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My 2015 Year To Date MMOG Power Rankings

Richard Aihoshi Posted:
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Does anyone actually know how many MMOGs are out there now? I certainly don't. Indeed, the category has grown so much that I can no longer even estimate the total number with any real confidence. Many are, of course, not very prominent. Others are a lot more visible and fare far better in terms of attracting and holding our attention. This is my completely personal, subjective ranking of the titles that have had the most interest value for me so far this year.

Let me say up front that I haven't gone back over every bit of MMOG news and scuttlebutt from the past four months. Accordingly, I acknowledge the possibility, even the likelihood that my selections are weighted toward games that have been in the public eye more recently. But this is my list. I expect your opinions to differ, and hope some of you will share your rankings, especially if you comment on the reasons for your choices. In any case, these are mine, countdown-style:

10. World of Warcraft

The beast has shrunk and no longer occupies as much of the available space, which has expanded. However, there's no question that Blizzard's venerable offering is still the proverbial elephant in the MMOG room. This is especially true for those who, like me, have a perspective that encompasses the industry and market as well as individual games. So, although Warlords of Draenor launched last November, it stayed on my mind into 2015, largely to see how it would fare in terms of renewing the player base, both numerically and spiritually / emotionally. In the former sense, it performed pretty well, pushing the global total of monthly and pay for time “subscribers” back over the 10 million level. The indications have also been positive in the latter area.

In early March, we learned about the company's intention to introduce a Token system that will offer a way to buy playing time for in-game gold. I couldn't help but wonder if this may be another step in the direction of free to play, if not here in North America, then at least in markets where it's the dominant model – like China, home to Tencent, which holds a major stake in Activision Blizzard. In addition, the question has been raised as to whether the $20 cost for a one-month token might foreshadow an increase in the monthly fee. My guess is that it won't happen, but I can't say I'd be shocked if it does.

9. H1Z1

I've felt for at least a few years now that there is an opening in the market for a zombie apocalypse survival MMOG to become a significant hit. Accordingly, it was natural that I was somewhat more interested than usual in this title from the moment it was revealed by SOE last spring. Frankly, I was kind of disappointed to see that the company didn't do more to raise its visibility, particularly in the period leading up to the early access launch in mid-January.

In retrospect, this decision may not have been as curious as it seemed at the time. As you're undoubtedly aware, the game has not been favorably received. I'll grant that according to the company now known as Daybreak Games, it is yet to launch. However, I disagree. For me, an MMOG goes live when people play it who have paid money in order to do so. (Crowdfunded projects are a separate matter.) So, my thinking is that it released in January.

Consequently, when I look at H1Z1 since then, I regard it as being post-launch. It seems a lot of other people do too. I also wonder if the publisher felt this wouldn't happen. The alternative possibility is even more unflattering, that the company expected it and went ahead anyway. As it stands, I haven't lost all hope that the game can eventually grow into a solid addition to the MMOG category, and I'm still watching it. However, my optimism about its potential has dimmed considerably.

8. Landmark

The concept of player-created content has fascinated me for years in that it has such enormous potential while facing challenging obstacles that must be overcome to achieve it. As a result, every project that tries to do so holds extra appeal for me. Consequently, I've kept an eye on Landmark since it was unveiled late in 2013. If you want to say there hasn't been much news or information during the past four months, you won't get an argument from me. But, as I said, this list and the rankings are completely subjective. The game appears here because I happen to think about it more often than many others.

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Richard Aihoshi

Richard Aihoshi / Richard Aihoshi has been writing about the MMOG industry since the mid-1990s, always with a global perspective. He has observed the emergence and growth of the free to play business model from its early days in both hemispheres.