Massively OP’s 2020 Awards: Worst MMO Business Model


MassivelyOP’s end-of-the-year awards for 2020 continue today with our award for Worst MMO Business Model, which was awarded jointly to Star Citizen and Fallout 76 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 2020, 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 2020 is…


Andy McAdams: “Worst” is going to be relative here as I can’t think of any that are especially heinous – so I’ll say Guild Wars 2 because while I would throw money at that game, they consistently don’t have anything I want to buy in the Gem Store. But still, how many years has Star Citizen existed and still hasn’t produced a launched game, yet still rakes in piles of money over pixel ships where the pixels don’t actually even exist yet? Yeah, Roberts would 100% be in Revendreth for a long, long time.

Brianna Royce: As I type this, we are on week two of Star Citizen hyping a $600 ship that isn’t even flyable yet. This is shameful. CIG, you should be embarrassed to still be doing things like this. You deserve this call-out, regardless of how cool the game is in alpha and winds up being in the end. Runner-up side-eye to Gamigo for the stunt it pulled with changing ArcheAge Unchained’s business model this year after swearing in 2019 that it would not charge for expansions. Seriously, stop giving these companies money, people.

Carlo Lacsina: Free-to-play with a cash shop lacking sexy outfits.

Chris Neal: ArcheAge, Star Citizen. Whether it was the unmitigated disaster that was the rollout of the ArchePass or the sudden bait-and-switch regarding the game’s next expansion, every monetization decision that ArcheAge seemed to make was dumber and dumber and dumber. And not just a “mea culpa” kind of dumb, either. Just consistently ignorant levels of dumb. It was just dumb. It’s dumb.

Eliot Lefebvre: Screw it, Star Citizen again. (Bonus nod to ArcheAge for pissing away the goodwill Unchained had initially generated.)

Justin Olivetti: Star Citizen’s galactic whaling and ArcheAge.

Mia DeSanzo: ArcheAge Unchained — specifically supposed to remedy the issues of the original, manages to replicate them.

MJ Guthrie: The nightmare that is ArcheAge Unchained wins this for me. Buy the game, sure no problem. But wait, you need to buy it again to go on this special server even if you had the original. Um, ok. Then the special season passes start up and get convoluted. Nothing about this system said anything but greedy money grab to me and ensured I had nothing to do with it.

Sam Kash: ArcheAge Unchained, anything with subs.

Tyler Edwards: Star Citizen now and forever. People are basically paying them not to make a game at this point — they’ve clearly clued in that they can make more money by selling dreams than a finished game.

Star Citizen and ArcheAge took our award for Worst MMO Business Model. What’s your pick?

Reader poll: What MMO had the worst business model in 2020?

  • Star Citizen (39%, 1,419 Votes)
  • ArcheAge and ArcheAge Unchained (16%, 591 Votes)
  • Guild Wars 2 (1%, 45 Votes)
  • Genshin Impact (5%, 178 Votes)
  • Fallout 76 (4%, 150 Votes)
  • Shroud of the Avatar (2%, 84 Votes)
  • SWTOR (1%, 27 Votes)
  • World of Warcraft (2%, 89 Votes)
  • Final Fantasy XIV (1%, 28 Votes)
  • Elder Scrolls Online (1%, 47 Votes)
  • Black Desert (3%, 101 Votes)
  • LOTRO (1%, 43 Votes)
  • EVE Online (1%, 22 Votes)
  • Pokemon Go (1%, 27 Votes)
  • Ashes of Creation (0%, 14 Votes)
  • Camelot Unchained (1%, 26 Votes)
  • Crowfall (0%, 6 Votes)
  • Neverwinter (1%, 22 Votes)
  • Star Trek Online (1%, 27 Votes)
  • EverQuest II (0%, 10 Votes)
  • Phantasy Star Online 2 (0%, 6 Votes)
  • Dual Universe (0%, 10 Votes)
  • Legends of Aria (0%, 2 Votes)
  • DC Universe Online (0%, 16 Votes)
  • Anything free-to-play (3%, 104 Votes)
  • Anything buy-to-play (0%, 17 Votes)
  • Anything crowdfunded (1%, 36 Votes)
  • Anything with a sub (2%, 66 Votes)
  • Anything pay-to-win (10%, 355 Votes)
  • Something else (let us know in the comments!) (1%, 27 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,644

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How does MassivelyOP choose the winner?
Our team gathers together to nominate and discuss candidates and hopefully 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 MMOs nominated plus a few others we thought should be included.

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Celestrata Bloodsong

TFW you spend 1.5 years trying to pitch a better business model for the game you produce, actually get people to buy into the plan, have everyone tell you that maybe they’re not doing the plan, and then let you go, and then do the plan anyway without you being attached…


Them letting me go was honestly the best thing that happened.

And as someone who spent 3 whole years of her life trying to make ArcheAge better:

Don’t play it.


Lotro, Neverwinter and STO. Freemium model for an old game like Lotro is problematic based on the sheer price of the expansions you would have to buy to get the game’s whole content, while chunks (most middle-level instances for example) are basically unplayed even on healthy servers, so you pay for content you can’t experience.

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Star Citizen for me in 2020, but for perspective:

My understanding is that RMT purchases have been heavily addressed about ten years ago (in large part due to news reports on real life bankruptcy that became the game’s public image and threatened govt action), but my opinion for the worst ever model would be ZT Online (AKA Zhengtu Online, 征途).

To quote directly from PC gamer’s Steven Messner:

“To give you an idea of how ruthless the game is, ZT Online’s monsters don’t drop equipment like in most other MMOs. Gear is either bought through NPC vendors or awarded from loot boxes. To get new gear for her level 150 character, Lu Yang was having to buy and open around 5,000 chests in addition to the 5,000 yuan (roughly $1,000) she was spending to max out that gear’s stats through crafting. And even at level 150, Lu Yang could still be killed in seconds by level 170 players who were spending tens of thousands of yuan to stay on top. At one point, ZT Online implemented a change that made it impossible to trade, sell, or destroy items, forcing players to buy inventory expansions just to carry useless gear that they could never make use of.”

Stuff like this just doesn’t happen in the west, to my knowledge.

Runner-up to Pokemon Go. People pay money for pokeballs in an app that drives people into stores and restaurants. Why are consumers paying for the right to throw another pokeball in an app designed to get them into other people’s stores, especially when over 30% of the playerbase is under 18? I feel like they could make more money giving this to consumers for free, and charging the businesses to run events spawning creatures or battles in their stores, but that’s just me – and as the app still isn’t available in China to test, I can’t speak from much experience beyond vacation tests out of the country.


What’s absolutely wack is how many votes FO 76 got….


Toy Clown

I agree with ArcheAge Unchained being the worst and I was a little upset with myself for being sucked in by the pre-release promises. Heck, a lot of people were. I don’t mind paying a sub and get a little grumbly about cash shops being part of a sub-game, but the season pass on top of all of that made me feel like I was being scammed. To top all of that off, stuff was borked to heck and back, making the game unplayable, as well as dividing communities and friends. I left about 3 months in. Couldn’t take it anymore.

Sander Houttekier

Why is Dual Universe not once mentioned. It’s marketed as a beta, but in no way feature complete. So it is technically an alpha. NQ charges a 7 euro a month fee to test their game. It is broken AF and fixes are rolled out without much notice… Game is down about 8 hours a week average. Yet we pay full price to test their product…

Kickstarter Donor

“Worst” is going to be relative here as I can’t think of any that are especially heinous – so I’ll say Guild Wars 2 because while I would throw money at that game, they consistently don’t have anything I want to buy in the Gem Store.

Then you mention Star Citizen.

What is the metric of “worst” being measured on here. Worst for the company or the players?

GW2’s model doesn’t cost you anything. It’s a bad business model I guess for Arenanet, but not for players. Bad items in the shop cost the player nothing. Although given their increased revenues last segment they were selling stuff to someone – although I’m note sure what or who, because I too don’t like much in the shop.

Star Citizens is the opposite – great for the company but terrible for the player.


Star Citizen’s business model works for them. It might be unpopular here, but it works.

I voted for Star Trek Online, Neverwinter and the Archeages. Games that I have played in the past, and whose business models actually are detrimental to the players in my opinion – and which might not be ideal for the publishers either.

Franklin Adams

I’d have to agree on STO, that would have been my 2nd choice if we’d gotten a top 3, especially since they canned the foundry. All the P2W and mobile “game” mechanics plus one of the only parts of the game I really liked being removed because they couldn’t monetize it meant me leaving. I used to play about two hours a day, this year I played three hours total for the anniversary. I miss what it used to be but it’s not for me anymore.

Oleg Chebeneev

Feels like SC model pleases all the backers and only bad for people who arent interested in the game


> pleases all the backers

Sure, if all those who dare speak publicly about their buyer’s remorse are witch-hunted out from the core community. The cult of sunken cost don’t like that one bit.

We know what happens when the money and koolaid runs out, as seen with the sister act of Shroud of the Avatar. Just keep waiting a few more years for an actual game, it will happen! You just gotta have faith! See- they’re adding features! (That are hilariously breaking…)

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Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
Paragon Lost

Voted for one, Star Citizen. No one else is even in the running.

Bruno Brito

Star Citizen, ESO and LoTRO.

LoTRO monetizing quest packs and charging “minixpacs” is laughable, ESO fills you with crap to entice you to sub just for the crafting bag, and Star Citizen is a shitty alpha that behaves like a released game with a fully functional cashshop ( which for some reason, works better than the pathetic excuse they call game ), so i’m going to review it like a full functional game: It’s not functional, it’s a dumpsterfire without meaningful content.


I’m going to say Final Fantasy in general and not because their model sucks but their payment and account system does.

Deja Twixt

I love your icon. I love Goon 1 and 2. Don’t touch my percoset and do you have any percoset?. But….whats wrong with the paymount/account? I’ve been playing 2.0 since launch and never had an issue. And only 12.99 for 1 character (which you really only need). Not sure why you said that.