Massively OP’s 2021 Awards: Best MMO Business Model


Welcome back to Massively Overpowered’s formal end-of-the-year awards!

Today’s award is for the Best MMO Business Model of 2021, which was awarded jointly to World of Warcraft and Elder Scrolls Online last year. The award is intended to recognize a live MMORPG of any age that has demonstrated an exemplary business model specifically in 2021, regardless of its past performance. 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 Best MMO Business Model of 2021 is…


Andy McAdams: Guild Wars 2. I love that you can play so much of this game without spending a penny. It makes me want to spend more money. I want to support them because they are so clearly trying to create a game that many people can enjoy. How do you not want to support that?

Brianna Royce: I’ve been strident about Guild Wars 2 being the best business model in the genre for a long time. Last year I said I would die on this hill, and I’m still on this damn hill. I just usually fail to convince enough writers to go along with me. This year, I didn’t even have to, since it had enough nominations before I even opened my mouth, which ought to tell you how good a job ArenaNet has done marketing itself this year, particularly in giving away the entirety of its living world content again, one week at a time. There is simply no MMO out there that gives away so much for so little, with the possible exception of New World, but I am hesitant to vote for New World right now since I fully expect its model to change in the new year.

Carlo Lacsina: FFXIV. Players pay $15 a month to get a robust, content-rich game. Both A Realm Reborn and Heavensward are basically free games. If the players are willing to stick out the story for two expansions, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind paying for three excellent MMOs.

Chris Neal: Dauntless, Guild Wars 2. I’m starting to appreciate how generous GW2 game can be overall. It took me a while (and playing it a bit more than I otherwise would), but I can agree that Guild Wars 2 provides one of the fairer business models in MMO gaming.

Colin Henry: Guild Wars 2. I love Guild Wars 2 – that’s why I write a column about it – and for the most part, it offers some incredible value. But I’ve always been bothered by the way that the Living World is monetized. If you log in during a certain period, you get it for free, which is great, but if you miss that window, you had better be ready to shell out some gems. I don’t like it when games play on FOMO, and it creates a big barrier to entry for new and lapsed players trying to catch up on the content that they missed. And it’s not like the Living World stories are some isolated side thing; their events have, historically, led straight into the main expansion stories. This year, however, Guild Wars 2 gave away each of its Living World releases every few weeks, adding achievements to each one as it went, which can be completed for some really enticing rewards. Because of this, I think that this year, it deserves best business model.

Eliot Lefebvre: This one is always a hot point of debate because everyone’s value metric for what you get and when is going to be different. If you keep up with logins and like what it has to offer, for example, Guild Wars 2 has a solid business model, but the whole segmenting of the story via logins and its generally lackluster year makes me reluctant. If you look at value for subscription, Final Fantasy XIV is a strong contender, but some people really don’t like subscriptions. Heck, I still like Star Trek Online’s overall model while acknowledging that it has huge, glaring, starship-and-lockbox-sized problems. So it’s complicated.

Justin Olivetti: I’ve really come to appreciate Elder Scrolls Online’s approach. Subscription never feels like a “must have,” and so I can remain unsubbed and simply buy content to own a la carte.

Mia DeSanzo: Guild Wars 2 and Elder Scrolls Online.

Sam Kash: Guild Wars 2, New World.

Tyler Edwards: Any buy to play game is generally aces with me. ESO, GW2, New World, all good. New World especially doesn’t seem to get any recognition for just how painless its business model is.

Guild Wars 2 took our award for Best MMO Business Model. What’s your pick?

Reader poll: What MMO featured the best business model in 2021?

  • Guild Wars 2 (34%, 384 Votes)
  • New World (6%, 65 Votes)
  • Elder Scrolls Online (12%, 138 Votes)
  • Final Fantasy XIV (22%, 253 Votes)
  • Dauntless (0%, 2 Votes)
  • World of Warcraft (1%, 15 Votes)
  • Phantasy Star Online 2 (0%, 3 Votes)
  • Elyon (0%, 1 Votes)
  • Crowfall (0%, 1 Votes)
  • Swords of Legends Online (1%, 9 Votes)
  • RuneScape (1%, 12 Votes)
  • EVE Online (1%, 16 Votes)
  • ArcheAge (0%, 2 Votes)
  • LOTRO (2%, 20 Votes)
  • Bless Unleashed (0%, 1 Votes)
  • Black Desert (1%, 12 Votes)
  • SWTOR (3%, 34 Votes)
  • Star Trek Online (1%, 10 Votes)
  • Neverwinter (0%, 3 Votes)
  • Albion Online (3%, 30 Votes)
  • DC Universe Online (0%, 3 Votes)
  • Blade and Soul (0%, 0 Votes)
  • No Man's Sky (2%, 23 Votes)
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online (0%, 3 Votes)
  • Book of Travels (0%, 4 Votes)
  • EverQuest II (0%, 3 Votes)
  • Trove (0%, 3 Votes)
  • Elite Dangerous (1%, 7 Votes)
  • Aion (0%, 1 Votes)
  • Anything free-to-play (1%, 6 Votes)
  • Anything crowdfunded (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Anything crowdfunded (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Anything with a sub (2%, 27 Votes)
  • Anything buy-to-play (3%, 39 Votes)
  • Something else (tell us in the comments!) (1%, 10 Votes)

Total Voters: 939

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