With New World and Final Fantasy XIV, MMOs are back, like it or not

People have spoken and they want more MMORPGs.

Amazon games

The New World of Amazon Games is launched today. Not only is it the tech giant’s first video game, but it’s one of the most prominent entries in the massively multiplayer online RPG genre for a long time. The last time a brand new MMORPG had this kind of anticipation? Star Wars: The Old Republic in 2011.

For most of the 2010s the MMORPG space was dormant, but in the last year or so things have changed.

With a million ridiculous people having already played in extended beta testing, New World is part of that change. But the rapid growth of Final Fantasy XIV, alongside its upcoming expansion Endwalker, is also playing its part.

MMOs are back in force. Why? This return to notoriety could be attributed – strangely enough – to the game that caused the genre to stagnate in the first place. The big dog of the MMO: World of Warcraft genre.

The 2000s were the heyday of MMORPGs, but the release of World of Warcraft in 2004 marked the beginning of the end of that golden age. Blizzard’s MMORPG sucked the oxygen out of the room, reaching a height of 12 million subscribers in 2010, and virtually wiped out all competition.

WoW reigned supreme for the rest of the 2010s with other MMORPGs set aside. Competitors like Everquest 2, Lords of the Rings Online, and Star Wars: The Old Republic have completely folded or gone free-to-play to cope with a shrinking player base. In the meantime, WoW’s subscriber base too began to decline.

The liberation of World of Warcraft Classic in August 2019 made it possible to stop the bleeding of subscribers. Millions of players have returned to experience “vanilla WoW” in all its glory. But even this excitement was temporary. Classic subscribers have slowly started to decline, even after the recent addition of the game’s first expansion, The Burning Crusade.

One person who has observed the decline of WoW and real-time MMOs is Asmongold, a longtime World of Warcraft streamer. He has over 2.3 million followers on Twitch.

“The fall of MMOs over the past 10 years has been completely self-inflicted by the developers,” Asmongold said. “I think the reality is that people have always wanted to play an MMO, it’s just that a lot of MMOs have been bad lately, and people haven’t really wanted to play it.”

Amongold’s waning interest in WoW led him to jump on another MMORPG: Final Fantasy XIV.

These are the kind of battles gamers are looking for

These are the kind of battles players are looking for.

Square Enix

FF14 was originally released in 2010, but has come under heavy criticism for its controls and lackluster presentation. The response was so bad that developer Square Enix abandoned the game and restarted it as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn in 2013.

Since 2013, FF14 has continued to increase its number of players, reaching 22 million registered players in August. Incredibly, the game even sold out of digital copies. Asmongold’s move to FF14 in July contributed to this success with its debut stream of the game reaching over 210,000 viewers on Twitch.

“His 75 hours of streaming in July generated 7.2 million hours of viewing,” said Doron Nir, co-founder of authoring tools and services provider StreamElements. “Asmongold illustrates the incredible ability of the best creators to shift the rankings of the most viewed games and the importance of including such creator relationships in a game publisher’s marketing strategy.”

So are MMORPGs back? Yes, but not like in the 2000s when several games were released each year.

The excitement of new worlds and the rise of FF14 shows that there is a thirst for more MMORPG games. Players always want to get lost in these connected worlds, to work with other players, to form lasting bonds in the search for quests and loot.

It’s up to the developers to feed that hunger and give players what they want. If they don’t, we’ll see the MMORPG genre disappear again.