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Are We Entering the MMO Golden Age?

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With games like Everquest Next, Elder Scrolls Online, Wildstar, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and even Destiny and The Division set to be released within the next year I can’t help but question are we beginning the “Golden Age” of the Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, better known as the MMORPG or MMO?

It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that multiple MMO’s are coming out all at once and games such as The Division and Destiny are adopting MMO characteristics into their game. With the success that World of Warcraft has had a lot of game developers and companies wanted to get their hands in the cookie jar.

With the success of Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King everybody wanted a piece of the pie

This is exactly what we as gamers are experiencing in the First Person Shooter (FPS) genre; Activision hit a home run with Call of Duty Modern Warfare and all the sudden every month there is another big budget FPS being released. The only difference is it takes a lot less time to develop an FPS then it does an MMO. Take Elder Scrolls Online as an example when the game was announced in May 2012 it had already been in development for five years setting the start date at 2007. Meaning development started right after the release of World of Warcraft the Burning Crusade, right when WoW was starting to sky rocket in subscription numbers. We are finally seeing the reaction to the success WoW had around the Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King come to fruition.

With all these games trying to grab a piece of the pie the competition is starting to heat up in the MMO world. Gamers will now have more options than ever before which means developers will have to think of new and unique ways to grab our attention, and with competition comes innovation.

We are already seeing this take place with developers trying harder than ever to differentiate their game from the competition. Guild Wars 2 introduced gamers to multiple new ideas such as removing designated healers and “Dynamic Events”. Wildstar is doing everything in their power to explain to gamers why their game won’t be another WoW clone and even Final Fantasy XIV introduced unique ideas such as hunting logs and LeveQuests. The MMO is evolving faster now than it ever has been, and not only is the MMO evolving in the gameplay department it’s beginning to branch into new genres.

For the longest time the MMO was dominated by Dungeon’s and Dragons type games. Every MMO game was a fantasy world where trolls and elves lived, magic was common place and the heroes consisted of warriors, mages and priests. Now games like Destiny and The Division are starting to branch the MMO game out away from this genre. Even Grand Theft Auto Online is a smaller version of an MMO. With the MMO branching out there will be more MMO gamers than ever before.

Wildstar looks like a very promising up and coming MMORPG

Wildstar looks like a very promising up and coming MMORPG

The MMO is starting to boom and It makes sense. Humans are social creatures and by adding such a large social element to a game, people are drawn to it. It is fun to be able to conquer a dungeon with your friends and to meet new people and work towards a goal. We enjoy seeing progress when we level up our character and showing off all our hard work, either by killing other players or helping. More and more games will start to implement an MMO style, but with that comes the fear of subscriptions and this is the biggest reason MMO’s can be kept from a “Golden Age”.

Gamers aren’t a fan of subscription based games, but video game companies tend to place a monthly fee on an MMO in order to finance the game (I’ll write another post on whether this is fair or not). It tends to scare a lot of gamers away, why would someone want to buy a game for $60 and then have to pay $15 a month in order to play it when they can go out and get Call of Duty or Skyrim for $60 and then play for hours with no monthly fee? It’s a fair question and MMOs are trying their best to answer it.

Both Wildstar and Elder Scrolls Online announced this week that their game will be subscription based, and by announcing this turned many potential buyers off. MMOs are struggling with the financial aspect of their game by putting a subscription the game is helping to cover the costs of running an MMO but losing a lot of buyers and by implementing free to play the game loses a lot of credibility with hardcore gamers.

It’s a battle we have seen with Star Wars: The Old Republic and even Blizzard announced that their long developed Titan won’t be a subscription base MMO. It doesn’t quite feel like any one game has the perfect model and until one is discovered the MMO genre is going to continue to suffer. Which is unfortunate because it does seem like there will be a multitude of good games in the near future.

Are we entering the “Golden Age” of MMOs? With new genres entering the mix and high quality games being released the MMO is in the best shape it has ever been in. But the genre still needs its new king and to conquer the subscription battle before that happens. Although we are seeing major innovation and quality games in the MMO world and without fail one day we will get there.

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