With Amazon Games venturing into the massively multiplayer online games industry, the impact of MMOs on the gaming sector is very topical. In the early 2000s, there was no doubt that the likes of World of Warcraft and RuneScape had the power to take on Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty. Fast-forward 15 years and the perception is that the reach of multiplayer online games is waning. Is there any truth to it or are MMOs as popular as ever? Let’s find out.
Healthy on the Surface
You only have to analyze the statistics to know that the industry is in good health. For example, between 2014 and 2017, it grew by $7 billion. In 2021, the expansion continues at significant levels as projections report that the MMO sector will increase by a CAGR of 9.5% between now and 2025. Not bad for a dying category.
Amazon Games has had a considerable part to play in these figures because one of the reasons players aren’t as engaged is down to a lack of games. When titles are released, they are the ‘latest edition’ of a previous game, meaning the map isn’t entirely novel. Amazon Games changed this with the introduction of New World. New World launched in September 2021, and the numbers reflect the popularity of iconic MMOs when they first hit the scene. For instance, it has an estimated 16 million total players already, 1.6 million of which play daily. Destiny 2 and ROBLOX have fewer, while World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV, and RuneScape are only slightly ahead despite being out for longer.
From this perspective, it’s hard to argue that the sector is struggling to compete with its rivals. As New World has proved, the demand is off the charts if gamers receive what they want.
The Lack of a Social Experience
If you crunch the numbers, you’ll find that they aren’t as impressive as they appear. The $7 billion increase in the market value in 2017, for example, represented an improvement of over 20%. By 2025, it will be less than 10%, which is a decline of more than half. Something is wrong, and the problem centers around the social experience MMOs provided gamers in the early days. Previously, the huge online worlds were packed with people to interact with, adding richness to the gameplay that video game consoles couldn’t match.
However, as technology has improved, two things have happened – competitors have mastered the social element and brought new features to the table that users love. Consider the effect of mobile gaming, for instance, a vertical that wasn’t particularly powerful in 2004. Now, nearly 30% of the world’s population falls under the mobile bracket. It’s not surprising when you consider that gamers can access environments from a range of locations, rather than sitting at a computer desk.
Plus, the technology is strong enough to host games where the maps are as big, if not bigger, than MMOs, such as The Legend of Zelda. With 21st-century gamers wanting to interact mainly with communities they already know – 77% say that video games help them to stay in touch with friends – other sectors have swooped in and appealed to users. Online gambling is an excellent case study since it is now worth billions thanks to mobile gaming software.
But the genre also interests people who no longer put sociability at the forefront of the playing experience as customers can play alone and claim plenty of added value due to the combination of real money casino games and bonuses that operators provide. All they need to do is open an app or connect to the internet, and they are ready to play games like Blood Suckers and Jackpot 6000 and try to reach the jackpot. Yet, MMOs haven’t found ways to negate this social aspect of the industry yet.
MMOs aren’t experiencing growth in the same way they did previously, with different gaming habits eating into the sector’s market share. Still, the overall health of the industry is fine currently, and Amazon Games is showcasing that the demand for MMOs is very high if the game is right.