My feelings on the “MMO Big Five”

I’ve noticed that among the larger MMO community these days — mostly on Reddit — that there’s this tiering of MMORPGs, especially when it comes to labeling the “Big Four” or “Big Five” titles that seem to be getting most of the discussion and play. I don’t necessarily agree that these titles are the most popular or successful, just that there’s this perception that they are so. For example, RuneScape may well be doing better than at least two other MMOs on this list, but it doesn’t get that much respect among the wider community.

In any case, I thought it’d be a fun exercise to go through the Big Five, such as they were, and give my current thoughts and attitudes toward each.

(1) Elder Scrolls Online

Let’s start with the one title on this list I’m actually playing. ESO had a rocky start but really started to turn things around with the One Tamriel update, console launch, housing, and expansions. Aside from the lackluster action combat and class design, there’s so much to see and do in this world that I keep getting impressed all over again every night. I like being able to play at the pace I want following whichever quest lines I want, and for the most part, I’m content just to wander around taking screenshots. Also, I want to be a Necromancer SO BAD.

(2) World of Warcraft

I won’t lie: I think about going back every now and then. But Battle for Azeroth ended up being such a bland disappointment that I have a hard time mustering enthusiasm for the current expansion and endgame. Maybe one of these days I’ll reroll — perhaps on a fresh server — and there’s always the outside possibility that WoW Classic will get a post or two from me this summer. Now a WoW Progression Server? That’d be totally up my alley!

(3) Final Fantasy XIV

Aside from being slightly irked that fans consider this a game which can Do No Wrong (even when it clearly stumbles from time to time as all MMOs do), FFXIV earns my admiration at an arm’s length. You’ve seen me try and go back a few times, and while there are some nice parts, the slooooow pace of the story, the character models, and the reheated content delivery system leaves me feeling agnostic toward it. However, I am glad its community is getting a lot of fun with its upcoming expansion, so you all go and enjoy that.

(4) Guild Wars 2

Out of all these games, the subscription-free GW2 is the easiest to jump into without worrying about much of a time commitment aside from churning through the boring and needlessly difficult episodes. I still love the world exploration, the class design, the visuals, and the character options (including wardrobe!). However, I’m starting to get a little more than worried that this game may not have as strong of a future, what with ArenaNet’s rocky 2018, its very slow pace of content, and the lack of communication from the devs.

(5) Star Wars: The Old Republic

SWTOR is the title that may or may not belong on this list depending on who you ask, but it still has a pretty high profile. It’s still trying to recover from the damaged caused by the Eternal Throne expansions, and I think a lot of former fans — myself included — are in a holding pattern until we see what BioWare really wants to do with this. If a solid-looking expansion is announced for 2019 or something that’ll inject some excitement back into this game, I’ll probably be back.

2 thoughts on “My feelings on the “MMO Big Five”

  1. bhagpuss February 22, 2019 / 9:39 am

    You had this pre-written and scheduled before yesterday’s shock anouncement at ArenaNet, I’m guessing. It is sobering to think that what many people do indeed think of as one of the top five current MMOs in the West is actually in such a difficult situation. That said, the problem seems to be the resources and money ANet have *not* been directing GW2’s way rather than an endemic problem with the game itself. It’s possible that the cull will eventually act in GW2’s favor, although I’m not holding my breath.

    Since we don’t ever get any real numbers, most of what any of us say about the popularity and success of specific MMOs is guesswork. If I had to pick five right now, though, I’d swap yout SW:tOR for Black Desert, which seems to have become by far the most accepted of all the Eastern imports. I also think both Neverwinter and DCUO get less attention than they might because a large portion of their success is on consoles not PC.

    I do think the recent Blizzard and especially ANet layoffs say something about our perceptions of large and small studios, too. We always talk about the big numbers, how many people are playing, how many devs are employed, how much money’s coming in. Perhaps we should be looking at how much an MMO is taking in per customer account or how much profit it makes per developer working on it. Maybe some of the smaller games are actually more stable, financially, because they have something like the right amount of resources to service their customer-base, rather than bloating out and blowing up.

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