Based of what we’ve seen over the last year and longer, here are three key MMORPG trends that look set to continue in 2020 and beyond.
Love it or hate it, mobile MMORPGS are here to stay. It’s incredible to observe this particular platform’s market growth rate especially in the East where mobile gaming and MMORPGs in particular, looks set to dominate the year ahead. Games like Black Desert Mobile, Spiritwish, and the upcoming World of Dragon Nest and more have generated plenty of buzz and it looks like mobile MMOs will continue to be an avenue of interested for major Asian developers to pursue. Why? The obvious reasons – the region makes the most mobile revenue and the target audience uses mobiles more than the PC, which means they are likelier to spend more money on mobile. Majority of mobile MMORPG resistance comes from the West who still prefers traditional PC gaming experiences when it comes to online gaming, in addition to not having to deal with pay to win or gacha mechanics. But we are seeing more titles announced in the Western market too, like Warhammer: Odyssey for example.
Crowd Funding Remains Key
If the last couple of years have thought us anything, it is that we should expect less triple A MMORPG announcements and should embrace indie projects instead if we want new MMORPGs with fresh ideas. Last year we did get lucky – out of nowhere, major games like Corepunk, Magic: Legends and New World emerged as upcoming big studio titles and that’s great. But throughout the year, majority of new MMORPG announcements have come from small studios that have crowd funded their way to publicity. Many will have reservations about games taking this route especially on Kickstarter (see Star Citizen, Ashes of Creation and Shroud of the Avatar) due to the game and its makers failing to provide backer rewards, deviating from promised plans and more, which is totally understandable. Unfortunately, this is also a very popular way for developers to bring their ideas to life, as the traditional method is expensive and takes time. The last $200 million dollar or more MMORPG project was 2014’s Elder Scrolls Online, and it’s unlikely we’ll see that amount of money, time and man-power used to make a triple A MMORPG again.
Traditional Expansion Releases Will Decline
This is something we’ve started to see over the years, but recently more established titles are adopting to this. The traditional expansion cycle is dying, but not for the top few MMORPGs like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV, who still relies on the expansion cycles and subsequent patches to sell units and game time. This will never change for these two in particular. However, the landscape is vastly different for everyone else in the lower tiers. Expansions are now being treated as separate content patch updates either quarterly or as-and-when available, which is popular especially among Asian MMORPGs that rarely do traditional expansion releases. Guild Wars 2 is the latest MMORPG that looks like it will follow this method, after having indirectly hinted that the new Saga updates would replace expansions (but still unconfirmed). Another game, RIFT, also confirmed to fans on social media that no new expansions would be coming, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no new content.