Perfect Ten: The top 10 healthiest live MMOs

One question that consistently pops up across the MMO gaming circuit is, "What are the most popular/healthy/active MMOs out there?" Every time I see this question, I sympathize with the concern behind asking it. For some players, finding a game that not only exists but is hopping and has the greatest potential for a future is of paramount concern.

Massively OP reader Duffy suggested that we cover this very topic when he asked, "Which MMOs are struggling and which seem to be rolling in gravy? Do MMOs in general do very well or are most just able to keep the lights on?"

It's a difficult question to answer off-the-cuff because there are a lot of variables to consider. Instead, I researched several angles, including player tracking services, frequency of patches, financial reports, and even how often each game pops up on blogs. While the following isn't definitive, I feel strongly that the following 10 games are the healthiest live MMOs on the western market right now.

1. World of Warcraft

Yeah, this one's a no-brainer. Even with the loss of three million subscribers and the hooplah around flying, it's still a juggernaut a decade after its launch. It tops or is near the top of pretty much every chart I could find, dominates blog chatter, inspires over 34,000 YouTube videos a month, and even has a movie on the way. Its greatest advantage is in numbers, both in active players and former players who have shown a willingness to return for expansions and promotions (let's not forget the three million sub boost that Warlords of Draenor sparked). You want the safe, predictible, proven choice that will most likely still be thriving 10 years from now? Pick WoW.

2. Guild Wars 2

Tyrians are in a really good place right now. Not only does Guild Wars 2 come up as a solid number two in many places (including its insane 117k subreddit subscriber count), but this year's Heart of Thorns is poised to be the expansion event of the year. With a world that's constantly evolving, a popular e-sports circuit, positive financials from the past quarter, and one of the most active developer and fan communities I've seen, there's no doubt that Guild Wars 2 has a bright future ahead of it.

3. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Bucking the free-to-play trend and a horrible initial start, Final Fantasy XIV is the come-from-behind success story that has made loyal players out of thousands upon thousands. It's strong on the charts, is the talk of the town on blogs, has a popular IP behind it, and oh yeah, will be releasing its own mega-expansion this month as well. I see Square-Enix as very motivated to keep it operating for a long time with lots of updates (and continued global penetration), so this is about as assured as any game could be concerning its long-term prospects.

4. The Elder Scrolls Online

I'll start out by saying that I have mild reservations about putting ESO on this list, mostly due to its relatively young age and some questionable design decisions in the past that showed the developers as being somewhat ignorant of how MMOs work. That said, it belongs here anyway with a rabid following (borrowed heavily from the popularity of the Elder Scrolls franchise), its new buy-to-play model, intriguing systems not typically seen in online games, and the recent console launch. This is a game that can only grow larger, both in content and in players, and by the end of the year we'll have a much better idea how long its legs will get.

5. Star Wars: The Old Republic

Forget the troubles of SWTOR's post-launch rise and fall; we're in a completely new era of the game. With the advent of free-to-play, SWTOR has stabalized and even grown, commanding a solid following online and remaining in top 10 and 20 lists. Good indicators of its health include frequent in-game events, the return of the popular 12x experience boost, a twice-a-year expansion release pace, and even a positive word from Electronic Arts. With the popularity of the Star Wars franchise set to spike with this December's movie, you can't go wrong hanging out in this virtual galaxy far, far away.

6. ArcheAge

Yes, I hear some of you right now bringing up the extensive laundry list of ArcheAge's failings and its penchant for attracting drama. However, the numbers don't lie: ArcheAge is very, very active across the board, from Steam concurrencies to its tracking on Raptr. Just about everywhere I turned, players were still talking about ArcheAge and loving its sandbox features. With the game's continued content growth and its increasing distance from the problems of its Western launch, I see this game and its potential as only improving (especially with Brasse heading up its CM team). Maybe it deserves another shot for those who have dismissed it?

7. RuneScape

OK, here's the big surprise of this list. But is it really? Everyone is so quick to dismiss or ignore RuneScape -- that is, everyone except its massive, devoted community. Jagex's fantasy MMO had the fifth highest subreddit subscriber count that I found, was the 13th most popular game being streamed on Twitch, and had more YouTube uploads than titles higher up on this list. Besides all that, RuneScape has been around for a long time, continually reinvents itself, frequently adds content, and even invested in a classic server. You could settle down in worse places.

8. EVE Online

Here's another game that's shown serious staying power, even with a hardcore attitude and a sub-only business model. While EVE's numbers may not be what they once were, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more fanatical (in every sense of the word) community. Blogs, forums, Reddit, comments -- the EVE legion is everywhere. And with semi-monthly game updates, an annual fan convention, and an exciting new direction for its future expansion and story, EVE shows that it's still a great time to get into spreadsheet spaceships.

9. Marvel Heroes

Other games can only seethe in envy at what Marvel Heroes has: the talent behind Diablo II, the full weight of the sizzling Marvel franchise, and a business model that simultaneously hands out freebies like candy while raking in gobs of dough. It only takes a look at the passionate playerbase, the regular (sometimes weekly) patches, the constant expansion of its hero roster, the frequent event schedule, and the bountiful tie-ins to Marvel's films and television shows, and you'd have to agree with me that Marvel Heroes will be a rising star for the forseeable future.

10. Neverwinter

In a way, the tenth pick for this list was the hardest of all, because it had to justify being there versus all of the others I had to knock off. However, I feel fine with giving Neverwinter a nod of MMO health approval for several reasons. It's not just that it's reportedly doing gangbusters on the Xbox One (although that helps) but that it keeps throwing in giant updates without charging for the new content or classes. That's kept the players rolling in and willing to spend money elsewhere (companions, lockboxes, mounts). Other plusses in its favor are its casual-friendly approach and the always-trendy Forgotten Realms D&D setting. Yeah, I'd say that Neverwinter is a good place to be indeed.

Honorable mentions and notes

Whittling this down to a top 10, even with the assistance of a wealth of data and indicators, wasn't easy. There are several that could be contenders but weren't strong enough to dislodge the above. TERA might boast high Steam concurrency numbers, but it was virtually absent everywhere else that mattered. Lord of the Rings Online has a faithful base with some blog chatter, but is past its heyday. EverQuest as a franchise whole is fairly strong, DC Universe Online allegedly is hot on consoles, and RIFT is always a worthy pick. But in the end, I had to choose.

For the purpose of keeping this list focused on MMOs, I eliminated fringe titles (such as Destiny), games that haven't released in the west yet, and MOBAs (such as League of Legends) from consideration. My focus wasn't just on how many players were in a game, but how often it was being discussed, how active the community was, and how much positive vs. negative publicity it's been generating as of late. I should also post a public disclaimer that my personal feelings and involvement in specific games did not influence the rankings here (several great MMOs I play aren't on this list!).

I used the following sources to compile data, references, and indicators to help me make my decision:

  • Reddit (subscribers to MMO subreddits)
  • Massively OP news coverage
  • Topsy (social media analytics, particularly for Twitter mentions for the past 30 days, some title names are common words and could not be included)
  • Raptr (most played games using that tracking service)
  • Steam Charts (peak concurrency for the past 30 days on that platform)
  • Google Trends (news headline count)
  • Tally of mentions on 300 general (more than one game covered) MMO blog posts over a span of three days
  • Twitch (viewer count)
  • Xfire MMOs
  • YouTube (game-related videos updated in the past 30 days)
Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line "Perfect Ten."
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400 Comments on "Perfect Ten: The top 10 healthiest live MMOs"

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JamesNester
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JamesNester

anarchy online?

DoflamingoGT
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DoflamingoGT

cheesybites76 209vaughn Guild Wars 2 isn't number 1 in numbers , WoW has still a bit more active players so the statistics are correct

SwobyJ
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SwobyJ

likalaruku1 I hope it at least stays there for years to come. I don't fool myself that it'll be a top game, but hopefully a healthy 'honorable mention' with content coming regularly enough and expansions every couple of years.

209vaughn
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209vaughn

cheesybites76 209vaughn This is one of Massively's most popular article, you think they would recreate it every six months or so.

kviria2277
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kviria2277

tutu380 LOL that awful webtoon thx for reminding

cheesybites76
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cheesybites76

209vaughn I'm shocked that this site didn't list Gw 2 as being number one, really. Lol.

209vaughn
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209vaughn

We need an updated list!!!!

rebbeca757
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rebbeca757

This list seems little outdated. here is a better one. updated according to 2016
http://www.killping.com/blog/top-10-mmorpg/

RebbecaSwan
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RebbecaSwan

This list seems outdated. I have found a better one. updated according to 2016
http://www.killping.com/blog/top-10-mmorpg/

Quetz
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Quetz

LucasFewins You described exactly what I think. Recently there is Albion Online, which they say that will rescue the old school MMO times like Tibia and Ultima Online, with full loot open PvP, economy driven by players and no levels. But,, really, like Runescape it will be hard to find or exist.

likalaruku1
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likalaruku1

CharlVanDerMerwe Not me. I bailed after 2 days.

likalaruku1
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likalaruku1

Nice to see that RIFT was at least healthy enough for an honorable mention.

sebastiandalby
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sebastiandalby

mmend2123 SteveLazarowitz DoflamingoGT Guild Wars 2 introduced a free to play option earlier this year which caused the game to have a massive resurgence of players!

mmend2123
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mmend2123

The saving grace of ESO is the consoles. They lack MMOS so ESO will fill in a nitch. I honestly tried playing ESO on the PC again and its just boring.

mmend2123
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mmend2123

SteveLazarowitz Donquixote Doflamingo Guild Wars 2 was always buy to play so I have zero clue as to what you are talking about. Star Wars is 3rd in terms of most revenue of mmos. GW2 does not have anywhere near the population size of SWTOR. You are speaking purely on a bias statement and have doubtfully played SWTOR at all.

SteveLazarowitz
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SteveLazarowitz

Donquixote Doflamingo I'd love to see evidence of this. It was probably true before Guild Wars 2 went free to play, it might even be true briefly right now, due to the proximity of the Star Wars movie, but over all, I think Guild Wars 2 probably has as many or more players that SWToR.  After all, one of the games had to fire a third of their staff after launch and went free to play a whole lot sooner. No, my guess is you're severly underestimating Guild Wars 2's population.

justaguy2003
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justaguy2003

I love seeing Marvel Heroes sneak onto these lists. It is a really fun distraction and deserves the recognition it gets.

CharlVanDerMerwe
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CharlVanDerMerwe

lol archeage, people are glutton for punishment

tktalliance
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tktalliance

rebbeca757 This list is based on player population, no opinion of the author like the list you linked is.

GR33K FYRE
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GR33K FYRE

What about Tera!? GREAT MMORPG

rebbeca757
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rebbeca757

The list is legit on some level however its not refreshed.
Here is a fresh list of Top 10 MMORPG in 2015. 
http://www.killping.com/blog/top-10-mmorpg-2015/

Which one do you play?

glidev5
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glidev5

Seriously. I don't even play any of these any more. But you can try Star Sonata.
It's the best space mmo if you can surmount the learning curve.
http://www.starsonata.com/

TE5LA
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TE5LA

AndreiNitu AVeryIrateF2P WoW can't really be compared to games today and their business model. WoW is where it is because they got into the game very early and have a lot of players who won't leave because they've invested enough money into to have bought a house by now. They put up with the lousy graphics and antiquated engine because they know the game already. They have still lost millions of players from where they once were, but it doesn't matter. There are dozens of F2P games that are far better than WoW. Most popular doesn't mean better. If it did McDonald's would have the best burgers in the world.

AndreiNitu
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AndreiNitu

VilleUusitalo SW: The Old Republic only has a cash shop to compensate for whoever doesn't want to sub. Subscribers are given full access to the game, and even given complementary shop cash monthly should they really want to buy something cosmetic. Apart from that, as a sub, everything else you earn in game through normal progression, no grinding involved. So I dunno, all the months that I've played TOR I've always subbed because I like star wars and Bioware, and neither have I regreted it, nor have I ever put any other money in the game apart from my monthly sub. And I did buy a few cosmetics in game.

AndreiNitu
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AndreiNitu

KryptonianGL LOTRO is old as fuck man, and never had a fraction of the budget WoW had, I really don't think it's worth criticizing. For all they had they've made tremendous amount of content. That there should be a better lotr game out there I completely agree, but that would imply a budget so ginormous, it's not gonna happen anytime soon. Which is sad, but whatchu gonna do..
But yeah, a state of the art, waesomely animated and modeled LOTR game, sort of like an mmo Shadow of Mordor that plays like Neverwinter (action-adventure combat, with only 5-6 skills usable in combat, but I'd want a lot more freedom in choosing those 5-6 than Neverwinter gives. Something like an ability tree of 25-30 skill, each with branches, completely separate from the passive talent tree), would be so exciting and blood pumping. Adding ofcourse the acrobatic element, because if you're gonna play as an elf, bitch you better move like an elf.

AndreiNitu
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AndreiNitu

AVeryIrateF2P Also, the top game on this list is not F2P in any way. That should tell you something.

AndreiNitu
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AndreiNitu

AVeryIrateF2P You derive pleasure from the product of a number of people. As long as you do that, and not pay them, they are entirely entitled to not give a flying fuck what you think, because you don't matter and have no legal foothold. If you buy the game, and therefore bought their service, you are legally allowed to criticize what you got. Untill then, bitch on i guess.

HeroTheory
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HeroTheory

LucasFewins The only one I can think of is The Secret World..ADMITTEDLY dead, but stillan amazing skill system..
Path of Exile is really great for that if you liked Diablo3. (Or if you knew diablo 3 couldve been good)

chosenxeno
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chosenxeno

LucasFewins There is no way to avoid optimal builds. That's a pipedream.

LucasFewins
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LucasFewins

What I really want is a sandbox MMO like Runescape, like SAO. No classes, no restrictions, just a big skill list and freedom to level which skills you want, when you want. That's what ESO should of been to keep true to the ES franchise, no classes. I want to create a blank character like I used to in the old days of Runescape and see how it evolves, and to change my mind of what I want to be without starting again. I play WoW, but it doesn't satisfy me much, I don't want lots of characters with different roles, I want one that I can really mold myself. That's why runescape was so popular, it's simplicity gave you so much freedom. I can't believe I still can't find a decent MMO that realises this.

TE5LA
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TE5LA

KhanAliAbbas LoL is not an MMO. It is a MOBA.

KhanAliAbbas
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KhanAliAbbas

where is league of legends?????

TE5LA
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TE5LA

DavidRalphLleno bryanjturner My definition of an MMO is: If you can't have at least 100 players in the same area and having combat with one another or PvE, it isn't an MMO. I've been around a long time in gaming, having payed games before the mouse was invented and even before computer games had graphics. The "MMO" classification has always bugged me because when searching for something to play, the database filters always give you games that are nowhere close. I wish a committee could be formed that could devise some real genre definitions to games.

Maybe we should start one. Anybody "game"?

RussellColeman1
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RussellColeman1

Helmet Heroes K10 new MMO game for all

LordSolarMacharius
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LordSolarMacharius

WildarX FreyrPrime Final Fantasy IV "A Realm Reborn". That's how they rebranded the 2.0 launch of the game after the initial disastrous launch.

Austacker
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Austacker

Neverwinter on the Xbox one is a miserable pay to win piece of garbage.  It runs terribly and spams you relentlessly with admin notifications regarding cash store crap.

ESO on console is average at best.  Much of the issues with the PC version are hidden because the mod community was able to compensate for it's issues.  The console version has a LFG tool that was broken day one and never been fixed, combine that with NO TEXT CHAT SUPPORT and it's a horrid mess.  The levelling system in ESO sucks, it's painful with the VR grind (which they first said would be removed and then extended another two levels for their latest DLC) and the progression path through the VR ranks is poor.  You'll progress through the main campaign levels 1-50 + Cadwells solo fine, then before you get near level cap you have to do group content or grind mobs.  There's no player housing.  No seasonal events.  No chat box.  No mod support.  It's got a decent foundation, but has a LONG way to go.

ctallantcoding
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ctallantcoding

BabaGraPL As much as I enjoy playing STO, it does not have the numbers many of these have. As a F2P game, it does have a great number of players, but I couldn't find anything on Perfect World's site about financials. I saw a few insider notes about changes to their release schedules for expansion/content patches, but that's again dependent on financials.

tutu380
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tutu380

When are they going to make a game similar to Royal Road from Legendary Moonlight Sculptor

WildarX
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WildarX

FreyrPrime What is ARR?

WildarX
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WildarX

Interesting list, but considering how many MMORPG's exist these days, only listing 10 is miniscule.  Top 100 would be better.

bryanjturner
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bryanjturner

You must be a Necromancer.

DavidRalphLleno
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DavidRalphLleno

bryanjturner GW1 wasn't an mmo. GW2 IS.

klepp0906
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klepp0906

Wow isn't an mmorpg. It's a moba with chat. A theme park for pre teens. Cmon now. The original EQ nowhere on that list? Never mind it's been running longer than essentially any other mmorpg? The fact it's more an mmorpg than any of the new age commercial crap on that list. Gw2 ugh.
/waiting impatiently for pantheon.

Vagrant Zero
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Vagrant Zero

HarvyFreitag You just looked at the raw numbers and didn't bother to do even a the most basic of analyses. TERA has hemorrhaged over 33% of its playerbase in the last month. FF14 has grown by nearly 75% in the last 2 months (granted, it's from Heavensward but a sub is a sub). Speaking of subs...you need one to play FF14. You also need to buy the game. TERA has no barrier to entry being entirely F2P. 

Now explain to me how those vast differences somehow create a "tie" in your mind?

SteveLazarowitz
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SteveLazarowitz

HarvyFreitag If only people knew how to research we wouldn't have claims like this. First and foremost, these charts only include subscription MMOs.  Period. Any MMO that doesn't offer a subscription or optional subscription isn't on this chart.. Furthermore 2013 isn't 2015.  I strongly suggest you stop using 2013 charts to judge what's more popular in 2015. 
At this very moment, Tera reddit has a whopping 127 people browsing it out of 18,000 or so subscribers. Guild Wars 2, by comparison has 1021 people browsing out of 119,000 or so subscribers. By contrast, FFXIV Reddit has over 1800 currently browsing, but of course, they just launched an expansion a month ago.

https://www.reddit.com/r/TeraOnline/

https://www.reddit.com/r/Guildwars2/

https://www.reddit.com/r/ffxiv/

Keep in mind these are live stats, not something someone compiled based on guestimates, two years ago. Guild Wars 2 is more searched on google according to google trends than any game except for WoW.  That's also live data.

HarvyFreitag
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HarvyFreitag

TERA is in the Top 2 dude, tied with FFXIV
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Alisi
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Alisi

Pfffft. Console players are the crybabies. If I didn't know better I would think consoles were the sole domain of young teenage boys.

Alisi
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Alisi

I just started playing Tera recently as I was looking for something to hold me over until skyforge comes out, and the suck that neverwinter became just wasn't bearable anymore. I have to say I'm more then pleased by the game as it has a subscription level of quality that I've yet to see another f2p game come close to.

Alisi
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Alisi

Link to the post please.

Alisi
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Alisi

Neverwinter? Really? That game has been hemoraging players since mod 6. Even the xbox version, which is at mod 5 still is already on the decline.

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