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With Multiple Big Releases This Year, Is 2021 Truly The Year Of The MMO?

Joseph Bradford Updated: Posted:
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Dead genre. 

This is a refrain I would see often grace forums, Twitter, and more places on the internet when describing MMORPGs  in conversation. And for many players they have moved on from what is, arguably, a niche genre within the larger gaming community. 

However, MMORPGs are far from dead, especially if this year is any indication. 

Something that Kakao, publisher behind many multiplayer games, including the newly released Elyon, said last month when making their announcement that the MMO was going free-to-play has stuck with me ever since. Opening their announcement post, the Elyon team stated:

"It's clear that 2021 has been the year of the MMO[.]"

This is something I've personally been ruminating ever since we started to see the releases of MMOs this year get solidified. In the calendar year alone we've seen the releases of major expansions to huge MMORPGs in Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood and World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade Classic. New MMOs have hit Western shores such as Swords of Legends Online and now Elyon today. Games like Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis and Blade & Soul's Unreal Engine overhaul have brought upgraded versions of their long-standing MMOs to the market.

World of Warcraft wasn't the only classic MMO to release an update this year as AION Classic hit digital shelves at the beginning of the summer. Crowfall also released this summer and while not a full MMO, Tiny Multiplayer Online Game Book of Travels has entered early access. Bless Unleashed saw the universe's return to PC in late Summer 2021.

And the last few weeks have been dominated by Amazon's New World. And that's not all that's hitting before the end of the year. We still have Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker and The Lord of the Rings Online: Fate of Gundabad to help close out the year of MMOs. And this list is by no means exhaustive or even complete, especially when we start to look at the various mobile releases.

FFXIV Endwalker Allisae

It feels like a year of rebirth for the genre, in my opinion. The genre that was thought dead, or at the very least so niche that it was relegated to only make headlines with a few of its biggest games, is showing its still got more to say. With so many games nowadays also trying to add "MMO" to their marketing buzzword list (I'm looking at you, Magic: Legends specifically), it's not a shock really, either. The idea of a Massively Multiplayer Online Multiplayer Game lives rent free in the minds of gamers and developers alike. 

The genre showed how explosively popular it can still be as well with the enormous amount of players flocking to Final Fantasy XIV during the summer months. This, and Amazon seeing over 900K concurrent players within the first few days, and over a million players log into New World the first weekend, leads me to believe the genre still has some draw with the gaming community. Conversely, though, you can make the argument that MMORPG gamers are starving for good games and a return to form many believe has been lost over the years, and simply flock to the next one in the hope that it's "the one."

It's also been a weird year where we've seen NFTs start to embrace the genre, with games like Blankos Block Party, Ember Sword  and Infinite Fleet all seeking a piece of your mind - and wallet - as the subsection of the genre grows over the years. 

With so much buzz around the genre in 2021, it's not hard to consider the year the "year of the MMO" as the Elyon team declared when delaying the release of their game. It's been a busy year in the MMORPG world, and it's not over, nor does it seem like it'll be slowing down as 2022 approaches. 

What do you think? Do you agree with the Elyon team and declare 2021 the Year of the MMO? Or do you not agree? Let us know in the comments below.


Joseph Bradford

Joseph has been writing or podcasting about games in some form since about 2012. Having written for multiple major outlets such as IGN, Playboy, and more, Joseph started writing for MMORPG in 2015. When he's not writing or talking about games, you can typically find him hanging out with his 10-year old or playing Magic: The Gathering with his family. Also, don't get him started on why Balrogs *don't* have wings. You can find him on Twitter @LotrLore