In the relatively short lifespan of the art form known as gaming a funny thing has happened. Genres have been created, but very rarely, if ever, have any gone away. For instance, Wolfenstein and Doom paved the way for what we now know as the modern day FPS. During the period since those games were released though, that genre has seen its good times and its bad. Even during the bad times though, companies were pumping out those FPS games as fast as they could. In that vein, I asked myself what gaming genre refuses to die but is definitely not in a period of renaissance?
To me, there is a hands down winner in this category; the MMO. Long gone are the days of revolutionary titles like Everquest, Ultima Online, and World of Warcraft pushing the genre in new and exciting directions. Titles like those are now replaced with what seems like an endless stream of the same free-to-play, sub-par MMO experience, filled with the exact same game mechanics and tropes found in games created years before any of the titles mentioned above.
What’s so staggering about the MMO’s fall from grace is how front-and-center the failures have been. Besides Guild Wars 2 – which did manage to make a bit of a splash – literally every big name MMO has crashed and burned. Not even the Star Wars license managed and the Bioware pedigree helped to push SW:TOR to the position of “WoW killer”.
I’m not necessarily saying that every MMO is completely terrible; there have been a few MMOs that have done one or two interesting things over the years. That said, of all the genres of games, MMOs seem to be lagging way behind in terms of churning out games that are consistently considered for any type of honors. In a perfect world each year game of the year debates would be naturally made up of a game from every genre; not because the deliberations required it, but because there was legitimately a great platformer, RPG, FPS, racing game, etc… As it stands now though, that is absolutely not the case.
Star Wars: The Old Republic, Final Fantasy XIV (and its subsequent rerelease), Rift, Guild Wars 2; these are all games that failed to put MMOs back on the map. Again, they may not have been terrible games, but they weren’t the shining beacon of hope of that the genre is so desperate for. As an avid MMO player its getting extremely frustrated to watch the genre languish in mediocrity while other genres, like adventure games, are experiencing these wonderful periods of renaissance. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that there are good adventure games out there, and I’ve been enjoying them, I just wish that something new and refreshing would come around for the MMO genre. At the time of writing this, The Elder Scrolls Online just launched, and already the reaction seems to be that the game is extremely mediocre. If that turns out to be the case, then it will be just another in a long line of high profile licenses, backed by respectable development teams churning out more MMO garbage.