The Future of the MMORPG Genre

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In the previous articles, we looked at the MMORPGs currently sitting on the top of the pile, while also looking at those which are close to launch. However, the MMORPG genre is still expanding, and there are a lot of MMORPGs further in the future which are attempting to find their own niches in the market. Are games like World of Warcraft safe from possible dethronement in the short term? The answer is probably yes, but the real question is... for how long? This article hopes to uncover the methods that some companies are now looking toward implementing in order to keep the genre original and fresh.

World of Warcraft has been quite established as a franchise for some time now. While its end is not going to come in the foreseeable future, Blizzard clearly aren't willing to place all their eggs into one basket anymore. They've stated that at this year's Blizzcon, there will be an MMO announcement and it's currently shrouded in secrecy. It's unlikely to be a sequel to World of Warcraft, and most rumours are hinting towards a venture into the StarCraft universe. It would be nice to see an entirely new fresh approach to the genre, but with Blizzard being as a keen and as in touch as they are with their fans, it's likely they'll be unveiling something quite special.

As previously pointed out, a sequel isn't always the best approach to MMORPGs. However, many companies have used this approach already or are planning to: Lineage, Guild Wars and Ragnarok Online to name but a few. It's a somewhat successful strategy, but it can be quite problematic. Attempting to move players from one game to the other often proves taxing, as players don't necessarily want to part with their characters, only to start again from scratch.

Thus we arrive at the latest addition and announcement to the MMORPG genre, Final Fantasy XIV. Announced at E3, Final Fantasy XIV was a prominent part of Sony's Press Conference, as they stated it will be coming out on PlayStation 3 exclusively. This has since been cleared up, and Square Enix have confirmed it will also be coming to the PC, with other platforms being investigated. It may look like a direct sequel to Final Fantasy XI, due to similar races and creatures, but the gameplay will be completely different. Square Enix came into the MMO genre with lots of innovation, and they are looking to do the same thing again, while implementing what they've learnt from Final Fantasy XI.

Then there are also titles like The Secret World that are trying to implement completely different ideas. The developers, Funcom, are looking to set their game not in a fantasy realm, but in reality. Because of this, they are looking to have a strong emphasis on the supernatural, while also focusing on the possiblity of time travel and it's these kind of ideas that will help to keep the genre fresh moving forward.

It's hard to say how successful any of these methods will be. One thing's for certain as far as transitions from one MMO to another go, players will be very unwilling to give up on the amount of time they invested in previous titles so easily. However, for those that haven't really got very far in a game, and haven't invested much time, they may just find what they've been waiting for.


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