Sega announces it’ll bring massively multiplayer game Phantasy Star Online 2 to mobile, handhelds

by Phil Hornshaw

In the latest demonstration that traditional video game companies are paying a greater amount of attention to the mobile sphere, Sega has announced it’s reviving its classic massively multiplayer online role-playing game series, Phantasy Star Online, on various platforms, including Android and Apple’s iOS.

Phantasy Star Online originally appeared on the Sega Dreamcast and was one of the first console video games to offer online support. It was also a fairly early forerunner in the ramp-up of the MMO genre, which has since become well-known and incredibly huge with World of Warcraft. The upcoming sequel, Phantasy Star Online 2, has been swirling around the video game world for some time, and now we know to expect it across all kinds of platforms.

As RipTen reports, Sega announced that Phantasy Star Online 2 will be free-to-play and available on PC as early as this summer, with Android and iOS versions coming in the fall. The game will also appear on Sony’s new handheld gaming console, the PlayStation Vita, sometime in 2013. So far, Phantasy Star Online 2 is only slated for release in Japan. Rather than a monthly subscription fee, the game will use micro-transactions to keep it afloat, but players will get access to the game world without having to pay anything.

From the sounds of things, despite Sega putting a lot of effort into the mobile versions of Phantasy Star Online 2, players shouldn’t expect to be able to play along with their PC or Vita counterparts. As RipTen notes, the mobile version will need to be scaled back significantly, with less complex character creation and control capabilities. That may mean that the mobile versions will be incompatible with their larger cousins for simultaneous play.

What isn’t clear yet (though we can speculate) is whether players will be able to translate their PC or Vita characters to the mobile experience. Sega says it’ll be using the same data for the mobile version as the other two versions, so that suggests that players on Android and players on Vita will be experiencing the same game. While the graphics might be scaled down, it might be possible for Sega to make it so players can fire up Phantasy Star Online 2 on their PC, then shut down, head out, and pick up where they left off on a smartphone.

It’s a bit of a stretch, granted, but it’s hard not to be optimistic, especially when more and more game companies seem to be looking toward integrating with the mobile space as the future of how games will be played. There’s a huge community of players on mobile devices, and if Sega was able to leverage them, it could have a serious impact on the size and scope of Phantasy Star Online 2. Finding a way to make mobile gameplay work with PC and Vita gameplay – if only to allows players to start on one device and pick up on another – could very well bring more players into Phantasy Star Online 2 than would have played under different circumstances.

Right now, Sega is likely working to make mechanics like this work, and it’ll depend on how much is lost in the conversion from one platform to the other. But the very fact that Sega is bringing its flagship MMO to mobile (and handheld) as well as PC, the primary vehicle for those kinds of games, suggests a continuing paradigm shift in gaming. It won’t be long until Android players aren’t hoping to team with their PC-using friends, it’ll be a reality.