Elite Dangerous: Odyssey was meant to be a big step forward for Frontier's sprawling sci-fi sim: The ability to exit ships and walk around on planetary surfaces "feels like one of the biggest leaps for the game in terms of scope and things to do," we said just ahead of its release in May 2021. Alas, it was in a dreadful state when it rolled out, and while multiple patches have been released since, it still holds a "mostly negative" rating on Steam.
The situation has definitely improved, although as Nat noted last summer, Odyssey's biggest problems demand more than just bug fixes. Frontier Developments has apparently reached the same conclusion, as it announced today that it is stopping all development of Elite Dangerous on consoles.
"It’s no secret that Odyssey’s launch was less than ideal, including the need to split the PC/console player base to focus on a PC-only launch," Frontier CEO David Braben wrote. "Since Odyssey’s release in May 2021, we have worked tirelessly to improve the Odyssey experience on PC, and whilst we have made great progress there is still more to be done. We have been supporting the pre-Odyssey and post-Odyssey codebases since.
"Over the last several months, we have been wrestling with the best way to move forward, and it is with a heavy heart we have decided to cancel all console development. We need to be able to move forward with the story of the game, and in order for us to do this we need to focus on a single codebase. Elite Dangerous will continue on console as it is now together with critical updates, but we will focus on new content updates on PC on the post-Odyssey codebase."
The initial reaction to the announcement does not seem very positive. Several players in this Elite Dangerous forum thread expressed disappointment in the decision and compared it to last year's halt of development on MacOS, which ultimately left the game unplayable on Mac platforms. One of the big sticking points is that there is currently no way to transfer existing console accounts to PC. Frontier said that it is "exploring options for transfers" but for now, even console players with Elite-capable PCs are out of luck. Frontier also confirmed that Elite Dangerous: Odyssey will not be developed for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X consoles.
The one bit of good news for console space jockeys is that the game servers will remain active, and they'll still continue to have access to Elite Dangerous: Horizons content, as well as the "critical updates" Braben referenced in the announcement.
It's not clear how much of the overall Elite Dangerous player base is made up of console players, but Frontier's willingness to walk away from it makes me think that it must be a fairly small slice of the pie. Still, it's clearly a disappointing development for a lot of players. I've reached out to the studio for more information on the number of players impacted, and will update if I receive a reply.