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Space simulators and worlds at war: The state of MMO PC games in 2014

Hayden Dingman | Jan. 5, 2015
2014 saw the release of four major MMOs, an MMO alpha, and a ton of expansions for legacy games. Now what were you saying about MMOs being a dead genre?

Elite: Dangerous 1.0

"MMOs are dead." I feel like that's been a truism for years now--longer even than the fabled massively-multiplayer online games were considered a dominant force in the industry. For many people massively multiplayer online gaming begins and ends with World of Warcraft. Most others would say it's either EverQuest or Star Wars Galaxies or nothing.

But don't tell developers that the MMO isn't viable, because apparently they're not going to listen no matter what you say or how strenuously you say it. Don't quote me on this, but I'm pretty sure 2014 saw the launch of more "important" MMOs than any year in history, plus expansions for a bunch more.

So as we kill off 2014, we take a look back at this year's MMO releases--what they are, and where they are as the year comes to a close.

World of Warcraft
Warlords of Draenor

Let's get the gorilla out of the way early. World of Warcraft opened the year looking like the ailing king, drool pooling on its moth-eaten robes. Reporters half-heartedly discussed how subscriber numbers had fallen from a lofty peak of 12 million in 2010 down to about 7 million. Questions of "Will World of Warcraft be forced to go free-to-play?" swirled.

Then in November World of Warcraft celebrated its ten-year anniversary with the launch of its fifth expansion, Warlords of Draenor, and the entire narrative changed. Besides adding a substantial amount of content to the base game, Warlords oversaw a massive surge in subscriptions--last I saw, the game was back up around 10 million.

The king doesn't look so old after all. And that's good, considering Blizzard is out there saying they expect World of Warcraft to last for twenty years.

The Elder Scrolls Online
Elder Scrolls Online

"Wait, you're making an Elder Scrolls MMO? That's...not what I want." After two years of tepid hype, The Elder Scrolls Online released back in April and...well, people enjoyed it about as much as everyone expected. Some people absolutely loved it. Most people were ambivalent.

The problem? The game doesn't really do justice to either its MMO content nor its Elder Scrolls lore. Instead, you get a pretty tedious and underwhelming mix of the two. And when you do find some amazing, lovingly-crafted questing it's often interrupted by some other idiot player jumping up and down in place at the entrance to the dungeon or staring at a wall or throwing all his items on the ground for no reason.

But there must be people playing Elder Scrolls Online because we're almost a year past release and the game hasn't gone free-to-play yet. Somehow. There are also the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 releases slated to arrive sometime in 2015.


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