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The BIG MMOs and Where They Are

According to Gravity, Ragnarok Online’s publisher, there’s more than 50 million registered user during its peak. Blizzard, the developers of World of Warcraft claimed to have 100 million accounts made in total. For online game titles, those are huge numbers. Considering the fact that in their peak days, those games were subscriber-based games, not free to play like a lot of MMOs that you can find now, it is an amazing feat. However, it begs the question; where are these titles standing now?

According to Google Trends, Google’s way to track the number of searches of a certain topic from 2004 and beyond, here are the results.

The first fact that I would like to mention is that while Ragnarok Online had a headstart of 2 years, being released in August 31st 2002 in Korea, the more popular World of Warcraft has about double the number of registered accounts, being published in the 23rd of November 2004. While these numbers are published from the developers themselves, we have to question how many of those users are active users instead of just one-time players as well as bots.

Another fact that I would love to point out is the fact that their player base is declining, quite quickly. This leaves the once truly Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games lacking in some aspects that were designed during their peak days. Now, the international Ragnarok Online servers have tracked around 720.000 characters in 2017, and World of Warcraft has stopped publishing their subscription counts.

While those numbers are not insignificant numbers on their own, it pales in comparison to the claims that these companies have made, especially during their peak days.  Yours truly would like to share some theories as reasons of why they are declining.

  1. They were just trends.

Flappy birds was a trend for a while, and so were games like Clash of Clans and Minecraft. However, games can only be trending for so long, just like how news can only be exciting for so long. Admittedly, they have attained over half of public’s interest for quite a while. Ragnarok held it for about 4 years before dropping before 50% of its search interest, and World of Warcraft held it for about 3 years with massive fluctuations between expansions. These can only be so fresh for so long until people got bored of them.

  1. They business model was outdated.

By the time that the Free to Play model has been publicized, these games were still stubborn. They were still using the Pay to Play model, hence alienating the audience that they have appealed to years ago when their subscription plan were the cheapest way to play games. By the time Ragnarok Online had switched to Free to Play, it was already too late.

  1. The game updates came too slow.

Game balancing is a nightmare, especially between early game, mid game, late game, and between the demands of millions of players. They simply couldn’t keep up with the demands no matter how many programmers and community managers they hire. It was like delivering a baby in 1 month, you can’t make 9 women pregnant to make a baby in 1 month, you also can’t make a good balance update with 100 programmers if you haven’t  pinned what was wrong in the first place.

Overall, I am quite discontented by the decline of players in these games, as seeing them in their prime is really a sight to behold. Definitely something that you won’t be able to experience now, logging into say… Ragnarok Classic server. However, it doesn’t make the game bad; it changes how the game plays, and while for some people that is a turn-off, I like being able to hunt without being interrupted by a player running from an angry mob of aggressive monsters.

Reference:

Authors:

  • Yogi Udjaja
  • Jeremy Siregar

Published at : Updated
Written By
Yogi Udjaja, S.Kom., M.T.I
SCC - Game Art | School of Computer Science

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