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Real Life Strikes

Lewis Burnell Posted:
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Having had a very busy week I’ve not once logged into Black Desert Online. My time has been short and when I did want to go on the computer recreationally I wanted something immediate. In many ways I’m grateful that Black Desert Online is Buy to Play so that I don’t feel pressured to log in. On the other hand, I still feel somewhat anxious when I don’t. Years of a gear treadmill or handing over for a subscription fee tends to have that effect.

My lack of an urgency to jump in game had me wondering about the wider genre and the impact other up and coming games are having on it. The continued rise of multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBAs) and eSports titles such as CS: GO - and soon Overwatch - is no doubt eating into the time players would once have dedicated to an MMO.

I appreciate they are vastly different genres and it would be somewhat strenuous to suggest all those who play multiplayer competitive games would have drifted from MMOs. However and certainly with my circle of friends and guild members, all of them spend a great amount of time playing League of Legends, DOTA 2, CS: GO or even Paragon. I rarely remember a time where those who loved MMOs would ever play anything else and yet it’s now very much the norm.

Several years ago the thought of splitting my time across multiple games would have never entered my mind. MMOs required too much time investment but at the same time, were so addictive (certainly for me) that I couldn’t pull myself away. Even when my brother was working his way through a variety of PC classics, to drag myself away from Dark Age of Camelot or World of Warcraft never crossed my mind. Now, it’s a very different story.

When I’ve got an hour or two, the thought of diving into Black Desert Online just doesn’t appeal to me. I can’t really achieve much in that time and the sense of accomplishment is sorely lacking for immediate satisfaction. That’s absolutely fine by me - MMOs shouldn’t always provide immediate reward - but it does mean I’ve had to find alternative entertainment. It’s a position I’ve never found myself in and so have turned to Paragon, Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch to fill the void. All three games scratch my itch for competitive play while offering enough of a sense of progression to have some form of lightweight goal. Whether it’s climbing a ranking ladder or simply improving when it comes to aim and personal skill.

Where I’d once turn to structured PvP in Guild Wars 2 if I only had an hour to burn, I’m now pursuing much more focused and dedicated multiplayer games: venturing into Black Desert Online is only occuring when I’ve a full evening free to immerse myself. If I’m approaching MMOs in this way, I’ve no doubt many countless others are and with the cost of developing and maintaining the genre ever increasing, it does concern me. When you look at the revenues earned by League of Legends developer, Riot, it’s not particularly difficult to guess where reduced MMO revenues are likely being spent.

There’s no question many millions of players still play MMOs but there’s much greater competition and play time, due to real-life™, can often be limited. Where my generation is much older and pursuing careers or family life, my nephew and his generation are all about MOBA’s and Minecraft. None of my young relatives have even heard of Black Desert Online - heck, only one of them had heard of World of Warcraft. The only game that appeared on their radar was Destiny and it’s not because it’s a massively multiplayer game but because it’s a third-person online shooter that looks “cool”. 

I don’t know what any of this suggests for my beloved massively multiplayer games other than being somewhat indicative of changing game habits - certainly my own. Outside of Camelot Unchained and Crowfall I’m also not convinced MMOs are making efforts to ensure their own long term relevance outside of a fanbase that already knows about them. That makes me particularly nervous for the future of their development.

What are your thoughts about MMOs and their current relevance? Are they appealing to a new audience? Are they doing enough to cater to people leading busy lives? Can they succeed against the march of the MOBA? Let me know your thoughts.  


Lewis Burnell

Lewis has played MMOs since Ultima Online launched, and written about them for far too long.