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MMORPGs in 2017: Driest Drought Ever

This year may go down as the driest MMORPG drought in history. There were barely any new MMORPGs released the entire year. Perhaps that makes it slightly better than past years when we saw nothing but one garbage MMORPG or shovelware MMORPG after another.

Most of what people will chime in about are expansions like ESO: Morrowind, Stormblood, and GW2: Path of Fire. If that’s your thing, great, but for the industry it’s pretty pathetic. The year of Expansions and failed indie launches really doesn’t speak highly to me.

For me personally, I dropped about 4 months into the Time-locked progression server for EverQuest. I had some fun. Playing with some friends is always a highlight for me. There’s a novelty factor there that most people will acknowledge. It wears off. Again, not really a shining beacon for the industry.

Looking for some hope, I visited a few of the MMO news sites to try and figure out what they could possibly have written about for the past 12 months.  Wow (not WoW but woah…) it’s not pretty. In the month of December it’s PUBG, some random car themed racing game, Diablo 3, a handful of asian grinders that most in the west would avoid in fear of spyware, and lots of non-MMO related stuff. There’s even a sincere lack of theorycrafting or commentary. This isn’t harping on them at all — seriously, I feel their pain pain. I myself have always favored MMORPG commentary here on the blog but in 2017 it simply wasn’t possible. In fact, it always killed my desire to blog entirely until I bounced back with my challenge to blog every day.

This next year will probably flop just as hard, if not even harder. In my post looking toward 2018, I remarked that we may see ONE MMORPG launch (Camelot Unchained) and I fear that might even be really, really big stretch.

We saw that coming, didn’t we? We knew the industry crashed and burned pretty hard after the clone wars. Then the business model battle began and the industry cannibalized itself. Quality went down the drain. Investors lost confidence. Consumers moved on. In the archives of this blog many of us have had this discussion for years: MMORPGs were going to have to sink so low — to the point of being gone completely — before they can come back. 2017 certainly was a year of vacancy, but not a sign of any return.

I am sincerely hoping some random MMORPG drops from the sky and lands in my lap in 2018. I can’t say I have any hope or faith, but I’ll certainly welcome to opportunity. If you’ve had your eye on a MMORPG and believe it’s launching in 2018 — one that I somehow missed — please let me know. I’d love to jump back in head first to dissect mechanics, theorycraft about how things should or shouldn’t be designed, and dig my heels into an active community. That’s the stuff that gets my blood pumping, and I live for it

  • Bhagpuss says:

    I disagree with the entire premise. The whole point and purpose of the MMORPG hobby is that it does not need or require novelty. Nor does it require continual re-invention. We don’t need more, new MMORPGs; we need more attention paid to the excellent ones we already have.

    The fundamental difference between MMORPGs and other video games is persistence. Having found an MMORPG that you enjoy you can and should expect to continue playing that MMORPG indefinitely. The disconnect comes when that expectation is subverted by commercial concerns, leading to the creation of a slew of new MMORPGs searching for an audience, as happened following the totally unexpected, breakout success of WoW.

    The current situation, where long-running MMORPGs are bedding down to provide dedicated service to a loyal, core audience seems to me to offer a much healthier outlook for the future of the hobby. It’s very interesting to see that other types of video games are also beginning to move towards a similar model, where they don’t need to stop and restart from scratch every year or so but instead keep the same base game and build on it.

    It’s true this doesn’t provide such a steady source of news for news websites but that’s a very, very small price to pay.

    • Drathmar says:

      I agree with Bhagpuss. I know a lot of people who have found an MMO in the past year or two and have stuck with it. If we go by pre-wow standards, ESO, GW2, FFXIV, Rift, hell even ToR are successful. People just look at them and see they aren’t as successful as WoW. But there is a lot of room between unsuccessful (which in this case would be unprofitable) and success on the scale of WoW. People tend to forgot that, and think that if an MMO doesn’t reach WoW levels of success it’s a failure.

      Despite the different models used in the above MMO’s they have all been going for more than 2 years at this point, with multiple successful expansions and a healthy playerbase.

      I don’t think the fact that the only big releases MMO wise this year were expansions is a good thing… for the majority of players who play MMO’s. It’s a bad thing for those still looking.

      As for those still looking, I can only speak for myself. I have come to terms with the fact that it’s not that there isn’t an MMO out there I enjoy. I enjoy a lot of them actually. WoW, ESO, FFXIV all of them are fun and games I can spend 2 to 4 months in. However, I have trouble spending more than that amount of time in any game now. Personally as I’ve grown up, I find I can’t justify spending all my gaming time on a single game. It use to not be a problem when I had more gaming time. Now as an adult, I have less time for games overall, which means I rarely spend more than a few months on the same game. Especially a game that requires multiple hours of investment in a day or week like MMO’s.

      Why spend 2-4 hours a day playing the same game for a year, when I could play 10-20 different games for the same 2-4 hours a day if I play a different type of game. That is just my thought on it.

    • Keen says:

      @Bhagpuss: I think you missed the point that I’m talking about new releases.

      For existing MMORPGs, there are those staples. For those like yourself who like to graze on a field of MMOs for years, that’s a different subject entirely. For the people who like one game and can play it ad nauseum for a decade, that’s a different subject entirely.

      There are people like me who will play a game at a considerable velocity — dare I say that represents a majority of people — and ‘finish’ the game and be ready for a new one. Those people look for new releases every so often.

      Even the best MMORPGs I’ve ever played got old after a few years. That’s not a critique on the game or on my playstyle. It’s my cake on a table analogy I’ve used for years.

      In 2017 we had a few expansions for the grazers or the devout, but no real meat and potatoes for a guy like me — and for probably most of the people out there who enjoy this genre.

      • Caldazar says:

        I am not sure they are aiming for people who play 3 months and finish when they make mmorpgs the way you see them. Feels to me like you fall between the cracks of your expectations and the mmorpg gamedesign/model. Kinda sucks but it is as it is.

      • Keen says:

        Depends on the game.

        We haven’t had 3 monther MMORPGs for years. Let’s look at the releases for the past 5 years. I’m going to base my information off of MMORPG.com’s MMO release list. I’m not counting the games on there that clearly aren’t MMOs, and I’m not counting the asian shovelwar or the expansions to existing games.

        I’m counting games released and publicized in the west, indie or AAA.

        2017: None released
        2016: None released
        2015: None released
        2014: Wildstar, Elder Scrolls Online
        2013: Final Fantasy XIV

        Really stop and think hard about that list. We’re going into our 4th year of drought.

        It’s not that MMORPGS are releasing and I’m not playing them, or that I’m playing them 3 months and stopping. It’s literally that they haven’t come out in 3 years. Prior to that, Wildstar was trash and the other two games just weren’t my style. ESO was a mess when it came out but has come into its own, and FFXIV is simply not my style.

        I wish there were cracks to fall between. All I see is a gaping chasm.

      • Caldazar says:

        FFXIV released in 2010 technically. The 2013 is the remade because it tanked so hard they had to cancel and redo large parts. Still same game though.

        And yes, that is what I am saying, 3 monthers are not being made. Big budget wow clones have proven not to really work/turn out as 3 monthers and thus the risk is too large. While Wildstar and ESO certainly have a good amd sustainable core of followers, they still massively failed expectations and the return on investment was far lower than needed/wanted.

        I think, with nothing to back it up except the drought you describe, that the large sprawling ‘wow/eq’-type mmorpg just isn’t interesting to develop cost-return wise.

      • bartillo says:

        actually zenimax said thanks to morrowind and tamriel unlimied ESO is huge now. 500k simultaneously players on ps4 was announced right after the last big update. Thats not counting all the players simultaneously playing on xbox and pc. ESO def has millions of players.

  • bartillo says:

    I disagree! MMOs are stronger than ever. This year we got FF14 stormblood, GW2 Path of Fire, and ESO morrowwind! All huge expansions, these games are growing and increasing in player numbers. MMOs are on an uptick now.

  • TheCrow says:

    text adventures, graphic adventures, shoot’em up, beat’em up, etc…and now MMORPG we just need to accept that are dead genres.
    and i have loved them but we must accept the fact.

  • Quietwulf says:

    These things come in cycles. When was the last Mechwarrior game? The last Wing Commander / Freespace?

    Genres seem to rise and fall in popularity. It’s not helped by the fact that MMO’s are a) very expensive to develop and maintain and b) ham-strung by the current limits of technology i.e. Latency, memory, huge player populations, etc.

    There are easier ways to make money and publishers are moving on to those models. WoW was lighting in a bottle, bringing MMO’s to the mainstream in a way that no other title really managed.

    I think until we see a big uptick in technology (e.g. Gigabit global internet speeds) we’re not going to see much interesting in the MMO space for a while.

    The only two I know of that’ll be out this year are;
    Monster Hunter World
    Sea of Thieves.

    Not sure how either of those are shaping up, but I guess they’re something.

    • Keen says:

      It must be pointed out that neither Monster Hunter or Sea of Thieves are technically MMO. Definitely just “multiplayer” games.

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