Massively OP’s Best of 2016 Awards: Worst MMORPG Business Model of 2016

Massively Overpowered’s end-of-the-year 2016 awards continue today with our award for Worst MMORPG Business Model of 2016, which is another new consideration for us this year thanks to a proposal from readers strangesands and Roke. As a counterpart to yesterday’s award for the best business model of the year, this “award” is intended to recognize a live MMORPG of any age that has demonstrated a particularly awful business model specifically in 2016, regardless of its past performance. Don’t forget to cast your own vote in the just-for-fun reader poll at the very end!

The Massively OP staff pick for Worst MMORPG Business Model of 2016 is…

STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC

worst-business-model

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): Perfect World’s games – in other words, “free-to-play” that relies on lockboxes and a subscription.

Brendan Drain (@nyphur): RIFT. This year has seen no shortage of money-grabbing and abusive business models, from dodgy lockbox shenanigans and other gambling mechanics to straight-up selling balance-affecting items in the cash shop. The biggest business model upset in 2016 has to be RIFT, which added the ability to unlock the earring gear slot and equip Planeswalker: Water gear as microtransactions in its cash shop and then removed the ability to get them via normal in-game means. Trion admitted that the change was a strictly business-oriented decision and pointed to the fact that players could still technically grind for the item via the REX system, but selling gear slots directly in a cash shop left a bitter taste in players’ mouths.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): BioWare simply hasn’t found its footing with Star Wars: The Old Republic and continues to err with one of the worst free-to-play-but-not-really-so-please-sub models in the genre. It’s been permanently hounded by early mistakes (buyable hotbars), and instead of rising above, it repeatedly alienates the free-to-play, cash-shop-centered playerbase it’s attracted with restriction after restriction. Also, how can you forget that time BioWare literally put lockboxes inside of other lockboxes and were all like, hey guys, check this out, now you can open two lockboxes, you can thank us later? And remember when they redid the cash shop to improve the “visual experience” of opening lockboxes and played that like something we’d want them spending dev time on? How is this even? It frustrates me so much because the game always seems so close to greatness but for the business model issues. Runners-up from me are Pokemon Go, which Niantic seems intent on running off a cliff with constant rounds of limitations and regulations and moneygrubbing, and Black Desert, which set unfortunate precedents for most of 2016’s and now 2017’s imports. I will say that it’s very lucky for quite a lot of up-and-coming games that this category is open only to live titles because if you think our nominees are worth grumbling over, wait until you see what some of the inbound MMOs are up to.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): Pokémon Go. When you develop a game that many people play because they like catching cute critters, maybe you shouldn’t make that the most financially punishing element of the game? Maybe you should actually encourage that instead of making players want to throw up their hands and just stop playing because the game no longer wants them to be able to play? Just a thought.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Sub-or-suffer: SWTOR’s decision to strongly punish players who don’t subscribe by denying them any endgame gear with the newest expansion is repellant in more way than one.

Larry Everett (@Shaddoe, blog): If you want to know how to completely destroy an in-game economy, look no further than Star Wars: The Old Republic. Now, I didn’t mind the monthly chapter release cadence, but I think I was in the minority. But that’s not what made the business model bad. It was the cash shop. BioWare flooded the cash shop with items and at the same time made the good items ridiculously rare. Not only did this make the studio look desperate for money, but because the cash shop items can be traded and sold in game, it blew up the prices of most cash shop items in on the auction house, crippling the in-game economy.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): ARK: Survival Evolved. I don’t know if you can call this a business model per se, but releasing an expansion and an other project while your game is STILL IN EARLY ACCESS and unfinished takes the cake for me. Just. Not. OK.

Tina Lauro Pollock (@purpletinabeans): RIFT isn’t alone in having adopted a heavy-handed cash shop model with strong whiffs of pa-to-win nonsense added in, but a particular 2016 decision made by Trion that was implemented with virtually no notice makes RIFT top my nomination list this year. Locking gear behind a paywall and barely communicating the change to your fanbase is not exactly a positive, customer-focused business decision, Trion, so you deserve a spot on my naughty list. Add on top of that whole mess the changes made to the patron packages that came at the detriment of F2P accounts and I call the first quarter of 2016 one big ol’ misjudged cash grab attempt.

SWTOR won our award for Worst MMORPG Business Model of 2016. What’s your pick?

Reader poll: Which MMORPG had the worst business model in 2016?

  • Star Wars The Old Republic (68%, 2,839 Votes)
  • Pokemon Go (4%, 166 Votes)
  • RIFT (5%, 196 Votes)
  • Black Desert (4%, 187 Votes)
  • ARK: Survival Evolved (2%, 64 Votes)
  • Neverwinter (1%, 56 Votes)
  • Star Trek Online (1%, 34 Votes)
  • Blade and Soul (1%, 29 Votes)
  • Guild Wars 2 (1%, 24 Votes)
  • World of Warcraft (2%, 93 Votes)
  • Elder Scrolls Online (1%, 29 Votes)
  • Final Fantasy XIV (0%, 19 Votes)
  • EVE Online (0%, 14 Votes)
  • Riders of Icarus (0%, 3 Votes)
  • TERA (0%, 7 Votes)
  • Skyforge (0%, 18 Votes)
  • DC Universe Online (0%, 9 Votes)
  • The Secret World (0%, 7 Votes)
  • WildStar (0%, 16 Votes)
  • ArcheAge (5%, 208 Votes)
  • EverQuest II (0%, 7 Votes)
  • Trove (0%, 8 Votes)
  • Lord of the Rings Online (1%, 31 Votes)
  • Landmark (0%, 14 Votes)
  • RuneScape (0%, 13 Votes)
  • Nothing (1%, 42 Votes)
  • Something else (tell us in the comments). (1%, 47 Votes)

Total Voters: 4,180

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Poll options include all games nominated plus several major MMOs from the last few years.

MOP’s 2016 AWARDS (SO FAR)
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