MassivelyOP’s 2023 Awards: Worst MMO Business Model


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

Today’s award is for the Worst MMO Business Model, which was awarded to Diablo Immortal last year. This award is intended to recognize a live MMORPG of any age that has demonstrated an abysmal, terrible, no-good business model specifically in 2023, 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 Worst MMO Business Model of 2023 is…


​Andrew Ross: Star Citizen.

Andy McAdams: Star Citizen. At some point, we are going to have to create a whole category inspired by Star Citizen. I’m going to pitch “The Biggest Grift: The Star Citizen Award” for next year.

Brianna Royce: Star Citizen is beyond shame but not above reproach. The thing is, SC actually got dethroned by Diablo Immortal last year, and then it came rushing back in 2023: Players have given this game $650M over 10 years for a marginally functional and unfinished alpha, newly raised prices on digital ships, and well-documented manipulative aggression toward skeptical and low-tier backers (classic tactics used by cons and cults, and if you know me, you know I don’t use those terms lightly). And when non-exec devs started buying into the tribalism being fomented by the directors, that’s when I knew it’s much worse over there than I thought. At this point, though, people still pouring money into this are getting exactly what they deserve.

Carlo Lacsina: Star Citizen and any sort of mess that’s “play-to-earn” or whatever blockchaining is these days. I played the blockchain version of Bless for science, and it had to be one of the most soulless games I’ve ever played. You think explicitly pay-to-win games are soulless? Well, this one takes it to a whole other level. [Note: Carlo is not saying Star Citizen is P2E. Carlo was nominating SC and P2E games for the award. We’ve been documenting SC for over a decade; we know SC’s business model quite well, unfortunately.]

Chris Neal: Star Citizen, Destiny 2. 2023 was a year when Star Citizen decided to try and double down on its fleecing operation with the digital CitizenCon goodies pack, the perceptibly ramped-up selling of concept ships, and whatever the hell is yet to happen with regards to the cost of Squadron 42 (though we know it will have its price raised). But hey, three planets of Pyro were playable for a little bit! Woohoo?

Eliot Lefebvre: Star Citizen (it’s always Star Citizen). Please let this kleptocratic non-game just crash and burn already so we can stop having to talk about it. I am so tired of it

Justin Olivetti: Charging a lot for early access. We can include a lot of titles here, like Wayfinder, but I’m just saying that in general, I’m really tired of seeing studios charge a full box price for an alpha or beta experience. It’s becoming way too normalized and is leading to all sorts of troubling expectations and bad end results.

MJ Guthrie: Neverwinter. You know, Star Citizen has the lifetime achievement for this, so it is almost pointless to make any other votes. But for this year, I am shaking my finger at Neverwinter. Although it is still free-to-play, there’s actually a wall our group has slammed into that doesn’t allow us to continue playing the content without ponying up. Paying for expansions? I am good with that. Feeling forced to pay to get gear or pressured to pay for battle passes — that’s a hard no from me.

Tyler Edwards: Star Citizen, as always.

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

Reader poll: What MMO had the worst business model in 2023?

  • Star Citizen (36%, 343 Votes)
  • Diablo Immortal (10%, 100 Votes)
  • Destiny 2 (6%, 54 Votes)
  • Bless (the P2E version) (2%, 17 Votes)
  • Neverwinter (2%, 17 Votes)
  • Wayfinder (0%, 2 Votes)
  • EVE Online (1%, 11 Votes)
  • Albion Online (0%, 1 Votes)
  • Elder Scrolls Online (2%, 16 Votes)
  • Black Desert (1%, 11 Votes)
  • RuneScape (0%, 4 Votes)
  • World of Warcraft (2%, 21 Votes)
  • Guild Wars 2 (0%, 4 Votes)
  • Star Trek Online (1%, 9 Votes)
  • ArcheAge (1%, 8 Votes)
  • Final Fantasy XIV (0%, 3 Votes)
  • LOTRO (0%, 4 Votes)
  • SWTOR (0%, 4 Votes)
  • Ashes of Creation (1%, 8 Votes)
  • Palia (0%, 3 Votes)
  • Embers Adrift (0%, 1 Votes)
  • Lost Ark (1%, 11 Votes)
  • New World (1%, 5 Votes)
  • Anything charging for early access (3%, 27 Votes)
  • Anything free-to-play (2%, 16 Votes)
  • Anything play-to-earn or blockchain or crypto (15%, 141 Votes)
  • Anything with a seasonal model (2%, 18 Votes)
  • Anything with a sub (1%, 13 Votes)
  • Anything crowdfunded (1%, 5 Votes)
  • Anything pay-to-win (8%, 76 Votes)
  • Anything buy-to-play (1%, 6 Votes)
  • Something else (let us know in the comments!) (0%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 664

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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 commentary from writers so that you can see our thought process. 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. Reader poll options include all MMOs nominated plus a few others we thought should be included.
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