In 2018 alone, the MMORPG industry saw no less than 14 major expansions release for various titles, and in 2019 we’ve had at least nine packs launch or announced for this year. In fact, over the past few years, we’ve seen a trend of far more expansions than new titles launch, a testament to the sluggish state of new development and the long tail of these games.
But here’s an interesting question that I was mulling over: Which MMOs boast the biggest number of expansions to date? It’s a slightly tricky question, as not all MMOs define “expansion” the same way, but if we look at it from a classic large content release with at least one or two major features (new zones, classes, races, or systems), then I think it’s possible to draft up a list.
So starting with the most overall, we’re going to give tribute today to the MMOs — and their development teams! — that have gone above and beyond in expanding their game worlds via expansions.
EverQuest (25 expansions)
Even the most casual fan of the MMO genre saw the title of this column and instantly knew which game was going to top this list. That lack of surprise shouldn’t stop us from giving honor to one of the genre’s most faithful producers of content, with over two dozen expansions spanning from 2000 to 2018. We’ll no doubt be up to 26 expansions before the year is out, because EverQuest knows what fans want at this point.
EVE Online (24 expansions)
One possible challenge to the EverQuest expansion throne is EVE Online, which has been steadily churning out expansions since 2003, typically two or more per year. Of course, the hard call here is what constitutes an expansion; Wikipedia claims 21 full expansions and then other assorted updates, while the EVE Wiki is claiming a larger number with 30 in total.
I asked MOP’s EVE expert Brendan, who gave me the following answer: “Twenty-four real expansions and 19 smaller iterative updates during the period between Rubicon and Citadel. The 21 figure may come from some people disputing Odyssey, Rubicon, and Ascension/Lifeblood as full expansions.”
EverQuest II (15 expansions)
While EQII will probably never catch up to its older sibling, 15 expansions is nothing to dismiss, either (and that number doesn’t include the four “adventure packs” that the studio released over the years). This version of Norrath is absolutely massive thanks to these expansions — and completely unrecognizable to how the game was at its 2004 launch.
Ultima Online (9 expansions)
Yeah, don’t you be forgetting about good ol’ UO now, or Bree is going to track you down and make you listen to a 56-point series about why this was the most important MMO ever! It’s astonishing to look at its expansion history, which stretches from 1998’s The Second Age to the relatively recent Time of Legends, which came out in 2015. It’s certainly one of the oldest currently running MMOs that’s still getting expansions with its current handler, and that is very impressive. Bree, don’t make me watch that slide show again, I beg of you.
Path of Exile (8 expansions)
We can quibble over whether or not this ARPG is an MMO (I have always felt that it is), but what is not up for debate is how hard Grinding Gear has worked to expand and enrich this popular world it’s created. The eight expansions (and counting) are amazing to consider when you realize that Path of Exile itself only came out in 2013 — that’s over one expansion pack a year since then!
World of Warcraft (7 expansions)
I’m sure that there are one or two expansions among WoW’s stable that some fans wish had never been created, but taking an overall glance at this list, I’m struck by how this one title has received the most expansions of a Blizzard product ever. And from that glacially slow company, that is saying something.
Dark Age of Camelot (7 expansions)
I would wager that few of you would have anticipated Dark Age of Camelot to show up here, but that’s probably because this older title has faded into the background and hasn’t produced an expansion since 2006’s Labyrinth of the Minotaur. Still, it managed to pump out seven packs over its lifespan, and that’s pretty respectable in my eyes.
Lord of the Rings Online (6 expansions)
To me, it feels as though LOTRO should have far more than a half-dozen expansions by now, but I’m sure that my perception is colored by playing the game. In any case, fans have been enjoying the journeys to new frontiers as different areas of Middle-earth opens its doors further, and by the end of 2019, we’ll be venturing through our seventh expansion in Minas Morgul.
Star Wars: The Old Republic (6 expansions)
For a while there, SWTOR was on an expansion-releasing frenzy, occasionally pushing out two (!) per year. But it’s slowed down in recent years, with the newest already three years old. It’s no wonder that fans are cheering the game’s seventh expansion, Onslaught, when it arrives later in 2019. May the Force be with that one.
Final Fantasy XI (5 expansions)
For now, at least, FFXI holds the record over its newer MMO sibling, but I don’t expect that to hold for too much longer. In any case, looking over the history of this game, it’s had a great run in expanding the world, from 2003’s Rise of Zilart to 2013’s Seekers of Adoulin. Who knows? Maybe the game’s active maintenance mode will churn out one more expansion before all is said and done.