The Last of the YAFMMORPGsOctober 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.