The Fight Over How To Play Overwatch On Consoles

Overwatch's Widowmaker

Since last weekend, Overwatch console players have flooded forums with denunciations of so-called "cheaters" who play with a mouse and keyboard set-up. That way, they will nail the headshots and swift movements that console players must work hard to master. Players stuck with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 controllers call mouse and keyboard conversion devices an unfair advantage. But gamers with disabilities call it a crucial tool.

On Battle.net, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan posted an unusually terse message rejecting the use of mouse and keyboard on console. He called for a full stop on Xbox and PlayStation's recognition of input conversion devices or, equivocating, open and easy support for all console players choosing mouse and keyboard. A vocal majority of Overwatch fans rallied behind him.

But for America's several million gamers with disabilities and the millions of others worldwide, the input conversion technology that allows for mouse and keyboard console play is what makes their favourite games accessible. Steve Spohn, CEO of AbleGamers, told me that a block on these devices would prove "disastrous for gamers with disabilities." He added that "such a system-wide ban would not only eliminate mouse and keyboard, it would also block out almost all of the assistive technologies we give to people with disabilities to be able to play on consoles."

Mouse and keyboard input converters have been around for nearly a decade. The technology translates mouse and keyboard inputs into an input that a console recognises as a console controller. Essentially, it maps a console controller's commands onto a PC's. There's significant demand for the equipment because it lets players aim and shoot with improved accuracy and speed. For snipers especially, it gives players an undeniable edge.

On Xbox One, mouse and keyboard play isn't natively supported. On PlayStation 4, it is, but players must purchase peripherals. Input conversion devices are an intermediary. But they have to be good -- otherwise, the mouse will feel jerky and unnatural.

Game developers can't monitor the use of these conversion devices, so there's no penalty for using them. And when an Xbox One player is pitted against a mouse and keyboard player, they're often at a disadvantage. Blizzard has no way to prevent that from happening.

Here's what it looks like:

Jeff Kaplan and the Overwatch team told me that Kaplan's recent Battle.net statement comes from their desire to provide an even playing field. "Ideally, we want Overwatch players to know exactly what they're up against when they sit down for a match -- but right now, console players have no way of knowing whether they're competing against someone with a keyboard-and-mouse setup or a controller," Blizzard said via email. Neither Sony nor Microsoft responded to requests for comment.

Mark, who founded XIM, one of the more popular mouse and keyboard adapters, told me that there's a lot of "false information" about the technology. On Amazon, the device does for $US150 ($196) and claims to provide "the highest precision mouse and keyboard (and more) experience."

He explained that "XIM doesn't give you PC aim on consoles (it can't)." But when I asked whether the XIM 4 adaptor gives an unfair advantage to its users against other console players, he told me that "XIM isn't about an advantage, but, for the many people out there like myself who cannot game well using a thumbstick, it's about not having a disadvantage."

A XIM4 keyboard and mouse converter via Amazon

While that may be true for some people, others are clearly using the technology to get a leg up on the competition. Several of the top console snipers on Overwatch admit to using a mouse and keyboard setup. Kojsdojo, a top 500 Widowmaker player, uses XIM technology on his PS4. He's unashamed, posting his XIM settings on his YouTube channel and calling himself a "grandmaster" with "unreal reflexes": Steady aim, on; 35.0 sensitivity; 80 boost. On Overwatch's UI, he sets his sensitivity to 100.

That said, Mark contends several gamers with disabilities use the technology. On XIM's forums, gamers with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy share accessibility tricks using the XIM 4.

One XIM.com thread attracted several thousand readers. Users map console controllers onto the keyboard for less painful gaming and, paired with other hardware, is super customisable. "I want XIM to be the best way for people with disabilities to enjoy console gaming and will continue to make that happen," he said.

Spohn pairs his XIM with a QuadStick, which is a mouth controller, and an Adroit, which he says allows button to be replaced by switches. "These are the options that I am left with because standard controllers don't work for me," he explained. Spohn says he'd participated in dozens of conversations accessibility on Blizzard titles and thinks they're "standup company when it comes to accessibility." He thinks that "to implement a ban that would completely stop an entire segment of their audience from playing one of their games is completely unlike them."

Completely nixing mouse and keyboard input converter support from consoles was only one option listed in Kaplan's controversial forum post. Blizzard also explained that they could enable mouse and keyboard on PS4 (Xbox has said that mouse and keyboard support is on its way.) These players would compete against other mouse and keyboard players, though it wouldn't solve the problem of detecting input converters.

It's not a matter of banning the hardware as much as it's about having "a clear and consistent policy from the console makers about these devices, along with tools to help identify when they're being used," Blizzard said.

Spohn says it's undeniable that XIM gives an advantage in first-person shooters. But "to completely ban people from using the only controller that allows you to be able to access a particular game is to alienate an entire segment of your audience. The alternative to that is to allow everyone to use whichever controllers they need to."


Comments

    simple, everyone get a XIM....

      Or a PC. There there's no issues with whatever controller you use.

      A mouse against a gamepad is completely unfair and 98% of console users are using gamepad.

      Or better still - forget about consoles for online shooters (the highest selling games on console btw). XIM ruined consoles appeal.

      You can't play shooters competitively on console anymore without knowing there is a better option available. I know someone with one, and after trying it, I realise how unbelievably stacked the odds are. The elite and scuf controllers are a joke in comparison.

      ---

      It's like this. Sony and Microsoft need to ban these stupid devices, or they can forget about their console divisions. Microsoft has a vested interest in everyone moving to PC - Sony doesn't.

      I predict Sony will find a way to ban them - Microsoft will continue to allow them.

        or Sony/MS make it so all games can use keyboard/mouse.

          yeah i don't understand why they don't just make it like Unreal on playstation, they had matches where you can play mouse/keyboard only, controller only or both.
          they surely can detect what device you have enabled if they could back on playstation 3
          what's the harm in giving users the option?
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6Us-0xzTLA

          Last edited 08/02/17 5:16 pm

    I have pretty nasty arthritis, and mapping a keyboard and ergo mouse is often the only way I can play games like Destiny & The Last of Us.

    Genuinely not trying to be mean, but play on a PC? If your disability necessitates a keyboard+mouse/alternative-input, then logically you'd have/need a PC set-up for your non-gaming needs.

    And if they don't play on PC because more able-bodied keyboard+mouse users are besting them so they feel the need to play on console.

      It's still cheaper to got a console/XIM setup than a PC.

        At this point I've seen so many posts about which is cheaper that I don't know anymore.
        And as I mentioned, if their disability(?) is serious enough then a PC for non-gaming purposes configured for their usage is the most logical. Maybe they could use that?

      And if they wanted to play games that aren't on PC? Perhaps they'd like to play Halo, or The Last Guardian. Then what?

        Yeah. Totally understood.

        But it's literally ruining competitive shooters when non-disabled users have access to these devices. They are the real deal, I've used one, the advantage is absolutely massive.

        I get that its a hard decision - but this has the potential to take down consoles. I mean, why bother with a PS4 when you can use a PC with access to cheaper games under your TV? For a lot of people, the answer has always been that they enjoy the comfort of sitting back and using a controller.

        If Sony has some solution to take PlayStation away from dedicated hardware, like Microsoft always has, then they can ignore this. If they don't, then they need to watch it very carefully.

        Yeah. Totally understood.

        But it's literally ruining competitive shooters when non-disabled users have access to these devices. They are the real deal, I've used one, the advantage is absolutely massive.

        I get that its a hard decision - but this has the potential to take down consoles. I mean, why bother with a PS4 when you can use a PC with access to cheaper games under your TV? For a lot of people, the answer has always been that they enjoy the comfort of sitting back and using a controller.

        If Sony has some solution to take PlayStation away from dedicated hardware, like Microsoft always has, then they can ignore this. If they don't, then they need to watch it very carefully.

        The last guardian isn't a problem because there is no competition there. The article is about keyboard+mouse on console multiplayer games and the potential repercussions of limiting it.
        Maybe you can use alternative inputs when you're offline?
        While I'm all for more accessibility options for people, at some point I think it's worth asking
        "Is it fine to improve the experience for one user while actively make it unfair for the other 11 players in the competitive multiplayer match?"
        Especially when the alternative input is keyboard+mouse because there is effectively an entire platform dedicated to it. If they are using a more alternative input, then I don't know enough to feel confident to give a more solid opinion.

    Detecting input converters would be easy. Look at sensitivity settings and then check game data on the aiming movement. Repeated precision movements without acceleration/deceleration would indicate mouse control.

    Just put MKB control players onto separate servers so they can play amongst themselves (except for custom games and possibly arcade). If you catch the odd supernaturally gifted person using the method above and they are accidentally put into the MKB group then at least they have the skill to compete.

      It still has acceleration/deceleration though as the mouse movements are being converted to joystick inputs.

      I've only used the software version with the unofficial PS4 remote play and it's better aiming, but it doesn't feel like mouse aiming.

    While I sympathise with disabled gamers that need specialised controls...some assistance devices can go so far as to break a game. Yes it may elevate a disabled gamer to play a game... but it can also be a performance enhancer for an able or nurotypical gamer. Its cheating if an able gamer usrs it, how do you police or make exceptions?

    Console games have to provide aim assistance due to controller limitations... the same aim assistance on PC is called an aimbot hack.

    How does Blizzard go around vetting players who legit need to use such systems... its not like they give solutions to the problem.
    also gold farming bot makers have hidden behind the "disable gamer" excuse cause of a couple good will cases while most of their sales were to chinese gold farmers. Blizz won those cases.

    Meh, if you're interested in serious competitive play you shouldn't be playing shooters on console anyway.

    Not worth punishing people with disabilities because a few others are being somewhat dickish, either.

      This. I love Overwatch but the community is growing ever more toxic due to their competitive nature. I get that people want to be the best, I get that they want to win, what I don't get is why they have to bring their shitty attitudes to Quickplay. Save it for competitive mode or fuck off to PC if you're tired of playing with "Scrubs, Noobs, etc" we want to play to have fun, not to hear you pick on other players because they probably want to learn a new character.

      Sorry, I got off point slightly but yes, I agree that if you want to be a serious player then you need to move over to PC.

        You've hit the nail on the head.
        I'd even go so far as to say the PC side of things is also way too overcompetitive. Everyone is playing games to have fun, yet it's taken way too seriously.
        In the back of my mind, I do wonder if the current climate of pro-gaming as well as "professional" streaming has changed the nature of things? [At the risk of sounding like a ludite, I don't want to say that this is fact, I simply do not have enough information to know. But I am curious if things have always been this bad].

        Console, PC, whatever, just chill out and have fun. You'll have great matches, you'll have matches where you're stomped into the ground. It doesn't matter.

          In shooter communities for games with serious tournaments (Quake 3 and CS are the two most obvious examples) there've been lots of toxic players since forever. Although I do think it's gotten worse over the years. Even when CS was at its most toxic in the early-mid 2000's, it wasn't as bad as the current climate in ranked Overwatch matches.

          Playing with a competitive mindset can be a lot of fun, as well, but some people can't control the extra aggression/frustration that can come from losing. Not saying it shouldn't be discouraged (and punished in more serious cases) but I think that'll always be the case, people are only human.

      Oh - so people who choose to play from the couch are somehow less serious about their gaming than PC gamers?

      I'm actually a PC gamer - but this is stupid logic. I have been competitive in console gaming over the years too. But currently, XIM is the #1 reason why I don't bother with any competitive shooters on console.

      The difference is immense. Watch some YouTube vids and see how you're getting farmed by these players.

      I don't see how you can draw the equivalence. There's no reason a console shooter can't be considered "serious competitive play", it's not like the two versions feature crossplay or anything. So long as the two are separate it doesn't matter what the other one does.

        You're entitled to your opinion of course, but consoles have a lower skill ceiling than PC play assuming people are playing with controllers. More competitive-minded players don't tend to want to be limited in this way.

        There is a reason the competitive shooter community broadly views shooters on console as a joke. The fact that people using an alternative controller is considered such a massive problem further underlines this point.

          That's like suggesting that... I don't know, people shouldn't bother racing rally cars because if they REALLY wanted to race they'd be doing formula one. Or some other pointless comparison.

          Some people just like consoles better, and prefer controllers over a keyboard and mouse. For them, the existence of PC shooters is irrelevant - if they wanted to play under those conditions then they would be playing over there instead. When everyone you are competing against is also using a controller, there is no "limitation", it's just the way the game is. Thus there's nothing about it that isn't competitive.

          All you're saying here is that you personally don't care for the sport at all in comparison to something else you like better, but that has no bearing on its legitimacy.

            What I'm saying is more along the lines of "If you're serious about taking your rally car driving as far as you can, you're most likely going to choose to drive with a steering wheel and pedals."

            We are not talking about two different games one of which I like more than the other.

            There's a reason the overwhelming majority of serious tournaments for shooters are played on PC. There's a reason the overwhelming majority of serious tournaments for fighting games are not.

            Some people prefer playing with a controller, I know that. They're choosing to limit how fast and precise they can ever possibly become in order to use a controller, though. That is not a particularly competitive mindset. There's nothing wrong with that, either - I'm not saying playing shooters on console is 'worse' than playing them on PC, people have their own preferences. It is not, however, as competitive. It can't be because the skill ceiling is lower - the difference between the best player and the worst player is smaller than on PC because the best player butts up against the physical limitations of the control scheme sooner.

            It is completely fine for people who want to play casually or who want to play on the ranked ladder and aren't bothered by the limitations of the control scheme.

              We are talking about two different games though. Overwatch on PC and Overwatch on console. The input mechanism is a huge part of any game, it's what makes RE4 on Wii incomparable to the GCN version. If the two were totally interchangeable then they would not be separated into two different versions and especially would not have difference balancing between the two.

              Your argument only makes sense if players are choosing to use a controller on PC, which isn't what's being discussed here. They're console players competing against other console players, I don't see how that isn't being competitive or how the existence of other competition elsewhere makes them non-competitive. It feels like the old argument of "why are you even playing Guitar Hero when you can just go and pick up a real guitar instead".

              Last edited 08/02/17 5:50 pm

    Wait.. so console users are pissed that not everyone is operating with the same un-precise controller? (but I'm sure the guys with elite controllers aren't in this group because of their L33T controllers right?)

    Don't think this is going to change: you really think that Sony and MS will remove support/disable hardware converters if it effects disabled gamers? - that's PR suicide...

      And Sony, who's most profitable division is the PlayStation division, shouldn't be concerned when an enormous number of their player-base is upset that they're now second-class citizens to their XIM-using overlords when playing competitive online shooters?

      The same shooters which happen to be the highest selling games on the platform year after year?

      This is actually a good thing for Microsoft. But very bad for Sony.

      *But yeah, Make your comparison to the "Elite" controller. That's totally comparable. A 5% advantage vs a 200% advantage.

        Sorry - "L33T" controller was meant to be sarcastic.. its still a terribly imprecise way to control a video game :(

        Keyboard/mouse is the winner - if you want to play that way = do it!

        If enough players use the keyboard/mouse combo on the console, then the original manufacturers will start making their own keyboard/mouse combos...

        As others have mentioned here: We live in the age of enlightenment entitlement*

    We definitely live in an age of bloated entitlement. This shit is cringeworthy.

      People want a fair game online? What's wrong with that?

        What's wrong with it, is people should shut the hell up and stop dictating to others how they are allowed to play a game.
        If people want to compete at any kind of elite level at FPS games, they will use a control system which gives them the best chance.

          people should shut the hell up and stop dictating to others how they are allowed to play a game.Yeah, if I want to flick on my infinite health cheat then the others should stop complaining and just let me play the way I want to play :P

            Yeah that clearly wasn't what I meant and I realise you're being faciteous :)

            Cheaters are another breed entirely.

              But cheaters make the game unfair too. Why is it ok to want the game to be fair in regards to cheaters, but not in relation to these guys? Or, how is it that these guys aren't cheating also?

            If I wanna get my friends to DDoS the enemy so that I automatically win, who are you to judge!? Bloody entitled gamers!

    I quit online shooters on console last year. XIM use is absolutely prolific now. You're a fool if you don't understand the immense advantage m+kb provides over even "elite" controllers.

    I play competitive games on my PC now - stick to single player games on my PS4 / Xbone.

    It's a shame. I'd like to play Overwatch from the couch - but I've seen how much better XIM players are than the controller-plebs.

      Splatoon is the best console control scheme I've ever seen, hopefully it spreads.

    Havent console players been saying for decades that controllers are better anyway?

    Look at them, arguing over how to peel a potato.

    I need another trigger comment.
    Gimme a minute...

      ... PC gaming is cheaper than consoles anyway...
      ... How can they even see what they're aiming at anyway with those potato graphics...
      ... it's what you get for playing on a sony gaystation, amirite?...

      Here, let me help you out ;-)

    their first problem was trying to play a competitive fps with a controller...

    What started out as a semi-reasonable disabled access vs "fair" play argument has descended into the same console peasant, PC master race BS it always does.

    I own a PS4 and a 1440p capable high-end PC. Fuck off with the "hurr durr master race" crap.

      hotcakes?
      Shouldnt it be potato cakes?

        I'm a filthy sandgroper so here we call them potato scallops m8

      I'm a PC gamer, and frankly I detest modern consoles, but with a valid reason. The fact that the majority of game developers develop for the consoles and PCs just get badly done ports means PC-exclusive gamers get the short end of the stick. The majority of PC setups are capable of retardedly more than the games are designed for, but because of the limitations of the console hardware, developers fail to push the limits of what we can do with modern technology, instead designing for architecture already several years out of date. I accept that consoles make gaming more accessible, and that this is a good thing both from a cash flow perspective for the developers and producers, and that they put out more games as a result, and from an availability perspective in that people who can't afford a decent PC can still afford to game. But it pisses me off to play a game and have to think about how much better that game could be if they weren't limited by having to be capable of running on 7 year old hardware. A new console generation every couple of years would make game design a more dynamic process, allowing new capabilities of the hardware to be exploited in a more timely fashion. But Moore's Law means that my phone is more capable of running games than the hardware current games are being designed for, even in their latest iteration (PS4 Pro, etc). And that's just sad.

      Anyway, on the topic of the controllers, keyboard/mouse setups will invariably be faster and more accurate than the standard controller setup, because they were designed that way for competitive gameplay and to take advantage of the already-present complex control interface devices as opposed to console controllers which are designed for the simplified control patterns possible on a hand-portable control device. Do I think players should be penalised or limited for using a more precise interface device? No. Individual hardware setups should have no bearing on whether someone is allowed to participate in a game or not, nor the modes within that game they are allowed to partake in.

        I detest modern consoles, but with a valid reason

        All that follows isn't a "valid" reason, though, it's just sour grapes [or, misdirected detestation?].

        PC gaming is a niche hobby for a relatively small group of people. Sure, there are things which a PC does differently than a console, but when it comes to cross-platform titles [which seem to be the main reason you don't like consoles], the VAST majority of people will buy the console version.
        These are businesses making the games, so of course it makes sense to pour more resources into the console versions. Not only that, but from the developers perspective, not is the ROI higher for console, but the development and support is much simpler for a fixed platform.
        I'm not excusing the release of poor-console ports on PC, because there's no good reason to release sub-par product. But said poor PC releases doesn't mean that consoles are bad devices.

        I've always been a PC gamer, and there's many games I will always play on a PC. But I also own a PS4, and I can say that there are many things that it does incredibly well for such a simple, low-cost device. Certain things much better than a gaming PC.

        Ultimately, I don't think your PC gaming experience would be much better without the existence of gaming consoles. The numbers of PC gamers also wouldn't be much higher, there'd just be less gamers overall which I don't think is a good thing.

        Even as someone that owns a PC and is happy to upgrade my GPU every 18-24 months, you have to realise that same tick-tock cycle isn't applicable to consoles. If little Johnny tried to tell his parents that he wanted to spend $500+ every two years, he's got fat chance.

        While I agree with you that it's disappointing to see PC versions of games shoddily ported or optimised, consoles have a valid place as a more casual way to play AAA games. I don't use the term casual as an insult - there is nothing wrong with someone wanting to spend $500 every 4-5 years, sit on their couch and play games without having to worry about if it'll run or not. It's why I disagree with the release of Scorpio, PS4 Pro etc. Buy a PC if you want to update your hardware regularly so you can play at max settings and resolution.

        RE: the input method, I strongly disagree. As you say, of course KB&M is drastically more accurate. That's the entire reason they shouldn't be allowed to play concurrently with controller players, and that's coming from someone that prefers KB&M as an input method and so as a result, plays most of my FPS etc games on my PC instead. Besides, KB&M wasn't "designed for competitive play". They were designed for word processing and other mundane PC tasks. It just turned out it was superior as an input method for many game genres.

        They shouldn't be allowed to participate in the same games/modes, because they'll wipe the floor with their competitors. Consoles are not PCs. Their entire reason for being is a readily accessible, "casual" and level playing field, hardware wise. Being able to spend $200 more than the other guy on a quality KB&M setup, and as a result being able to play dramatically more precisely, is the exact reason they should be limited.

        Last edited 09/02/17 5:58 pm

    Back when my friends and I were playing Quake 1, we were still using keyboards only. I went down to a LAN in Victoria, and was beaten.. This guy was using a mouse, that seems pretty cheaty!

    Anyway, I went back and played my friends after changing to mouse. Showed them the ways... Hitting obscene shots consistently. We all converted and never looked back. However I do recall my first thought was.. "this is cheating, it seems too easy". I'm sure we'll all say the same thing when VR is really in.

    On Battle.net, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan posted an unusually terse message rejecting the use of mouse and keyboard on console. He called for a full stop on Xbox and PlayStation's recognition of input conversion devices or, equivocating, open and easy support for all console players choosing mouse and keyboard. A vocal majority of Overwatch fans rallied behind him.

    Are they going to keep a single standard and prevent PC gamers from using controllers instead of keyboards and mice?

    This is just nonsensical and if one is more conformable (or even better) with one input method over another then it shouldn't matter what platform (console or PC) they are using.

    online gaming is NEVER an even playing field no matter what control scheme or system you use. They are always overrun with toxic assholes or cheaters or people that exploit cheap loopholes to win, because yknow winning is always the most important aspect of anything in life.
    If you play online you have to be prepared for people to play games in different ways with different control inputs and often in ways which perhaps the game wasn't designed for.
    It's a melting pot. Of course keyboard and mouse is superior for FPS, everyone knows that. Consoles are just PCs so if people want to use a keyboard and mouse then there is no point getting wound up about it.
    The far bigger problem is cheating. Game developers and publishers should be doing more to eliminate that. It is an absolutely winnable fight too. Especially on closed systems like consoles. Ban their console ID which is tied to the console.
    there need to be repercussions for acting like a dickhead and violating terms of service and poisoning the experience for others.

    Where do you draw the line on declaring peripherals to be too advantageous? Do the Xbox One Elite controllers give you an unfair advantage with the extra buttons (paddles)? How about gaming monitors with low display lag vs TVs with high display lag? Or 7.1 headsets vs mono tv speakers?

    When a device such as XIM is publicly available (although being expensive) then everyone has a choice to buy one or not, similar to low lag monitors or fancy headsets.

      You're comparing items which give minor benefits against something which gives an enormous benefit. It's like 5% vs 100%.

      where to draw the line is simple - you draw it when something fundamentally changes the way people feel comfortable interacting with the console for its desired purpose.

      Put it this way - they're banned at all professional tournaments. Whereas people are welcome to bring their SCUF's / Elite controllers / headsets etc.

      If XIM (or mouse and keyboard) become the new standard on PlayStation, then there is nothing to whinge about. It's Sony's device, they can do what they want with it. But at the moment these are nothing more than hardware hacks being abused to ruin the enjoyment of others.

    Overwatch on consoles has such noodle controls, I never felt like I could play properly with Pharah. This mouse option would make her a flying death god... lets not dwell on it.

    Also, people like to win at any cost. I can't blame them for doing something legal to get an edge. So I have a limited amount of options when faced with this.

    1. Keep playing, get controller breaking pissed
    2. Keep playing, somehow remain calm
    3. Stop playing

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