Not every MMORPG can remain in the spotlight forever. Time has a nasty habit of making us forget titles that used to rile up our excitement and get us talking about on a daily basis. Games that used to draw crowds and top headlines are now trundled off to virtual nursing homes, where only the most faithful visit now and then.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like forgetting things that used to fascinate me — and I don’t want MMOs past their heyday to completely vanish from our consciousness. So for today’s list, we’ll be looking at 10 MMOs that used to be a whole lot more popular (or at least talked about) before slipping into relative obscurity. As a guideline, I’m only going with launched titles that are currently operating as of 2021.
Champs, as we like to call it in the MOP office, is that far-distant third title in Cryptic’s original MMO trifecta that nobody seems to pay much attention to these days — including the studio itself. But if you cast your memory back to 2008 and 2009, there was a huge hype wave for this game as a superhero follow-up to City of Heroes. This peaked shortly after launch and began a sharp decline, but I was there. The interest in this game was very real and very pronounced for a good year or so.
Runes of Magic
Prior to the free-to-play movement sweeping through the entire genre in 2009, Runes of Magic enjoyed special status as one of the early F2P forerunners. Players appreciated that it was World of Warcraft-ish without a subscription attached, and that combination alone earned it a nice following for a while there. Fun fact: Massively-That-Was even had a regular column devoted to the game called Lost Pages of Taborea.
Please note that just because a title is on this list doesn’t mean it’s unknown or nobody plays it, only that it appears to have slipped out of vogue in our discussions and attention. Because of this, I think Aion fits the bill really well here. NCsoft’s fantasy title enjoyed a lot of popularity and success for many years and still brings home the bills today. But it’s hard to argue against the decline of its appeal among the wider MMO community. Even the release of Aion Classic earlier this year was met with a collective shrug from most — and that’s a shame.
When you write news for MOP, you do tend to track a whole lot more games than the average player might. As such, I’ve always been pretty aware of Revelation Online since it came out in 2017 over here. Despite having a full package of MMO features (including housing!), Revelation Online couldn’t keep attention on it past the shiny newness of its launch. We still cover the game, to be sure, but it’s one of those imports that nobody’s going to remember unless you put it right in their face.
Age of Conan
One of 2008’s biggest and most promising MMOs is almost a footnote today. Really, if Funcom had not acquired the Conan the Barbarian license, I think Age of Conan might’ve been shut down by this point. Like the rest of Funcom’s MMOs, Conan has been quietly shuttled off to Maintenanceville, where only the occasional holiday event, special server gimmick or pity patch is tossed its way. And as with the rest of Funcom’s MMOs, this absolutely burns the heart of the game’s loyal fans who wish that the studio hadn’t given up on it.
Man, it pains me to put this one on the list, but forthrightness compels me to do so. What was once a strong contender in the field with several expansions under its belt and a vibrant community has withered to the point of near-non-existence. The culprit? Trion Worlds’ collapse and this title being handed off to Gamigo, which has done precisely squat for it over the past few years. A lack of development and a fear of closing down have affected players’ interest in returning or sticking around.
The (original) Secret World
I guess I’m in the mood to intentionally hurt myself because I’m going to include another perennial favorite of mine. And yes, while Funcom has completely neglected its rebooted Secret World Legends, let’s not forget that the original (and in my opinion, superior) version of The Secret World is still running. But it’s not being officially supported or updated any longer by Funcom, so that’s a kick in the pants right there.
Tree of Savior
This may seem like an odd choice, but I feel that Tree of Savior did enjoy a spurt of popularity during the lead-up to launch and shortly thereafter. We often praised this ARPGMMO for its art style, hoping that it might be a sleeper hit of a sort. And while some have happily enjoyed its wares, it certainly hasn’t been enough to keep this in the limelight.
Pirates of the Burning Sea
It kind of feels like ye olde naval MMOs are often destined to quicker audience depreciation than other titles, and I’m not fully sure why. Perhaps it’s too niche of a field or perhaps pirates are played out. In any case, Pirates of the Burning Sea came onto the scene with cannons blazing as people hailed it “EVE Online on the open sea.” It’s certainly endured over the years, even surpassing its initial development studio to be handled by a volunteer team, but it’s hard to argue that this title hasn’t sailed into the sunset (at least in part).
Mabinogi’s more mature sibling was quite the rage for alternative playstyles back in the day. The focus on more action, blood, and grit certainly had appeal in some quarters, and this MMO received a lot of attention whenever it would put out news. That has died off considerably in recent years, although the game is still hacking and slashing along.