The Last of the YAFMMORPGs

October 30, 2008

Looking ahead to 2009 and beyond, in terms of MMOs, it kind of struck me: all of the major upcoming MMOs with growing hype and massive IP potential… few to none of them are in the fantasy genre, which is downright amazing to me. For as long as I’ve been following MMOs, fantasy has been the bedrock staple of the field, dominating all with sheer numbers and subscriber dollars: Ultima Online, Everquest, Asheron’s Call, Dark Age of Camelot, World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, Guild Wars, Runescape, Lineage, Vanguard, Dungeon Runners, Age of Conan, WAR. In fact, in the already cutthroat world of MMOs, making a non-fantasy title prior to now was tantamount to taking a bath: Anarchy Online struggled severely, Auto Assault tanked, EVE’s had a long road to respectability, Star Wars Galaxies hemmoraged players like nobody’s business after NGE, and CoH thrived probably because it had zero competition in the superhero MMO genre.

And now, now what are we looking at? Stargate Worlds. The Agency. Champions Online. DC Universe Online. Star Trek Online. Star Wars: The Old Republic. Jumpgate Evolution. Warhammer 40K. Probably whatever Blizzard is developing next, too. It feels as though we’ve finally come to a crossroads where companies willing to shell out mondo bucks to develop a MMO don’t even want to bother with the once highly-desirable fantasy market. It’s done, played, tapped out — at least for now. Innovation and revolution in this industry aren’t merely confined to mechanics and features, but also in the genres themselves.

While I’m sure triple-A YAFMMORPGs — Yet Another Fantasy Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games — aren’t dead and gone like silent film, I have a feeling they’re going to be going into hibernation for a good long time. Really, why not? It’s not as if we’re lacking options on the fantasy front, and our current crop of fantasy titles have projected lifespans that could extend well into the 2010’s, if not the 2015’s.

(Okay, for those Guild Wars 2 people out there having a spastic fit… even with that very under-hyped title on the horizon, you have to admit there isn’t much else coming. You really going to go to bat for Darkfall being some sort of massive sleeper hit? Chronicles of Spellborn?)

So it made me pause and look at WAR as one of the last Big Boys of this generation’s YAFMMORPGs, one that has legs to carry it for a long while alongside of the other fantasy titles, both great and small. It made me wonder if the 2009 launch timing wasn’t one of the most fortuitous events for Mythic, as right now its main competition is against fantasy cousins (or perhaps shifty-eyed stepbrothers) instead of looking like a relic from a MMO past going up against the wave of different genre MMOs from the future.



  1. I have said it time and time again. PlanetSide was THE best MMOFPSRPG (rpg only becasue you could kinda make a unique character…) ever created and people seem to sleep on it. There hasn’t been any other MMOFPS that made it as far as PlanetSide has and EVERYONE who played PS wish, hope, and pray that one day someone somewhere will create PlanetSide 2. Adding BFR’s to PS killed it for most of us. If we wanted to play Battle Tech, then we would be playing Battle Tech…

    Syp, Please give PS an honorable mention! πŸ™‚

  2. wow 2

  3. What’s your take on Tabula Rasa?

    I didn’t see it listed in your post, Syp, but it’s a sci-fi MMO. Is Lord British the early-adopter of this genre?

  4. “wow 2”

    No, Blizz said they aren’t working on an other warcraft mmo. I see this next year has the begining of a new age of mmos. We will she fantasy mmos go slowly in decline and I think it’s a welcome change. We’re going to see a new WoW type hit in about 5-6 years and the cycle will start once again, back to fantasy.

    The circle of mmos!

  5. Frankly, I’d have no problem seeing fantasy MMOs shelved for a decade or so. It happened with film in the eighties when studios exhausted that whole pseudo-sword-and-sorcery genre with everything from the Conan films to Excalibur to Dragonslayer to Beastmaster.

    It was slim pickings through most of the nineties, until the last ten years gave birth to quality fantasy thanks to the likes of Peter Jackson, the Narnia films, and the Rowling adaptations.

  6. Tabula Rasa was a flop and probably won’t last much longer. Hellgate London is closing shop and I see T.R. heading that route as well w/ in the next year. You can buy T.R. for $5 now…

  7. I think the only thing that could pull me from WAR is WAR40K (and maaaaaybe Star Wars: Old Republic if it turns out to be a hit).

    I just dont see anything else comming that will have what I want (RVR).

  8. Don’t forget about other quality movies such as ‘Hawk: The Slayer’!

    I agree that the fantasy market seems to have its cycles. I *hope* that the fantasy MMO is done for a little while…and that gamers settle in to a few good ones and create a community that can hold out until something great comes along again.

    Tabula Rasa seemed really devoid of life, in my opinion. There were plenty of NPC’s around, but something felt a little hollow. Has anyone else played TR and felt like that?

  9. I agree there’s been too much, too fast. I will still be trying out Chronicles of Spellborn and possibly Darkfall if it ever makes it to the States. Spellborn launches in late Novemeber in Europe.

  10. ‘Copernicus’ by 38 Studios is likely to be a pretty big deal.

  11. Carbine Studios seems to be making a quasi-Fantasy MMO, and 38Studios’ Copernicus will likely be the same. We’re not quite done yet with the theme of Fantasy. It just might stray a bit from Orcs and Elves for a while. πŸ˜‰

  12. The only fantasy MMO I’ve been following for a while is Aion. I’ve heard next to bugger all about GW2 although that is also supposedly next year.

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