These are the “Google Trends” search volume stats for “MMO” and “MMORPG” over the last 7 years. While a long-term decline in search volume doesn’t exactly mean that people are losing general interest in MMOs, it shows that the game has certainly changed.
Right now, players flit between 2-5 different free titles at a time, enjoying an MMO for a few months at the most before moving on, or switching back to an old favorite. We’re a very restless generation of online gamers. No one MMO provides the “edge” that we need in all categories.
But like all history, there are rarely such things as “Trends.” Instead, almost all trends are cyclical. I’d never claim that we should extrapolate this data to say that in 10 years time, no one will care about MMOs ever again. But I will throw out a speculative prediction based on nothing but my own opinions.
I’m betting that a few more giants will be released and attain a moderate playerbase, and we’ll see one more massive-scale epic failed launch. Blizzard’s Titan will again redefine the MMO genre, but in a smaller way and a different direction than WoW did. This will be followed by an ocean of largely unsuccessful imitators. MMOs will enter into a very quiet period, becoming smaller and less frequently released. Interest wanes, and non-massive games again become the industry’s goal.
And someday in the distant future, 2020, a critical shift in game design will facilitate the resurgence of the MMO, bringing the cycle full-circle again.
This prediction is purely speculation, but sometimes it’s fun to think about. Thoughts?