World of Warcraft remains the king, long live the king. WoW is arguably the most popular and genre defining MMORPG of our time. At its height, the game boasted 12 million active subscribing players, and paved the way for all future games in the genre to draw inspiration from, be it game mechanics or world design. While the game no longer boasts that amount of subs, WoW has no plans on dropping its subscription model for buy-to-play or free to play, which many of its competitors have done to stay relevant. Here are the top 5 recent MMO’s or “WoW Killers” that took a shot at dethroning the greatest MMO of them all.
In 2014, all the hype in the MMORPG universe centered on the launch of Wildstar, a sci-fi fantasy MMO that was dubbed the quintessential WoW killer which will eventually set the new high standard in the genre. Developed by former World of Warcraft developers, the game set out to overthrow WoW, and features a fresh approach to combat and with its world design. The instances and raids are also a plus point, with raid bosses being notoriously difficult to overcome, often leading to some crazy moments, which was the attraction for WoW Players.
Sadly, the hype that brought about Wildstar’s good times couldn’t last, and the game eventually dropped its subscription based model and went free to play, joining the ever growing list of MMORPG’s that couldn’t compete with the dominance of World of Warcraft.
Black Desert Online
It’s widely agreed that Black Desert Online has the best character customization engine seen in any MMORPG in the last decade. Being the most recent game on this list having been released earlier this year, BDO has a lot of plus points that could attract the casual World of Warcraft fan. From parkour systems to weather and day/night cycles affecting gameplay, BDO has become the most popular Asian MMORPG today.
Whether or not Black Desert Online can catch up to WoW’s paid player base remains to be seen, but it does need to address the claims against it that the game is ridiculously grind-heavy, which is typical for an Asian MMORPG released in the western market.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
When Electronic Arts and Bioware – probably two of the most established names in the gaming industry – announced that a new MMORPG would be released in the Star Wars universe, millions of fans jumped on the bandwagon. 2011’s SWTOR featured a never seen before class story system that Bioware expertly crafted, using voice actors of the highest caliber, on top of introducing companions that made the game stand out in the MMORPG crowd.
To-date, Star Wars the Old Republic is the only the second MMORPG that came closest to achieving the heights of World of Warcraft, hitting a respectable 1.7 million paid subscriptions in 2012, before eventually going free to play.
Guild Wars 2
Arguably the most popular MMORPG on this list is 2012’s Guild Wars 2, the much awaited sequel to the first Guild Wars that has garnered a huge following. The game’s no-level requirement to explore zones combined with its epic storytelling and smooth combat mechanics has managed to successfully pull in over 7 million players in 2015, 2 million more than World of Warcraft at the time. While the game does not offer a subscription based model to compete with World of Warcraft’s huge revenue numbers, the game is still competitive in the genre.
The Elder Scrolls Online
It’s hard to forget Zenimax Studios and ESO’s disastrous launch in 2013, no small thanks to optimization issues, phasing issues that hindered group questing and the ridiculous limitations that prevented players from openly exploring the world of Tamriel, which was an unusual departure from the exploration that we’ve come to know Bethesda’s games for.
A lot has changed for the better in three years. ESO has gone buy-to-play, revitalized the game with Tamriel Unlimited and really, made the best changes possible for the game. As a result, the game has over 10 million players by the end of 2017, and is truly the only current game that can stand toe-to-toe with WoW on accounts made. However in terms of revenue, WoW might still have the edge.