I made a comment on a MMO website, that any online-only game counts as a MMO. I was quickly told how much I didn’t know about games, amongst other things. I didn’t say anything, but it got me thinking about how we define MMO’s now and into the future. When I was younger, an MMO fell into two categories, West and East. The Western MMO was all subscription based and tended to be considered AAA, even if the quality varied. On the other hand the Eastern MMO tended to be F2P, dated, and grind heavy by the standards of the time. It’s from here that Eastern MMO’s got the moniker of being ‘grind-fests’.
Fast forward more than a decade and the landscape couldn’t be more different. The lines have blurred between Eastern and Western and the subscription landscape is nearly empty of all life. How we define MMO’s has also changed. FPS, RPG, MOBA, TPS, Fighting, Strategy, Tactical; all of these subgenres of the MMO market have risen and carved out niches for themselves. The backlash from calling online-only games MMO’s is likely a direct result from the controversy of recent single player franchises moving toward being online-only. Diablo 3 and SimCity have caused a lot of strive in the gaming world when both games launched with less than stellar server tech.
The reality is simple, the more a game is played, the more likely gamers are to spend money. Whether it’s an AAA mega-hit or a small niche independently developed game, developers want gamers playing their games as long as possible. The truth is that piracy, security, cash shops, and all other issues pale before the golden rule of business, make as much money as possible. This is why the online-only phenomenon is likely to become less and less rare. In the end, what constitutes a MMO is irrelevant, developers will do whatever it takes to keep gamers in front of their screens, playing their games and buying their content.