Wednesday, September 30, 2015

State of the MMO in late 2015: Five Things a Lapsed MMOer Can Do This Year

So what's going on in the MMOverse these days? A subject near and dear to me when I have nothing else to write about and no material planned for real (cough) gaming -- tabletop, that is -- is of course video games. I may be too tired on busy work weeks to write much at the end of the day, but an hour of Destiny, Halo or The Elder Scrolls Online is easy enough to fit in...and only one of those is (arguably) a real MMO.

Anyway, 2015 has been for many the year that the MMO bubble burst and pretty much sputtered out of existence....almost. We have an aging population of MMOs that many of us are burned out on, a smattering of titles that command loyalty across the years and pretty much three games I know of that are still brazen enough to demand a subscription fee (EVE Online, World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn). Virtually all other MMOs have moved to some sort of free-to-play or buy-to-play model.

Worse yet, there don't appear to be many --or any!-- new MMOs on the horizon. News revolves around modest expansions (The Elder Scrolls Online, Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic having notable expansion packs this year) while the Big Daddy World of Warcraft continues to spew out news bits about a new expansion even as it has dwindling subscription numbers that look like a torrential loss to some --and yet still their surviving base is larger than any other MMO could dream of.

Of course, on the side we are now seeing a new breed of stealth which are effectively MMOs in function but do so through other styles of play (Destiny) or other mediums (various Android titles) that eschew the traditional MMORPG model made so popular by Everquest, Ultima and later WoW.

So if you're an MMO fan, what do you do in this environment? Here are five suggestions:

5. Revisit old favorites
You can go home again it turns out, although home might smell weird and suffer from some low polygon counts. I did this recently with Dungeons & Dragons Online and enjoyed reminiscing about my grand mess of old characters before being brutally reminded of the many weird hoops one had to go through to play that game on its odd F2P model, with its elaborate henchmen system designed to suck money from you slowly, and its oppressively slow experience system which only serves the truly dedicated. I had more success with Rift, which I have since returned to playing regularly.

4. Go explore the Asian MMO market
You've seen those strange names and listings on or in random ads on different sites, often using busty armored women as clickbait lures to get you to check out yet another oddball Korean MMO. While the US market is stagnant, the Asian market for MMOs is grinding them out like there's no tomorrow, and some of them are actually really interesting or even playable.

3. Return to WoW
I can't do this. I just can't.....I played too much, though compared to many I played hardly at all. WoW is a game that I will always fondly remember when it was new, and also remember with much pain as it morphed over the years into something that looks very much like the prettiest pig in lipstick on the market. It's still the default "I'm going back to...." game out there, though.

2. Explore New Horizons
As I mentioned earlier, games like Destiny are pushing the boundary on what you can blend with the MMO genre. It's not 100% like an MMO--yet--but it comes damn close. So does Defiance, and there are other games out there for which the medium is shaping into something entirely different. I am told that there's an entire wave of MMO-like games on Android and iOS which are functionally providing the same "experience" that many people crave in an MMO. For these specific iterations, if the desire is not to play an MMORPG in the traditional sense, then you've got a lot of options to explore.

1. Use this nebulous period for the industry to break free
That's right....while there are no significant new releases on the horizon, and the ex-packs for the current crop are mostly inclined to see if they can lure you back to the cult compound happy customer camp, you can use this lull in the industry to get the hell out of dodge. Go find a forest trail and hike down it. Just remember that in the real world wild pigs are probably gonna kick your ass.



  1. *sigh*

    Still in mourning over City of Heroes, my one true MMORPG love.

    /e torch