ODST and 4, and see what all the fuss is (was) about…

  • I use a keyboard and mouse for anything first person and anything RTS. There is absolutely no way you can get the same precision with a controller (someone here already said it – if it needs an AUTO AIM, then that speaks for itself). Anything 3rd person is quite suited for a controller – no arguments from me on that one. Also I like to play racing games with a controller … I’m not as dedicated as some in buying a steering wheel with pedals and a gearshift. In the end there is no one tool that is universal. You pick the one right tool for the job (a bit of No Country for Old Men in that one … lol). But seriously I love BOTH the keyboard and mouse, AND my XBOX360 controller. You can’t put one above the other … it just depends on what it is.

  • I actually find Controller and Mouse is a great alternative for games that allow it without stuffing up my inverted y axis.
    Strafing is tonnes easier with the left hand joystick, and you get the accuracy of a mouse.
    I did it with Fallout Vegas and Saints Row 3 I think. Skyrim kept swapping my invert and doing other weird things when I tried it with that.

    • Here we are,this guy is a step in the right direction.
      But I think the ultimate control, if you could handle the mind bend, would be a multibutton left handed joystick and a mouse…

  • I prefer mouse and keyboard. Some people prefer using a controller. Neither are going anywhere anytime soon so can we move on to more important discussions now?

  • I simply don’t understand, each has their own benefits.

    For point and click RTS/MOBA/MMO and FPS, the keyboard absolutely ANNIHILATES the controller, however, when it comes to your average RPG/Sport/Action/Adventure titles, the control is definitely more fluid and natural.

    Here are two great examples to illustrate my point:

    1) Get a FPS player with a controller to do a ‘flick’ 75 degree turn toward an exact point and also get a mouse/keyboard player to get the exact same. The mouse/keyboard player will be infinitely more speedy and accurate, every single time.

    2) Tried playing Zelda on an Emulator with a keyboard? It works but it’s not fluid at all. Additionally, you have to take many tiny button presses to get 1/10th of the console control.

    So why is this being argued over? They both have their own strengths and weaknesses.

  • Bungie…that game studio that made one game for the last ten years? These guys still relevant?

    The funny thing about Jones’ little rant, of course, is that he seems to think that the changes he talks about are good things. They’re not. Checkpoints? Health regen? Both are shit. Same with FPS for controllers. There’s a reason why MS never took GFWL to its logical conclusion (Xbox and PC players playing together) – it’s because they new that an average PC gamer on KBM would wipe the floor with the best console jockeys, because the controller simply does not have the detailed, nuanced control of a mouse, especially for aiming.

    Oh, and the first guys to make FPS games work with controllers? Goldenye 007 says hello.

  • Trackballs are the answer. The only thing holding console controllers back from being equivalent to a mouse for FPS games is the aiming thumbstick. The keyboard is already taken care of with the 360 chatpad and driver. Infact, it has 2 modifier keys for a total of over 80 buttons: http://code.google.com/p/chatpad-super-driver/

    Replace the aiming thumbstick with a trackball and you get very accurate aiming, maybe even more so than a mouse as you don’t need to move your whole hand, only your thumb. A guy on Ebay was making mods but has suspended it for the time being to work on a newer version. It was possible to buy this up to mid 2012: http://www.trackballcontroller.com/images/TBC_pS.jpg

    Add in Pinnacle Game Profiler/Xpadder for remapping, toggles, macros and even DPI switching and you have a full subsititute for a mouse + keyboard.

    If Microsoft had any sense, they would release a 360 PC controller combo with chatpad, official driver and trackball thumbstick to target PC gamers and the Home Theatre PC crowd.

    My current setup is:
    -360 wired controller
    -Chatpad + unofficial driver
    -XCM Re-mapper (for on-the-fly remapping, amazing piece of kit released in 2011)
    -Pinnacle Game Profiler

    The only thing I’m missing is a trackball for the thumbstick for the perfect m+kb replacement. Hopefully the guy who was making them starts up again.

    • I was actually thinking about trackballs while revisiting this thread. Would be interesting, I think it would be cool if they could keep spinning a bit if you flick them and hold your thumb off.

      But that’s not the only problem with gamepads – in Halo 3, I can’t jump and control my aim at the same time. I have to take my thumb off the stick to press a and then move it back up on the stick.

      Another Idea that just struck me, and I’m not too sure how well it would work, but instead of (or possibly in addition to) shoulder buttons, have rotating dials that snap back to center. You can still have games that only need on/off shoulder buttons. But also they could act as an extra axis control, or a -1/0/1 (two buttons in one) configuration based on which way you flick it. Difficult design to pull off, but sounds cool to me.

  • I forgot to add, thumbstick grips too. I cannot stand to play on bare thumbsticks, they feel so sharp and uncomfortable after using thick rubber grips for years. I use Caps4Stix but they’ve also been discontinued as of late last year.

  • I generally use the mouse and keyboard on, Valve games, and any FPS multiplayer and RTS games. While using an xbox control on single player games (such as Skyrim or Borderlands 2) for a more comfortable gaming session (which is a couple hours).

  • @zombiejesus
    You’re right, I did underestimate the numbers. However, I’m going to assume most of those 70 million are people who tried the game, got reamed, and decided to quit. I personally have two vouchers for DOTA2 which have been gifted to me by friends on steam that I will never redeem because I know I will probably be terrible at it.

    I’d be interested to know what they class as an “active account” if it’s not someone who’s playing every day. Every week? In the last month? Still, 12 million people logging in to play every day is impressive.

    My posistion is mainly based on the fact that there isn’t a broad spread of games. In the FPS/3PS or RPG or brawler/adevnture market, you’ve got tons of games to choose from. People will tend to drift from game to game, seldom staying with a game for particularly long.

    The fact that Battlefield 3 had 11 million logins across all of 2012 isn’t that surprising considering that’s about how many units it sold in November 2011. You could make the same argument that the latest Call of Duty had around 20 million logins in the last 3 months, because that’s roughly how many copies it sold in November 2012. Halo 4 sold around 8 million copies, so presumably around that many people logged in to play it, however briefly.

    But they need to compete with outliers that provide similar experiences, whereas an RTS/MOBA fanatic isn’t exactly spoiled for choice. I’m pretty confident that if Halo, Call of Duty and Battlefield 3 were the equivalent of LoL, DOTA2 and StarCraft 2 and were pretty much the only three games of their kind without new games coming out and competing for attention every few weeks, their numbers would look considerably more impressive.

    Of course they might also be better games, but that’s a whole different discussion.

    • I understand where you’re coming from, I just think the segment of games that play ideally with a mouse/keyboard and considerably less than ideally with a controller is bigger than some people seem to believe. FPS can go either way (personally I can’t stand controllers for FPS games) but RTS games (and by extension MOBAs, since the interface is the same) are hands down keyboard-preferred. I’d argue that MMOs are also keyboard-preferred, but I know some wacky people that like using controllers with them for some bizarre reason =)

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