Breaking news: Games pitched as MMOs are not actually MMOs!

Borderlands is more of an MMO than Global Agenda. It has a bigger “open world”, a longer character progression path, more itemization, more quests, more lore, etc. Both games are limited in how many people can be in one area, both are heavily instanced, and neither game plays anything like Ultima Online or even WoW.

Borderlands never claimed to be an MMO, nor was it ever marketed as one. Global Agenda was (is?), including an attempt to charge a monthly fee at the beginning. Now both games have content you can buy. In GA it’s mostly boosts and fluff, in Borderlands its more quests/areas/stuff.

Had Borderlands been marketed as an MMO, my guess is most would have focused on the justification for the cost/title rather than the actual product. That, IMO, is the biggest issue for GA. It’s simply not an MMO, but when it claims to be, you go into it with certain expectations. And those expectations can easily overshadow the simple fact that hey, what you are playing is actually fun, even if it’s nothing like playing an MMO.

Why a game like GA would call itself an MMO can be attributed to WoW. When some suit sees 12m subs, they go to throw money towards “stuff like that”, and devs looking for cash pitch games like GA as an MMO to get that suits attention and tap into an existing playerbase looking to try anything new called an MMO, real or not. We are going to see similar behavior over the next few years with MOBA titles. Games that play NOTHING like a ‘real’ MOBA game are going to be called MOBA titles simply to catch some of the buzz, and players are going to judge said titles on how close to LoL that game is rather than how much fun they are having.

The one bright spot is that at least LoL is using the ‘right’ version of F2P, and if me-too games copy that part of the business, they won’t have to deal with justifying a $15 a month fee.

And on the MMO front, one can only hope that those titles who continue to charge a monthly fee do so because they CAN justify the cost. While my feelings about Rift’s design direction are well known, I will give Trion a lot of credit for actually supporting the game like an MMO should be supported; with frequent updates and a plan that goes deeper than some minor tweaks or a breadcrumb of content every few months.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in DoTA, Global Agenda, League of Legends, Mass Media, MMO design, Random, Rant, Rift, RMT, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Breaking news: Games pitched as MMOs are not actually MMOs!

  1. MMOCrunch says:

    I completely agree, it seems everyone wants to call their game a MMO these days regardless of what it actually is and it seems online FPS are the worst offenders of this.

  2. Epic.ben says:

    Devil’s advocate: is World of Tanks an MMO?

    • SynCaine says:

      Is LoL?

      No, it’s not an MMO. It’s actually less of an MMO than GA. I think they pretend to call it an MMO so they can run those super-cheesy banner ads with the tank blowing up the orc. Very Evony of them really.

  3. bhagpuss says:

    I’ve been toying around with Dragon Nest since I saw some screenshots that took my fancy. It’s an enjoyable game, a lobby-based online RPG with really good design values and a quirky, amusing style. It’s fun to dip into for an hour or two.

    I came across it on an MMO site where it has been heavily advertised but as far as I can tell it’s not an MMO. Lots of games I find from MMO sites don’t appear to be what I’d call MMOs. On the other hand, I don’t visit any other type of gaming sites (well, an old-school adventure game one now and again, maybe) and I have little interest in games or gaming outside of MMOs.

    So, I agree with you that MMO as a tag is being diluted and losing its meaning, but I’m not sure that’s necessarily a bad thing. If I get lured into things I like but otherwise would never try because they have been mis-marketed as MMOs I don’t have any real reason to complain.

  4. Drew says:

    Question: Do you foresee a situation where Riot might offer a subscription to LoL similar to what Turbine does for DDO/LOTRO? Paying a flat-fee to get access to all champions, for example, with a small points stipend each month? I think there’s probably a market for that, I just wonder what the right price point would be.

    • SynCaine says:

      I don’t, only because I think they stand to make way more money selling things one-off.

      I also thing giving someone access to all champions might have bad in-game results, with people playing a ton of new champions and generally not playing well.

      Notice that the 450IP champs are generally easy to learn, and that Riot limits the rotation to 10 champs a week.

  5. Nils says:

    It seems if a game is multiplayer and online it’s an MMO. And the fact these are are usually not massive, is really not my point ;)

  6. Dril says:

    The problem is not that people call their games an MMO.

    The problem is that if I call my go-kart a V8 GT Supercar and sell it as such, not only could I possibly be sued for false advertising but the press would ridicule me.

    In lieu of an actual definition of “MMO,” people are free to say whatever the hell they want because no one will take any legal action whatsoever, and gaming “journalists” will call anything an MMO so that they can keep their nicey-nice relationship with the devs and get more profit.

  7. epic.Ben says:

    Maybe it’s time to start using “MMORPG” again, to separate the “traditional” MMO like WOW, from the MMOMOBA and MMO-Whatever-WOT is types of games?

  8. Well, clearly the words that make up the acronym can be twisted to mean what you want them to mean. Online is a pretty broad term, and multiplayer seems almost redundant when stuck with online, though I know there have been single player online games.

    And massive? That is pretty much open for interpretation.

    And none of the words, even if you append “RPG” to them (another can of worms, that), imply what I think most of us mean, which is a shared, persistent, virtual world of some sort.

    I think we need us a new identifier.

  9. epic.Ben says:


    Massively Multiplayer Roleplaying Game In a Persistent World Setting That Supports Thousands of Players

    I tried.

    • Stabs says:

      OK, what about instances. Can a game with instances be a MMO since they are not persistent and not in the world? If so then you get a definition that a MMO is a game part of which may be played in a virtual world.

      So to DDO. That is a game played entirely in instances except for a cityscape that is merely a glorified lobby. Is that a MMO?

      So to Diablo 2. I’ve played Diablo 2 with thousands of different players. When I progress past an Act Boss or difficulty level I keep my progress. Is that a MMO?

      • You might as well throw Guild Wars into that mix. Areanet never pitched it as an MMO, but players dragged it into the mix all the same since it sorta feels about the same… when you’re in town at least.

        But yes, you bring up good points. I would lean towards yes for DDO and no for D2, if only because the universally shared space in D2 is only a chat room. But who knows about Diablo III.

        I once suggested that the defining characteristic of an MMO was the ability to turn off the UI for screen shots. (Which supports my DDO vs. D2 decision above.)

        Any other goofy aspects we could look at for a decision?

      • SynCaine says:

        I think that was one of the main ‘issues’ with DDO, it was not really the MMO everyone hoped from the D&D IP.

        You can still have ‘open’ instances, and those fit nicely into an MMO when used correctly. The closed, 5-man only, create as many as you need, style instances are a step away from a virtual world.

  10. Azuriel says:

    “Why a game like GA would call itself an MMO can be attributed to WoW. When some suit sees 12m subs, they go to throw money towards “stuff like that”, and devs looking for cash pitch games like GA as an MMO to get that suits attention and tap into an existing playerbase looking to try anything new called an MMO, real or not.”

    Well… yes and no. Subscription is the holy grail of revenue streams, but that is largely because you end up having to pay to continue playing the game at all, regardless of content or lack thereof. What other type of game could justify a subscription? Only MMOs. WoW gets a lot of community goodwill for “free” content patches, but six months between them means each one costs $90. I don’t think these companies go the “sorta an MMO” route because of WoW’s success per se, but because that is the only way to justify the subscription model.

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