Stop Calling Every Online Game a MMO!

This is an open letter to the gaming industry.

Dear Gaming Industry,

Please stop calling every online game you make a MMO. I’m not sure if you know what that means so allow me to tell you. It stands for Massive Multiplayer Online with the keyword being “massive”, that’s very important. You see when someone sees a game being advertised as massive, that person gets the impression that thousands of players will be able to game and interact together in one world or place. Now listen carefully because this is the most important part, it has to be at the same time.

I know this must come as quite a shock to you, but it’s true.  You’re probably saying to yourself, “wow, that’s a lot of people!” and you’re right, but this is why they’re called massive multiplayer online games, because they are indeed massive.

Now, I want to make sure you’re clear as to what that means, so below I’ve listed a few important rules that can be used as checkpoints so you can correctly determine if your game is a MMO or not.

  • If your game has a limit to the number of players that can enter at one time and that number is less than a thousand. Your game is not a MMO.

MMOFPSs tend to be the primary abuser of this rule, but it also happens with other genres as well. You see if only 8, 16, 32 or even 100 players can join a game at one time, then it is not massive. Remember, around a thousand players is the magic number. This is more commonly called an online multiplayer game.

  • If the whole game is instanced and the only place where players can see each other or interact with are within towns, then your game is not a MMO.

Since the only place where people can see each other, chat and interact with are in towns, then these towns act as a hub or chat room. The actually game is played in small groups or solo, which again means your game is not massive. Think of it this way, if you log onto BattleNet to play Diablo, you can chat with tens of thousands of players, but when you go into the actual game, only a dozen or so can enter due to the fact that every game is instanced. Your game is the same thing, except your using a “town” as the chat room.

I hope this letter has better explained to you what a MMO game is and hopefully in the future you will start to label your games correctly.

Mike @ MMOCrunch


  1. Bravo.

    Todays so-called mmorpg’s, a term first introduced and coined by Richard Garriott with Ultima Online, are nothing more than inorgaic repetitive cooperative online multiplayer games that are void of player interactivity, influence and replayability.

    They are not virtual worlds (examples being AoC, WAR, STO, and seen with SWTOR) where people concurrently play in the same world, but where people play in a controlled pve lobby, funneled down a linear path of quest hubs as they redundantly perform the same pve kill 10 rats mini-game ad nauseam, as they queue for an instanced 8v8 shoe-box third-person shooter match of attack/defend.

    The vast majority of today’s mmorpg’s are shallow attempts at ‘massively-multiplayer’, void of organic activities accomplished by players whose activities in a world should leave a trail which can be adopted, shared, lost or impact someone else’s trail or activity in that virtual world in a cooperative and competitive means.

    The vast majority of today’s so-called mmorpg’s are also emphasized with Linear Content that expires once completed, of which the most obvious examples being raids, dungeons, and quests. There’s some minimal replay value, but it diminishes rapidly, and players demand more Content and Features. More organic Content and features, otherwise these studios will continue to see ~70% of box purchasers to said supposed mmorpg’s cancel their subscriptions, beginning at 3-months, then 6-months post commercialization. It’s been happening like clock-work for several years. It has turned the vast majority of mmorpg consumers into CORPG Nomads as they jump from one game to the next.

    This doesn’t necessarily mean that a mmorpg has to be a pure sandbox or have to be a PvP sandbox such as EVE’s, because the sandbox can be cooperative, as seen in A Tale in the Desert. Sure, some traditional content is inevitable in almost every game, but the game-play emphasis mechanics, content and features has to focus back on the community and players in a sandboxy way. So, getting back to it’s roots will only stop calling-out these games for what they really are; limited replayable Cooperative Online RPG’s.

  2. You see when someone sees a game being advertised as massive, that person gets the impression that thousands of players will be able to game and interact together in one world or place.

    For what point? In the screen shot, are they interacting, or just seeing a muddle of blue names? How is it important to have a bunch of people idling on a bridge or whatever?

    And if its around a thousand people and WOW end game involves instances of around 40 people or less, what does that make of WOW?

    And the screen shot seems to contain around 200 players, anyway.

  3. The point is that all those players can affect each others game play experience. You don’t necessarily have to be grouping with a thousand players at the same time to be massive, only that they’re there.

    Sure Raid are instanced and limited to a few players, but those are only a very small portion of the game, the rest of the time your in a persistent world with thousands of other player who can affect your gaming experience in a positive or negative way.

    The image didn’t really have any point to the letter, only to show a bunch of players in one screenshot.

  4. I agree! I get so annoyed when people call Guild Wars an MMO. It’s an lobby game where the lobby is a town!

    WoW is an MMO because it has a massive persistant world. I agree most MMOs use a lot of instancing now, but it does help the experience not having to fight over dungeons.

    Can you imagine if WoW dungeons and raids were not instanced? woah…

  5. MMO Multi Massive Online (Any game multiple connections communicating with each other.) RPG (Role play game. Any game you are not you. Even Tank commanders is a RPG as none of oyu are tank commanders durring ww2, in a make believe field).

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