The conventional wisdom is that a mouse and keyboard setup is better for playing shooters than a controller, because mice are inherently faster and more precise aiming devices. That's why, generally speaking, PC and console players are kept separate from one another (and also why Microsoft's recent decision to let Gears 4 PC and console players commingle was noteworthy). But what happens when console players use mouse/keyboard setups in action against other consolers?
The question was asked last week on the Overwatch forums, when a poster claimed that "the majority of high level players are using mouse and keyboard on console." The person said they believe it's unfair to other players, but wanted to know what Blizzard's official stance on the matter is—and, if it's considered cheating, "what is being done to protect console players using a controller."
"The Overwatch team objects to the use of mouse and keyboard on console. We have contacted both first-party console manufacturers and expressed our concern about the use of mouse and keyboard and input conversion devices," game director Jeff Kaplan replied bluntly. "We have lobbied and will continue to lobby for first-party console manufacturers to either disallow mouse and keyboard and input conversion devices, OR openly and easily support mouse and keyboard for ALL players."
That last bit refers to the fact that you can't just plug a mouse and keyboard into your console of choice and have at it: Some games support them, but others don't. To get around that limitation, you have to use an input conversion device like the XIM4, which lists for $150 on Amazon—and that's without the mouse and keyboard. In other words, people are paying (quite a lot) for a significant in-game advantage.
Kaplan concluded by encouraging console players "to reach out to the hardware manufacturers and express your concerns (but please do so in a productive and respectful way)."
Whether or not Blizzard's now-official stance leads to further action is anybody's guess, although I'm not ready to start holding my breath just yet. The suggestion to hold separate console-only tournaments might be a more practical starting point in cracking down on the practice. Whatever happens, Kaplan denied in a follow-up post that Blizzard was simply trying to shift responsibility to the console manufacturers. "This is very much our problem," he wrote. "We just can't fix it without help from our partners."
Blizzard's objection is clear, but even so, not everyone agrees that the benefits of mouse and keyboard on console are quite so clear-cut. Calza123 says in the video above that mouse and keyboard users have a "distinct advantage" in speed and accuracy over players using controllers, while Chit Chat argues in the video below that the hard-wired differences in aiming mechanics between the PC and console versions of the game means that there's no real advantage to be had, merely more "comfort" for gamers who are accustomed to using mouse and keyboard setups.
It's also worth noting that not everyone using an input conversion device is doing so to gain a competitive advantage. In a series of tweets, Steven Soon, COO of the AbleGamers charity, expressed concerns with Blizzard's hard-line stance against input conversion devices, as they are something he and many other gamers with disabilities require in order to play the game at all.
His statement on the @Blizzard_Ent forums is terrifying. Disabling input conversion devices would knock out many assistive technologies pic.twitter.com/t7IyhzEHnYFebruary 6, 2017
Spohn goes on to say the best course of action is to focus on the second part of Kaplan's request: "Openly and easily support mouse and keyboard for ALL players." We're inclined to agree, as it's always better to be more open and inclusive rather than limiting the options available.