Massively OP’s Best of 2017 Awards: Best MMO Business Model of 2017


Massively Overpowered’s end-of-the-year 2017 awards continue today with our award for Best MMO Business Model, which was awarded to Guild Wars 2 last year, the first time we’d given out this reader-proposed honor. This award is intended to recognize a live MMORPG of any age that has demonstrated an exemplary business model specifically in 2017, regardless of its past performance. 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 Business Model of 2017 is…


Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): I really want to give it to Elder Scrolls since they’ve been doing great updates and a good expansion, but…. man, I’ll just go for Final Fantasy XIV. At least the subscription fee seems to be paying for content that players are passionate about, and (hopefully) the developers finally learned their lesson about how they tackle housing. I’ll also nominate WoW even if it feels like the sub may not be totally worth it, but at least the hardcores can earn Destiny 2 right?

Brendan Drain (@nyphur): The expansion of the free to play offering is a great step for EVE Online this year, though I think it could even go further than it already has. You can now play for free and fly everything up to tech 1 battleships and faction battleships, a huge improvement over the highly restrictive previous business model. As I wrote in a recent article, there are even ways for returning veteran players to get full omega subscriptions completely for free just by training and extracting skills once per month. The power of the PLEX business model continues to show its strength throughout 2017.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna): World of Warcraft has the best MMORPG model right now, it just does. Blizzard’s largess and success allow it to skate along with that sub indefinitely in a way few other studios can, and while it has a cash shop, it’s nowhere near as nasty as the cash shops it’s competing with in a genre where the F2P and B2P games have become increasingly icky. Even if you believe (as I do) the subscription is a barrier-to-entry and has incentivized slow update cadences in the past, this year the latter hasn’t proven true and WoW’s had the best and least exploitative model for actual players, full stop. And I’d also be just as happy seeing Final Fantasy XIV grab this for almost all the same reasons.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre): World of Warcraft. What. Yeah, I am as surprised as effing anybody. But not only has the game kept up steady updates through the whole year, it also moved the WoW Token into working more like PLEX, simultaneously freeing up players to earn more stuff through gameplay and making a buy-to-play option more viable for the title. Weirdly enough, this year that business model is really working itself well. This year is weird. Runner-up: Final Fantasy XIV.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster): EVE Online. Just throwing this into the pot because I’m glad that CCP finally added a free-to-play option for those cheapskates among us — and even more glad that this model was beefed up toward the end of the year.

Larry Everett (@Shaddoe): I really like the Elder Scrolls Online model despite some disappointments in a couple of small areas. I don’t like the lootboxes, but like with everything bought in the ESO cash shop, it’s secondary to everything else. The crux of the ESO business model is buy-to-play. There is nothing that you can’t buy into, but if you want access to every in smaller monthly payments, then there is the subscription model.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie): This sounds really weird coming from a dedicated lover of subscriptions, but I choose Warframe, Path of Exile, and Aion. I think Digital Extremes does very well with Warframe’s business model; I have never once felt like I needed to spend money in the cash shop to be able to play, and that actually makes me want to spend there more! Offerings are cosmetic and convenience. You can build items in game instead of buying them premade in the shop. Path of Exile is the same way — I do not feel the least bit pressured to buy anything and can fully enjoy the game without the cash shop, or I can enjoy some fun cosmetics if I choose to buy. I can’t not give a nod to NA Aion, which was the first to successfully offer the most generous free-to-play experience by giving access to all the content for completely free. True, those at end-game may feel more of a need to buy convenience items from the shop, but none of it is required.

Tina Lauro Pollock (@purpletinabeans): I would have said Guild Wars 2 before ANet decided that three different payment methods for highly coveted content – including lockbox mechanics at a time when players are railing against them – was a clever idea. I’m voting for World of Warcraft or EVE Online instead this time: Clear subscription costs that can be avoided by farming in-game currency, combined with tempered cash shop options available for those who enjoy them.

World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV won our award for Best MMO Business Model of 2017. What’s your pick?

Reader poll: Which MMORPG had the best business model in 2017?

  • World of Warcraft (21%, 199 Votes)
  • Final Fantasy XIV (15%, 141 Votes)
  • EVE Online (4%, 35 Votes)
  • Warframe (11%, 104 Votes)
  • Path of Exile (8%, 76 Votes)
  • Aion (0%, 4 Votes)
  • Guild Wars 2 (13%, 125 Votes)
  • Black Desert (1%, 11 Votes)
  • Elder Scrolls Online (11%, 106 Votes)
  • Secret World Legends (1%, 6 Votes)
  • SWTOR (1%, 5 Votes)
  • Albion Online (0%, 4 Votes)
  • Revelation Online (0%, 1 Votes)
  • ArcheAge (0%, 2 Votes)
  • TERA (1%, 5 Votes)
  • Skyforge (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Lord of the Rings Online (2%, 21 Votes)
  • Riders of Icarus (0%, 1 Votes)
  • Blade and Soul (0%, 1 Votes)
  • Neverwinter (1%, 8 Votes)
  • EverQuest II (1%, 6 Votes)
  • RIFT (0%, 1 Votes)
  • Elite Dangerous (2%, 22 Votes)
  • RuneScape (0%, 3 Votes)
  • DC Universe Online (0%, 1 Votes)
  • Nothing (3%, 29 Votes)
  • Something else (tell us in the comments) (2%, 20 Votes)

Total Voters: 937

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


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it’d have to be wildstar, which yall seemed to forget about here. aside from teh price of the level boost (which they’ve given boosted toons away for free twice this year), there is no game in the genre more consumer friendly and generous than wildstar.

also MJ’s vote for aion and her comment about the cash shop being totally optional mostly just demonstrates she’s never slotted endgame gear before. >< cash shop items are pretty much must haves for that, nevermind the level of "convenience" other items have on endgaming gear progression. XD

in terms of giving away everything for free content wise, there was metric shit tonnes of f2p games doing exactly that including ones from ncsoft prior to aion going f2p so idk how that's even a reason what 6 years now after it went f2p?

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One of the things that I’m quite relieved about is that Elite:Dangerous got it’s Micro transaction Model right.

  • No Loot Boxes
  • No Pay to win
  • Reasonably priced
  • Good selection of skins, ship kits, commander clothes and fun, silly bobbleheads
    1. I reckon because they’ve got this right, it’s meant Elite: Dangerous : Horizons owners get a year ‘s worth of updates for free.

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FFXIV would have gotten it for me but EVE pushed it out of the way with the updated F2P model. Now Alpha’s are much less restricted, benefit from subbing for a set time frame to train and being able to retain many of their skills after the sub lapses, and you can still earn a sub with in-game isk.

David Goodman

Voted for WoW. Any game without lockboxes is good, but that’s the one i’m playing right now, so there we go.

I don’t disagree with microtransactions on principal depending on what they are, but for bleeps sake, just SELL THE F’ING THING directly, don’t make me “gamble” by making me purchase a key that opens a box that has a 1/100 chance of dropping 1/10th of a special unique item in it. (hoping that you don’t get a lot of duplicates of course.)


I’m not playing any MMOs right now, and haven’t for years, so really hard to pick a best business model.

As far as I’m aware, none of those listed are sub-only or b2p only, so I voted for nothing. The presence of a cash shop means the game is immediately compromised, so picking a best model means knowing the specifics of the cash shop – prices, p2w, volume, lockboxes etc – but as I don’t play any of them I don’t know any specifics.


gw2 and poe still have the best payment models. wow and ffxiv? are you effing kidding me?

and btw: maybe next year you should let ppl vote first and then let them see the winner or the answers of the staff. almost every time the votes are the same as the winners… (or heavily favoured)


I have to go with Star Trek Online, and before you roll your eyes, hear me out:

1) The game now has a huge amount of content, and none of it is gated behind a paywall.

2) Cash shop purchased T6 ships are a nice to have, but not an absolute necessity. In fact I say with some pride that I bought a T5 Mirror Universe science ship for a modest sum off the player exchange, and have taken it to almost the end of the available story content on advanced difficulty. To me this speaks volumes.

3) The cash shop is surprisingly fair. Cosmetic uniforms can be purchased for about $5-6 dollars per set, advanced T6 ships run about $25. Also, with a little patience you can save money by waiting for their not infrequent cash shop sales. Speaking of the cash shop, I find it curious that Cryptic’s other mmo Neverwinter has one of the worst cash shops I’ve ever seen, at least it was when I tried the game a few years ago. Not sure what’s up with that?

4) A word about their lockboxes. I know this is a very sensitive subject of late, and yes, I agree that Cryptic pushes the STO lockboxes a bit too hard. That said, STO has about the best lockboxes I’ve seen. I’ve almost always gotten something useful from them, or failing that at least something I can sell on the exchange for a tidy sum. The downside is that unlike GW2 they never give you any freebies, though the STO lockboxes are much better than the GW2 boxes which in my opinion have gotten worse of late.

“Enjoy your time in the frontier of yesterday, a time like that will never come again.” – Captain Pavel Checkov


T6 ships are not “about $25”. They are $30. Same as Neverwinter mounts. There’s nothing wrong with the NW cash shop, NW has more options. NW subs get a free lock box key per day and other nice benefits that STO players do not get.
Cryptic nerfed the value of loot drops to the point where it’s all vendor trash now and meaningless. They’ve heavily restricted ways to make EC, so the grind in the game is the worst it’s been in years and prices on the exchange have doubled or tripled for keys and ships, fleet modules, and other important items. Doing the boring Tour the Galaxy across many farm alts is really the only way to make enough EC to buy anything in demand. It’s a huge grind but I’m sure F2P leeches still love it.


Bryan Turner

To any ESO players, what passes for PVE Endgame, I under stand there’s a lot of exploration like GW2, Is it big on Open World or is it group instance based?


You know this reminds me, what ever happened to the Mo comics? :(

Melissa McDonald

You can successfully enjoy World of Tanks/Warships/Warplanes for free, without ever spending a dime. You can earn all your tech tier progressions through gameplay. I’ve spent money once in the last 3 years in WoT, because i wanted some cool camouflage on my tank, just a cosmetic.

Oleg Chebeneev

Really? Ive heard many times that donators who buy “golden” ammo have huge advantage over anyone else in WoT

Melissa McDonald

Vastly overstated. Sure, gold ammo does more damage. But doesn’t make you a better player. I completely tune such drama out and happily play.


That’s true. Gold Ammo practically negates armor in heavy tanks. It doesn’t just do more damage, the important aspect is that it has higher penetration stats. It’s the pen that makes it P2W.
The game is and always will be heavily RNG based and very much P2W. There’s no argument about it. There are high end players who always run “food” that costs gold and gives stat bonuses along with gold rounds and yes they absolutely have an advantage over a player who is not running them.
I’m taking a break from the game now but have over 10,000 matches played with a 54% win rate. I’m sorry but Melissa doesn’t sound like she plays the game seriously, so sure in her mind, gold rounds don’t matter.