The State of the MMORPG Genre Right Now..
I’d like to say that 2020 has been an amazing year for MMORPGs but the sad reality of it is that it hasn’t been.
With this in mind, I’ve been thinking about the state the genre is currently in as of October 2020.
We have so many indie MMOs in development promising their fans the world.
We have a plethora of Eastern MMOs with predatory cash shops constantly launching, backed by Founder’s Packs that cost at times over $150.
We have companies re-releasing long-since dead games with hopes of cashing in on the hype of a “new game.”
And at the end of the day.. we barely have any new releases to actually play.
That’s 2020 in a nutshell: Absolute crap.
Out of curiosity, I went ahead and compiled a list of MMOs that came out this year in some capacity.
Blue Protocol held a Closed Beta test.
New World held a Preview event.
Temtem launched into a limited Early Access.
Genshin Impact isn’t even an MMO – before some of you mention it.
Phantasy Star Online 2 actually launched over here – so there’s one full game release.
Several Mobile MMOs have come out which we don’t really classify as real MMOs.
And that was it. Everything else was either so insignificant of a release – having a 1-person team or 3 odd people playing it, ended up delayed, cancelled or not slated for a release in 2020.
But if you think about it, with the exception of 2020 having even less releases than I think ever before, the MMO market has been like this for years. Re-releases, delays. This is nothing new.
Yet at a time when all we can do is sit around at home, and gaming is one of the only outlets we have, you’d think there would be more to play than the same few “big MMOs” you’ve already either been playing or ignoring for the last few years, right?
You know we’re stretched for options when players actually get excited for the Steam release of MMOs released 5 to 10 years ago.
I don’t think that the MMO market as a whole is on the decline, despite what some people seem to think. A lack of new titles doesn’t mean there are less players actively looking for a new game to call home.
A smaller number of players in a particular game is not indicative of the entire market.
When Battle for Azeroth launched, the active subscribers for WoW skyrocketed. There were 3.4 million copies sold on the first day, with active subscribers soaring over the 10 million mark for the first time in years.
While the total number of players for both Classic and Battle for Azeroth currently number in the 2-3 million mark, that doesn’t mean that the very same population spike won’t happen with Shadowlands.
Another example is with Final Fantasy XIV. The sheer number of people that claim that the game is “dead” is absurd, merely because it doesn’t have tens of millions of players playing however when Shadowbringers launched it saw an increase to over 1.2 million active subscribers – the first in the game’s history.
And with the increase of their trial to allow people to play for free all the way up until the end of the first expansion Heavensward.. a dead game is far from what this title is.
I’m not sure what, or heck even why the whole “the genre is dead” comment is thrown around as much as it is. There are games that are decades old that still have thousands of active players – receive regular updates and are continuing to thrive.
But what about moving forward into the future? It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy at this rate that the only MMORPG that can successfully knock World of Warcraft off of the top spot for most played MMO is WoW itself.
The Elder Scrolls Online‘s population fluctuates quite a bit, Black Desert‘s as well. Guild Wars 2 has been on the decline for years. Final Fantasy XIV has shown that it’s one of the few MMOs that is continuing to show regular, consistent signs of growth over time.
And I’m not saying this because I’m a fan of the game. I’m also a fan of both Guild Wars 2 and World of Warcraft.
Will new MMOs rise up to take the place of the current “titans” of the genre?
Blue Protocol looks very promising. It’s a gorgeous looking Anime MMO that is being developed by a AAA developer, has some good – not great, but good combat, smooth animations and a lot of content to consume.
Ashes of Creation also seems promising. It’s a solid looking 3D MMO that’s being developed by an older ArcheAge whale but his personal history aside, the game has some decent looking combat, pretty good animations and what is expected to be a lot of content to consume as well.
Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis is going to take the formula that has worked for PSO2 thus far and drastically alter it, along with the graphical style, combat and world to significantly improve the game for larger-scale multiplayer. New Genesis also looks highly promising!
New World might do okay. It seems like it’s going to appeal to a much smaller niche playerbase than the 3 aforementioned games and I know I’ll no doubt get some flack for claiming that.
And I think the only other confirmed 2021 releases are TL: Origin and Lost Ark? Lost Ark honestly plays very well and looks gorgeous, but if you’re not a fan of linear top-down isometric games this definitely won’t appeal to you, and TL: Origin.. we’ve seen very little of so far so we can’t judge it currently.
We also have a plethora of cross-platform games coming out like Odin: Valhalla Rising, Project Ragnarok, Mad World, Tower of Fantasy, Gran Saga.
The future definitely looks like it’s shaping up to be going a certain direction: Low-budget indie games that barely manage an active playerbase, Eastern-ports, mobile cross-platform games.
But at the same time there are a few gems hidden away in there that might just surprise us.
And honestly, that’s all we really need. A gem in a sea of mediocrity. Whether that’s Blue Protocol, Ashes of Creation, New World or heck even a game like Lost Ark or Corepunk – there will always be new MMOs on the horizon that not only look promising, but also don’t fail to live up to our expectations of them.
We just need to be patient and wait for them.
Until then, thankfully we still have some good games to enjoy.