The MMORPG genre is dead! Long live...MOBAs? No, that already burst. Survival games? 4v1? Ah, who knows what’s popular anymore. What we do know is that the MMO genre is dead. There’s also a pretty good chance that it’s your fault too. Don’t worry, I won’t be pointing my finger only at you. There’s plenty of blame to go around. So let's get started.
Games Closing Faster Than They’re Opening
A trend we’re seeing across the gaming industry is something I like to call the EA approach. Money is being invested into games. These games often make it into beta testing then the project is shut down before the game is ever released. We’ve seen this with World of Darkness and Everquest Next. Other game genres have seen it too with games like Dawngate and Shadow Realms. Then, of course, there’s the DayZ Effect. Games that enter alpha or beta testing and never actually launch. Meanwhile, games are shutting down almost on a weekly basis. There may come a day when all online games are in beta. Or they’re WoW.
No New AAA Titles
The last AAA MMORPG to come out was Black Desert Online, and that’s just if we look at the eastern releases. The last time the genre had a western AAA title come out was Wildstar which launched in June of 2014! We’re approaching 3 years since the last western AAA MMORPG and there aren’t any in the works (that we know of), unless you want to count Star Citizen. With no new AAA titles being introduced, the pillars of our genre are collapsing and not being replaced. It won’t be long before the genre collapses completely. DOOM!
Lack of Complexity
Think about the last time you got to level cap in an MMORPG. How long did it take you? I can tell you that in Guild Wars 2 I can easily get to cap in a weekend. I’m not talking about staying up all night to do it either.
Now consider the first time you ever got to level cap in an MMO, how long did that take? I can tell you that for me it literally took years. A lot of that can be blamed on me being a roleplayer for sure, but not all of it. The other reason for it? MMOs used to be a lot harder and a lot more complex. Outside of raids how often do you fail at doing a task because you don’t have the right team these days? Most MMOs stick to the formula of the holy trinity. Those that don’t, like GW2, are all around much easier to play to make up for that missing formula.
Rise of Mobile Gaming
As technology advances, mobile gaming becomes more and more complex. You’re no longer stuck sitting at a desk or in front of a TV if you want to play, you can take the entire massive world of Legend of Zelda with you on the bus. In Q3 of 2017, you’ll be able to take Skyrim with you wherever you go. Skyrim! The only thing you don’t have there that you do have in MMORPGs is people. And nobody wants to play with strangers anymore anyway. MMOs stopped being a social experience years ago.
Return on Investment
Creating MMORPGs isn’t cheap. Just look at Star Wars The Old Republic or how much Star Citizen has raised for an idea of the costs we’re talking about. Millions of dollars go into games that have absolutely no promise of being successful. The reasons why games don’t see a return on investment vary and can change depending on who you talk to. Some say it’s the lack of subscription, others say people aren’t spending enough in-game. Some games have a lot of money invested in them and one unpopular choice kills the entire game. Having a bad launch can also impact the return on investment. Other genres are simply safer to get into.
Chasing the WoW Killer
After World of Warcraft found massive success everyone set out to make the next big game and they all thought they had a WoW killer on their hands. It was the basis for so much of the industry’s boom that the crash was inevitable. It was always going to happen. The only thing that was left up in the air was if someone would dethrone WoW or not before the bubble burst. Well, they didn’t. WoW may not have the massive numbers it used to have but it is still king. Long live the King.
A Lack of Innovation
Quick, make a list of all the non-Fantasy MMORPGs you can think of. Now make a list of all the fantasy MMORPGs...yeah, fantasy wins. This example is really just the tip of the iceberg of the lack of innovation. Mechanics are the same, styles are being copied. When something works well for one game everyone else introduces it too. While that’s great for devs in the industry who change jobs more often than I change underwear it makes the genre all look a little bit too similar. Of course, this isn’t the only industry with this problem. You don’t need to have seen West Side Story to know how it ends.
The Death of the Subscription Model
Games with monthly subscriptions came with an inherent sense of loyalty that isn’t present in games anymore. Even MMOs that are buy to play are lacking this. There isn’t the monthly reminder from your bank account of the countless hours and the amount of money you’ve already invested in the game. You were less likely to abandon a game you’d been subscribed to just because of one bad content release, or worse, a dry spell. You’d wait it out. You’ve already invested so much into this game. It’ll get good again soon…right?
As MMO players get older they find themselves with less time for gaming. Less time for gaming means you want quicker, easier content you can take in small chunks. It means you weren’t always subscribing to your favorite games back when games were still mostly using a subscription model. Basically what I’m saying is that it’s your fault the entire rest of this list happened. Maybe if you had spent more of your time gaming and less time raising a family and having a job the MMO industry wouldn’t be in the state it’s in. You should be ashamed! Unless you’re young of course, then your time is coming, bwahahahahaaaa.
Ok, so I wanted to be a little bit light hearted about this topic. I’ll admit I don’t think the MMORPG is dead just yet. There’s still time for the genre to make a comeback. It’ll be just like the Dot-com bubble. The internet kept going afterwards, it just wasn’t quite the same. That’s how the MMORPG genre is looking right now. We’re still getting new MMORPGs, they’re just much smaller and niche. Also, they’re hitting heavily on the nostalgia.
I’d love to know what you think. Is the MMORPG genre dead? Come back next week to find out why the genre isn’t dead.