The Daily Grind: What’s been the biggest change to the MMORPG genre in the last 20 years?


A while back, there was a thread on Reddit from a younger MMO player who was curious about changes to the way players perceived pay-to-win back toward the early days of the genre as compared to now. What followed was a conversation not so much about pay-to-win but about greed and monetization and time, with several players rightly pointing out that “pay-to-win” via buying gold and accounts off Ebay is as old as the genre itself. The big change has been in the legitimization of pay-to-win by studios who’ve edged out the RMT folks and just dispense the “win” straight from a cash shop.

I don’t know whether that’s been the biggest change since the first MMORPG rolled off the production, but I suspect it’s probably one of them. What would you say has been the biggest change to the MMORPG genre in the last 20 years? And is it a good change or a bad change?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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For me one of the biggest and pleasing changes is ability to play some great games for free (let’s say SWTOR) – you can support developers if you want or just enjoy the game as it is (yeah, it works best for MMO’s with good story but whatever). But what I lack in MMO’s is sense of unity like it was many years ago, it feels like it doesn’t matter that much for younger generation of players

Roger Melly

1) Many of them got streamlined making them less challenging .

2) Free to play led to less personal investment for many gamer’s in an online virtual world .

3) Communities in many cases became more toxic .

However I think things are changing in a good way ….

1) There seems to be a recognition by many developers that making the games too easy eventually renders them unplayable to many people because a lack of challenge leads to a lack of achievement ,which in turn leads to a lack of fun . The push for a more in depth mmo experience comes mostly from smaller developers and I hope they pull it off . Maybe WoW classic will also show a much more complex version of WoW can be hugely successful when compared to the live servers .

2) I think the free to play bubble is bursting and many new games will release to a buy to play or subscription model . I am not keen on ESO ( because its too easy ) but I think they have an excellent buy to play model . FF14’s subscription model is also excellent , slightly less expensive than average and also offering regular and frequent updates .

3) There seems to be move away in popularity from mmo’s towards things like Player Unknown Battlegrounds which seems like a bad thing but on the other hand I am hearing even in WoW these days the community is much improved .

It’s not a dying genre it is returning to being a niche genre and that probably wont be a bad thing . Games like Camelot Unchained and Pantheon maybe will offer us something a lot more interesting that we have been seeing the last decade .


The shift of key creative decision-making from people with passion for MMOs to people who make money off MMOs.


The ever growing creep of permanence. Its a good change imo. And with WoW Classic coming along maybe all that was old will be new again.


The idea that spending LESS time in game is a desirable trait. Developers can’t wait to show you how they are revolutionizing ways for you to not be in there game and get all kinds of cool loot/rewards.

Most certainly a bad thing.

Joe Seabreeze

– action combat makes it seem like a different genre (lame hack&slash).
– less exploration, more crafting and picking up useless mats and gear (trash collecting is your part time job).
– solo gameplay like it’s a single-player game (the devs listened to the casual care bears and now they’re gone).
– easy gameplay, mindless grind (basically feels like a menial job).
– inventory management is part of the gameplay, like playing Tetris with no time limit.
– microtransactions makes it feel like half game, half Walmart.
– having to pay for things like clothes, armor style, colors, etc, makes the gameworld look bland when nobody spends the money (i.e. all the characters kind of look the same).
– free2play makes it feel like a hollow, cheap game.

Those are just some from the top of my head.


The biggest change, IMO, is in the morphing and ever-growing and shrinking player base.

In the “old” days there was more customer loyalty and more realistic expectations from players. For example, players understood unscheduled downtimes. We didn’t like it, but we understood that it was part of this crazy gaming genre because it was massive and complicated.

There was also more of a partnership between players and devs. And devs were seen more as players themselves instead of corporate mouthpieces.

No, I’m not being nostalgic. There were huge problems and challenges 20 years ago, but everything was taken in stride because, to be honest, there wasn’t much of a choice in the matter. Heh.

Today. It’s an instant gratification game. “What have you done for me lately?” Players ebb and flow from most games looking for shinies. And there isn’t much interest in what devs are trying to accomplish longterm.

Of course, there is more choice on what to play including games that aren’t so massive. And there are vastly more players with their own ideas on what a game should deliver.

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Streamlining of systems and convenience/quality of life features. Dungeon Finders. No replenishment of ammo. No feeding of pets. Simplified skill trees. Homogenization of abilities in the interest of balance. All things that destroy the flavor and unique qualities that make a game fun, imo.

Nick Smith

Biggest change to MMOs in the last 20 years for me has been the hardware we run our mmos on.

I swear…. I spent half my time repairing windows and trying to connect via dial up as I did playing my mmos. And I spent a lot of time playing.

Oleg Chebeneev

Mass switch to F2P model and mass attempts to appeal casual players post WoW