When World of Warcraft went on general release back in 2004, it was certainly not the first MMORPG to enjoy success or critical acclaim. However, its revolutionary approach to world building, its captivating visual design language and its accessible gameplay loops ensured that it would soon come to define the genre and cast a long shadow over all future massive multiplayer online titles.
Even today, some 20 years later WoW remains arguably the most popular and best loved MMORPG on the market across its various incarnations. Much of WoW’s success, as outlined above, came by way of a considered approach by Blizzard who wanted to build on the potential of rival titles like Ultima Online, but the truth is WoW was also lucky with its timing.
The early 00s was the moment that broadband internet finally started to become commonplace, and this smoothed the way for the masses to take their first tentative steps into the world of online gaming. On consoles, Xbox Live was introducing a new generation of gamers to the thrills of online multiplayer at the same time that WoW, on PC, was in the earliest stages of giving rise to a genuine cultural phenomenon that would, at its peak, hit over 12 million players.
Nowadays, online gaming is normal. In fact, many games and consoles won’t even work without an active internet connection, irrespective of whether the titles themselves are explicitly online. Much of this can be laid at the feet of the ambitious first steps taken by Blizzard’s creation, and those other millennial MMORPG hits from Eve Online, to Guild Wars. To chart this far reaching influence, let’s take a look at a few of the genre’s successors below.
The battle royale game takes its inspiration from the classic Japanese action film of the same name in which a group of people are dropped on an island together and forced to compete in a last man standing deathmatch. This spawned a game genre originating with PUBG that builds on this rule-set. Other popular battle royales include Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone 2.
These titles are extremely popular today, and rank as the world’s most popular modern Massive Multiplayer Online titles, a feat that would be unimaginable without the pioneering work of the early MMORPGs.
Browser and Mobile Gaming
When smartphones came about, they introduced whole new demographics to the thrills of online gaming. In fact, today, over 50% of all gaming revenue is said to come from mobile gaming alone.
Browser access gaming and mobile titles are an intriguing segment. Back in the days of WoW, such titles were little more than casual minigames, whereas today there are hundreds of fully fledged, triple-A titles that call these formats home.
Within this there are even compelling sub-genres who would be nowhere near as popular if first wave MMORPGs didn’t make a strong case for development and investment in net-optimized gaming. Take the world of iGaming and online casinos for example – while the earliest of these pre-date large-scale MMORPGs, the industry only began to enjoy substantial growth from the mid-00s onwards.
Nowadays they account for the largest growing segment of the entire global gambling industry with a growing number of dedicated review and recommendation platforms such as the new bonuses.com site focused on furnishing patrons with competitive welcome offers and sign-up deals, further consolidating the sector’s preeminence in the online gaming space.
Short for Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas, the MOBA genre’s direct DNA has more to do with RTS games (including the classic Warcraft titles) than it does MMORPGs, though its modern successor as the world’s preeminent online competitive esport owes a huge debt of gratitude to the likes of WoW.
Today the biggest examples of MOBAs are League of Legends and Dota 2, which now command phenomenal prize pools, worldwide tournaments and huge fanbases. MOBAs are also unashamedly fantasy-oriented, and in this they build on the pathfinding success of earlier RPGs and other fantasy titles which helped prime the media landscape for large games with deep lore and a wide cast of characters and locations.
MOBAs are also increasingly gaining ground in the mobile sector, with the likes of Mobile Legends: Bang Bang among the fastest growing online games across any region or platform today.