I read an article at PCGamer entitled “I’m tired of waiting for the next big MMO” and it hit me hard because in reading the article I realized that the man the author was talking about used to be me. I used to love MMOs despite having been a non-traditional MMOer; I had been put off of playing with others early on, and so my career had been solely about experiencing as many games as I could, each for as long as I could. I really enjoyed the learning aspect of every game I tried, and back when MMOs were popular, there were a lot of games to try.
Once the MMO dev-pool realized they couldn’t ever out World of Warcraft the World of Warcraft and the idea of creating a sub-genre of niche online worlds didn’t really pan out, the MMO landscape became an airplane graveyard. Sure, these hulks could probably still offer non-stop flights from coast to coast, but we’d all been there and done that. Part of the allure of the MMO genre was always hoping that the next deliverable would dethrone WoW, or would at least offer enough brand new material to keep us busy until the next next MMO came around to start the cycle again.
Now, though, ground has been ceded to drop-in games like Apex Legends or Among Us. The core MMO demographic is aging and while I don’t have solid numbers (or any numbers, this is an editorial on my own website, so…) I suspect that those of us Of A Certain Age are either agreeing to content ourselves with dreams of days gone by (i.e. sticking with WoW or FFXIV or LotRO or some permutation thereof) or we’re going to bang the same drum as the PCGamer article: where’s the next big MMO?
I don’t know that we’ll ever get a next big MMO. The MMO landscape is changing, and it’s not recognizable to those of us who grew up during the genre’s “Golden Age”. Once it was apparent that oPvP was a revenue killer MMOs embraced PvE and sidelined those who preferred competition over cooperation. With traditional MMOs down for the count PvPers are rising to fill the void. Most of the upcoming MMOs I can think of — if I can think of any at all, really — lean heavily into player versus player. Since I don’t suspect that all of us old guard MMO players have suddenly gained an insatiable thirst for other player’s tears I can’t imagine that the PvP MMO crowd has really swelled much in the past decade or two, meaning that the next wave of the genre is going to be targeted, niche, and very, very angry. I don’t begrudge the PvP crowd their time in the limelight; quite the opposite. I am personally done with MMOs as a rule, and wish these folks well with the genre they’ve inherited.
So maybe that feeling that the PCGamer author expressed isn’t fatigue over waiting for something that will probably never come, but rather a growing realization that MMOs just aren’t as appealing as a whole they way they used to be. The MMO genre used to be massive for PC gamers, so much so that I’d suggest it blocked out other genres and sent them to consoles (platformers, shooters, etc.) For those of us who were neck-deep in what promised to be an endless sea of games without endings, MMOs were comforting places we went to in order to find a home because they were massive enough to give us just that. Thinking about a time when we can’t expect any more opportunities for that specific comfort is hard, and if returning to one of the hundreds of games that still exist isn’t an option, than maybe what is being sought after can’t be found in any MMO any longer, new or not. Sometimes we just have to realize and accept that we’re changing just as much as the industry is changing, and our paths are no longer parallel.