Massively OP’s 2019 Awards: Worst MMO Business Model


Massively Overpowered’s end-of-the-year 2019 awards continue today with our award for Worst MMO Business Model, which was awarded to Star Citizen last year. This faux-ward is a counterpart to our award for the best business model of the year and is intended to recognize an MMO of any age that has demonstrated a particularly awful or consumer-unfriendly business model specifically in 2019, regardless of its past performance. This award does include pre-launch MMOs, as long as those games are operating a launched business model as well. Don’t forget to cast your own vote in the just-for-fun reader poll at the very end!

And the MassivelyOP staff pick for the Worst MMO Business Model of 2019 is…


Andy McAdams: SWTOR, Star Citizen. I think we should clarify here that “Worst Business Model for gamers” is the category because Star Citizen having generated more revenue than the GDP of a small country and still not actually delivering anything of value to gamers is definitely good for someone, just not gamers. Fallout 76 should really just be a case study in how not to run a game. Both of these were no-brainers.

Brendan Drain: Star Citizen. It’s now up to over $254M in crowdfunding and further private finance, and despite eight years of development there’s still no release window in sight. Every year I predict that crowdfunding well will run dry for Star Citizen and it will face financial difficulties or be forced to wrap up and launch, and every year I’m proven wrong as millions are poured into the game by fans to keep the dream alive — and I do think “dream” is the right word to use here. The moment Star Citizen officially launches is when I think the house of cards they’ve built will finally collapse because no matter how good it is, it’s not going to be $300M+ good. Coupled with the hundreds of FTC complaints the developer has received and the customers issuing refund requests for thousands of dollars, I’d characterise Star Citizen’s use of crowdfunding as an abusive business model.

Brianna Royce: Where does one begin? Yes, Star Citizen, deserves the top spot once again; regardless of whether you’re excited about the game (and I am), its business model is pure grotesque whale hunting, and CIG appears to have no shame about it. Following that, Fallout 76 surely deserve a nod, thanks to its Fallout First debacle.

Carlo Lacsina: Shroud of the Avatar.

Chris Neal: Star Citizen. Look, I’m bought in and often feel like one of the few in the staff who wants this game to make it, but even I have to always tilts my head and curl my lip when CIG sells three and four-figure concept drawings. It will always reek of a studio that’s hemorrhaging money even if they are putting something impressive together. And that worries me.

Colin Henry: Star Citizen, Fallout 76. It’s hard to compete for worst business model with a game that sells players a $1700 flying space mall when the game isn’t even playable yet, but Fallout 76 sure is doing its best! “But Colin,” you say, “isn’t 76’s new business model basically the same as ESO’s business model, which you love?” On paper, yes. However, the buy-to-play-with-optional-sub model provides a lot better value for an actual MMORPG than with a sandbox game like Fallout 76. 76 doesn’t have the DLCs ESO does, and doesn’t even have as much base game content as ESO. Plus, ESO went from a mandatory sub to an optional sub, whereas Fallout 76 launched as a purely buy-to-play game and tacked a sub on later. Worse, they locked private servers, a feature many players had been anticipating, behind said subscription. All of this makes it a bit like a bait-and-switch, and what little goodwill it had built up with recent updates has been largely lost because of what players feel is a cash grab.

Eliot Lefebvre: If you’d like to stop winning this one, Star Citizen, feel free to stop selling concept art for ships that will eventually be playable in one fragment of the game and actually release a game. I’ll wait. (PS I will not actually wait.)

Justin Olivetti: Anything freemium.

Mia DeSanzo: I used to be one of those people who looked down my nose at free-to-play games, and thought of subscriptions as the obvious business model, but now that I am older and have less time to game than ever, the idea that I can’t play a game I’ve already paid for until I pay some more makes me break out in hives. On the other hand, some games that shall remain nameless, but that might have won this category, are absolute dumpster fires on the business end, so there’s that.

MJ Guthrie: I am giving this award to Fallout 76 because if its fun offerings of having players buy the game, then pay a subscription fee to be able to have and access “personal” servers (which are actually run by the company) that do not allow any modding, and toss in a bunch of pay-to-win in the cash shop. That’s the exact opposite of what a good cash shop monetization should have in my opinion.

Samon Kashani: Star Citizen, Fallout 76. I mean, duh. Both. Equally. Obviously. $100 private servers? $2000+ nonexistent game items. Get out of here!

Tyler Edwards: Star Citizen, or anything else crowdfunded. Crowdfunding can work for some things, but paying for games that don’t exist yet has been proven to be a bad idea so many times I can’t believe people are still doing it.

Star Citizen and Fallout 76 tied for our award for Worst MMO Business Model of 2019. What’s your pick?

Reader poll: What MMO had the worst business model in 2019?

  • Star Citizen (41%, 861 Votes)
  • Fallout 76 (25%, 528 Votes)
  • SWTOR (2%, 48 Votes)
  • Shroud of the Avatar (3%, 53 Votes)
  • World of Warcraft (2%, 52 Votes)
  • Final Fantasy XIV (1%, 15 Votes)
  • Elder Scrolls Online (1%, 24 Votes)
  • Black Desert (2%, 49 Votes)
  • Guild Wars 2 (1%, 17 Votes)
  • ArcheAge and AA Unchained (1%, 14 Votes)
  • LOTRO (1%, 31 Votes)
  • EVE Online (1%, 27 Votes)
  • Pokemon Go (0%, 9 Votes)
  • Ashes of Creation and Apocalypse (1%, 18 Votes)
  • Camelot Unchained (0%, 3 Votes)
  • Crowfall (0%, 3 Votes)
  • Chronicles of Elyria (3%, 56 Votes)
  • Ship of Heroes (0%, 1 Votes)
  • City of Titans (0%, 2 Votes)
  • Neverwinter (1%, 12 Votes)
  • Astellia Online (0%, 1 Votes)
  • EverQuest II (0%, 7 Votes)
  • Star Trek Online (1%, 12 Votes)
  • Anything free-to-play (3%, 57 Votes)
  • Anything buy-to-play (0%, 8 Votes)
  • Anything crowdfunded (1%, 15 Votes)
  • Anything with a sub (1%, 25 Votes)
  • Anything pay-to-win (7%, 155 Votes)
  • Something else (let us know in the comments!) (0%, 8 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,553

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How does MassivelyOP choose the winner?
Our team gathers together over the course of a few weeks to nominate and discuss candidates and ideally settle on a consensus winner. We don’t have a hard vote, but we do include written commentary from every writer who submitted it on time so that you can see where some of us differed, what our secondary picks were, and why we personally nominated what we did (or didn’t). The site’s award goes to the staff selection, but we’ll include both it and the community’s top nomination in our debrief in January.
How does MassivelyOP populate this poll?
Poll options include all games nominated plus some other big MMOs we thought might be in the running with some folks in our community.
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