MMOs – that’s Mega Multiplayer Online games – first (commercially) began in the 1990s with the release of Neverwinter Nights. Since then, we have seen countless titles: some which remain powerhouses today. One thing we have also seen is the stagnation of the genre, an inertia resulting from similar formulae being reproduced each new release. Despite this, the biggest MMOs today still bring in hefty player counts and profits: World of Warcraft for example having an estimated 3 million subscribers.
The three biggest MMOs at the moment, by player count, are World of Warcraft, Old School Runescape, and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Two of these have been going for almost twenty years, and FFXIV for almost a decade. Having played all three at some point, they are still exceptionally fun experiences when played with friends, but lack originality and can become tedious quite quickly. This is made worse by the attitude that these games are supposed to be constant experiences, similar to ‘Games as a Service’, where any time not playing means you might get left behind. Again this is worsened by the subscription fees present, although this does ensure a steady stream of content.
These games are all a type of MMO referred to as a ‘theme park MMO’, where the players are led along a pre-set path with some delineation available. This differs from a ‘sandbox MMO’, where the players are free to choose their own progression. In my opinion, the latter of these types offers a more diverse and vibrant experience, but unfortunately there are not many popular releases that follow this format. An example of one that does is Black Desert Online.
In my personal experience with MMOs, the formulae of fetch quests and tab targeting is particularly tedious. Black Desert Online is my favourite MMO in regards to changing up the formula, remedying this tedium with its dynamic and action-oriented combat but its pay-to-win atmosphere and ridiculous grinding culture led me away. Another popular MMO is Guild Wars 2, featuring dynamic events and a casual atmosphere, but it is still afraid to divert too far from the traditional MMO makeup.
I think that MMOs need a change, something fresh to really liven up the genre and its offerings. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen just yet, so while we wait, why not try out World of Warcraft’s new Shadowlands expansion on the 24th? If you’ve got a group, WoW is still an experience worth having.