Tobold's Blog
Friday, October 21, 2011
The decline of interest in MMORPGs

Spinks ponders the long dark winter of the MMO, the idea that the MMORPG genre is past its prime and entered a phase of decline. The idea is interesting, but a discussion of the subject risks to be highly subjective. It is extremely difficult to determine whether somebody thinks that MMORPGs are in decline based on an observation of facts, or whether that person simply burned out himself and mistakes his declining interest with a general decline. What we would need is something more than subjective impressions and anecdotal evidence. We need data. Fortunately in this case this isn't all that hard, because Google Insights provides data on the decline of interest in MMORPGs.

Basically Google offers a service which gives you the history of how often a given keyword has been searched for. The interest in MMORPGs went up from 2004 to 2009, and declined since then by 45%. The peak of the hype for World of Warcraft was in 2005, but it still has more searches than Star Wars: The Old Republic. I am aware of these numbers because the reader numbers of my blog also declined. I'm still not doing badly compared with other MMORPG bloggers (and I'm still the top search result for "MMORPG blog" on both Google and Bling (US)), but the trend is definitively downwards since the peak in 2008. Measured in daily blog visitors instead of search engine searches, I went from 3,000 visitors a day down to 2,000. Even the interest in blood elf porn is down by half. :)

So, yes, I do think we have sufficient data to suggest that the general interest in the MMORPG genre is declining, in spite of the games still to come. While the reasons for that are open to discussion, I do believe that a certain stagnation is most probably to blame. I once discussed the "possibility space", that is how wide a range of different features and game mechanics a game could have while still being considered a MMORPG. And compared to that possibility space, the majority of existing MMORPGs of the last decade are all huddled together in one tiny corner. Whether you label that corner "EQ clones", "WoW clones", or "themepark MMORPGs" isn't important. But it is obvious that at the end of the decade the interest in minor variations of the same theme is in decline. And I don't think that adding light sabers to the same old formula will change that. I have no idea what game it would take (Guild Wars 2? Titan?) to revive that interest again. It is possible that MMORPGs are taking the same path into decline as let's say trading card games. People seem to be more interested in Facebook games these days, even if the interest in any particular game dies quickly.

Or maybe the MMORPG term is being phased out by MMO?
Well, even the term MMO shows a decline, just not as clearly. And you are less sure what the meaning of MMO is. For all I know there was a sudden spike of interest in Mixed Metal Oxides.
The term's been diluted considerably, too; there are lots of games around that call themselves MMO or even MMORPG that we don't consider such.
Well looking at the insights graph, 2008/9 seems very is also the time where we were bombarded with MMO launches. There were actually new and fresh MMOs coming out within a very short ( 6 month ) period.

Compare this to 2011 . About the only thing that happened this year is Rift. 2010 was equally dry with mostly existing games simply switching to F2P .

Even if half the games that came out in 2008 flopped, the fact of the matter is, we had a ton of new options to talk we're left talking about MMOs that are 5+ years old...

I am 100% certain if SWTOR,Guildwars 2, Secret World and even Diablo 3 all launch 2012 (or end 2011), there will be alot of chatter going on in MMO-world. (and yes D3 is going to count as an MMO as far as i'm concerned) .
Yes, Gary. For example World of Tanks calls itself a MMO. I wasn't suggesting that multiplayer online games in general are in decline, only the kind you would consider a MMORPG.
Try with "world of warcraft".
Huh, Loque? The link to the Google Insights search on "world of warcraft" (compared with "star wars the old republic") is already in my post, and commented.
Feels to me like MOBAs are the new black.

Heroes of Newerth, DOTA 2, World of Tanks/Planes/Boats, League of Legends, Rise of Immortals, now we've got Warhammer Online getting its own MOBA version and Trion's new End of Nations is looking very similar. All these are generating more noise in the MMO space I frequent.

...Which is a pity for me, because I'm not a huge fan of that game style.
The "scary" thing about the decline, if you are rather attached to the concept of MMOs, is how it is entirely possible that the people who burn out may never return. It is clear that WoW was millions of players' first MMO, and it is equally possible it will be their last once they burn out from it.

I plan to try SWTOR and/or GW2, but I can tell you now that I won't be as addicted to either one as I was with WoW. That phase of my life is over, and I'll be damned if I get sucked into game to the extent of running dungeons/grinding rep for years on end again.
I wonder if google keeps metastatistics giving insight into what people search google insight for...
Very interesting post, as always.

For a long time, MMO/MMORPG was for the masses synonymous to WoW.

So when Blizzard calls in the Foo Fighters, you know the writing's on the wall...
I think that people are just burnout in MMO's and thus the Decline. I am also in Decline about MMORPG cause I got burnout but that doesn't mean that I am interesting to play an MMOFPS or MMORTS or anything else, like sims e.t.c.

I will make a break and I am waiting the next generation of MMORPG's to go through gaming again..Also most of the people left the games are people that they are interesting more in simulation and virtual worlds but all the MMORPG now are leaning towards moba style games.

A lot of top - MMORPG are coming in near future , such as Guild Wars 2, SWTOR, Teara online, Archeage that will bring back lot of people.Wow had a perfect balance of Simulation/Virtual - Game in vanilla and early TBC and thus why it was it is a moba game mostly and lost the people that liked simulation/virtual world.

As Blizzard said there are more people that have played wow and left than people that currently play wow..that mean a pack1 of players left and pack2 of players inserted. Pack1 is still searching for an MMORPG that will focus in simulation/Virtual World cause they are the traditional RPG players.
I made posts about this in the past. I, too, think that the interest in MMOs is declining. The reasons are very easy to be found.

About Eve on you other blog post: I think CCP going bankrupt is a definite possibility. Unfortunately. That GUI is just too dated to attract any amount of new players.

About SW:TOR, I still think that it is going to be a grand success - financially. That doesn't mean that I approve their WoW+story approach.
For all I know there was a sudden spike of interest in Mixed Metal Oxides.
Then Google is doing an extraordinarily bad job in finding relevant pages about Mixed Metal Oxides, because the first few search result pages and all related searches are about games. Even the Wikipedia search result lists the MMOG page right after the disambiguation page.

I know it isn't the same thing, but that's like arguing about cracker vs. hacker or GNU/Linux vs. Linux; Common usage will override any semantic difference.
My first mmorpg, WoW was great fun.

But everything after failed to keep me interested for more than two months.

Yes, we need some really new ideas. Hopefully Blizzards next MMORPG will be sufficiently different from WoW to bring back the sense of amazement at seeing how the world unfolds.
Your graph from Google Insight changes a lot when you use 'greedy goblin' (the actual name of the blog) compared to Gevlon which most people don't search by...
Analysing my own feelings I find I have no real regrets about the decline of mmorpgs as a genre but I will shed a tear if EVE closes its doors. I have always felt that New Eden was the fullest implementation of a virtual world that we have seen, the closest thing to a real "Cyberspace". While EVE has many flaws it was the one virtual world that somehow felt it could be more than just a game.

On a more positive note the decline of one form of entertainment is often the precursor to the rise of something new and unexpected. Perhaps there is something exciting out there to look forward to. I for one don't buy the argument that gamers will be satisfied with the current crop of Iphone and Facebook games.
I have always thought of myself as a gamer first and an mmorpger second. I guess that makes it easier for me to contemplate the end of mmorpgs.

I get the impression that a lot of your readers are mmorpgers first and other forms of games second if at all.

How does such a person view the impeding demise of mmorpgs?
Are you considering re-branding your blog then? Tobold's MMO blog, or Online Gaming blog perhaps?
I don't think that a declining interest of everybody else will lead to me rebranding my blog. Only if I personally lost all interest in MMORPGs would that be necessary, and that is not yet the case. I'm perfectly willing to write a blog for a much smaller audience.
I'm fairly old, and grew up before personal computers. Back then, we played paper-and-cardboard games. Remember SPI, Avalon-Hill, GDW, and the like? They had entire conventions devoted to that stuff.

The market for those wargames is a tiny fraction of what it was at the peak. Classes of games really do shrivel up and blow away when macro forces dictate it.
i have been playing mmos since 2004 and have never ONCE typed mmorpg into google.
Did my comment on this thread go into your spam filter, or did you intentionally not approve it?
Try "ftp mmo" or "ftp mmorpg".

Interest in MMOs in general may be declining, but interest in ftp MMOs is as high as it's ever been.
I couldn't care less if interest in MMO(RPG)s is declining. There are already literally hundreds of them. The tools to make them are becoming much cheaper and more widely available.

There will be more than enough MMOs for all of us to play for the rest of our lives. Enough with the doom and gloom, already.
I am waiting on the next iteration of MMORPGs, out of Korea "Blade & Soul" from NCSOFT has caught my eye as possibly having some new concepts being added.

The Secret World is also getting alot of press recently, but looks like it might be more of the same old formula.
For one, I honestly believe that the steady line shown by Google about ''mmorpg mmo'' keywords is more evident than anything else. How do I reconcile that with the downwards trend of the games terms? Because it is entertainment, games. There is no reason to remain loyal to a game, so a new game or game type will always seem better. I believe that gamers have reached a balance point about general MMO games. UO may have been the grandfather of the modern MMOG, but just because it is an MMORPG does not mean that everything much be an MMORPG. When Doom came out it was all everyone played. How many people play Doom clones now? Poeple have moved on because there are so many more things to occupy their time and attention, be it fashion (everyone plays that game), preference (I just can't fathom playing anything other than EVE) or genuine interest in the genre (I needs me my RPG), MMOGs are evolving and the RPG is just one of them that will take it's normal balance point with it's proper audience that actually LIKES it (instead of going there for lack of choice or social pressure).
I think people are just becoming disillusioned with MMORPGs as a whole. I remember back in 1999, reading in game magazines about UO and upcoming MMORPGs, I imagined living "another life in another world". Fast forward to now, and MMORPGs turned out to be mostly a collection of mindless grinds, farmvillesque psychological tricks and cooperative arcade games. Probably not what most people expect when they first hear about them.
Dudes, no, mmorpgs will be around forebeaaar! Maybe they will not be as big as when they were new and hip but guess what.... thats basically how EVERYTHING works in out society. Case in point, Zombies... Zombies were a massive draw in the 70's early 80s, then they just kind of died, (LOL) Well ya we all know that they are back. They will die again, and come back, society much like individuals, go through phases. It's the way of the world.
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