Perfect Ten: The healthiest live MMORPGs at the end of 2017

    
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Sometimes health is fleeting.

As Counting Crows told us, it’s been a long December, although the fact that it has also only just started being December speaks to something unpleasant in the makeup of this particular month. But it also means that this is a good time to check in on the overall health of various MMORPGs and see which ones look to be in the healthiest state at the end of the year.

This is, I hasten to point out, not a scientific process; last year I pointed to Marvel Heroes as a not-quite-MMORPG title that was still in a very healthy and robust place, and it later turned out that this was entirely not true and had been built upon a foundation of lies. But we’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to it in 2018. What are the healthiest games running right now?

Stay tuned for totally sweet dinosaurs in the next expansion!

1. World of Warcraft

Expansion announced, subscribers still subscribed, reasons to be hopeful about that next expansion, and so forth. World of Warcraft continues to be as healthy as ever and shows no sign of slowing down. I mean, really, what else can you say? Whatever issues the game has, being one foot in the grave is not one of them.

Weird dog.

2. Final Fantasy XIV

Expansion released, subscribers still subscribed… jeez, am I repeating myself already? The weird thing about Final Fantasy XIV is just being the only person on-staff who plays it regularly when it has such a robust base, but that’s more an idiosyncracy than anything. While these lists are not always ranked as best-to-worst, I feel confident in saying that it’s right behind WoW in terms of overall health. Possibly at parity, even.

We did good, turns out.

3. The Elder Scrolls Online

Boy, the start of this list reads exactly like last year, huh? Except that this is, without a doubt, one of the best years The Elder Scrolls Online has had in terms of releases and public perception. The reason this one is in the same spot is mostly due to the overwhelming health of the higher-ranked titles, not due to it not doing any better. If last year was when TESO came into its own, this year was when the developers proved what they could do with the title.

Now, let’s see if we can get the title ported to every console under the sun like we’ve already seen with Skyrim.

How are you this way?

4. RuneScape

Jagex’s venerable RuneScape is like a cockroach. It’s clean, it’s consistent, it often has a public perception that’s far more negative than it deserves, and most importantly it appears to be functionally immortal. Nothing is going to get rid of RuneScape.

Considering that Jagex winds up in murky waters every time it tries to make something that isn’t RuneScape, this could be seen as a mixed blessing. But unlike certain studios I can think of, that doesn’t seem to translate into hampering its main title.

Pity that it doesn't know what makeup looks like.

5. Black Desert Online

There was some controversy last year when I picked this as a remarkably healthy title, but I stood by it then and I stand by it now. At the end of the day, Black Desert has consistently updated and kept moving forward, and its stumbles don’t seem to have slowed it down much if at all. Full marks to Kakao and Pearl Abyss for continuing to keep this game updated close to its Korean version, if not quite on-par.

That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t attract storms of player critique and occasional angry shouting, of course. But that doesn’t seem to translate into any actual damage, so… here we are.

But not of-the-year material.

6. Guild Wars 2

To someone who has long watched this title, Guild Wars 2 spent this year slipping back and forth. There were long gaps of communication, then sudden spikes of activity around things like Path of Fire, then… back to nothing. Path of Fire was undeniably good, but there’s also a lot of weird lulls in communication and general oddity surrounding the game. It feels shakier than it did last year.

Still healthy, though. Just not quite as healthy. We can always call the shakiness the withdrawal effects from Heart of Thorns.

You hold on.

7. Neverwinter

Another “all quiet on the Western front” sort of pick, Neverwinter doesn’t seem to be much healthier or less healthy this year. It seems unscathed by the shakeups from Perfect World Entertainment’s other studio antics (alas, poor Motiga) and keeps updating and so forth. So it’s doing all right.

The weird thing is that Champions Online serves as an odd sort of bellweather for Cryptic’s titles, insofar as keeping the almost wholly untouched CO around doesn’t seem to be an overwhelming burden and that seems to indicate that all is still well.

starboat to the stars

8. Star Trek Online

And again! Consistency is fun. Star Trek Online also gets a nice boost from the fact that there’s a Star Trek series on the air again, and people seem to rather like it; that certainly helps keep it rolling along. We’ll probably hear about another big update next year to improve it, and it’ll be met with sighs and exasperation by half of the playerbase while the other half gets excited.

The trick is that it’s never the same half.

In space, lots of people can hear you talk about space.

9. Elite: Dangerous

Yes, this is probably the one that will cause a bit of controversy, but I think this one has legs. Or aft thrusters; it’s the same thing in context. Elite: Dangerous has been running for a while now, it keeps rolling along, gets its players excited, and has run a consistent and neat event for a while centering around mysterious aliens with inscrutable motives. We’ve even gotten a game-specific convention this year. (Well, technically studio-specific, but I would be hard-pressed to believe that Frontier’s other game was the primary draw.)

In a lot of ways, I think Elite: Dangerous is a good sign of what can be done with crowdfunded games. It started small and has kept getting bigger, and in the process it seems to get healthier over time. Fun stuff.

In the background, Rome is burning.

10. Star Wars: The Old Republic

It seems to me, from the outside looking in, that this has been the least healthy year for Star Wars: The Old Republic. I very nearly pulled it from the list, but it squeaked in, largely because it does still appear to be humming right along, and the other major candidates were games that had suffered huge staff layoffs or other calamities. The thing is, this has also been the year of Star Wars monetiztion issues, a controversial server merge, and some odd lulls in updates.

The game is still healthy, but it does appear to be in need of some exercise and perhaps a change in diet. We’ll see what next year brings.

Health deferred.

Secondary notes and addenda

Numerous sources, as always, were consulted for this particular column. Discussion and disagreement is welcome, as these remain more an act of perception, opinion, and guesses than an absolute law of the universe. After all, some of what we know regarding the health of these titles might have more to do with blatant lies.

The obvious removal for this year was EVE Online, which got yanked from the ranking after CCP Games gutted itself rather thoroughly. It’s hard to feel like the game is healthy, and as we discussed behind the scenes, even if it is there’s no community team left to tell us that. Other titles were not included because they’re MMOs but not MMORPGs; League of Legends, SMITE, and Overwatch are all quite healthy, but they’re not MMORPGs and thus are not included.

And remember, again, that if your favorite game isn’t here, that doesn’t mean that it’s not healthy, nor does it mean that it’s not a good game. It’s quite possible that many of these titles will falter over the next year; this is just a ranking at the end of 2017. What happens next? You (and your purchasing habits) decide (in concert with a large number of other people)!

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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Draylynn Taylor

GW2: Without a doubt healthier than WoW and FFXIV.
Sign up free, jump in, play = Profit.
The community is friendly; People actually work together and speak to each other, which in itself, speaks volumes about the game.
The economy isn’t wrecked.
The software is solid and isn’t showing much sign of aging.
It’s casual and challenging at the same time, the best of both worlds. The game-play is solid, there’s a sense of achievement and reward.
Micro-transactions are a wee bit annoying but not as money-grabbing as others, like most titles on the list and have a reasonable and viable option for getting store items for free and free unlocking of gated content – One of the very few games that brings actual F2P to the table.
Practically every map has someone doing something… It’s ALIVEEEE.

There is a lot that can be said for every other game in this list.
I find it difficult to believe that whoever researched or actually played these games (as you would expect anyone commenting on them to do) believes there is nothing wrong with WoW and its rapid CRZ merging, dropping player numbers, wrecked economy and toxic community; Sure they’ll get a boost at expansion release and continue to drop even faster than they did the previous expansion until it is finally, dead. Doesn’t see the the problem of aging with LOTRO/FFXIV/ESO, completely overlooks the unstable Tera (people still play this?) and its lack of focus on player experience… Doesn’t understand what Elite Dangerous is, thinks Runescape’s economy /community is perfectly fine and believes that hand-holding imported casual games like BDO who have ‘major-transactions’ or the lack of communication, enforced by the games design in most of these games is the way forward for MMORPG fans.

Massively
Multiplayer
Online
Role
Playing
Game
It’s a quite clear abbreviation, please let’s not warp it like was done with the term “sandbox”.

Some of these games aren’t MMO’s, some of these ‘games’ aren’t challenging, engaging or fun, they’re predictable. A lot of them sacrifice quality content for re-skinned nonsense and heavily prey on gullible (often young) users searching for that 10% player base who will contribute the most towards running costs and profit instead of focusing on player experience. This is not healthy for any MMO; that is showing in most of these games, they’re empty and shallow.

Note: I can’t say nothing about Marvel Heroes, never touched it. Last time I touched SWTOR was beta, at which is was a complete an utter mess(software wise), maybe things have changed, will have to poke it.

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Mal Pherian

I have to say this review seems wholeheartedly and totally biased. For one I play and review every game you listed, Wows Subscriber base has been plummeting for years, and although it should be on this list it should definitely not be number 1.

Elite dangerous has less then 15,000 players active total. 3000 of those are steam accounts. This game shouldn’t even be on this list. Your company has obviously been paid to advertise for it. NOT TO MENTION ED is NOT an MMORPG. It not even an MMO. If you do not understand why you do not need to be writeing game reviews. BUT I will assist you.

ED is not an MMO or MMORPG because:

1. No Guilds, No social Groups. (Requirement For MMO’s and MMORGs) In fact they actively suspend and ban players for requesting such. I know, I was banned for it for 2 weeks. Read my steam review it has links to the posts (Unless they’ve been deleted).

2. Open Mode has a 32 Player Interaction Limit (Battlefield has more) an MMRPG must allow interactions of 100s and 1000s. This qualifies as a “Co Op” mode Not an MMORPG.

3. The game is Not even sold nor advertised as an MMO or MMORPG. It is advertised as a “Space Sim with Open Mode”.

4. The game has less then 15,000 active players 90% of which play in solo Mode. (Including myself).

EvE online has over 80,000 Players active per day with over 1.3 million active accounts. CCP has always had Issues, but EvE online still continues to not only survive, but thrive. The game is older then WoW, and has an almost = number of active players.

Tera Online, is one of the most active games around maintaining it’s updates as well as it’s player base.

My rankings are as follows:

EvE
Neverwinter (Yes it has a massive population is F2p, and continually recieves updates)
WoW (Moved to number 3 due to 80% the game being empty (Except end game) and most servers are dead. Kept at 3 for age of game and development activity)
GW2
Black Desert
Tera
ESO
Swtor
Star Trek
Archeage

The truth is all the current MMO’s are either old and outdated, Or run down. They do not satisfy the gamers desires because most of the corporations have turned to money greedy politics rather then putting out quality material. If they would release quality material, like the old days these games would have massive player basses in the millions. Instead 75% of these number number in the thousands, and tens of thousands.

The exceptions being EvE, WoW, ESO, Black Desert and Tera which have a few hundred thousand to 1.2 million per game.

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Jorge Castanza

this is so true lmao wtf is this article. elite is 100% instanced rubbish that doesn’t deserve to be called ‘MMO’

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Moxie Grey

“I don’t agree so you must be getting paid to advertise!” No evidence, just conspiracy theories and accusations.
Here’s the thing, mate: sometimes, people – even games journalists – just happen to like games that you don’t. Having controversial or unpopular opinions, or even being wrong, doesn’t mean they’re being paid (especially not by a tiny company that has to crowdfund its games).

Also, guilds are not required for MMOs. They are traditional, even generally expected, but they are not a requirement. Nowhere in the definition of “massively multiplayer online game” does it say “must have guilds.” ED not allowing them to the point of bans is ridiculous & reflects poorly on them, but that doesn’t disqualify ED from being an MMO. The lack of “massively multiplayer” is what disqualifies it. 32-person instances is not massively multiplayer. Hell, Overwatch & MOBAs aren’t MMOs; that’s why they have different categories. (Both multiplayer & online, no “massive” to ’em. That’s where the author gets his terminology wrong.)

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Dave Blakey

Some data to back up some of their info – https://mmo-population.com/

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wayshuba

Oh gosh, I really had to hold back from spitting my drink on keyboard in laughter after reading No. 10.

SWTOR healthy? That is the biggest laugh ever put on this site.

First, the content released in an entire year for SWTOR hasn’t even matched what an update patch for most mainstream MMOs do in a quarter. You think releasing 3/5 of a raid in an entire year (meaning it takes 18 months to produce 1 raid) is the sign of a well staffed MMO.

Second, SWTOR started with 17 servers at the start of this tear (down from over 200 at launch) and they went down to five servers recently. I don’t think a game that suddenly has dropped to five servers is one of the “healthiest MMOs at the end 2017.”

Healthy to me means a game is an MMO is likely to be around still in a few years. If SWTOR makes the end of 2018 it will be a miracle in itself.

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wayshuba

I also want to add, if healthy means the player populations on the game in 2017, then here is the list of the greatest populations playing in 2017:

1.) Elder Scroll Online
2.) World of Warcraft
3.) Guild Wars 2
4.) Final Fantasy XIV: ARR
5.) Lord of the Rings Online
6.) Marvel Heroes
7.) EVE Online
8.) TERA
9.) Conan Exiles
10.) Neverwinter

Notice that list is substantially different from your list. First, LOTRO is still very healhty and second SWTOR comes nowhere near making that list.

Source: http://www.gamersdecide.com/pc-game-news/top-10-most-played-mmorpgs-2017

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Erhan Altay

Your source is blogspam. The article provides zero numbers and I know for a fact those games are NOT the most populous. First of all, #6 Marvel Heroes isn’t even in operation anymore! I really cannot imagine what it must be like to be you. Intelligence is exceedingly rare in this universe boys and girls.

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Vicarious Fan

yeah… not sure how you stumbled on that blog but they don’t even check the sources.

as the other guy stated Marvel Heroes is closed

No way in hell LOTRO has a larger pop then Tera, Eve or Neverwinter.

Exiles isn’t a MMO it’s basically Minecraft with nudity and slaves

No ESO does not have more players then WoW. It has 7 million accounts not 7 million players.

Also i really doubt GW2 has more then FFXIV

Seriously where did you find this no name blog…. oh wait I misspoke they have some hard hitting articles like “The 37 Hottest Mercy Cosplays Ever”

that’s some in depth reporting!

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Vicarious Fan

I just started playing it again in December after being gone for about a year… and yeah its’s healthy. Those servers are large and full of players.

As long as they keep adding content the game will be here in year.

Ana
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Ana

GW2 below ESO is a joke

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wayshuba

Based on what I posted above it is not.

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Kyosumari

What you posted above is incorrect, has no credentials, and blatantly lacks any sources. I will have to say though that GW2 is definitely still healthy, from personal experience and anecdotal evidence. Not thriving, not necessarily growing, but not bleeding out either. It’s doing fine and still releasing content with a relatively steady playerbase – sounds healthy to me. I think the biggest issue here, and this article and it’s stagnant rankings is honestly a bit of proof into this, is that the MMORPG scene is severely lacking in anything new of quality. Players still play things like FFXIV, GW2, and WoW because there’s nothing better and hasn’t been for years now, and the more time that passes, the more the sunk cost effect sinks in, as well. Players have spent so much time and money and effort into the game it gets harder to leave it for something else, especially when the alternatives are slim pickin’s.

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Anna Berkes

More like: 1. WoW, 2. FFXIV, 3. GW2, 4. ESO. BnS should be on the list somewhere.

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Lukus House

As a 12 year Runescape veteran I can confirm that cockroach comparison is spot on!

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Sally Bowls

FYI:

Perfect Ten: The top 10 healthiest live MMOs


1. World of Warcraft
2. Guild Wars 2
3. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
4. The Elder Scrolls Online
5. Star Wars: The Old Republic
6. ArcheAge
7. RuneScape
8. EVE Online
9. Marvel Heroes
10. Neverwinter

Perfect Ten: The healthiest live MMORPGs at the end of 2016


1. World of Warcraft
2. Final Fantasy XIV
3. The Elder Scrolls Online
4. EVE Online
5. Guild Wars 2
6. RuneScape
7. Black Desert Online
8. Neverwinter
9. Star Wars: The Old Republic
10. Star Trek Online

Perfect Ten: The healthiest live MMORPGs at the end of 2017


1. World of Warcraft
2. Final Fantasy XIV
3. The Elder Scrolls Online
4. RuneScape
5. Black Desert Online
6. Guild Wars 2
7. Neverwinter
8. Star Trek Online
9. Elite: Dangerous
10. Star Wars: The Old Republic

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Zen Dadaist

Is there going to be a counterpart article on the top 10 games inexplicably eking out an existance? :p

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Sally Bowls

Or the even more snide top ten: “WTF!? what were they thinking? why were these games made?”

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Kickstarter Donor
mysecretid

I want to like Elite: Dangerous more than I do — I like it for what it is, but I need more things to do in-game.

Running cargo deliveries, and blowing up enemies gets old faster than I would’ve expected or preferred.

My opinions, anyway,

Cheers,

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Oleg Chebeneev

Join the dark side. Get on Star Citizen hype train

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CMDR Crow

This is a copypasta from the ED Reddit, but it is a fantastic explanation of why people like Elite. It was written for someone asking, “Will I like this game?”

“This is a game for space nerds, by space nerds. There’s really not much beyond that. Of course players can come from other backgrounds and have different desires, but at the end of the day you keep playing because being a spaceship pilot is what is most enduring.

You can read every complaint and from a perspective they’re almost all true. But it doesn’t matter that much to people who are enthused to be starship pilots. I don’t play for the missions or the payouts or because I’m hooked on the unfolding story, but because at the end of the day I love being a starship pilot in the 34th century exploring distant stars and discovering things no one has ever seen before. Others love the feeling of turning off the flight assists and gliding around a spinning asteroid at insanely high speeds before settling the crosshairs and getting that kill. Some players love spreadsheets and data and fill their vessels with optimized trade goods or deftly manipulate the political balance of a system. In the end it is the core experience of being a spaceship pilot that runs through every motivation to play.

It isn’t a very “exciting” game. This is usually the true crux of criticisms. The mechanics are often simple and not particularly deep. “Progression” exists, but it is highly deemphasized and very grindy.

Basically, it is a perfect example of a game that isn’t really, exactly very “game-like.” You won’t find a ton of heart-pounding pew pew action (though there is plenty of combat if you go looking/kicking the hornet’s nest) and most content is fairly shallow in terms of what you actually do.

So I’d suggest the most relevant question is, “Do you love the idea of being a starship pilot?” If the idea is exciting, Elite is probably something you’d enjoy. If not, the rest of the game won’t have the kind of glimmer needed to allow for deep investment.”