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Are smaller MMOs the future of online gaming?

There’s been some discussion as of late about the degradation of the MMO label and the virtues of smaller, persistent online RPGs that are on the rise in the gaming space. The thrust of the discussion is that while full-fledge MMORPGs are long in coming and new ones haven’t been that successful lately in establishing a foothold, more agile “micro-MMOs” are able to get an audience and provide players with that MMO feel even if there are fewer people on a map or in a particular instance.

I can see the logic behind this. It’s certainly more difficult to build a massively multiplayer space than it is a game that supports 20 people on a single shard. And titles like Valheim, Path of Exile, Guild Wars 1, ARK, and Fallout 76 have shown that there can be community, persistence, and progression with a more limited population.

I’m not against those games, just as how I’m not against single-player games. If they’re high quality and provide that social interaction, then I can see the appeal. But I still advocate for MMORPGs over them for a few reasons.

First, those limitations are, well, limiting. I’m not a big fan of playing on private servers, which is what a lot of these survival titles tend to use. I don’t like only encountering the presence or voice of one or two people during a journey. If you have a group of friends dedicated to gaming together, then these smaller servers can be perfect. But if you like to venture into online worlds to make friends there, then you’ve suddenly got a much smaller pool of available points of social interaction.

Second, while smaller online RPGs can specialize and be really great at a few things, they’re giving up a broader appeal and feature set — and that’s still really important to me. My engagement with MMOs tends to be far longer than other titles because there’s more variety of activities and a world that’s (usually) still being added onto. I make homes in MMOs — I can’t really say that about most multiplayer or single-player titles I’ve played. Not saying it’s exclusive or impossible, just that it doesn’t tend to happen that way.

I also worry that these smaller multiplayer games aren’t really there for the long haul the way that MMO studios aim to approach their games. Sure, the latter can dry up and studios shut them down, but if they go the distance, they really go the distance. Whereas, Ubisoft ditches The Division for The Division 2, The Crew for The Crew 2, and so on. Again, there are exceptions. No Man’s Sky certainly has been doing great keeping the updates going and going.

The field of gaming is certainly wide enough to allow for all kinds of games, and there is no need to champion one as THE type to rule them all. I simply want good games, period, and I’ll try to keep an open mind as online gaming shifts and morphs into the future.

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