Future of MMO Games

More and more massively multiplayer online (MMO) games are being developed. More and more games extend their brands to cater the MMO market. With the increasing number of fast Internet connections, the market is growing. Indie developers can also jump in the MMO bandwagon using tools such as Multiverse. There are possibilities, but also threats in MMO development. Lord of the Rings Online is quite good example about MMO these opportunities and risks.

I have been following the development of Lord of the Rings Online game. I think it’s quite good example of what happens in the MMO market. First of all there’s strong brand (Lord of the Rings) that has already been used in different game genres. There’s action, strategy, and many other LOTR game types. Now they are extending the brand, and developing a MMO.

LOTRO also has one quite interesting element that has not been seen in AAA budgeted MMO games: pricing. They have the typical “around $10 per month” pricing, but they also have “$200 one time fee”. That’s the first (bigger) MMO game I see using this type of pricing. In the future, I bet we’ll see different other pricing models depending on MMO game: anything from in-game ads to “buy items”.

LOTRO carries one more point that’s been discussed in the public: need to innovate. Some beta testers have criticized that the game is so “typical MMO” that lacks innovation. Some beta testers have said that the game is simply great and that they really love to really get immersed in the world of Tolkien. I don’t know how much there’s innovation, but I’m sure that as more and more MMO games are being developed, there’s need to make sure you have unique advantage over other games. In LOTRO’s case brand is one of the biggest advantages, and if they manage to develop the game in the right direction I’m quite sure they’ll do fine.

Fallout MMO brings another point in the discussion: MMO or not. Some Fallout fans have commented that they “enjoyed playing single player”, and didn’t want to encourage MMO development. Fallout is a strong game brand and I think there’s much potential for it in the MMO field, but there’s also the risk that they are coming late. Destructoid.com reported some interesting comments about Fallout MMO development. They pointed a document that stated Fallout MMO release date to be in year 2010. In 3-4 years the MMO business will be most certainly changed a lot, and I’m afraid they won’t make a hit game unless they create some unique twist in the massively multiplayer genre.

There’s another issue that MMO developers (or the business people, who call the shots whether to develop a game or not) need to take into account: increasing competition. While the market is growing (with the help of raising number of better Internet connections), there’s also growing number of MMO games. The more MMOs are being developed, the more intense the competition. Those late time adopters without unique ideas or established brands will get eaten.

I’ve now said what I think about the future of MMO games (indie opportunities, increased competition, need to be unique, new pricing structures) and would like to hear your comments. Do you have an opinion on MMO gaming? How will you see the future of MMO games, or how would you like to see them in the future?

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. Monthly fee is painful – I don’t know how well in-game ads or “pay-for-products” model could do, but somebody has to pay the costs.

    We’ll see where it will evolve. Investors and developers are talking about this, as we’ve heard in GDC.

  2. I really hope that alternatives to monthly fee will emerge in major MMO game titles. Monthly fee is only justified when you are able to play often enough or the game will offer you content when you’re offline. Otherwise there is a need for online time based pricing alternative.

    For example EVE Online character training happens in real-time, instead of time spent online. Thus, it’s again easier to concentrate on interesting content once you’re playing and not grind on your skill development. Then again WoW badly fails in this respect. It only offers casual gaming content but no reasonable pricing model for it. Used to like it, but now my money goes elsewhere.

  3. i think mmo is definitely the future … as a matter of fact, i dont see
    ANY good reason why would any future game NOT be mmo !!! with more
    and more people having flat rate connections problem of data per hour
    with web-based games will vanish = flash, director, dynamic html content
    will rule for sure ;o)

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