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Evaluating the MMORPGs Released in 2018

Looking back at the the MMO industry has become a bit of a yearly ritual now. Twelve years ago this would have been a monumental undertaking and bordering impossible to achieve in just one post. These days, however, this exercise is more about looking at how little actually happened for MMOs.

First, let's define terms. For this post, MMORPGs released in 2018 means actual MMORPGs (we'll accept  MMOs too, but not faux-mmo) commercially released this calendar year. I don't count expansions, though the honorable mentions are Battle for Azeroth and Summerset.

What am I using to determine what came out? I like the MMORPG.com list, but I'll be critiquing their generous use of the label.

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mmorpg games list 2018

Yikes!

First, I scratched off the ones that weren't even MMO in any way. Let's ignore those and wonder why they're on the site at all.

Next let's eliminate a few that are labeled MMO but clearly are not:

  • Fallout 76 
  • The Crew 2
  • Sea of Thieves

I hope we can all agree there.

Then let's shave off the browser games, shovelware garbage, and stuff that isn't actually a game, and the ones that have some MMO but are also single-player. That leaves Bless Online. I want to add in Life is Feudal MMO because I think it technically came out in 2018, and looking at that list I think it's more than fair that it's on there.

So we have Bless Online and Life is Feudal MMO.

There's your 2018 new titles, MMORPG industry! I can't imagine anyone is very proud of that list.

If you've been keeping score the past few years like I have, your list should look something like this.

2013: Final Fantasy XIV, Archeage
2014: Wildstar, Elder Scrolls Online
2015: None released
2016: Black Desert Online
2017: Albion Online
2018: Bless Online, Life is Feudal MMO

I think it's fair to say the industry is still in a lackluster place. WoW continues its expansion cycle domination, ESO keeps chugging along with its following, FFXIV is doing fine too, but that's about the industry in a nutshell. 

Coming up are a few games in early access that may be solving this problem. Stay tuned.

  • Argorius says:

    It seems to me the MMO space is dead as far as new releases are concerned. I doubt it will get resurrected either. You need a certain size team/company to even create a game that is technically and visually of high enough quality to be considered competitive. You also need a large enough team that can establish that quickly enough before their creation is outdated. Once you have a team that can overcome the time and quality problems, you are heavily invested and it seems that the risk associated with such a heavy investment is just too great to carry for the companies that are capable of putting such a team together. The inherent risk includes the principle of inherent design flaws. Almost all new MMOs that don’t make it big (e.g. all new ones) have inherent and sometimes predicable design flaws…that in combination with an extremely unforgiving community is a disaster.

    At best, you get smaller companies trying to achieve this at the cost of either time and/or quality. It likely wont cut it though. I hope CU proves me wrong but they are way behind schedule and I am not sure if the visual quality so far is enough to be competitive.

    However, I think the main reason we are done with MMOs is because there are better, less risky, ways to make money in the game industry (free to play, microtransactions, phone games). MMOs came on the market with subscriptions and it was an interesting way to make money (wait, instead of selling a game for $50 one time, people will continue to pay us money for years to come???) The dream of creating a cash cow is likely what drove the MMO industry. Now there are better ways to do this and MMOs as such are obsolete.

    • Keen says:

      I think a key component here is the ‘predictable’ mistakes they keep making. I’m not a game designer, but I know that just by looking at a game whether or not it’ll be a large commercial success, a niche one, or a complete failure. I don’t think my ability to see that is rare — I know that not everyone has it, otherwise people would stop buying games like Bless, but there has to tens to hundreds of thousands of people capable of that same level of perception.

      That said, why are the predictable mistakes made?

      I do strongly believe in small studios making smaller games. I recently wrote about this in my plea for developers to design for the niche.

      The big reason I see MMOs avoided is that devs fallaciously believe other industry are easier to succeed in. So they make a Fortnite competitor or something else wildly hyper-competitive and fail anyway. Stop competing with the Fortnite’s and 1000lb gorillas. Branch out and be different.

      • Caldazar says:

        I don’t think devs neccesarily believe other genres are easier to succeed in. More that the require money to make an mmo is so much higher than other games, the risk of mmo vs non mmo is skewed too much towards non mmo to be worth it.

        I mean, just world design wise, you can make 15 fortnites for the amount of world a basic mmo needs at launch.

      • Keen says:

        Very true. Perhaps instead of easier or cheaper we should simply say the barriers to entry in those industries/genres are much smaller.

      • Argorius says:

        I think many of us, especially the ones that have been around for a long time, can look at the game and see if it will be a failure or not. We can even sometimes pinpoint why even though this process could be more complex than it appears.

        However, do you know who doesn’t have this ability? The designers…it is quite fascinating and likely happens in most creative fields where the creators (film, literature, art, game design) cannot always critically evaluate their product.

      • Keen says:

        Exactly. I struggle to understand how that can be sometimes, but I suppose it’s the only semi-logical explanation.

  • Raven.Fish says:

    Do you not consider the games like Rust, Dayz, Ark in this category?

    • Keen says:

      Rust, DayZ, and Ark are most definitely NOT MMOs. They are multiplayer games. Players run the servers. Players control the server populations. Most of them are < 60 players.

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