Massively Overthinking: Is the MMORPG genre taking a much-needed breather?

Massively OP donor and commenter Tibi sent this epic question to our podcast and kindly allowed me to share it here instead for maximum impact! Tibi wants us to consider the state of the genre and consider that maybe we’re taking a much-needed breather from the hectic chaos of a few years ago.

“Much has been said and written about the decline and even death of western AAA MMOs, but assuming that New World and future games end up coming out, I am actually happy with this quiet period. It can give already launched games the time to mature and grow into what was originally promised. I doubt that if we were still getting the onslaught of games from a few years back, Elder Scrolls Online could have thrived the way it does today or that The Secret World could have kept its smaller but constant playerbase. There are so many good games out there and it’s great to see them able to keep the lights on and welcome new players who would otherwise have gone chasing the new shiny and miss out. What do you think?”

I posed Tibi’s question to the Massively team for this week’s Overthinking, but they were all too busy playing quiet MMOs! Just kidding. Batter up!

Oh, well, that's exactly like the actual book, you got it cold.

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): I’m all for the industry slowing down and actually building up, not out. I love innovation, but most of the new AAA MMOs we see feel like too little too late. ESO is actually a good example, as I know I should have jumped in and enjoyed it more but got distracted by other games. The problem is that the games weren’t even from our genre. MMOs are virtual worlds, and they need time to grow, but I feel a lot of developers (or, more likely, their publishers) rush to get it out and hope people will stick with the game long enough. They won’t. You get one launch, even if you space it out into paid alpha/beta, early access, open beta (if a company does that at all), and then release, because to consumers, it’s all the same: they can pay to play. A slow down is just what we need.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I’m of two minds on the topic. As a player, I’m always content to just be — I love the periods when we don’t have too much coming that will disrupt the genre, when we can really get into a groove of building up the content and communities of the existing top crop of games. And that’s because as a player, I don’t like the constant tug between games that my guild always feels. I have enough stress.

But as an observer of the genre and the editor of a publication that depends upon the potency and longevity of the genre, I am increasingly concerned about the long gaps between high-quality new MMORPGs. A truly healthy genre needs a combination of new, AAA MMORPGs and strong existing titles getting buffs along the way, all pouring money and effort and thrills into the existing community and convincing those beyond it to join in. The next generation of games is very thin — it’s that whole “unbundling” that people have been talking about for years and years, as virtual worlds split off into different subgenres that can’t quite match the scale of MMORPGs. On our foreseeable horizon, we’ve been left with a handful of “temports,” half-finished crowdfunds, and a scant handful of big titles on the way. So on that front? If we’re taking a breather, I hope we catch our breath and get back on the track soon.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): I think we’re definitely in a lull period in terms of new games, but I also agree that it’s given some older games more chance to rise and shine in the interim. One of the big problems with MMOs is that they don’t work like most game releases, and many of them can stay relevant and popular for years; we’ve witnessed a huge influx of new games from around the time I started writing about this industry until a couple of years back, and while that’s had several great games come out of it, it also meant that MMOs had no time to find their footing, improve, and learn lessons from early mistakes. That seems to be changing, and I think it’s a good chance for games to spend more time investing.

In some cases, it also means a chance to break out of the mindset of MMO/expansion releases like single-player games; they have more longevity, there’s no automatic “well, it’s been a few months, everyone’s going to leave.” Re-evaluating subscription numbers in light of that is not a bad thing, and I think to some extent we are seeing a crash that follows the unexpected success of WoW… but we’re seeing that crash as even WoW is unable to maintain the once-constant churn that sustained it. So numbers are getting smaller, but a lot of MMOs have shown once again that these smaller numbers work, and they provide a big long-term benefit instead of a quick hit-and-run operation. Expectations are being adjusted, yes, but they’re becoming more realistic.

And hey, it gives some of us a chance to enjoy pointing out to people that the dream game they’re looking for may already exist out there; they just don’t realize it because they’re thinking of launch versions.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Personally, I’d prefer more excitement over big upcoming titles, because I think the hype feedback loop helps generate excitement for all MMOs and give a better impression of a thriving, growing genre. As Tibi says, there’s a perception — whether real or not — that MMOs as a whole are stagnant or in decline. “Quiet periods” don’t generally help reverse that.

But I certainly agree that it can be helpful to have some space in which these already-launched games can grow into their own and find footing. Seeing MMOs mature over the years can be one of the most satisfying parts of being a fan of these games, and I’m always up for a good reason to come back to my favorite titles.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): To be honest, I really like this way of looking at it. As someone who delves in to check out as many of the new games as possible for OPTV, a large influx of games is actually really a pain! I can’t hardly keep up with new stuff, and it leaves me no time to just settle in and enjoy those titles that I have taken a liking to.

Unfortunately, from my end it doesn’t actually feel like there is a breather right now even if we aren’t seeing an influx of the kinds of MMORPG virtual worlds I want to play because there are so many other styles of games cropping up. Just look at the survival titles that have shown up over the year or so. So yeah, I’d kind of like there to be a nice lull for a good half a year or more so I can just play and enjoy what is out there right now, and then lose myself in other new games after that.

Your turn!

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67 Comments on "Massively Overthinking: Is the MMORPG genre taking a much-needed breather?"

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Pedge Jameson

Crowd Hounding companies over saturated it and most of them aren’t even released yet.

hurbster
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hurbster

Dunno about the lull, I’ve got a nice home in ESO for the foreseeable.

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Danny Smith

The bubble burst. Mainstream got over the novelty and the production costs and upkeep are ridiculous compared to something like a moba or shooter where you can flood it with microtransactions and have a much smaller, cheaper team to boot.

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Sray

Is there actually a narket for MMORPGs? Or is just a market for World of Warcraft and a few minor idiosyncratic variants thereof? That’s the question that game publishers have been asking, because anything that isn’t essentially WoW with a slightly different coat of paint has fallen out of the market. Excluding EVE, I honestly can’t think of anything else on the market right now that has been crafted to be like WoW; whether it be by pre-launch design of the legion of clones, or by the games that pre-date WoW simply trying to remain viable. Ask anyone on this site what they want out of an MMORPG and 97% of the time the answer will boil down to “exactly like WoW, except completely different”; and how the hell does one even begin to build that?
There’s pretty much only one design method for these games right now, and Westerners have pretty much had their fill of it. Big AAA publishers aren’t risk adverse -any new IP or venturing into a new genre is a risk- but those are calculated risks: not wildly swinging in the dark. To actually know if there is actual a mark for anything but WoW and minor variants, someone is going to have to take a wild swing in the dark. Until the big guys remember the words “medium budget” are viable for MMORPGs, I don’t see anyone taking the real risk that the genre needs.

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Sray

Grr… hate it when you miss a couple letters that completely change the meaning of a sentence.

Meant to write: “Excluding EVE, I honestly can’t think of anything else on the market right now that hasn’t been crafted to be like WoW;”

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NeoWolf

I think its definitely in a lull period, whereby lots of rinse and repeat games are coming out but nothing really standout or new or innovative that brings anything new to the table.

I find myself going through the motions a bit lately with MMO’s too, and playing other non mmo games while I wait out the lull before something shiny appears and sparks my interest (Peria Chronicles I am looking AT YOU)!

It is only a matter of time though and when it happens the competition will all jump on the bandwagon and we’ll get a mass of imitations of the latest new thing.. it is the way of things I guess.

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Sally Bowls

I strongly disagree, YMMV, with the “lots of MMOs coming out” sentiments expressed below. If you look at the development budget of dozens of KS MMOs, the combined dev budget of them is a “third” (half? fifth?) of the development budget of just Wildstar.

IMO, just because fifty or a hundred games get a mention in MOP, does not compare to, for example, the halcyon days of SWTOR to GW2 to ESO to WildStar. You can support sites, streamers, youtube channels for big games. Can we really support sites like this one on a deluge of ephemeral MMO-du-jours?

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Kayweg

Hasn’t the genre taken a breather for quite a while already ?
And i’m not necessarily talking about the number of titles released or currently being in development, but more about rejuvenating itself and evolving.
I wish half the creative effort had been spent on trying new game play and social ideas, than has been the case with monetizing and business models.

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Sally Bowls

IMO, Gap/breather make it seem cyclical. Toy sales in January or snow ski sales in summer are cyclical. MMO sales will have product related bumps (e.g., any new WoW expansion, probably the ESO expansion) But if you draw a regression line, I would guess that, unfortunately for me, the line is down. My guess is that the number of AAA MMOs released in the next seven years will be one: New World. The hopeful aspect is that is one more than I would have guessed a few months ago.

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Sally Bowls

I have a question re “a scant handful of big titles on the way.” Perhaps we could have an opinion question article on the big titles on the way.

Isn’t the handful actually a fingerful, one?

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Alex Hyer

Breather?

Its mutated and evolved into Arena-Battle Games and Mobile Games. Both loaded with microtransactions.

The MMORPGs from the first decade of the 2ks are over. Not getting a “breather”, they’re flat-lined and over.

Too expensive to make, too risky a business move to take. “Cheaper games to develope that make more money.” is the business model of today.

xpsync
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xpsync

It’s all about the $$$, but it’s like any industry, they found the McDonald’s crowd and are fast frying all the way instead of making quality meals. It’s what the people want, it’s unfortunate we are health conscious, so there simply isn’t as many restaurants serving what we want.

xpsync
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xpsync

I was vested in EQ2 from 2004-2008, the only other game i played in there was SWG. By 2009 SOE had pretty much killed what EQ2 was (group centric) into a much more solo friendly game.

I’m not some hard core must group at all costs freakoid, in fact i love to solo most of the time in mmo’s now and prefer it. I could never do hard core again, it was a place and time, and I’m really glad i got to experience that style of game play.

The synergy you develop doing super f’in hard content with other very honed extremely skilled dedicated players, there is literally no other feeling like it in the world. WOW did that in, but at the same time, oh so glad those days are over. I always found it amusing when i played wow for awhile doing their “hardest” content and peeps thought they were so uber, lol. All i could ever think was “really? you seriously think that was hard? WoW!” /no pun intended

World of Warcraft without a doubt had a major impact on the genre, lots of good and bad came of it and wholly depends on you as a player as to what those pros and cons are, and what they mean to you personally.

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FreecczLaw

I don’t agree simply because there has been way too little variation. WoW arrived on the scene and since then the genre has just stayed stagnant. There was room for a lot more variation all of these years, but for the most part all we got was everyone trying to make the new WoW. So if you liked that, you were set with a lot of MMORPGs, if not you were screwed. So no I don’t think it was a much needed breather, it was just a shitty period.

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Crowe

I’d say “nope.” I think the genre has produced an amazing amount of F2P crap over the last few years and each game has burned out (or up) far more quickly than the older games. So we’re in a gap due to poor designs. And there’s games coming out all the time now… maybe not as hyped, etc. but I don’t really see this as a breather. Not all games are for everyone so it’s possible that the OP just isn’t interested in Revelation Online or whatever else is due out next.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Genre is on the verge of very important events:
1. Release of major MMOs like Star Citizen, Lineage Eternal, Lost Ark.
2. VR boom that will make a huge impact on gaming as a whole an MMOs in particular.

Steely Bob
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Steely Bob

VR? really?

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Melissa McDonald

Yes, really. #GetchaPopcornReady

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Pedge Jameson

VR missed the bus already. It would have already made some impact if it was going to.

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Crowe

While I think SC is going to be an excellent game, I don’t think we could describe its release as “on the verge” unless we’re talking in terms of carbon dating.

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life_isnt_just_dank_memes

If anything I feel like I’m playing more MMOs, but spending less time in each one because I play them for different reasons. It used to be with subs that I’d find one or two and stick to those because they were each $15 a month.

If(and it’s a big IF)Star Citizen is everything Mr. Roberts says it’s going to be, I could see MMO gaming habits going back to that style of playing one MMO forsaking all else. I doubt that will be the case though.

I also kinda like this cycle of “MMO Lite” where devs try and do 1 or 2 things really well in their title and not much else. It makes it way easier for me personally to pick up and put down titles on a whim. The attachment factor is lessened and I like it.

antheriel
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antheriel

Where’s the evidence for the “breather” interpretation? I’m thinking of a graph of number of high-quality MMORPGs released per year since 1999 or something.

If anything, I think what’s happening that long-time gamers are getting jaded about games and ignoring the plethora of current and upcoming games because they don’t fit their playstyles. Massively’s own list of games shows tons of upcoming top-quality games–the kind of games that we used to call AAA, but which we don’t anymore not because of any changes to the games themselves, but because of changes to the publishing landscape.

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RJB

Yeah, i don’t know where this came from Bree but there are more mmos slated to come out this year then 2016 and 2015

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Bryan Correll

That’s somewhat the point. We aren’t just entering a ‘breather,’ we’ve been in one for a while now. From 2003/2004 till 2012/2013 there were many, many games being released with just about every big game publisher wanting in on the action. 2015 and 2016 were particularly poor years. Other than Amazon (which has no track record at all so far in the field) big companies are staying out of it. Release wise we’re in a lull between generations of MMO’s with the big upcoming titles being fairly distinct in focus (especially in terms of the mix of themepark/sandbox elements) from the oversaturated boom that followed the success of WoW.
*Note: I’m talking about ‘major’ releases aimed primarily at the Western market (that being the market this site chiefly covers.)

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Melissa McDonald

Breather? There’s tons of MMOs. More like we’ve hit a point of oversaturation.

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Pandalulz

It is, but we’ve got a few years I think before the next big round hits, so play what you can now before the KS upstarts finally get their shit together. Personally, I’m not really invested in the KS PVP focused stuff, so I don’t see much coming down the pipe for myself personally. I’m going to sit back and enjoy what I have instead.
Amusingly, I find myself feeling the same way about VR. Thank god they’re making games that I won’t ever play so I don’t have to worry about them going into my backlog.

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Melissa McDonald

I quite enjoy VR itself enough that I pretty much devour whatever is new in the Oculus store with my Gear VR. It’s often something I’ll never watch twice, but it’s generally pretty interesting. It’s a new way to consume media and news and to experience travel.

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Pandalulz

I forgot that you were always talking up the VR stuff until an hour or so after I posted the comment and found it actually pretty funny that I randomly added it to the end of the comment I specifically posted to you. It’s a neat technology but like hardcore raiding, or twitch PVP, it’s not really something that fits into my life or play style right now. With the kid and wife, somebody is always there trying to talk to me or get my attention. Isolation doesn’t really gel with that. And that’s on top of my lazy eye and ease of getting motion sickness. But who knows, in 10 years if the technology matures and my kid moves out, maybe then it will be for me.

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Duane Does not check email

where is the mmo industry on product lifecycle theory (inception/ growth/ maturity/ decline) ? Are products attracting new players or is it the same population of 40 year olds moving product to product and trailing off.

I am not so sure these games are attracting the next generation of game players. I think there is likely to be a long period of maturity and decline for the industry but this cannot be growth.

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MesaSage

It’s gotten too expensive to copy what’s successful. That didn’t stop people from trying – and now we have the result of that – Crowdfunding burnout. Scarcity will drive innovation. Unfortunately in the near term we’ve seen it driven in ways that’s not widely appealing, like lowering the graphics quality back to 1980’s standards. When somebody figures out how to keep people engaged with something that looks new and shiny, perhaps New World, then everyone else will copy it and your MOP pages will be full again.

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Sorenthaz

The market is saturated enough due to the genre exploding and everyone wanting to get a piece of the pie. Quite frankly it damaged the MMORPG genre more than helped it, as we saw too many high quality MMOs just copy what WoW did. It’s a part of the larger problem with the growth of the gaming industry – as the games cost more to make, big name studios fall back on the tried/true methods/models that worked before. Not only that but the general challenge vs reward aspect of games have dwindled considerably in favor of instant gratification. They’re not willing to take as much risks and take measures to appeal to widening audiences, and IMO the industry suffers because of that.
The games that do tend to take more risks are smaller/indie studios who don’t have developer pressure to be X, Y, and/or Z. They get to take their time making the games they want to make without publisher pressure to get it out before it’s ready or make a certain amount of $$$ to stay alive.
MMOs are very much in that boat due to how much money goes into the high quality ones. The market simply isn’t able to handle a bunch of high budget AAA MMOs. The genre needs time to breathe and recover from the mess that was the WoW decade.

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Jack Pipsam

The last thing MMOs need is more games coming out and bombing (like Wildstar), I think it’s good that for the time being, there is less major development. Focus on what we have and let things be in the cooker for a long time more.

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odin valhalla

Critical to mention is the consumer’s role. The principal of demand drives the market it’s really that simple. The Asian MMO glut didn’t happen because people say “no” held their nose and wouldn’t play. People bought it, did the p2w and those companies made money. I simply haven’t seen any evidence to suggest that the gamer community is not complicit in the decline of the genre. You’ll see a multitude of posts that whine about monetization, lock boxes, p2w, poor design, bugs, lag, shitty pvp, face roll pve but players keep playing and buying.
One of the fundamental shifts I am beginning to see is gamers on several sites (this one included) understand that gaming is a multi-billion dollar business with major corporations investing millions into games to tap the market. It’s not 1997 anymore where games were produced by gamers who loved to game and wanted enough money to go out to eat and pay their rent. Some of these studio heads, Exec producers are MULTI MILLIONARES who like to game but like money more.

Often, recognition and being honest about the motivation of others is a critical component to wisdom and serves you well in almost all corners of your life. There isn’t anything sinister here really, you just have games produced to increase profits to drive share price and produce dividends. Rare is the case now where a game is made by people who love to play and just want you to love the game they love.

The spoiler? You get AAA games that are beautiful, that are decent and THEY become the benchmark by which others are measured aesthetically. Making the pursuit of a good game made by gamers even more challenging. As an example, if DAOC were released today it would be laughed off the market for its graphics, UI, sound, voice acting, depth of narrative…. Still a great game but the goal posts have been moved pretty far back at this point.

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athiev

If it’s a breather, it will be a very long one. MMOs take a long time to develop, so the fact that there are very few announced AAA MMOs in development probably means it will be at least half a decade before we return to the heady days of two or more AAA western MMOs launching the same year.

Nearly everything else is indie or Asian. So far, we’ve seen a (predictable) huge rate of crisis, collapse, and failure to complete among indie MMOs. A few do get finished, and of those a smaller subset find a player base. But it’s important to remember that there’s no evidence to date that indie in-development MMOs are a substitute for AAA MMOs. Historically, Asian MMOs are much closer to that, with a solid few (Aeon, Final Fantasy XI and XIV, Archeage, and Black Desert Online) having reached significant Western audiences.

mirricatwarrior
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mirricatwarrior

Samurai dude above Andrew Ross answer… what game it is?

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TomTurtle

Otherland.

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Daniel Miller

Bless online is different. No cash grabs a real sandbox for players to choose to do or make content. No rng no lock boxes.

I like there is almost no hype for this game. In addition most who do play have no idea what content is in the game. Let alone things they can do.

Even mmo staff hete who done a few livestreams no pvp 3v3 no 100 v 100 no taming or grading up pers. No monster arena

Playets ate clueless what to due die to no handholding.

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Tamanous

The mmorpgs (some even specifically identify as that) in development look far more interesting to me than level/gear ladder mmos that swamped us over the last 10 years. I am currently playing an older one and enjoying it.

PC games in general seem to be trying to take back their identity … if you look past a few major developers. Both mmorpgs and other genres are being made in an old school style because the interest is there. I see a turn into another chapter in indie development and things aren’t that bad in my mind.

What makes this even more intriguing is that many who look to tap into the old school surge are also against the industries abusive pay to play tactics and some of us will actually be able to play immersive gaming again.

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Brother Maynard

MMOs is close to a dead genre and deserves to be.

How many years have MMOs been with us and what do they have to show for it? Whereas first MMOs pushed the technology (networking) and drove our progress forward, now for more than a decade it’s just a sad story of missed opportunities, lack of imagination, literally zero courage, laziness and greed.

Where are the advancements in AI? Story and world partially built and driven by AI and procedural generation? Where’s VR? Where’s speech recognition and synthesis, where’s deep learning in these games? The tech has been available for years. Far from perfect, sure, but that’s where game devs come in to make it work for them, the way they did with imperfect networking in late 90’s.

There are a few MMOs on the horizon that have some potential – from complete unknowns (The New World), to those that look promising on paper (Star Citizen), but at this stage I’m not going to hold my breath for any of them.

If all that current game studios can come up with is a concept and implementation that were outdated 10 years ago, with not a single gram of innovative thinking and effort, it’s good the genre is dead. Until someone actually starts doing something meaningful that pushes the boundaries again, it deserves to stay that way.

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Veldan

While I don’t think the genre is dead or close to it, I do agree with the sentiment. There are only two ways to make a truly interesting new MMO (or new product in any branch of business): innovate or perfect what is already there. MMOs have been doing neither. They keep making half-baked copies of systems that we’ve seen a hundred times before, while bringing very little to the table that’s new. The one exception may be action combat, that’s something you didn’t see 10+ years ago.

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Robert Mann

Yes. The genre has relied too heavily on the ‘This worked before, let’s just keep polishing it’ style. There hasn’t been any substantial innovation, or attempts to make things that are different, from the big names.

Add to that the standards have been set with cash shops, whales, and generic design for the last while, and of course it’s a well needed lull. Companies weren’t ready to risk new design, players were at least temporarily sated with the status quo. There’s no motive to change things under those premises.

As many of the players started pining for more of a world that is persistent, rather than just a character that is persistent in a very non persistent world, some things started moving in the genre these last few years. Again, expected. Indie games are heading there, for the most part, first. Expected.

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Steven Williams

I’m not surprised at all about the current state of the genre. In the MMO community, it’s nearly impossible to find someone who can’t write a novella entailing the many times that player has been spurned by empty promises, content droughts, pay-to-win shenanigans, player vilification, and other anti-consumerist practices by few large, uncaring companies and the years-long zergrush of free to play importers.

And I mean “zergrush” as literally as I can. It’s not surprising that the top MMORPGs of the time – the ones we collectively praise the most – are pay-to-play and buy-to-play games by larger companies based on pre-existing IPs. That don’t involve imports. And aren’t developed primarily in Korea.

I started playing Elder Scrolls Online as my secondary MMORPG – something to play during the few weeks spot in the middle of FFXIV’s patch cycle where I lose the most interest. Once I finish some of the base game storylines, I’m going to fork up some money for the Orsinium DLC. Thinking about what I’m getting for my money, I look back at the many hundreds of dollars my friends and I wasted on F2P gachapons with detest. If I could only go back in time and tell myself not to even bother.

Now that EverQuest Next turned out the way it did, ArcheAge and Black Desert failed to meet my hype-spectations (get it?), and Blade n Soul made me wonder why I bothered getting hyped in the first place, I’m finally content with the games that I play.

That said, new projects in development are giving me the opposite effect. Let’s rant a bit about Project Gorgon, the game people immediately hailed as “the next thing to get hyped about” when EverQuest Next got cancelled. I don’t expect any of the game’s features to succeed. When I read articles by the developers, I take everything with a mountain of salt. If the game succeeds, cool. For now, there is a mile-long emotional wall between myself and that game. This is also true for any upcoming MMORPG release. I’m done getting invested.

I know that might sound negative, but for the first time in years I’m actually feeling content with the games I’m playing now. No extra pressures.

Reader

I think all the studios made WoW clones and it burned them in the ass.

Now they cant get money to make MMOs because of their clone flops.

wandris
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wandris

Each MMO is sort of like learning to ride a bike except more complex and involved. Like a bike you never really forget or lose the skills or knowledge you develop, even after years. I feel after going through this process dozens of times that there is a point where it is a better choice to abandon the pursuit of new games and turn back to what you know. I decided years ago I would stop these pursuits at some point, right now probably 2020. After that I will stick to the games I know until the last one is shut down. From WoW(my first) all the way to star citizen/new world(?) and everything inbetween. The 50 or so MMO’s still standing will probably keep me busy for decades.

This was 15 years of incredibly competitive development in the MMO arena. Sort of like gladiatorial combat. Now I see a long golden age where these games will mature and eventually die. What comes next will be different. Design will change and classical systems will be abandoned for these newer more abstract concepts in mobile/social.

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Warking

Where are my virtual worlds. I’m still waiting on them and guided experiences like FFXIV and ESO simply still don’t cut it. Still waiting on someone to make a good ArcheAge-Alpha (best mmo ever) like mmo without the issues or remake the SWG formula and get it right. I can only hope New World gets it right or the Revival guys get the funding they need to get started again.

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Pandalulz

It’s funny because I waited and waited and waited and waited for a good virtual world to come along, and in the end it passed me by, because I don’t have the time for it anymore, if it were ever to truly come to pass.
EDIT: That being said, I’d still love to see it happen, because there are young folks with the time to enjoy that sort of thing. I’m never going to get into 3D or VR, touch screens, mobile, or really the shear amount of intense PVP focused games out there, but not everything needs to be aimed at me. Technology shouldn’t stop moving forward just because I and my generation are getting older.
And in the same vein as this article, please, for the love of god, don’t aim all the games at me, I don’t have time. :P

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Arktouros

“Taking a breather” is a fancy way of saying “MMOs aren’t as profitable as investments as people thought so they stopped making them.”

As customers, we are horrendous. I don’t see that improving or changing anytime soon. The business model is irrelevant. There’s been so many variations and flavors of each business model that you can’t have one that doesn’t upset some group of people. We have created a scenario where Developers just can’t get a win so they’ve taken their money and created games where they can get a win.

Voting with your wallet is like a hand grenade and this lull is just another one of the many side effects.

Nathaniel Downes
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Nathaniel Downes

I don’t see that. I am seeing the glut of MOBA releases as indicative that studios thought that they could get MMORPG-like profits with a lower up-front cost.

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Arktouros

MOBAs aren’t the only other show in town as much as we might feel like they are sometimes.

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Reht

That’s kind of my thinking too, most of the big AAA studios who would make a MMO already have one (or more) and have figured out that there is more money in other genres right now but there are still plenty of MMOs in development, probably more than ever before, just not by the big guys.

Nathaniel Downes
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Nathaniel Downes

With the big guys stepping back, the smaller fish are diving in, and that is where the innovation will be found. Now, I will admit a bias in regards to the upcoming MMO’s (Go City of Titans!!!) but this is truly an exciting time for the MMO.

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Arktouros

Innovation is risky and expensive. It’s the big reason you don’t see it out of larger companies. A bad risk or poor innovation basically means the end of most of these smaller companies. We’ve actually seen this multiple times now where basically radically different games fail to be a long term hit which means they end up on life support or shutting down entirely. This is nothing new.

Nathaniel Downes
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Nathaniel Downes

it may seem like a lull, but if we look, a large part of that is due to the glut from a few years back. The glut resulted in too many MMO’s being released in too short of a period of time, and as a result failing to get a solid footing fast enough to validate the huge costs. Then we had the runaway success of League of Legends and DOTA2 convincing many MMO companies to make MOBA’s instead, due to the lower cost to develop. I noticed this at PAX two years ago, the number of upcoming MMO titles had dropped, but every other booth was yet another MOBA. SMITE, TOME, the list went on and on. This temporary switch from long-term financial stability of an MMO to the quicker to develop MOBA is the direct cause of our current lull in MMORPG release, due to the time it takes to develop. MOBA’s now are no longer the must-do game, so I fully expect to see a plethora of titles appearing at PAX next year.

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TomTurtle

There’s certainly no lull of articles being published on MOP. I feel like you guys are busier than ever. I like it.

I never really thought of it being an MMO lull with how many MMOs are out there or in the works. Maybe I’m perceiving things poorly? I don’t know.

In terms of liking a lull or not, I can see why it’d be nice to have a break from the deluge of new titles in order to cozy up to an existing MMO or catch up on one you haven’t touched in a while.

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Veldan

There are many articles, but if you remove the articles about:
– old games
– crowdfunded games that are not close to release yet
– non-MMO games, like survival games or ARPGs
Then what remains? If you add up the articles about recent MMO releases and ones that come in the near future, you get very little…

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Witches

Goldrush, first everyone is sure they will find gold, then everyone that didn’t find gold is sure all the gold is gone and it’s time to move somewhere else, assuming this isn’t it i expect things to hit their lowest point and then to stabilize, at one point in time Doom and Quake were much bigger franchises than GTA, anyone who makes an MMO with a business plan that is shorter than 10 years is doing it wrong.

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Armsbend

Maybe the lull is the smart people in the room retooling innovative ideas. I am enjoying the lull I’ve found a nice and simple home in ESo for a bit – nice and relaxing for the time being.

xpsync
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xpsync

Here’s hoping!

Same here, it’s nice to have a home again (ESO). Watch the shows from the sidelines, pretty much meh about whatever transpires with whatever titles.

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Jeff

I really don’t see the genre dying as some have predicted before, though I do see it becoming less massive and more cooperative. Case in point…I am currently playing on a Conan exiles server that is more of a MMO and less of a survival game because the server owner as set it to be that way and it is a blast.

I can see future MMO’s that may have a common public area that leads off into small group content that can even be duo-ed or soloed. I think the days of the massive raid games are gone though, because it’s just not what most people who play these games want any longer.

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Pandalulz

I can see Destiny style games becoming more commonplace. They’re multiplayer, give a good facade of a world, and require small groups for engaging PVE content. I’m just not really into the first person part of it.
In hindsight, I feel like DDO was way ahead of its time by being exactly what you describe, open lobby, with highly scalable content. Too bad it didn’t really catch fire when it was considered relevant.

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Schmidt.Capela

I don’t think raids and other kinds of organized large group content is what players ever wanted. Even with all the incentives for raiding, the only way ever found to get more than a tiny fraction of players to raid was to make raids faceroll-easy and with automated queues.

Disclaimer: I might be biased. After one WoW expansion raiding I don’t want to ever set foot in a raid again, no matter the difficulty or the game.

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John Kiser

Mainstream customers maybe not. That’s the problem though the genre outside of WoW is really a niche market. The highest population MMORPG prior to WoW that i can recall was around 500k subs on the high end and predictive growth wouldn’t of put them on the same growth scale that WoW saw. Ultimately raids aren’t really the problem. You have too large of a player base that is too spread out on opposing factions and it is all a mess really.

The whole concept of “end game” is really flawed to begin with.

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Dirty Ape

Long raid rant/thoughts inc:

Raids were a byproduct of having very powerful monsters (dragons) that people needed to kill. To me, they were a lot of fun as an every once in a while big event kind of thing. In early MMOs they were a communal and social kind of event where players would get together and defeat a goal with most of them not even expecting any loot (but if you got it, it was super special). A lot of preparation and planning was involved, but the actual strategies and fights were rarely that complicated and didn’t involve watching youtube videos and memorizing dance dance revolution combos. To be honest, at the time (I’m talking early EQ here) they were very much like community block parties or BBQs. Few guilds had enough people to do everything on their own so PUGs were the norm.

Over time raid bosses naturally became the only thing you could do at ‘end game’ that would advance your character in any way, so of course everyone started to do them all the time. There were no longer alternative ways of getting loot so it became expected that everyone gets loot in a somewhat reasonable timeframe. Raid and dragon loot was no longer super special, it was just the next obvious expected upgrade. As players became more and more organized into highly efficient groups designers had to get more and more ‘clever’ with boss mechanics in order to keep some challenge in the game. This has naturally led us to the way WoW is now, where raiding is no different than dungeons used to be, only it requires more people and every fight has some gimmick that you need to watch a youtube video of beforehand. The gimmicks are no longer natural RPG/gamer instincts (avoid dragon fire! Don’t let the giant hit you with his club!) and are now to the point of ridiculous trial-and-error absurdity.

I dislike how raids are now, but back in the early days of games like EQ and DAoC I actually liked them. They went from fun community driven generally inclusive events to a tedious grind of repeating the same gimmicky encounter over and over again until all 20 people do the right combo at the same time. Unfortunately, I don’t think we can ever go back to that old school mentality again because players have already ‘solved’ these kinds of MMOs (and the prevalence of data mining and helpful internet guides has taken most of the magic away). Sure, there are a lot of excellent people who do their best at having fun and inclusive events, but they will still inevitably hit their head against the designers who have designed the raid to appeal to the skinner box majority.

edit: I may have replied to the wrong post but I’m too lazy to move it, so sorry for any confusion!

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Pandalulz

I think this is what WoW wanted to try to emulate or bring back with the World Quests and Bosses in Legion, but with regular raiding going on in parallel, it’s too late to go back.

Crow
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Crow

This 100%. The “MMO” playerbase is filled with people who don’t like MMORPGs.

That isn’t an insult, just the reality of what happens when a niche gets huge in the mainstream (WoW). We’re looking, now, at actual MMORPGs like CU, SotA and Pantheon on the horizon that aren’t designed for people with 15 minute playsessions.

You’re right. Raiding was never the problem. What ended up being the problem was players beleving that “seeing all the content” was a realistic goal in a MMORPG that is, generally, about experiencing aspects of a world so large you can’t do everything. Pinnacle raiding was the epitome of MMORPGs insomuch as it was difficult, time-consuming, gear-gated and overall something to strive for and actually work toward. Everyone getting their spot on the ride just for waiting in line is what devalued everything we do in MMORPGs into collections and boring, faceroll content.

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Veldan

Raiding is all about who you play with. It can be an amazing super-fun experience or a horrible one, depending nearly 100% on the people in your raid. If you manage to find a great guild, the raiding can also be great.

Disclaimer: of all the raiding I’ve done, 0% was in WoW

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Esoteric Coyote

For me most of the current MMOs don’t scratch my itch. Probably the closest one would be FFXIV, but I don’t know anyone else who plays on my server, nor do I want to pay for a server change. And it doesn’t help that I’m lazy in my old age. I always say lazy, but it’s not lazy, it’s I generally don’t like most grinds. If I don’t feel I’m enjoying myself or progressing quickly enough, my interest wanes. Oh and my play schedule is very wonky, so I can’t really play with a dedicated group. That leaves me with causal MMO play or single player games. Yeah, not sure why I’m here since MMOs are a dying breed for me, but I keep wishing I’d enjoy them more. So whether or not MMOs are on a breather, I’m pretty sure I am.

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