A World of Worlds

Something that has always interested me are Massively Multiplayer Online games, or MMOs.

MMOs have been around for almost 30 years now, if you count text-based MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons.) They are unique in the space of gaming in that the core gameplay experience relies solely upon a player’s ability to interact with other live, human players in a virtual space. What makes them so much fun is that when you introduce the human element, whether playing cooperatively or competitively, there is a dynamic range of gameplay possibilities that is not present when playing with or against a preprogrammed computer AI (artificial intelligence.)

Today, MMOs have come a long way. Ultima Online and Everquest launched MMO gaming into the mainstream with (for the time) amazing graphics and huge worlds to explore. Both games are still being played by thousands even today. Games like Dark Age of Camelot, Lineage, and Star Wars Galaxies changed the rules of how these games can be played, adding player-on-player combat and player-built cities. Today, World of Warcraft has redefined what an MMO can be, exploding onto the pop culture radar with more than 11 million active subscribers worldwide. If you Google search its acronym (WoW) you will find it at the top of the list. Its ease of use, fantastic 3D animation, customizable user interface, breathtakingly beautiful visual style and consistent service have made it the number one MMO since it debuted almost four years ago. It has totally revolutionized the genre and (in my opinion) is almost single-handedly keeping PC gaming afloat.

Because of games like WoW, MMO gaming is quickly becoming one of the most popular (and most lucrative) genres out there. Even “indie” MMOs like MapleStory, which is free to play, have found their niche by catering to a younger crowd living on an allowance that, while it may not be steady enough to support a monthly subscription, can pay for the occasional purchasable character upgrade. These games are now a huge part of the world’s economy, and I think it is important for businesses to keep an eye on this space. Now, you have to have more than just simple player interactions to have an engaging and entertaining MMO — now, we are in the business of building worlds.