Last Updated on September 14, 2020 by Scott Krager
Thanks to a large number of successful games under its belt, WoW, for example, MMO has become a really popular gaming genre.
But that was not the case earlier. Unlike some other genres, like FPS, the history of MMO games isn’t as straight forward as it seems. In this post, we’ll talk a look at the history of this genre, and how these games have come this far.
Early “Big-Three” MMO Games
Although many believe Zork as the first MMO game, the first one that can be truly called an MMO game was the game called Ultima Online. Released in 1997, it was a role-playing game set-up in the Ultima universe, where players can choose different types of characters.
Initially, the publishers weren’t too enthusiastic when Richard Garriott (a game developer who incidentally coined the term MMORPG) first proposed the idea of an online game with multiplayer support. But after the successful release, this game lead to a whole new genre of games that continue till now.
Apart from Ultima Online, there are two other games that become popular in early-age of MMO games: Everquest and Asheron’s Call. Everquest was released in 1999 and won Game of the Year award by GameSpot.
Since its concept was borrowed from the earlier MUDs (Multi-user dungeons) many people think of it as the 3-D rendering of those text-based MUD.
Asheron’s call, on the other hand, was based on the island continent of Dereth, in the fictional Auberean planet. Players had the ability to choose their characters from the 6 in-game races. Each of those races had their unique skill set (such as Unarmed combat, magic, and melee defense etc.)
Then the characters had to do different tasks in order to increase their experience points.
After the success of the original big-three MMORPGs, more companies tried to enter in this new market. Anarchy Online was the first major game during the 2nd-generation. Released in the summer of 2001, this is the first game that offered Sci-fi settings, dynamic tasks, free trial, and in-game ads too.
Another notable thing in this game was that in order to win, a player doesn’t have to complete some specific objectives. Instead, what you need to do is improving your character’s overall skill set with the passage of time. But all was not well is this game. Since its release, it had plenty of technical problems – mainly due to a huge number of players.
Four months after the release of Anarchy Online, another MMO game popped out in the form of Dark Age of Camelot. This game was based in the time period after King Arthur’s death and combined Arthurian lore and Norse mythology with some Irish Celtic legends. Having no technical issues meant that this game surpassed Ultima Online and Asheron’s call in terms of popularity, and became the main rival of Everquest.
Apart from this, a sequel of Ultima Online – named as Ultima Online 2 – was supposed to be released but never did so. As soon as the EA realized that MMO market is getting saturated with every passing day, they decided to make the original Ultima Online stay competitive (instead of releasing a new version).
In November 2002, Final Fantasy was released as the first MMO that use the same server for the different types of clients (PC and consoles). It was also the first true-MMO game to be released for gaming consoles.
2003 saw Ubisoft come into the MMO foray with the release of Shadowbane, a game noted for featuring no quests.
The current generation of MMO games was started in 2004 and has continued until now.
According to many, this current generation started in 2004, when Sony Online Entertainment and Blizzard released Everquest II and World of Warcraft (WoW).
Like its predecessor, Everquest II was a highly popular game and in order to avoid conflict between its own games, Sony offered a monthly subscription fee to play all of its MMORPGs at that time – Everquest, Everquest II, and Star war galaxies.
This strategy paid off for some time, until the release of WoW. Soon after its release, WoW overshadowed all the previous released MMO games (and is one of the most popular MMO games even in 2018).
In 2013, WoW had 7 million monthly subscribers – 7 times more than that of its near rival, Runscape.