Massively Multiplayer Online Rolepaying Games, commonly referred to as “MMO’s” have been around for coming close to 30 years. They are incredibly diverse, unmatched in time played and are the driving force behind multiplayer games when players are looking to add multiplayer to a game. These games are the soul of human interaction on the internet via video games; they allow you to connect and play with up to hundreds of other people at a time. Many friendships have been created and lost during the era of MMO gaming, but will there ever be another successful MMORPG?
MMORPG games started with Island of Kesmai made back in 1985 and have been growing ever since. The most well-known MMORPG’s include, but aren't limited to: Everquest, World of Warcraft, Dungeons and Dragons, Aion, DARK Age of Camelot… the list goes on. Of course the success of these games is all subjective to what the player defines as success, there is a new MMORPG being released multiple times a year, and players are regularly seen leaving with a bitter taste in their mouth. These games are deemed a failure because they could not compete with the MMO superstar, World of Warcraft.
In terms of active players, World of Warcraft is without a doubt the most successful MMORPG to ever hit shelves. Once boasting subscribers in the multiple millions, and one of the most well-known gaming names to ever be released, this titan appears to be slowly faltering, leaving plenty of room for new companies to swoop in with exciting new praises about their current projects and try to gather all the falling pieces where they believe World of Warcraft is failing. Most of these games, however, leave plenty of room for overwhelming levels of excitement from the fans of MMO games, and in the end, unfortunate disappointment.
With World of Warcraft’s population slowly dwindling it leaves me with a number of questions, most pertinent of all: where are all the players going and where do they end up afterwards? Most of World of Warcraft’s old player base was made up of people a few generations ahead of myself. It scares me to think that some people I used to raid with are now in their 40’s fostering nice retirement funds and experiencing the later stages of life. I at one point raided with a 65 year old, and that was seven years ago. With subscriber numbers plummeting and Blizzard Entertainment desperately trying to get them back, where is everyone going?
The release of Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic shook the roots of MMO players around the world. Star Wars was expected to carry the weight of its predecessor’s films and Guild Wars having to ride in on the lost hype of the older Guild Wars fan base, both games did extraordinarily well at first but to their dismay, were short lived. There is no simple replacement for World of Warcraft for some, most players will go back to the game until they cannot log in anymore, which is a sign for an extremely loyal base of fans, but could it also simply just be an overabundance of MMORPG’s being released?
At the age of 19 I’ve personally seen more MMORPG games rise and fall than I have seen birthdays, every person that has ever played a current MMO knows the on-going debate of which game will be dubbed the “WoW-Killer”. It’s a very toxic term that in my experience, starts one of the age old debates of “will any game succeed other than World of Warcraft?” It’s no secret that almost anyone who plays the game currently is constantly checking out new MMO’s, debating back and forth with themselves if they should move on and just try to find another game… but what happens when the “king” dies?
Many games have tried to take the throne from Blizzard, most companies that are coming out with a similar game are trying to improve upon everything that Blizzard “doesn’t do”. You see developers trying to hook players in with what they might claim as revolutionary phrases, but are really just building off of past complaints from other MMORPG’s. They try to grab an audience and draw attention to their game with phrases like, “There is less grinding!” or “You don’t HAVE to be max level to have fun!” I’ve learned in my time as an MMO player that most of these promises making an MMORPG seem incredible, are just what usually lead to their downfall. It often seems that these developers are merely trying to attract the people falling away from the crumbling base of World of Warcraft’s subscribers, instead of trying to attract everyone they possibly can. A smart business move for a very short time reward however, as most of these games leave a large majority of these players yearning for more than just what their old favorite game didn’t have.
The definition of success is different between anyone you talk to, especially in the MMORPG community. It’s unfortunate that most fans of these massive games that I’ve talked to have suddenly turned into expert Marketing Analysts just because they read the numbers that are put out each quarter. Having every number being constantly watched by your player base must be very pressuring as some tend to people follow a very “group” oriented mindset, if the game looks like it’s dying to some people, it loses its luster somehow.
It feels as a player, that the more a community of a game tries to speculate on a games success, the more likely the game will start to crumble. It seems rather than to focus on the gameplay of most games coming out nowadays, players are more preoccupied with the numbers that gather behind. It makes sense from a standpoint of a player trying to gather how much of a community they will be playing with or competing against, but eventually it gets extremely old talking amongst fellow MMORPG players and hearing nothing but talk about how many subscribers a game has gathered/lost. Eventually when a game is collecting dust and sitting in the proverbial shelf on my computer, I.E the recycle bin, I stop focusing on what goes on with that game, but I commend anyone who still plays The Secret World, Guild Wars 2 or TERA. All MMO’s that had great potential, but unfortunately left most players with bad tastes in their mouths and an unfulfilled need for that new and shiny game to sink all of their time into.
Will MMORPG’s eventually die off completely and will we see a bigger transition into more streamlined games/platforms? There are plenty of games out there to try and to play, thousands of hours to sink your time into and hundreds of communities that can help new players find their way. MMO’s nowadays are separated by their players relentless assault on the problems with the other competing games, their inability to accept that some people might like a different thing, and the constant watchful eye of the community to see if the game is successful or not. With games like Final Fantasy XIV : A Realm Reborn, and wildstar coming out soon and gathering extreme amounts of trepidation, will these be yet another failed attempt to become the next successful MMORPG?
What do you think makes a successful MMORPG, and how do you feel about the constant string of MMORPG games being released? Will you continue trying until you find the game that is “Just right”? Or will you leave the MMORPG genre feeling unfulfilled and underwhelmed? Join in, and create your own discussion on the forums.