Massively OP’s 2019 Awards: MMORPG of the Year


Massively Overpowered’s formal end-of-the-year 2019 awards draw to a dramatic close today with our award for MMORPG of the Year, which was awarded to Final Fantasy XIV last year. Longtime readers of this site and Massively-that-was will recall that five years ago, our staff was so disillusioned with the new MMOs launching that we voted for nothing – and nothing won. The following year, we took readers’ feedback and opened this category up to all live MMOs, regardless of launch year, provided they did something noteworthy this year, and that’s a tradition we’ve stuck to ever since. Don’t forget to cast your own vote in the just-for-fun reader poll at the very end – and congratulations to all of this year’s nominees and winners!

And the MassivelyOP staff pick for the MMORPG of 2019 is…


Andy McAdams: ESO. I went back and forth on this between ESO and FFXIV — both games that I played a whole lot this year. This wasn’t the best year for MMOs and there weren’t even many that passed my test of, “did they intentionally light themselves on fire and then look surprised?” It was a depressingly short list. Ultimately, I voted for ESO because of the non-linear nature of the game, the story and the insane amount flexibility of play the game allows. While FFXIV has hands down the best story, it’s still a very gated, on-rails experience. Neither game has really innovated much over the last year and it’s largely “The Game, sequela” but it doesn’t change the fact that they were still just solid games.

Ben Griggs: The Elder Scrolls Online. After releasing last year’s MMO expansion of the year (Summerset), ESO could have used its success as a blueprint for 2019. They could have simply repeated the quarterly update cadence in the hopes of sustained interest. Instead, they took it up a notch. In an unprecedented move, ZeniMax Online Studios tied each update together thematically, resulting in a year-long story arc that could be completed in pieces or as a whole to equal degrees of fulfillment. It didn’t hurt matters that the theme included both the elusive dragon adversaries and the beloved Khajiit race.

Brianna Royce: I would’ve been equally happy with Black Desert, Final Fantasy XIV, or Elder Scrolls Online winning this, but my heart was actually with Black Desert. Pearl Abyss did so much to bolster the game this year, even pushing it to Xbox One, PS4, and mobile. Nobody else did quite as much to earn top honors this year in my book.

Carlo Lacsina: WoW Classic, ESO. When I went to PAX earlier this year and interviewed Rich Lambert, it was obvious the amount of passion the team brings. If I were to argue for this year’s pick based on pathos, I’d say the passion translated so well this year that I can’t help but give them this pick. The consistent quality is what makes this game our pick of this year. Even though I don’t personally play it, it just did such a good job this year!

Chris Neal: ESO. While I don’t play this terribly often if at all, I can 100% appreciate this one getting the nod from us. It’s been a solid and steady game (when the Activity Finder isn’t being a trash fire, anyway), and I’ve always greatly enjoyed myself whenever I do decide to dip in. Plus, it has one of the best values in terms of its subscription, so I definitely think it deserves it.

Colin Henry: ESO, BDO. The Elder Scrolls Online has had a really strong year. Elsweyr was an amazing expansion, which added a massive new zone exploring one of the most-requested locales in Elder Scrolls lore, some really memorable quests and characters, and a new class that is really fun to play regardless of what your preferred playstyle is. It then followed this expansion up with a dungeon DLC and an additional story DLC that managed to expand the story while still standing on their own if you haven’t played the rest of the arc. The open world dragon fights were epic at Elsweyr’s launch, but I loved the way they grew and added new mechanics as the DLCs came out. It’s easy for big open world events like this to turn into mindless zergfests, but ZOS managed to pull it off. There were missteps — like the controversial changes to guild trader bidding, and technical difficulties that forced the cancellation of the Undaunted dungeon running event — but I think those can be overlooked in light of everything else this game did well this year.

Eliot Lefebvre: I still really feel like this was a year when Black Desert Online deserved a win for the big seat. While it’s not my cup of tea, you could really feel the amount of work that Pearl Abyss put into the game this year. And that works for me; after all, the title really could have just coasted along all years, and I think it spent most of the year putting in good work instead of just idling along. Also, considering there are only like three titles this year that managed to avoid screwing up majorly, it gets a nod for that too.

Justin Olivetti: World of Warcraft is always an easy (and sometimes deserving) target for gamer cynicism, but it is hard to honestly argue that this wasn’t WoW Classic’s year. This was the MMO launch event of 2019, in which not only did millions stream back to Blizzard’s fold, but plenty of gamers reveled in finding joy and delight in older design. It’s great that WoW players now have two versions of the game from which to choose, and if BlizzCon is any indication, they may have more soon.

Mia DeSanzo: Final Fantasy XIV continues to put out quality content and remains one of the very few games that is good enough to justify the subscription. Both The Elder Scrolls Online and FFXIV continue to be solid offerings, and both released good expansions this year. I feel like ESO and FFXIV are cornerstones of the genre.

MJ Guthrie: AQ3D, ESO. With AdventureQuest 3D’s weekly updates, tons of free content releases, different ideas (like the concerts), listening to players, and the lack of drama, I want to give a nod to this underrated game for GOTY. On the other hand, I feel that Elder Scrolls Online did a great job with thematic branding this year, tying everything together from content to events. But above that, I am very impressed with the way ZeniMax has used this theme to spur the community into civic action and good deeds. Beyond just raising money for a cause like #slaydragonssavecats, ZeniMax partnered with organizations to adopt Khajiit by spotlighting kitties who needed homes. I would adopt them all if I could! It was this cohesiveness, content, and civic action that crowns ESO for me in 2019.

Samon Kashani: ArcheAge Unchained. I didn’t really have a strong say for game of the year. My main squeeze, Guild Wars 2, had what some might call a rough go of things. I originally nominated ArcheAge because it has done a lot of good things by changing up the business model and working towards keeping the pay and the win separate. Regardless, everything I’ve seen about ESO has been promising and it is certainly moving up the ladder in my “to-play” list.

Tyler Edwards: ESO feels like the obvious choice. It’s a solid game, and it’s mostly avoided major screw-ups (activity finder issues notwithstanding).

Elder Scrolls Online won our award for Best MMORPG of 2019. What’s your pick?

Reader poll: What was the best MMORPG of 2019?

  • Elder Scrolls Online (34%, 781 Votes)
  • Black Desert (7%, 156 Votes)
  • Final Fantasy XIV (22%, 501 Votes)
  • World of Warcraft and WoW Classic (12%, 278 Votes)
  • Guild Wars 2 (5%, 108 Votes)
  • ArcheAge Unchained (2%, 45 Votes)
  • RuneScape (2%, 45 Votes)
  • EVE Online (2%, 45 Votes)
  • SWTOR (3%, 61 Votes)
  • Star Trek Online (1%, 16 Votes)
  • Neverwinter (1%, 17 Votes)
  • Lord of the Rings Online (3%, 62 Votes)
  • DC Universe Online (0%, 8 Votes)
  • TERA (1%, 15 Votes)
  • Astellia Online (0%, 5 Votes)
  • Blade and Soul (0%, 11 Votes)
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online (1%, 17 Votes)
  • MapleStory 2 (0%, 10 Votes)
  • Elite Dangerous (1%, 15 Votes)
  • EverQuest II (1%, 22 Votes)
  • Skyforge (0%, 2 Votes)
  • AdventureQuest 3D (1%, 18 Votes)
  • Something else (tell us in the comments!) (3%, 62 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,014

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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 other major fully launched and live MMOs we thought should and would be in the running.
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