“MMOs are dead.”
This is a constant refrain seen on many sites, forums and threads dedicated to the genre. In fact, it’s something that floats around here on MMORPG.com some days by our readers, but it’s always been a phrase that has never quite seemed correct in my mind. The genre has definitely passed its “golden age” for sure, though that doesn’t mean it is “dead.”
In fact, far from it, if this month is any indication.
Within the confines of July we’ve seen multiple new MMOs hit the market or become playable in terms of alphas and betas. This year alone MMO players are seeing quite a few in terms of new MMOs or the localization of popular Eastern MMOs in the West. Crowfall, one of the larger crowdfunded MMOs in development finally released and three days later the Western version of China’s largest MMO, Swords of Legends Online hit digital shelves. Later this month Amazon’s New World will host its final closed beta test ahead of its August 31st launch, and Ashes of Creation fans are finally seeing the world in action unedited by marketing and PR in its Alpha. Bless Unleashed comes out next month with a revamped game for PC.
Like, if MMOs are dead, no one gave the news to all those studios.
Last month we saw Phantasy Star Online 2 New Genesis hit PC and Xbox, while The Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood and World of Warcaft: The Burning Crusade Classic also released. Later this year, Elyon, the MMO formerly known as Ascent: Infinite Realm, releases in the West as well.
Additionally, the amount of games that tout “MMO features” in an attempt to get a piece of the MMO Pie, so to speak, continues to climb ever higher. There is an allure to the genre that isn’t replicated by just any multiplayer experience. It’s more than just simple multiplayer – it’s the challenge, it’s the game worlds themselves. It’s the community.
If you need another reason to look at the MMO landscape to see that the genre isn’t “dead,” one simply needs to look to Square Enix this week literally turning off the ability to buy their game because Final Fantasy XIV was too popular.
The idea that the MMO is dead has never quite sat well with me personally as well. As someone who has quite literally made their living writing about MMOs almost exclusively for this site among others, while the genre might not be at the height everyone associated with it expects when we look on MMOs past with rose-tinted glasses, it’s most definitely not dead.
Think back to when Magic: Legends (RIP) was first announced. One of the aspects Cryptic doubled down on was that it was an MMO. While they changed their tune throughout its marketing cycle, it was clear they were very specifically trying to target a certain headspace: massively multiplayer games are popular. The allure of something you can share with not just your immediate friends but the greater gaming community at large is a huge draw for many in today’s gaming culture. FOMO, as it were, can be a strong allure in the MMO-space. Do you remember where you were when the servers were cut during the final moments of Final Fantasy XIV before A Realm Reborn was launched? Where were you during a world first raid finish was announced in World of Warcraft?
Do you remember what it was like taking part in the most expensive battle in EVE Online history?
The sheer fact that so many games tout "MMO features" is an indication that the need for the genre hasn’t gone away. In fact, I’d argue that the genre is more prevalent than ever as a result. While games like Fortnite or PUBG really can’t be called an MMO in the traditional sense, they do have MMO-esque features that define them: large communities of players at any given time, a shared experience among the community, events that define the game, and more. Survival games like ARK: Survival Evolved or Last Oasis consider themselves survival MMOs, and this moniker is a direct result of trying to share that headspace in players with the likes of a World of Warcraft or a Final Fantasy XIV. MMOs offer a unique shared experience that by instilling MMO features in a game, developers are hoping to create some of that.
While the MMO might have gone a long way since its MUD or even OG Everquest days, it is far from dead. In fact, I’d argue it’s in a pretty healthy place right now when you factor all of the above into the equation. Multiple MMO releases in the span of a few months, long-standing MMOs continuing to receive updates and new content, and even an MMO becoming so popular its developers had to stop selling it.
The MMO is not dead. Far from it. And if this month’s releases are anything to go by, MMOs won’t be dead for quite some time.
What say you? Do you still feel the genre is dead, or maybe in its death throes? Or do you feel, like me, that it’s just as alive as ever? Let us know in the comments.
Joseph has been writing or podcasting about games in some form since about 2012. Having written for multiple major outlets such as IGN, Playboy, and more, Joseph started writing for MMORPG in 2015. When he’s not writing or talking about games, you can typically find him hanging out with his 10-year old or playing Magic: The Gathering with his family. Also, don’t get him started on why Balrogs *don’t* have wings. You can find him on Twitter @LotrLore