The Problem With MMOs Is The Investment

You’ve probably heard the phrase “the problem with MMOs is the investment” or something similar said a million times by now. Usually, it’s said by people who seem to think that others don’t want to invest in MMOs. It’s said by those who think their time is better spent elsewhere. But I’d like to posit a different hypothesis: People want to get invested in MMOs. The problem is that, once you’re already invested in a specific MMO, it’s hard to invest yourself in another.

We all know that MMOs take massive investments of time. It can take dozens of hours to reach the level cap, some games offering grinding as the only path to leveling up. Once you reach the level cap, you will spend upwards of dozens of hours on individual bits of content as you attempt to get that one drop that you need. It can be a painstaking process.

In order to get to a point where you can justify doing that much work for a single game, you have to become invested in the game world. Somehow, the game has to convince you that it’s worth spending time in. It could be anything. The combat could have a combo system that you really like. The game world could be rendered in a way that draws you in. Perhaps you actually like the characters in the game’s overarching story. Maybe you’ve created your own story for the village you’ve built. Whatever the case, that crucial moment where the game draws you in has to happen.

The problem with MMOs is that it’s always a combination of smaller parts of the game. It’s usually the exact way a game is done that draws you in. You could say the same about many single-player RPGs, given that the core differences between them are usually story-related, meaning that you get invested in the exact characters they provide, but it’s a bit different with MMOs. With MMOs, it’s never something as obvious as the characters that you’ve become invested in. Maybe the combat feels slightly more fluid. Maybe the costumes are slightly more to your liking. Maybe it’s as simple as the fact that it was your first MMO. But something has caused you to like this game more than the one before it.

Then you play the game for months, maybe years. You become exceptionally invested in the game’s world, in the exact way it plays. You become attached to it. Then, one day, disaster strikes. Maybe a core mechanic has been altered significantly. Maybe the game has stopped being profitable and it shuts down. Regardless, you can no longer continue playing it.

You begin searching for a new MMO, playing every new one that comes out. You might try dozens and not find one. Eventually, you give up and search for a private server for the game you used to play, hoping that one that emulates the era you’re accustomed to exists. But why? Is it because all newer MMOs are bad? No.

When you become that invested in a game’s world, playing for months or years on end, you’ve slowly become accustomed to the exact way that the game is. You can’t play other games because it’s hard to adapt to a game that’s almost the same, but not. You’re constantly going to be tripping yourself up, expecting something to be the way it was in the last game. Something will always feel slightly off and it will bother you until you end up quitting.

And so I’d like to posit that the problem with MMOs is the investment, but that the reason that it’s a problem is that they’re designed to be played for years on end, but they often don’t last for years on end. Players become invested to a fault. They only want to play that one game. They don’t want new games; they want the same game. This is why private servers are popular to this day. This is why people who play one game for years on end become MMO hoppers and can’t find another game. These games become somewhat of a home for them and they’re always going to be just a little bit homesick.

I've been playing MMOs since back in the day when my only option was to play Clan Lord on the family Mac. Since then, I've played too many MMOs to count. I generally play niche, sometimes even bizarre, MMOs and I've probably logged the most hours in Linkrealms prior to its current iteration. Currently bouncing between a few games.

  • Zakuro

    this.... is really true.

    when i'm trying a new mmorpg, i always compare it to Aura Kingdom (in this case is my favorite mmorpg), and ended quitting because it isn't the same mmorpg.
    i can't forget the artstyle that i love, fast paced combat, and the rivalry i have with my brother in Aura Kingdom. even x-legend new mmorpg like dragomon hunter and twin saga can't get me hooked to them, just because their combat aren't as fast as Aura Kingdom.
    now i'm in state of waiting a new mmorpg, a new adventure that maybe won't come to me. forever.

    • by far aura kingdom is most updated xlegend game ,they really put lots of time and money into ak indeed...i really liked it played it for myself about a year or so...dragomon hunter and twin saga are like meeh compered to ak, waiting to see laplace online but i am not sure if aeria will pick that one up.... before ak come out grand fantasia and eden eternal were the real 'bombs '

      • Zakuro

        yeah, i waiting for laplace online and maplestory2, really hype to try them after a year hopping from one mmorpg to another. but well, dunno when will they will come to the west, i only can hope they will come.

  • Guest

    Kind of in disagreement here. I have no real motive of looking for the same experience, but I am looking for a meaningful experience. And each and every MMORPG does his hardest to ruin your first impression of a game by putting in a leveling system. The leveling system takes time to develop, money to develop, yes most people going into an MMORPG spends the least amount of time 'leveling' as they can. They are looking for the endgame, and the endgame always disappoints on a new game.

    I think MMORPGs need to take the required investment out of the leveling process and put it into endgame.

    I no longer want to invest dozens of hours into leveling. I want to spend that time in endgame doing meaningful progression and PvP. Leveling used to be 'part' of the good MMORPG experience. It used to be hard, it used to be difficult, and it used to be an amazing achievement. It has now become a grind with no difficulty to overcome or achievements to reach.

    They need to just get rid of leveling and focus on the story of the endgame. MMORPGs keep dying because devs are putting so much developmental money into leveling zones. Zones that players do their darnest to breeze through as quick as they possibly can. At the time of the game's release, they barely have a fleshed out endgame system. MMORPGs need to start doing the opposite.

    WIldstar is the prime example of this. That game would have flourished if they had a quick and direct leveling process. If they spent all this saved development time on fleshing out the endgame system, making PvP more tactical and less zerg, and optimizing the game... well, maybe the game would have stood a chance.

  • Code Zeta

    i had kinda agree, but as a man who works i kinda hate that moment when you hit the progress point where starts a really big grind, i started playing DFO last week , so installed it started to play hit lvl 50, and if i wanted to progress with story i needed to grind materials that drop like between 2 -5 per dungeon and you need to get 300 of them , plus quest for awakening witch needs even more materials that has similar drop chance but you need to upgrade it with ingame money and it cost more then you will earn . and i was like hmm so i need to grind more chars to get cash and mats or grind same dungeon for long time, but i like the class i played and game is making me what i dislike so stopped playing . now i am on a look for some casual esk mmo

  • Yea Right

    Problem with MMO's is the 1 size fits all format they have on certain aspects. I personally am sick to death of the grind to the level cap in MMO's. I can't stand it. But I know there are players who love the leveling and questing. I love PVP in MMO's, and find myself spending the majority of my time PVPing, but there are some people who are incredibly toxic to the idea of PVP being even on the developers list of things to expand on. So my idea? Allow people to decide how they want to play. If you want to spend the next 6 months grinding to level 100+, you should be able to. But if you would rather jump into the end game content, and not have to bother with ages of leveling just so you can FINALLY play with your friends, you should be allowed to do that too.

  • Dede Natalino

    Agreed, investment of time is a big role. In order for player to invest that much time, the game itself have to keep player interested and dont feel too boring on grinding its content.

  • EcoBotsGaming

    Quality article Mr. Chelen 10/10 =)