Perfect Ten: The MMORPGs boasting the most expansions

    
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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.

Ominous? Does that have the same root?

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.

Swanky.

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.

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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Denice J. Cook

I just knew EQ1 would be at the top of the list. :)

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Sarah Cushaway

I will never stop wishing EQ2 had been handled differently and with more care :( it could have been the best themepark MMO out there–now it’s just drifting along in semi-limbo with a tiny population and all that content bogged down by bad decisions, bloat, an awful engine, and not enough money to fix any of those issues.

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Hikari Kenzaki

Are you going by just live games? These all seem to be live games but you just say “most overall”

City of Heroes had 23 large (some larger than others) Issues. They certainly had more consistent content updates over their 8 years than LOTRO had in the same time frame.

Even if you only count, CoV, Going Rogue and Freedom 4 All… well, you’d be counting wrong.

Issue 1: 2 new zones, level cap increase, sewer trial, Icon and a lot more. Easily fits in the requirement.
Issue 2: 3 new zones, 3 new trials, respecs, PDP, new enemy types… and more.
Issue 3: 2 new ATs, Epic power sets, 1 new zone, New GMs, new TF.
Issue 4: Arenas, Kheldian arc, some chat and other updates. Okay, maybe we don’t count this one.
Issue 5: New Zone, New Enemy Type, 4 new power sets, New monsters and events.
Issue 6: City of Villains. Nuff said.
Issue 7: This was just to bring CoV in line with CoH so maybe we don’t count that. It still had a lot of content.
Issue 8: A TON of changes, but mostly Quality of Life so… we’ll not count that.
Issue 9: New TF, New Hami, Invention System. Auction House. Oh, we’re definitely counting this. one.
Issue 10: Eh, maybe not. RWZ and the Crash site had a lot of stuff, but maybe not ‘expansion’ level.
Issue 11: 2 new power sets, Ouroboros and Flashback missions, a boatload of new weapons and hair.
Issue 12: Powerset Proliferation, 2 new ATs, New zones and missions.

So… not even halfway through the Issues and we have 7 expansions.

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Steven Williams

If we’re going by that logic, Mabinogi has just released its 23rd major Generation update. In Korea, g24 is releasing with new story, bosses, dungeons and an overhaul to the Spirit Weapon system.

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Bryan Correll

Only City of Villains (a ‘stand-alone expansion’) and Going Rogue were actually marketed as expansions. As Justin said, “not all MMOs define ‘expansion’ the same way.”

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Anton Mochalin

No mention of Neverwinter with its 16 modules.

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Hikari Kenzaki

Or STO’s 4 Major expansions and 17 Seasons (granted seasons 15-17 are horrifically small). Some of the early Seasons were huge.

Bree Royce
Staff
Bree Royce

Yeah, four expansions doesn’t make it into the top 10.

The NW modules are harder – they’re not all marketed as expansions.

Same with DDO below. Adventure packs aren’t expansions.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

Not that I didn’t enjoy the article, or the concept behind it, but if we are ignoring the term “expansion” in favor of “classic large content release,” then shouldn’t Adventure Packs be counted? Heck if we are counting SWTOR’s Strongholds “expansion” then there are a lot more content releases that should also be counted on that merit.

Bree Royce
Staff
Bree Royce

I’d argue no, those aren’t really large enough to count.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

But surely there are content updates that have not been counted in the article that provide more content than Starfighter and Strongholds for SWTOR (my examples as I am most familiar with those), which essentially added just one game mode with only a couple of maps, and only appeals to a niche audience, as does the interior design update, which (arguably) appeals to a wider (but still niche) audience, and half of which is reasonably only usable to its fullest extent by large, active guilds (in the case of the guild ships).

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donvweel

No DDO? I thought Dungeons and Dragons added more content than LotRO. There where over 50 adventure packs but only 4 major expansions I suppose.
https://ddowiki.com/page/Category:Adventure_Packs

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donvweel

PS: even more confusing 42 updates that coincide with the packs.
https://ddowiki.com/page/Category:Modules_and_updates

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Reht

DAoC also had their campaigns; Otherworlds and Dragon’s Curse campaigns (possibly others, haven’t followed beyond those). While not expansions, were expansion level in content in content and quality, just released over time.

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Ironwu

I think WoW expansions should each count as two expansions each. BC, WotLK, Cataclysm, Mysts and Warlords and Legion were huge expansions (especially compared to what we got with BfA). In addition, starting with Mysts they were expanded even further with additional landmass and content at no additional cost.

Not counting the disappointing BFA, I think WoW has given the absolute best and most value for the money.

Eliot Lefebvre
Staff
Eliot Lefebvre

Why not count every expansion on a different scale! That’s a great idea!

Of course, that means we’re also going to need to count each of FFXI’s expansions twice, and each of its add-on packs once.

We’re also going to need to count each of EVE Online’s expansions as 2d4-1 expansions (rolled during the article writing process, no rerolls).

Also, we count EverQuest expansions according to the formula (2X/4) +4 – Y, where X equals the number of existing expansions the game has and Y is the number of other expansions released the same year.

That sounds much more sensible than just, you know, counting.

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Ironwu

That makes about as much sense as counting each claimed ‘Expansion’ once regardless of the quantity or quality of the content. All expansions are not created equal, which is what this article implies.

Bree Royce
Staff
Bree Royce

(That is not what this article implies. It explicitly says the opposite.)

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Ironwu

It implicit in the article since all expansions talked about ARE given the same weight. An almost nothing EVE expansion is given exactly the same status as WotLK, one of the greatest MMO expansions so far in the history of MMOs.

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IronSalamander8 .

I knew EQ had a ton, but my heyday there was back in LDoN whih I really enjoyed. On the other end, I had no idea EvE had so many. I knew they had at least a couple based on posting here, but that is a lot.

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nomadmorlock9

Please remove SWTOR from this list. Some of the content they have put out under “Expansion” is clearly not comparable to the size and content of most other games. Content updates is more like it.

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IronSalamander8 .

Was going to say, at best it has 4 (RotHC, SoR, and the 2 KOT chapter groups taken as separate expansions). Most of the rest remind me of WoW’s mid-patches or CoH’s issues.