The Daily Grind: Where are all the sports-themed MMORPGs?

On those rare occasions when we mention EA’s FIFA series, usually relating to court cases over online gambling, I’m always struck again by how few sports MMORPGs we have. We have fishing games and golfing games. We have racing games. But major team sports have never bridged the gap, in spite of their immense popularity — though maybe that’s because they’re popular with self-identified non-gamers.

Indeed, even few MMORPGs include sports as something our characters would do — it’s a weird omission, right? Wouldn’t it make much more sense for PvP to play out as sporting simulators, a la Star Wars: The Old Republic’s Huttball, one of only a handful of examples I can think of from our 20-year history?

So where are all the sports-themed MMORPGs? Why aren’t we seeing more of them, and how would you make them work?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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63 Comments on "The Daily Grind: Where are all the sports-themed MMORPGs?"

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Schmidt.Capela

Sincerely, what would the MMO format offer to a sports game?

Open world? Apart from street racing and perhaps a couple other sports all the action happens in closed arenas, so that isn’t needed.

Progression (and, in particular, power progression)? It’s at the core of most sports to eliminate external influences as much as possible (thus standardized arenas, gear, etc); power progression isn’t a good match for sports games. Non-power based progression is already served by achievements and trophy rooms in all their guises.

Live opponents available at all times? You just need matchmaking for that, no need to make the game an actual MMO.

The traditional MMO format is a good match for games where much of the action happens in the open world. It has little to offer to a game centered on arena-bound activities, and particularly so if power progression is detrimental to the experience.

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Zen Dadaist

I just assumed that the audience for competitive team-based PvP was over at the MOBAs.

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Scrungle

In the garbage, where they belong.

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angrakhan

I think the answer is pretty obvious but no one has mentioned it sooooo… How about the fact that there aren’t any sports that require enough players to qualify the game as “Massive”. I mean do we consider Battlefield “massive”? I don’t. Yet they have I think 32v32 player matches. What sport do we have that not only meets but exceeds 32v32 by enough to qualify as a “massively” multiplayer game RPG or not? I can’t think of any. Thus you end up with the sports equivalent of a lobby shooter which is not an MMORPG.

Case dismissed!

boredinBC
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boredinBC

The first M in MMO could easily be accomplished by building a persistent world in which the players live.

Estranged
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Estranged

Dungeons don’t require that many people. The games are just a dungeon. You could have AI matches, as well as PvP.

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Vexia

Conventional sports are well outside my range of interest, so I don’t really think I’d play a sports-based MMO for the sake of the sport. But I guess I am kind of surprised we don’t have very many of them.

Ideally for me, MMOs would have sports more as mini-game or PvP activities like the aforementioned Huttball or the cart racing in Toontown Online. Can’t you play soccer in jail in ArcheAge as well? It may sound silly, but for me that’s the kind of feature that pushes something from “just a game” into virtual world territory.

Also I’m predicting it right here and now: Blitzball will become a playable sport in FFXIV: Stormblood along with the addition of swimming.

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Robert Mann

Because if you think people are jerks in MMOs as it is, all you need to add to that formula is sports teams…

Estranged
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Estranged

Broad brushing it today, heh? đŸ™ˆ

capt_north
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capt_north

Because the quarterback class is OP and needs to be nerfed.

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Bryan Correll

I can see MOBA style games being sports centered*, but not MMORPGs.
* And I can imagine people going apeshit because someone else ‘stole’ the shortstop position before they could and ranting through the whole game that they’re going to lose because of how bad the other guy is at that position. And basketball games where no one ever passes the ball.

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Jack Pipsam

Sport is by its own nature, repetitive and rigid. Unless you want to go down the whacky route with say Rocket League, the amount of things you can do with sports games are limited.

I mean sport games suit their mark just fine as it is. You can already play sports games online, offline ect. As an MMO I doubt it would work.
Sport games as a simulation almost need to exist as they currently do if they hope to achieve a degree of authenticity.
I mean you can have fun things like Mario & Sonic at the Olympics, but at its core the sport games have to be somewhat related to the sport.

I mean if your character is spending more time off the field, then what’s the point of it being a sport games? If you spend your whole time on the field, what’s the point of it being an MMO? I don’t really conceive say how a Swimming MMO or a Cricket MMO or a Australian Rules Football MMO would work.

Maybe part of it is that I don’t care for sport as entertainment in real life at all, so I am not really invested in the idea.

IMO Sport can only really work as mini-game or side thing like battlegrounds.

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Utakata

Perhaps because sports is more or less readily available to play in reality. So why would we need to sit on our behinies to kick a ball with your mates in an MMO environment, when you can go down to a local park to do that?

…on the other hand, PvP would be better suited in an MMO environment because that would involve killing off your mates in reality, or being killed off in impossible fantasy/sci-fi environments. Since we only have one life to spare and the local park doesn’t have a Warsong Gulch simulation…it gives us more incentive to play that in our favorite MMO’s instead. :)

Estranged
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Estranged

Madden sells a lot of football games.

I think it is more about what the narrow scope of what developers are interested in on a personal level.

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Utakata

Oh, okays. Not sure that’s addressing my point though. o.O