What Does ‘MMO’ Mean in 2024?


Back in the halcyon days of WoW’s classic era, MMORPGs were among the most exciting and invested in areas of the whole game industry. While Blizzard’s iconic title wasn’t the first popular MMORPG by a long shot, it was the one that finally catapulted the genre into mainstream appeal thanks to its simplified game mechanics, compelling visuals and rich trove of preexisting lore to draw on from the Warcraft RTS franchise.

Another key factor behind its success was being in the right place, at the right time. The early years of the 2000s saw the widespread adoption of broadband internet across developed markets, putting high speed internet within reach of ordinary households and opening the door to new types of entertainment and experiences – such as massively multiplayer online games – the directly benefited from low latencies.

The success of WoW also meant that every developer and major studio was eager to try to emulate its success by building their own MMORPG – in fact, this period of RPG-mania meant that people came to wholly associate massively multiplayer online arenas almost exclusively with fantasy roleplaying titles.

After all, other popular online titles of the time were content to restrict their players to time bound instances and matches, such as those found in most FPS games. It would be some time before the allure to chase-after WoW would lessen its hold on the industry, and now forms of massively multiplayer gaming would begin to emerge.


Battle Royales

Of these, none have done a better job to shift the very idea of MMOs away from RPGs than the collection of games that fall under the umbrella game-mode of the Battle Royale. Of these, it was PUBG that finally came to convince the wider industry – and gamers alike – that there was immense fun and excitement to be had in the MMO realm through the thrills of open world elimination matches. Soon, Fortnite would make the definitive case as to the financial potential of the genre after announcing profits of $9 billion in its first 2 years from microtransactions sales – at the time breaking all records for a Free-to-Play title. It’s no wonder that before long even the likes of Call of Duty would be cutting in on the action with its Warzone spin-off that now features matches with an excess of 150 players.


Huge Variety of Applications

Over the decades the way we use the internet itself has changed, with the popularity of smartphones meaning people are seldom – if ever – offline in the way they were at the turn of the century. This has done much to deconstruct the idea of what an MMO even is, and how it’s played. For example, the global online casino sector may seem like an unlikely successor to the likes of World of Warcraft or Guild Wars, but it has directly built on the social integrations and organizational tools pioneered by those titles and is now home to a thriving online community of aficionados sharing VR-enabled rooms, on-demand tournament rosters and digital slots parlours. What’s more, with the rise of dedicated sites committed to furnishing users with competitive welcome bonuses and offers on deals like free spins for use with hundreds of distinct gaming providers, one can trace a natural path of evolution as to the promotional methods developed in the earliest days of internet MMO gaming to the ultra-connected present.


Persistently Online

Further breaking down the once simple dividing lines between MMOs and other gaming experiences is the fact that most titles now utilise some form of online connectivity in their core design, even if they’re not strictly home to large player arenas. From shared global leaderboards, to life-service content creation and sharing such as that seen in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, there comes the question as to whether ‘MMO’ is even a valuable definition to be employed in 2024 when every game exhibits hybrid-online mechanics.


The Metaverse

Perhaps the true and direct successor to the MMO-experience as pioneered by WoW and its contemporaries is to be found not strictly in the realm of gaming, but in novel approaches to navigating and utilising the internet. The metaverse as conceived of by the likes of Meta and other big tech giants looks, for all intents and purposes, strikingly similar to the social aspects of an MMORPG. This is no accident, with the likes of Second Life having served as a vital bridge between these two worlds in the past. And with open ended games like Roblox and Minecraft furnishing users with experiences nested within larger game worlds populated with thousands of players, perhaps this is where to look for the

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