Massively OP’s 2020 Awards: MMO Story of the Year


MassivelyOP’s end-of-the-year awards for 2020 continue today with our award for MMO Story of the Year, which was awarded to the Blizzard boycotts last year. This isn’t an award based on popularity as measured by hits or comments, and it’s not meant for a single article; it’s an acknowledgement of an ongoing narrative or event of deep importance and significance for the genre during the year, something different from a surprise or trend. 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 MMO Story of the Year for 2020 is…


Andrew Ross: Daybreak being sold again. It’s not just that it was sold, but the sale revealed its ownership of Standing Stone Games. I feel like an MMO dinosaur at this point, because frankly ZeniMax and Square-Enix have had their A-game up the last few years and ArenaNet can’t be totally ignored, but Daybreak and Standing Stone feel like the granddads in the biz. Seeing them tied together and mistreated under their former owners was heartbreaking (RIP Warner Bros MMOs, please sell someone the Asheron’s Call IP). Maybe the new owners will bring back some innovation, or maybe it’ll be more shady stuff. I don’t know, but the news release has made me very anxious… and also really wishing those classic MMOs would get some modern love. Runner-up: COVID in general. I was kind of surprised with how some companies reacted. As MMOs had been my method of connecting with people for decades, I already felt that they were in a prime position for keeping people together. Turning up rewards, bumping people’s status to “Premium,” looking at how WoW had prepped some scientists about how people react to a pandemic, in-game parties, funerals… I feel like MMO and online players in general had a good safety net through this and could offer that to others.

Andy McAdams: I voted all the COVID because none of us expected 2020 to go anything like it did. I thought about giving a nod to the Daybreak buyout, but it was so fresh that it could have either been big news story or just something that just petered out.

Brianna Royce: I couldn’t choose between Daybreak and COVID, so I choose both. The virus has reshaped everyone’s lives and the gaming industry too. It’s impossible to ignore how much it changed us and in particular how MMOs became a place of solace for so many people. And yes, the Daybreak news is still very fresh, and I always hesitate to give a December story an award, but this was a long time coming (we started predicting it over a year and a half ago!), and it definitely feels like a major moment for the MMORPG industry, as if we’re all holding our breath to see what happens next. Even if you don’t care who’s holding the lease on the company, you have to be peeing your pants over the huge financial and metrics dump we got out of the whole deal. That’s enormous and changes my perception not just of Daybreak’s game but of the genre. If even the small, neglected Daybreak games are doing great and making bank… yeah.

Chris Neal: The pandemic ravages gaming, Ubisoft’s vile executives bail out. COVID-19 has upended a lot, but for the years I’ve been following MMOs and video games in general, I never expected an event that would shut down otherwise institutional gaming events and shift the dynamic of how games themselves are made and updated. If nothing else, this past year has been a display at the industry’s adaptability.

Eliot Lefebvre: I am personally biased toward the Elyria implosion. The world is covered in death, how could anything be bigger than that? Turns out nothing could be and we spent all year dealing with it. And we’ll still have it floating around next year. Exhausted sigh.

Justin Olivetti: From March on, COVID reshaped nearly every part of our lives — including gaming. With developers working from homes, expansions and patches got delayed and voice actors couldn’t be recorded. So much got pushed off into 2021 that it felt like this year was a big “pause” that hasn’t seen the “play” button hit yet as a result. That said, we saw some very good things emerge during this period, such as players rallying to bolster each other and studios like Standing Stone Games give away free content. The Daybreak buyout, on the other hand, came as a sort of relief after waiting to see if the studio would be sold or would fold for so long. It was fascinating to pour through now-public details of the studio and its games, and if nothing else, I’m glad this happened to illuminate what was going on behind the scenes.

Mia DeSanzo: Torchlight veering away from the MMO lane — is the “MMO” label toxic or what?

MJ Guthrie: It is hard to not put COVID down as the biggest story because it was the overarching narrative that touched on nearly every facet of the industry. So many stories are tied to it, and it upended so many aspects of gaming.

Tyler Edwards: New World changing direction away from being a gankbox. It turned it from a niche offering to potentially the Next Big Thing in the MMO field.

Daybreak’s sale and the impact of COVID took our award for MMO Story of the Year. What’s your pick?

Reader poll: What was the biggest MMO story of 2020?

  • Daybreak getting bought out (13%, 50 Votes)
  • COVID derailing and buffering online gaming (26%, 98 Votes)
  • Chronicles of Elyria imploding (5%, 18 Votes)
  • Ubisoft's being awful (2%, 8 Votes)
  • Torchlight III and other games veering away from MMO (2%, 8 Votes)
  • New World rejecting the gankbox and delaying again (5%, 20 Votes)
  • Crucible's failboat (1%, 3 Votes)
  • The Blizzard employee unionization attempt (4%, 16 Votes)
  • The impact of BLM on games (2%, 7 Votes)
  • The Epic/Apple lawsuit (3%, 13 Votes)
  • LOTRO's outage, comms fail, and expansion fib (5%, 18 Votes)
  • The Microsoft/Bethsoft buyout (13%, 48 Votes)
  • Camelot Unchained's second game (2%, 8 Votes)
  • Tencent buys the rest of Funcom (3%, 11 Votes)
  • The Shadowlands delay (2%, 8 Votes)
  • The resolution of the ArcheAge lawsuit (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Rend's collapse (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Guild Wars 2 still refusing to acknowledge MikeZ left in 2019 or tell anyone who took his place (3%, 13 Votes)
  • MapleStory 2 sunsetting (1%, 4 Votes)
  • ArcheAge's business model switcharoo (1%, 3 Votes)
  • The explosion of MMOs coming to Steam (1%, 4 Votes)
  • Population Zero's collapse (0%, 0 Votes)
  • PSO2's messy western launch (1%, 4 Votes)
  • Ubisoft fake bomb threat (0%, 1 Votes)
  • Guild Wars 2 finally going to Cantha (4%, 16 Votes)
  • Something else (tell us in the comments!) (1%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 261

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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 stories nominated plus a few others we thought should be included.

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Ewan Cuthbertson

Here’s a crazy suggestion about the Mike Z thing have you ever thought and it might sound crazy its none of you business clearly he wanted to leave quietly and if it wasn’t for a leaker who should not have shared this news if Z didn’t want it to be made public that would have happened. Anet don’t need to do anything as long as there’s someone behind the scenes and the game is still going what right to do you or anyone have to demand a company breaks a former employees confidence. Oh yeah gutter journalism like the rest of the fucking media.


COVID and the New World changes for me. I couldn’t come up with a third from that list that was more than just a “click, read, and forget” for me. Torchlight 3’s re-direction removed it from my list of games to play but I didn’t think it was any story of the year type contender.

Edit: from reading other comments, I was reminded of the City of Heroes resurrection. That would have gotten a big vote!

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mike foster

Covid has changed so much of the games industry, and maybe for the better? It ended up being a “safe” industry for a pandemic (compared to movies or retail), which kept studios and their employees making money. And the WFH changes, especially as adopted by tech giants and then trickled through the games companies that compete with them for talent, probably initiated a permanent shift in work/life balance and other perks.

From the outside it resulted in some delays, especially in the early months where studios were adjusting (or dealing with vendor partners as THEY adjusted), but weirdly the game industry as a whole probably comes out stronger in the end. I feel very fortunate to work in games this year.


Elyria, Blizzard union, Lotro.


Covid and the MS+Bethesda purchase.

Daybreak’s on going saga is no longer a surprise and I’m not sure it is even all that relevant anymore.


I voted for the attempts at employees at Blizzard to Unionize. Its amazing how fast the company culture changed. My sympathies to all those Blizzard employees i hope this shows that employees do have the ability to collectively bargain for better working conditions.

Oleg Chebeneev

LoL MMO announcement. Even if it didnt splash big yet


Yea, this. With the amount of money Riot can put into it this has a good chance to become pretty good game. Of course, amount of money by itself is not a guarantee that this game will be good, so we’ll just have to wait and see how it will turn out.

Vanquesse V

Considering little COVID affected mmos vs how much it affected the rest of the world that option seems odd to me


It has delayed some games and expansions, while bringing more players to others as people have more time to spend and need for more escapism.

Vanquesse V

sure but delays or fluctuating playerbases are not new concepts for mmo players. It’s not like there’s this great schism in mmos now pre- and post- 2020. It’s very much business as usual

Kickstarter Donor

Can’t argue with this pick, but I’m going with the Apple/Epic lawsuit. It’s not necessarily the biggest news NOW…which I guess is the point of the award, but the potential ramifications it has are massive. I’m not expecting it to move too quickly, but if things start heating up it could upend the digital model on phones, and even consoles.


I think COVID-19 is kind of a cheap shot since pretty much everything has been impacted by it. So no, not C-19.

For MMOs, I think there are way to many impactful events to pick one, or even half a dozen.

The bottom line, I think, is that there are a whole bunch of chickens coming home to roost in the MMO pen in 2020, and more flocking in for 2021.