Massively OP’s 2020 Awards: MMORPG of the Year

    
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MassivelyOP’s end-of-the-year awards for 2020 continue today with our award for MMORPG of the Year, which was awarded to Elder Scrolls Online last year.

Longtime readers of this site and Massively-that-was will recall that many years ago, our staff was so disillusioned with the new MMOs launching that we refuse to give out this award. Almost all of us voted for absolutely nothing; we had big launches that year, but we didn’t think any of them deserved the crown. In subsequent years, we decided to open this award (and many of our others) 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 to ensure that the award truly represents the best of the genre each year and that all games have a chance to rise to the top.

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 the Year for 2020 is…

FINAL FANTASY XIV

Andy McAdams: I didn’t vote for anyone here because well… this year felt like we were just … treading water. No one did anything spectucularly amazing or stupid. It was ultimately yet another year of playing it safe and sticking to the tried and true. While I don’t share Carlo’s passion for BDO (in fact, I strongly dislike that game), I can’t disagree here that FFXIV is the MMO of the Year because it played it safest of the safe. There was nothing amazing, nothing profound they did. It was largely just more of the same. They do it exceptionally well, but is it deserving of MMO of the year? eh.

Brianna Royce: Final Fantasy XIV edged out everything else for me. Elder Scrolls Online, Black Desert, and Guild Wars 2 disappointed me uniquely in varying degrees this year, and while I think it’s a given that Shadowlands (and the prepatch) was the best single update, the rest of WoW’s year was largely unimpressive as usual (or even moreso). Among the major MMORPGs that ever have a chance here, that leaves FFXIV, and honestly that’s fine by me. I just don’t have a problem giving our GOTY to a strong, consistent, humble, and honest performer in the genre. I wasn’t looking for disruption; there’s no reason at all that we can’t reward stability and quality without too many shenanigans. I do want to note that my rationale for my pick here is not the same as Eliot’s; I wasn’t any more impressed with XIV’s COVID-era cadence than I was with the other titles in contention for this award. All the top MMORPGs were more or less even in the delays department, and I saw communication just as good or better from Elder Scrolls Online (which even managed to launch something early). My pick is more about the fact that XIV didn’t fall beneath my expectations in 2020. I’d really like to be able to raise those expectations for everyone in 2021!

Carlo Lacsina: Black Desert Online and WoW. I know, it’s always so easy to go with the MMORPGs that follows the mold. But an MMORPG of the year needs to be disruptive. And BDO has to be the definition of a disruptive MMO. There’s issues with BDO that everyone talks about, but at least the game is different enough to stand out from the pack. And that’s what matters to me. I don’t think GOTY belongs to an MMO that got success from copying another game. It should belong to a game that succeeds despite what the MMOjority says. Check their Reddit. It’s got a good vibe (and honestly one of the least insufferable MMO Reddits out there). We celebrate every one-tap pen and cry with those who just blew up their entire set because they felt lucky that day. It’s a great community, people think we’re toxic, but that’s only because server chat spans four different servers and of course we’re going need to spice up our game with some chit chat. As for my runner-up? After only two weeks of playing through WoW, I wouldn’t be too upset with giving WoW GOTY, even if this year hadn’t had an expansion. Getting to the expansion content is less than 10 hours away, meaning I get to spend my precious game time in up to date content. And even for players without the new expansion, there’s so much content they can tackle from the get-go. I don’t know why folks get so grumpy about WoW. I wouldn’t mind making it both game and expansion of the year.

Chris Neal: Final Fantasy XIV, Guild Wars 2. In spite of a pandemic and even some content delays as a result, Final Fantasy XIV continues to chug forth with a steady update cadence that is hard to ignore. Kudos to Yoshi-P’s team for pressing on with the good work despite work from home challenges!

Eliot Lefebvre: Honestly, this one is hardly a surprise. In a year where almost everyone had to scale back in some way, Final Fantasy XIV continues trying new things with its content, delivered a story conclusion that had people praising it to high heaven, and even kept its updates mostly on track. I’m always surprised when it winds up here for a given year, but as it flows away toward its next expansion (and, as I write this, patch 5.4 is just a couple of days away) it’s hard to really argue with it as one of the most consistently high-quality experiences on the market.

Justin Olivetti: Elder Scrolls Online, LOTRO, World of Warcraft. Final Fantasy XIV is a safe and not very controversial choice, but that’s about the best we had this rocky and unpredictable year. Still, it felt like it won kind of by default rather than doing anything spectacular, and that feels like a commentary more on 2020 than on FFXIV.

Mia DeSanzo: The Elder Scrolls Online.

MJ Guthrie: Can I be honest here? I really wanna see a game come along and knock the big five off their perch in this category. I want something to rise up and blow us away! Sadly, 2020 was not the year for that. Holding steady was the goal this year, and going above that any was bonus. And we can totally understand why. I really hate to vote for no one for game of the year ,but nothing stood out to me as excelling this year. A number of games have been good and kept steady, but nothing rose above the rest for me to designate GOTY.

Tyler Edwards: Carlo and I fought real hard against giving this to FFXIV. It’s an unambitious game that never fails to play it safe. One of the biggest problems the MMO genre has is that the community keeps consistently rewarding conservative games like this, rather than innovation. People complain about the lack of new ideas in this genre, but it’s not a lack of creativity on the side of developers that’s the problem. Time and again games that innovate get passed over in favor of what’s familiar. That said, there weren’t a lot of good candidates this year. In the initial round of voting, I nominated Star Trek Online mainly on the basis it was the MMORPG I played the most this year, but the more I think about it, the more I think no one deserved the crown this year. That’s not as dismal as it sounds; it’s just that this felt like a bit of a holding pattern year for the genre. Given world events, it’s actually pretty good that “holding pattern” is as bad as things got.

Final Fantasy XIV took our award for MMORPG of the Year for 2020. What’s your pick?

Reader poll: What was the best MMORPG of 2020?

  • Final Fantasy XIV (28%, 215 Votes)
  • World of Warcraft (14%, 102 Votes)
  • Elder Scrolls Online (15%, 117 Votes)
  • Black Desert (7%, 52 Votes)
  • Guild Wars 2 (7%, 51 Votes)
  • LOTRO (4%, 27 Votes)
  • Star Trek Online (1%, 6 Votes)
  • Phantasy Star Online 2 (1%, 9 Votes)
  • Bless Unleashed (1%, 4 Votes)
  • SWTOR (4%, 32 Votes)
  • EVE Online (4%, 28 Votes)
  • V4 (0%, 2 Votes)
  • DC Universe Online (0%, 2 Votes)
  • Neverwinter (1%, 4 Votes)
  • RuneScape (1%, 9 Votes)
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online (1%, 6 Votes)
  • TERA (0%, 2 Votes)
  • PlanetSide 2 (1%, 5 Votes)
  • Blade and Soul (0%, 1 Votes)
  • ArcheAge (0%, 3 Votes)
  • No Man's Sky (3%, 25 Votes)
  • Something else (tell us in the comments!) (7%, 53 Votes)

Total Voters: 672

Loading ... Loading ...
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.

And that’s a wrap for our annual awards, though we’ve still got plenty more end-of-the-year content coming over the next few weeks! Make sure to stay tuned for a debrief article in early January, when we’ll round up all of our awards as well as our community picks and discuss how it all went down.

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Ysayle was right

I despise “disruptive” being thrown around as a virtue. It’s such techbro nonsense. In any case, how is “creating the strongest fandom in MMOs by having an actual good story” not a disruption of the norm in the industry?

Reader
Loopy

My personal favourite MMO was WoW Classic this year. I played the crap out of it. However, objectively i would say ESO deserves the honour.

atlasraven
Reader
atlasraven

City of Heroes!

BodeanG
Reader
Patreon Donor
BodeanG

I’m with MJ, Carlo and Tyler. I don’t think any game is worthy of it. I also will never understand the appeal of FFXIV. The game holds your hand way to much and forces you down a path you have to do or you can’t progress.

Hopefully we will get something soon that can win this instead of rehashing the same ol’ shit.

Carlo Lacsina
Staff
Carlo Lacsina

*grumble grumble*

Reader
HO HO HOHNO

The reason no one votes “disruptive” MMOs for game of the year or rewards “ambition” is because every MMO with the ego to call itself ambitious inevitably slips on a banana peel and falls facefirst into a pile of cow manure. Ambition does not equate to good by any stretch of the imagination.

Reader
Steven Williams

I definitely enjoyed Reflections in Crystal (5.3) much more than the entirety of Shadowlands.

5.3’s story managed to move me deeply in a similar way to how Revenge of the Horde (3.3) ended Heavensward’s story with a big crescendo, awesome character moments and a nice bow on top… as opposed to Shadowlands not registering an emotional response at all.

It might have helped if I knew who any of these characters were, but the story of WoW is so fragmented that the game itself doesn’t do that. I don’t even know if it used to. I never played back then. Prince Twink is kidnapped by spooky angel ghosts, and that one old guy who spend the entirety of BFA in a bar couldn’t save him. Oh no. Whatever will we do.

So yeah, I see why FFXIV won. FFXIV revamped Realm Reborn’s pacing to make it more palatable with new players. Most of the people I know who put the game down during the Titan story arc and early 2.x patches made new characters and breezed through the game, actually getting into the story this time. Once they got to Heavensward, they were hooked.

There are a few remaining issues: (1) fixing the skillspread would deter some of the complaints that combat is too boring at the beginning, though it won’t stop haters from going “haha 2.5 gcd go brrr,” and (2) making it easier to track the craptons of content unlocked at 50, 60, 70, and 80. New players are still overwhelmed when they get to these levels and the entire playable world is full of quest markers.

This year they made it easier for players to catch up without compromising the story. Comparatively, WoW gutted its game with a rusty knife.

Reader
Hostagecat

City of Heros Homecoming……Old school but still more fun.

Reader
Ravven

Perfect choice. I honestly think that FFXIV is the only MMO left that gives full value as a monthly sub. I still play every Warcraft expansion, but after I hit level cap I tend to lose interest. The Shadowbringers storyline was one of the best that I’ve experienced in any game, and it’s the type of MMO that I don’t get bored in if I’m not raiding. There are a few negatives, such as forcing everyone to do group content in order to progress (although I understand why they do it) and I admit that I’m not a fan of the washed-out pastel look, but still…it’s an MMO with a million ways to spend your time and that’s worth every penny.

Reader
Steven Williams

FFXIV is definitely overdue for a graphical overhaul, with better textures and lighting effects.

Reader
Bruno Brito

Love the profile pic

Reader
Ravven

Yes, it irritates the hell out of me to be watching an important cutscene with a main character and see that the textures are rough and low-rez. At least do better textures for that! It’s a shame since all the rest is so wonderful: writing, voiceovers, music…

Reader
Bruno Brito

Basically: In a shit year where stagnant companies became even more stagnant and comfortable with their position in the top, FF14 simply kept delivering good shit.

So, while i know that Square is a good damn company and it’s game is beloved by it’s fans, it’s also running unopposed, because by God, MMO companies this year were nothing short of pathetic, just existing.