With the recent announcement of the upcoming release of the Playstation 4, and undoubtedly the Xbox 720, it made me pause and attempt to gauge today's generation in the current MMO industry. With the consoles, and even PC's themselves, it's easy to differentiate between the generations. If you were to see someone hitting some Street Racer up on the original Playstation, only to follow it with Need For Speed: Underground 2 on the PS2, you'd clearly spot the difference.
However, that doesn't seem to come into play with MMO gaming. Following the generation trends of consoles, using Playstation as an example; we see a leap generally every 6 years. The original Playstation released in 1994, the Playstation 2 in 2000, the Playstation 3 in 2006 and it's looking like the Playstation 4 will release this year, 2013.
But if we follow that same trend in the MMO world, things come across in a totally different way. Using Runescape as a base example, a browser-based MMORPG that originally released in 2001, we'd expect a massive leap in browser gaming around the 2007 mark. However, after endless hours of searching the variety of titles that released in 2007, I was unable to find a single browser-based MMO title that really expanded on anything Runescape had to offer.
Countering that theory is a totally separate genre in the form of the MMOFPS. The first real experience I had with an online FPS title was WarRock, a game set in a fictional future where nuclear war has decimated the planet. It was among the first MMOFPS games to introduce large-scale combat that featured both infantry and vehicles. Stepping forward several years and we come across the most recent MMOFPS to make a big impact, PlanetSide 2.
It doesn't take a gaming genius to figure out the massive differences between these two games. Everything from the graphics to player progression has truly taken that next generation leap.
So, browser-based MMO gaming (although improves to some extent with new technology) still hasn't really broken any serious barriers in terms of innovation; but the MMOFPS world takes leaps and bounds every few years.
The final area that I took a look at was the pay to play MMO world. If you're going to compare a popular, old MMORPG, you're going to mention World of Warcraft. Releasing in November of 2004 World of Warcraft took the MMO world by storm. It has since won endless rewards and continues to prove popular even 8 years after release.
Attempting to stick as close to the 6 year mark as possible, the next best MMORPG to discuss would be Star Wars: The Old Republic. Despite the fact the game takes a totally different approach to WoW, having a heavy focus on storyline and single player content, it's still an MMORPG at its core but that's also the problem. It's still the same. Speak to "X" NPC, kill "X" monsters, etc etc.
One could argue that console gaming hasn't advanced in huge leaps over the last generation or two, but they at least bring some big change with every new console. Whether the environment becomes more interactive and destructive, or they add an extra 50 players on-screen at once, there's always something to differentiate between the generations.
How do you feel about the generation leaps in MMO gaming? Obviously games have improved over the years and there's plenty of MMO titles now that blow everything prior to 2010, but are the leaps substantial enough to be considered next generation?
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