Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Current Impasse of the MMORPG Genre

The MMORPG genre - especially in its traditional form - may not be dead as some people claim, but it is certainly in a major impasse. There is little to no infusion of fresh blood into the scene, and the big moneymakers are still the flag-carriers of ages past, which are all well past their primes and by some measure: on their way out. WOW - which is having its latest expansion, Legion, released in a few days - is obviously still a moneymaker sticking to its old-fashioned, subscription-based monetization model. Others, like Elder Scrolls Online and DC Universe Online, are clinging on to life, having adopted a hybrid, free-to-play model. As far as the big picture is concerned though, the genre is definitely hurting and - like the RTS genre before it - it looks headed to the dustbins of gaming history.

What is the problem though? One of the driving forces of this MMO decline stems - rather paradoxically - from the very popularity of the genre, which gave birth to scores of low-quality games, clones of successful titles and clones of clones, which have diluted the quality and created a culture of free content, that came right back to bite the legit titles where it hurt most: in the wallets.

This is why titles which cost tons of money to develop are nowadays free...Star Wars: The Old Republic" comes to mind here, which cost northward of $200 million to develop and which is now free to play. While the free premium content is definitely a short-term plus for players, it is an entirely unsustainable model from the point of view of the industry.
The MMO clone-culture had another major victim as well: the quality of the story and at the end of the day, of the game-play. Let's face it: most of the dime-a-dozen/free MMOs have their players hacking away at generic monsters for what seems like eternity, for no discernable reason whatsoever...

Philip Thalberg has been working for esports news site GGnet since 2004. 

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