Massively OP’s Best of 2017 Awards: Best MMO Studio of 2017

Massively Overpowered’s end-of-the-year 2017 awards continue today with our award for Best MMO Studio of 2017, which was awarded to ZeniMax last year. We asked our writers to consider major MMORPG studios in 2017, not just their pet favorites, and judge the studios on what they did within the MMORPG genre this year specifically. 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 Best MMO Studio of 2017 is…

ZENIMAX & SQUARE-ENIX

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): Oh man, this one’s actually hard, but I’m going with ZeniMax again this year. I had some serious issues with their customer support when Morrowind launched, but the developers are awesome and the designers seem as if they know their audience and MMO history by avoiding certain traps *cough* housingcrisis *cough*.

Brendan Drain (@nyphur): ArenaNet. By only a narrow margin this year after the mount skin thing.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna): I always go for City State because while I’m still twiddling my thumbs over beta one, the communication line to that studio just cannot be beaten. As for live MMO studio, I’m gonna go for Square this year. Square’s communication and gumption for just doing the right thing the right way (housing issues aside) are so good that I really wish I were a Final Fantasy person.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre): Square-Enix. Some years, there are lots of studios that are doing good work. Other years, it seems like every studio has something horribly dumb that it’s been doing. There are really only a handful of studios I can think of for this list that even deserve to be nominated. Square, meanwhile, manages to keep updating its self-described maintenance mode game, provides plenty of events and player engagement, and generally does everything right; even its screw-ups involve the studio taking it on the chin, apologizing, and striving to do better. Which is really weird for me to type, but here we are.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster): ZeniMax. Oddly enough, I think Blizzard’s my #2 pick this year with WoW Classic, a great Hearthstone expansion, and frequent World of Warcraft updates, but ZeniMax gets my respect for regular updates, a well-received expansion, and the housing update. Plus that game’s lockbox and business model scene doesn’t seem as shady as some.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie): I cannot decide between Digital Extremes and Grinding Gear Games for best studio. Digital Extremes has amazing community involvement and interaction. The team shows its investment in the game and the community all the time (and not just at its convention). Digital Extremes streams multiple times a week and covers all of Warframe’s platforms. Not only that, the devs really interact with the audience during these. The team puts plenty of heart and effort into improving the game and offering players more — just look at Plains of Eidolon. And Grinding Gear Games may not have a ton of streams or a convention, but it is the most consistent company for putting out regular content. Besides offering new content and leagues, I really feel that the devs listen to the wants of their specific community and add things to benefit them. You also can’t ignore that these two studios have the best payment models out there!

Tina Lauro Pollock (@purpletinabeans): I’m echoing the ZeniMax votes for this because it just feels right: Solid support, an ear to the ground for new trends, and frequently demonstrating that player feedback is important keeps ZeniMax at the top of the pile.

ZeniMax and Square-Enix won our award for Best MMO Studio of 2017. What’s your pick?

Reader poll: What was the best MMORPG studio of 2017?

  • ZeniMax (20%, 168 Votes)
  • Square-Enix (20%, 163 Votes)
  • ArenaNet (10%, 81 Votes)
  • City State (3%, 22 Votes)
  • Digital Extremes (5%, 44 Votes)
  • Grinding Gear (6%, 49 Votes)
  • BioWare (0%, 4 Votes)
  • Kakao (1%, 10 Votes)
  • Blizzard (12%, 102 Votes)
  • CCP (1%, 5 Votes)
  • Funcom (2%, 13 Votes)
  • Sandbox Interactive (0%, 2 Votes)
  • Trion (1%, 5 Votes)
  • My.com (0%, 1 Votes)
  • En Masse (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Standing Stone (4%, 34 Votes)
  • Daybreak (1%, 8 Votes)
  • Perfect World - Cryptic (1%, 9 Votes)
  • NCsoft West (0%, 2 Votes)
  • Carbine (1%, 5 Votes)
  • Jagex (0%, 3 Votes)
  • ArtCraft (1%, 7 Votes)
  • Frontier (0%, 3 Votes)
  • Cloud Imperium (3%, 22 Votes)
  • Portalarium (1%, 10 Votes)
  • Bungie (0%, 3 Votes)
  • Nothing (4%, 35 Votes)
  • Something else (tell us in the comments) (1%, 12 Votes)

Total Voters: 822

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Poll options include all games nominated plus other games we thought would be worthy.

MOP’S 2017 AWARDS (SO FAR)
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51 Comments on "Massively OP’s Best of 2017 Awards: Best MMO Studio of 2017"

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Kickstarter Donor
Kayweg

As much as i like ESO, the bad taste from “Morrowind isn’t DLC but an expansion, therefor not part of the sub” still hasn’t hasn’t quite gone.
You want to find an excuse, find one that doesn’t insult people’s intelligence, you’re supposed to be the creative ones.
My vote went to Grinding Gear Games.

Reader
Utakata

Square Enix set the release schedule precedent for FF XIV, that Blizz knew it had to adopt for WoW if it wanted that game’s health to survive for the future. That’s saying something.

Reader
Henryk

I choose ArenaNet. They added a lot good content this year. Living Story Season 3, expansion Path of Fire and Season 4.

I would not choose Zenimax because Morrowind was definitely not a expansion. It was a DLC for a expansion price. :/

shadanwolf
Reader
shadanwolf

I can not accept the premise of a company getting a new reputation …..every year. Reputations are a reflection of the true culture and ways of doing business and competence. A new culture..a new way of thinking and doing business does not morph into place every 365 days. FOR ME..Zenimax and Funcom get coal This year they and are at the bottom of any list of companies . I would never roll the dice on with a new game or addition and my hard earned money with these companies.( 2017 saw zero significant mmog game playing for me. I just saw nothing that held my interest despite throwing my moneyat some games that proved to be loosers)
I have just started to play “LIFE IS FEUDAl ” (an old school,hard core game of conflict and survival set in the middle ages)and am anxious to see how that works out.

pepperzine
Reader
pepperzine

Off topic question, why do none of these awards get posted to social media like all of the other articles do?

Reader
Fervor Bliss

Kakao is adding lots of content this year, plus stated they wanted BDO to last for decades.
Well worth the $10 to play.

Reader
Rolan Storm

I agree on both, though only can vouch for one – I no longer play FFXIV.

Reader
Sorenthaz

Zenimax/Squeenix/Blizzard all seem like they’ve done a good job this year, but since I’ve mostly been on FFXIV this year I voted for them. Blizzard though has been doing a solid job across the board with their games, especially their updates they’ve been doing to Heroes of the Storm IMO. Legion story-wise at least looks like a blast, and I’ve been tempted to hop back in to see everything added over the past year-ish that I haven’t touched the present game. They also finally announced Classic which is great, and it’ll be interesting to see what they do with it.

Reader
Wakkander

Daybreak was too obvious eh?

I voted Square-Enix personally, they have done a remarkable job with FF14 when by all rights right after its initial launch it should have just died. Instead they have actually made it a really enjoyable game, one I’ve put a few hours into .

Reader
shear

I like ESO a lot but am I the only one who feels like their in-game shop is too much?

Want a house? Buy it.
Want a cool mount? Buy it.
Pets? But it.
Costumes? Buy it?

There is almost nothing to earn in-game. I feel like they are nickel and diming me. I was playing with my girlfriend and she took a look at the house prices and was like ” these f**king prices are insane”
And loot boxes on top of it.

I voted for Blizzard, after years of people moaning about a sub I truly believe that it’s the lesser of the evils between a sub and an in-game shop, especially when one becomes as predatory as ESOs one. My two cents.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Sashaa

Want a house? Get a free one or buy it with ingame gold. No, most prices are not crazy considering how easy it is to make gold in this game. Only the crazy ones are crazily expensive.
Want a cool mount? Buy it with ingame gold like usual or get it through random free crates that are given out.
Pets? Get some of the coolest free by doing quests or get them through random free crates that are given out.
Costumes? Get some free from quests or get them through random free crates that are given out.

I dislike crown crates as much as the next guy, but saying that there is almost nothing to earn in-game is not true. Should they make more content available from outside of the shop? Sure. Every game should. But people have gone way overboard about this crown crates/cash shop thing. This is just like politics. The moment you stop sticking to the facts, you start losing credibility, even if in some cases you end up winning the elections…

Reader
shear

There is a way to earn the cool mounts and houses with in-game gold? Like the wolfs and bears and all that?

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Sashaa

I guess that depends on what you would call “cool”.

First, there is a way to earn special mounts for free during the many events where you just have to play to receivre free crown crates. I’ve received many mounts this way.
Now, I consider that the horse mounts are actually the less ugliest in this game (just pay attention to how bears, wolves, and others are designed and compare them to real animals, it’s pretty funny), so if your definition of “cool” is different than mine, then maybe you’ll have to wait for the free crown crates. And again, there is litteraly zero benefit to a rainbow-puking horse when compared to mounts you can buy with golds.

About houses, except if you’re looking for the ridiculous palaces that cost an extraordinary amount of gold, yes I stand by my comment, they’re not that expensive considering how easy it is to acquire gold in this game. But as always, if you’re only going after the most expansives rainbow-firing mounts and palatial houses, then yeah you’ll have to spend some money. Noone is pointing a gun to your head to buy especially this kind of fluff, nor do you need it.

Reader
shear

Well, what you consider cool and what I consider cool is different the horse mount being the nicest in your opinion is just that.

I don’t know the crates made me not like the game quite as much, I should be rewarded by playing the game not by getting a crate and maybe getting what I want out of it. There is no defense for them doing it this way. Destiny 2 is facing the same issue and people are rightfully pissed ESO shouldn’t get a pass on this.

I never knew you could actually buy houses with real gold, I looked at the crown store saw them and thought that’s the only way to get them, that’s on me.

However, in my opinion, they are pushing the ingame cosmetics a bit too hard on the people and leaving them with mostly no other option but to shell out money.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Sashaa

Look, if you think that paying for a sub should allow you to benefit from everything the game has to offer without spending any more money, even on the cosmetic side, then we have no beef here. I 100% agree. To me, this sub + cash shop system is far from ok.

Now, if you think that you should be able to play without paying for anything, and that even the useless stuff should be handed to you, then I beg to differ.

I’ve been reading the official forums a lot these days and I just wanted to point out in my answer that things are ugly, but not as ugly as they are often portrayed. I do not think ZoS should get a pass on crown crates. To me, gambling is not ok, especially when kids are targeted. I just think that painting a different image of the game than what it really is does not solve anything.

Reader
shear

What are you on about now? I bought the game, didn’t I? I paid.

And I never ones said that I should be entitled to everything did I? I said that it feels like there is very little to earn in a game. I can play wow and go mount hunting and armor hunting to transmog, go look for pets.

In TESO all of that is mostly gained through paying money.

How did I paint it differently? There are loot crates. There is an ability to purchase mounts through money and only money as there is no way to get them. There are even loot crate exclusive mounts. There are other things like portable bank and shopkeeper. There is plenty to buy in TESO which you can’t earn in the game any other way. Why are you defending that?

Those are the reasons why I wouldn’t name ZoS a top dev this year, they have become extremely predatory. Where are Blizzard gives you the WHOLE game for the sub.

Reader
Emiliano Lozada
Reader
shear

Oh shit! I didn’t know they were all purchasable. That’s cool thanks.

Reader
Emiliano Lozada

There are some crown store exclusives like the island and stuff but the vast majority can be obtained with gold. Pretty cheap at gold prices too if you ask me tbh.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Sashaa

Your original post was about houses, mounts, pets and costumes being only available for money in ESO. Which is not true. You elaborated, and so did I. At this point of the conversation, if you still think I am defending this specific business model, then I’m just gonna wish you to enjoy the game of your choice. That’s all we’re looking for after all.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Sashaa

I’m gonna go with Andrew here. I wish I could make another answer, because the situation is far from perfect, but this year it’s ZeniMax for me too.

Reader
Bryan Turner

I quit GW2 for ESO so I think you know how I voted this year.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Tandor

I think there ought to be a minimum requirement for nomination, such as having actually released a game. No disrespect to Mark Jacobs, you understand :)!

Companies are able to offer far better service to a couple of thousand diehard alpha/beta followers than they are to a couple of million customers.

Reader
Bryan Correll

That’s pretty much how I feel. I would have voted for City State, but instead I passed because I do think actually having launched a game should be a requirement.

Reader
Mark Jacobs

Couldn’t agree more, with both of you. And I pretty much said that below. :)

Reader
matt gourley

someone voted trion.. lol. good troll.

Reader
Arktouros

IMO no one really stood out this year.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Chad Wells

Went with Nothing.
2017 seemed kinda bland for MMO gaming for myself.

Reader
rafael12104

It is Square Enix. The simple fact is, that out of all the big studios and excluding indies, they are one of the few that genuinely care about the player base and their brand.

They don’t always get it right, but they will work assiduously to get there. It shows in FFXIV and in FFIX.

They tried to sunset FFIX and couldn’t do it. Lol. Good old Square. :)

Zenimax? I think that they deserve a mention given with they have done with ESO. Morrowind was a great addition, and the improvements to the game since launch show they understand. My only hesitation is the lawsuits they are mired in and these crown crates.

Reader
Bryan Turner

If anything after brushing up on the Law Suits I’m even more in Zenimax’s court, think of all that money, $500,000,000 available for development; ESO isn’t going anywhere for a long time with that kind of nest egg! Plus not for nothing but screw VR, call me old fashioned but I’d rather stare at a screen and frankly I’m too broke to buy a rig that could support VR anyway.

Reader
A Dad Supreme

Whoever made/manages Player Unknown Battlegrounds.

I don’t play that game, nor do I have an interest in that style (open world PvP) so I’m not buying it personally. But I haven’t heard or read anything negative from the players of the game nor have I heard about “P2W”, “no communication”, “$100 cash shop items”, “lockboxes”, “not enough content” nor anything else we’ve squabbled about this year or in previous years.

Just this past Christmas week, I’ve seen they’ve put out a few national level television commercials as well right alongside SWBF2, Overwatch and CoD. That shows they are spending the money trying to expand their game for the base and not just sitting on laurels like many games tend to do when they get some success or when they are in last-chance desperation mode.

When you put all that into perspective and then realize that (I believe) they’ve passed Blizzard as a top selling game this year on Steam or something, that is truly a big accomplishment for something that isn’t largely niche like Train Simulator Online.

Reader
Sorenthaz

“But I haven’t heard or read anything negative from the players of the game nor have I heard about “P2W”, “no communication”, “$100 cash shop items”, “lockboxes”, “not enough content” nor anything else we’ve squabbled about this year or in previous years.”

Eh, if you check the Steam reviews and areas where vocally toxic members of the community fester (i.e. Reddit) then you’ll see a ton of people hating on the game for XYZ reasons. Game’s been getting review bombed since its official launch too. A vast majority of the negative reviews don’t even say anything constructive/specific which is humorous, like a bunch of angry teenagers are raging at the game or something.

Reader
A Dad Supreme

Eh, if you check the Steam reviews and areas

I don’t check/read Steam reviews really. Honestly unless it’s a universal grip like Blizzard/WoW gets occasionally, EA and it’s follies, and Star Citizen I don’t consider most gripes to be really legitimate enough to move a significant needle.

There are always going to be a few posters/players who gripe about anything but until it reaches the ears of players who don’t have an interest or knowledge of a game or company, that’s not that big of a deal imo.

Considering how many people actually seem to play that game (millions), the gripe level from a few Reddit threads and fury seems hardly worth mentioning vs AAA games that are on it’s sales levels.

If you don’t have people griping on your Reddit thread about anything and everything (not just video games), you’re not doing anything right.

Reader
Emiliano Lozada

PUBG has lootboxes and in game ads.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Tobasco da Gama

And it’s run by Bluehole, who already do Tera and Devilian. I haven’t hear anything good or bad about how they deal with Tera, but this seems disqualifying for a studio award: http://massivelyop.com/2017/12/01/trion-still-in-active-discussions-with-bluehole-over-devilian/

(I notice that they’re not even in the reader poll, though, which seems like an oversight.)

Reader
Emiliano Lozada

They handle Tera badly but they do cater to their demographic well. Tera at one point was actually labeled as Malware due to some serious security risks it posed due to how shoddy they had the chat system set up which they never fixed since I believe beta? Only when it blew up in their face that they decided to start fixing it. Gameforge immediately turned off chat to prevent more attacks.

Reader
Mark Jacobs

Two worthy winners!

Next year, as we move through Beta 1, I hope that we will reward the faith of our Backers as well as people like Bree, and others, who have said/say nice things about us.

I hope all the MOP posters had a great Christmas!

Cheers all!

Reader
Sorenthaz

Insert nice things here.

Reader
Loopy

I would say a mix between Zenimax, SE, and Blizzard this year.

Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

Blizzard is always a safe choice since they do almost everything right about WoW, create good other games and fun events. It also a good company to work in.

But my vote is for Cloud Imperium Games (Star Citizen devs). I’ll quote one of reddit users: “After all is said and done, once this game is finally released its development story is going to be a wild one. Funded by gamers and for gamers, yet you had mainstream publications, legitimate developers and illegitimate developers try all these methods of stopping it. I want this game to be a success just to give these people a giant fuck you”.

CIG goes into the waters that noone ever went, moving MMO genre forward, creating amazing tech, creating a game with unparallel scope and fidelity. It is also the most transparent game in history with the most covered and showcased development process. In 2017 SC hit a pretty big milestone opening procedural planet tech to backers. Reading the last issue of Jump Point magazine with dozens of interviews with developers, you can see how hard they work and how big of challenges they have to deal with.

While development goes slower then we wish, I have a hope it will speed up drastically when all the core tech and necessary instruments are finished. Cant wait to see whats coming next for this game.

Reader
shear

I feel like this paragraph was a pitch to sell this game.

Also, vomit at the number of lies in your comment.

Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

Good. I love to make SC haters vomit all over themselves

Reader
shear

Yes, yes because you either love SC or hate it can’t have an opinion of any other kind. Life in black and white must be devastating for you.

Reader
Paul

2 people voted for Daybreak ??

Reader
rafael12104

LOL. I refreshed my screen to be sure.

Ah, the trolls. Sometimes they make me chuckle.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Tobasco da Gama

Elf Butts LLC

Reader
drelkag

As much as I like ESO I’d have to give it to SE. Crown crates took the title from Zenimax.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Tandor

I guess it depends on whether you think one company’s housing trumps the other company’s crown crates! At least you can participate fully in all ESO offers without buying a crate while housing in FFXIV is beyond most players.

Reader
Chosenxeno .

No R2 Games?!!!!

Reader
Knox Harrington

I would’ve said Zenimax too until crown crates became a thing.

Reader
Melissa McDonald

If CiG were public they’d be a good pick. They can sell ice to Eskimos.

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