Last year I reviewed the state of MMORPGs in 2016. This year I can safely state the 2017 brought about, if not a literal end to MMORPGs, it certainly carved up the tombstone and then riddled it with bullets.
MMOs have suffered greatly in recent years. I feel a compelling argument could be made that the legacy of Barrens Chat in WoW is the state of modern political commentary on Twitter, Reddit and other locations today....why play WoW to spam people with crazy when you can do it in real time, on the "real" world?
But that aside, the problem is that outside of Korea, no new MMORPGs appear to be in development, and certainly no new RPGs of the western variety that we expect....everything on the market is aging, and sustaining themselves on expansions, DLC and various freemium models which can be so ridiculously complex that the only way to enjoy the game is ultimately not to play.
That said, we did see a major new expansion (Morrowind) for The Elder Scrolls Online that was well worth playing, even if I did find myself running out of steam to enjoy TESO around the time it released. Guild Wars 2 also released a new expansion, and many other 2nd tier MMOs (Tera, Aion, Neverwinter Nights and others) all keep pumping out some sort of expansion content to garner renewed interest among fans. There's stuff going on here.....it's just not as exciting as it once was. Even the diehards of World of Warcraft find themselves having difficulty sustaining interest in the venerable king of the dogpile.
All of the excitement and interest in MMORPGs was instead replaced in 2017 by....the shooter. Specifically, shooters like Destiny 2 and Player Unknown Battlelegrounds, which both focus on a theme of large-scale multiplayer. Destiny 2 is a bit more clever trickery and illusion (the feel of an MMO without the actual result of such) but PUBG is a masterpiece of the modern era for those who love it, a battle royal simulator that has garnered impressive interest and effectively created its own genre, with a bunch of me-too games jumping on the bandwagon.
I played PUBG for a few hours, and felt like that was about all I needed to enjoy it....I can certainly see how the game might be compulsively interesting to some people, but honestly? This is not a genre for people who like more story or complexity. It is, however, a fantastic game for social gamers who only enjoy gaming with other players, and love the survival of the fittest thematics. I like the last part.....but after you've won a match, it's kind of like....."me'h, is this it?" for me at least.
Destiny 2 remains as fun to play as the original, but I haven't even tried engaging with it as anything more than a single player experience that happens to muddy the waters. The hardcore social MP gamers all seem to either love or hate it, or love to hate it, or loved it until their manic-obsessive constant effort to drain all life from a game through playing it to death caused them to start hating it after their 2,000 hour play through.
Remember when taking 50 hours to play Final Fantasy VII felt like a lot of time? Yeah me too.
Then there's Ark: Survival Evolved. I hate this game. It is a ruiner of lives, marriages and self respect. It is a beast and some people LOVE it. It may not be the be-all-and-end-all that WoW was, but it many ways it is the black tar heroin to WoW's simpler crack. The fact that the game can and will punish you for logging off is even more bizarre. But there are people who play this game to death. Probably literally.
So....in a world with Ark and PUBG, who the hell needs MMORPGs anymore? And for people like me, really, we should just stick to games that actually give us what we want, like Horizon: Zero Dawn, for example. Or Nier: Automata, or Prey. Good games, focused on one player, with decent stories.
So....yeah RIP MMORPGs in 2017. Maybe 2018 will bring us a new surprise?