Imagine you have a friend who wants to play an MMO but doesn’t want to get involved in a game that’s in decline or might not be around in five years. Where do you steer that friend? Which current or forthcoming MMO has the brightest future?
I posed this question to the Massively OP writers for this week’s Overthinking in honor of the New Year ahead.
Brendan Drain (@nyphur): I’d like to suggest EVE Online obviously as there’s no doubt that it’ll still be alive in five years, but the player activity levels seem to have been on a slow decline in recent years, and we’ll have to see if that trend can be reversed in 2016. If you’re concerned about potentially wasting time on a game that will just be cancelled in the future, look for games that have been released for at least six months and that seem to have sustainable long-term business models (such as subscriptions or F2P/B2P games that have proven they are financially stable in the long-term). I’d also highly recommend not buying into any early access, alpha stage, beta stage, or crowdfunded MMOs as these carry the added risk that they may never be completed or fully released.
To be honest though, I think most people today treat games as disposable and don’t really care about them being alive and healthy in five or ten years. Even I have started to worry less about investing time wisely into something long-term and more about cramming as much fun as possible into my limited downtime. That often means playing games with shorter session times instead of spending whole nights raiding with friends or getting heavily involved in a game’s community. I get the feeling that this is typical for MMO fans today, and that shorter play sessions are responsible for the rising popularity of MOBAs and other online games that aren’t exactly massively multiplayer.
Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): A few years ago, I would have just pointed to World of Warcraft and gone about my business. But now? I mean, there’s no doubt at all in my mind that WoW will be around in 10 years, but if the past couple of years have been any indication of what the next decade will look like, forget it: It’s just not moving at a rate I like. Ultima Online got more content than WoW did last year for crying out loud. I’d point a friend to Star Wars: The Old Republic; it’s not going anywhere with Star Wars movies aplenty. And then I’d suggest Guild Wars 2. ArenaNet has been nothing if not gracious about keeping its babies online.
Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): I think it depends a lot on what my friend likes, but there are lots of games out there that I think have a solid half-decade ahead of them. Final Fantasy XIV, Guild Wars 2, World of Warcraft, EVE Online, and Marvel Heroes have my current nod toward lasting for a long while with little risk of shutdown.
Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): There are a lot of older MMOs that are in the long tail phase with many years, updates, and even expansions ahead which are good candidates. EverQuest II, LOTRO, World of Warcraft, and RIFT are all good for a while yet. However, if you need newer and more popular, then Guild Wars 2, FFXIV, and MMOARPGs like Marvel Heroes and Path of Exile seem like safe bets. One could always look to Reddit to get a pulse on the tone and strength of communities as an indicator of a title’s long-term prospects as well.
Matt Daniel (@Matt_DanielMVOP): Honestly, there are only three games that I can think of off-hand that I’m reasonably confident will be around and still bustling in five years. The first of these is, perhaps predictably, World of Warcraft, which I’m fairly sure will outlive us all. No matter how many times the cries of doom and discord arise from the MMO community, WoW consistently proves that it still has staying power. Sure, subscription numbers may dip between expansions, but I don’t think WoW is in any danger of going under anytime in the immediate future. The second game is Final Fantasy XIV. I don’t really have any empirical evidence to back this one up, but if the devs remain as attentive as they have been since the launch of A Realm Reborn and keep pushing out new content on the regular, I think that FFXIV will be sticking around for a while. And lastly, I think Guild Wars 2 is a sound bet for the “games that will be around in five years” category. I’m not a regular GW2 player by any stretch, but I keep it installed even when I’m not playing it since the buy-to-play model means I can jump back in at any time without having to worry about subscription fees or the like. I’m not even going to make the mistake of trying to hazard a guess at which upcoming games will succeed, mostly because my saying a game will succeed is tantamount to a kiss of death.
MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): Honestly, despite everything going on with Daybreak, I’d steer friends to EverQuest II. That game has staying power, and with so stinking much to do it could be a long while before the friends could do it all! There is also ARK: Survival Evolved; as long as I can run a server it will still be here. And be cool and fun! There are upcoming games I want to give a spin, but I’d like to wait until they release and I play to actually give recommendations. As far as wanting some guarantee that a game will be around in five years, I’d just tell them there are no guarantees in life — they may not be around gaming in five years because life takes a different turn. The important part is if they join me in a game, we can play together, which means way more than if it will be there way down the road; we can have a blast in the meantime. Quality over quantity!
Patreon Donor Archebius: I know that there are quite a few games I really, really hope are still around in five years! Unfortunately, if we’re trying to be as certain as possible, there’s only one game I can recommend: FFXIV. It’s big, it’s growing, and by all accounts it has a very bright future. There are plenty of other games that are doing OK- Elder Scrolls Online seems stable, World of Warcraft is huge even in decline, Guild Wars 2 is rolling right along – but a lot can change in five years, and Final Fantasy is the only one I’m confident will still be strong through 2020.