Posted by on August 13th, 2009 in Articles

MMOs are being announced, and launched, by the dozens, yet World of Warcraft still leads the pack quite comfortably. But with countless MMO games on the horizon, surely that giant’s days are numbered?

In this article I take a look at the status of the MMOG scene by the end of 2010. With dozens of new MMOGs and expansion packs for current MMOGs, the market will surely have changed significantly. Yet Jon Wood over on seems to think that World of Warcraft will still dominate by 2012. Will it do quite so well here? Read on, and find out…

I’ve actually posted an updated Top 10 MMOGs of 2010 list here.

The following list consists purely of pay-to-play MMOGs relying on box sales or subscription fees, in the Western market. The more common free-to-play and micro-transaction MMOGs are not included, because that burgeoning subgenre is too volatile to predict. Besides, those probably aren’t the kind of games you’re interested in, right?

Keep in mind that the MMOG scene in 2010 will differ a fair bit from the MMOG scene today. A game may drop from 4th place to 7th between these periods, yet gain more subscribers than it has today. The PC MMOG genre is one of the fastest growing genres in the business, so a drop in position does not directly translate to a drop in subscribers!

All current MMOGs and games currently scheduled for a 2010 release have been considered for this list. These placings are based on estimated popularity alone. Disagree with the results? Leave a comment and let me know.

10. Champions Online / DC Universe Online

This one is difficult to call, with Champions Online having the benefit of launching early, but DC Universe Online having the more appealing universe (and gameplay features). Either way a superhero MMORPG is practically guaranteed to make the top 10 of 2010, with two such games launching between now and then.

Cryptic has the experience to make Champions come out on top, but DC Online Universe offers both good and evil characters, action-based combat and a chance to meet classic well-known superhero characters. It’s just too close to call.

9. Lord of the Rings Online

It’s the third most popular MMORPG in today’s market and looks set to offer a myriad of free updates and expansion packs yet. According to Turbine the game has seen even further growth in subscriber figures and there’s no reason to presume that growth will stop in the future. By 2010 it’ll be an even bigger contender than it is now, but I do not expect it to attract enough new subscribers to rank nearly as high as it does in today’s market.

I expect that this will remain the premier PvE MMORPG (after Star Wars: The Old Republic) in 2010, with its extensive lore, excellent role-playing support and well-crafted fantasy world. The subsequent year should even see a significant growth in subscriber figures as The Hobbit airs in cinemas worldwide.

8. Heroes of Telara

A beautiful MMORPG without question, that looks to offer a number of genuinely interesting features for jaded fantasy MMORPG players. With much of the game files resting server-side, it will offer a more dynamic game environment than any MMOG that has come before. Changing classes during gameplay and easy grouping for dynamic world quests promise a much more involved game.

And much of the good stuff is supposedly still under wraps. The game looks incredible and some of its features are certainly fresh, but as a new IP from a young company I do not think it will so better than 8th place by late 2010. Presuming it will be released by then, which is questionable.

7. Star Trek Online

Star Trek Online would be a major contender in any year, what with the enormous Star Trek fanbase and the ridiculous lack of decent Star Trek games (Elite Force, Starfleet Command and Armada are the only ones that come to mind). According to Atari it’s set for a March 2010 release date, which seems more solid after the promise of beta participation for Champions Online lifetime subscribers.

Star Trek Online will offer a large universe to explore, with combat, crafting and exploration as the major pillars of gameplay. Cryptic is on the job, which means the available level of customization for characters and ships is absolutely insane. You’ll even be able to create your own new races. As a player you’re a captain of a ship, filled with (partially at least) customizable NPC characters. Gameplay will take place on planets and in space, against the backdrop of a new war between Starfleet and the Klingons. This offers plenty of potential for both quality PvE and PvP gameplay.

The question is whether Star Trek Online will be one of those rare few good Star Trek games, or the majority of worthless ones. Either way it looks set to do well in 2010, as plenty of Star Trek and sci-fi MMOG fans will want to have their turn to boldly go where no man has gone before.

6. Final Fantasy XIV

A major announcement at this year’s E3 in one of the most popular franchises worldwide, with some – for Final Fantasy – innovative features such as a skill-based, not level-based, character improvement system. And yet I’m ranking it 6th. I must be crazy.

Even so, it is a fact that Final Fantasy is not as popular in the West as it is in the East. The current Final Fantasy MMORPG does not boast exceptional Western subscriber figures either, with the vast majority of subscribers hailing from Asia. I’m expecting that the quality of these other titles and the release of Final Fantasy XII in 2010 will serve to lower FFXIV’s impact on the MMOG scene.

But I could well be wrong, it may even become the first major console MMOG with its PlayStation 3 release. It still seems unlikely with the PS3s inferior multiplayer network and rising unpopularity amongst console gamers and game developers alike.

EVE Online will remain a top contender in the years to come...

EVE Online will remain a top contender in the years to come

5. EVE Online

The recent re-release of a retail edition and the major free expansion of Apocrypha have seen subscriber figures soar to new heights. In fact, EVE Online ranks in at 2nd place in today’s market, with more than 300.000 subscribers. But whether this unstoppable and unchallenged growth will continue remains to be seen…

Several more action-based space-MMOGs will be released soon, such as Black Prophecy (Reakktor) and Jumpgate Evolution (NetDevil). EVE Online may be a different kind of space-MMOG, but I know plenty of EVE Online players (myself included) who will be all to happy to try out something more hands-on. This new wave of more accessible and more immediately engaging space-MMOGs could easily herald an end to EVE’s incredible growth rate in this genre, or will certainly slow it – and that is why it is ranked at a mere 5th place for 2010.

Note: with equal or higher subscriber figures than it has today.

4. Jumpgate Evolution

The first new hands-on space-MMOG looks to be Jumpgate Evolution, with its 150.000 applicants for beta and highly experienced development team. As a remake of an old MMOG, this game will offer three opposing factions in an open universe that is filled with both fantasy-MMOG-styled PvE content and more EVE-Online-esque PvP content.

It also offers direct control over your spaceship via mouse, keyboard, gamepad or joystick, which promises to be the main draw. Space-sims have been as good as dead for years now and many fans of games such as Freelancer, Elite, Tie Fighter and FreeSpace are like to give this a go. As are a great number of EVE Online players, who admittedly probably won’t give up their EVE sub for this.

The real question mark for Jumpgate right now is whether it will have the staying power to keep subscribers long-term. We know it will offer PvE content and it has some impressive PvP arena’s and PvP conquest gameplay lined up, but how will that play out long-term in terms of rewards, competition and inter-squadron/factional political intrigue?

I’m betting that it can hold on to its subscribers and become a major player in the MMOG game.

3. Aion

NCSoft’s Aion offers a unique fantasy world that is placed in a broken, hollowed out world. One side is dark, one side is light and the humans and Daeva (ascended humans) have grown to adapt to their environments, splitting in two factions. In Aion these two factions now find each other and their most hated enemy, the NPC Balaur, once more and plenty of sweet PvP, PvE and PvPvE battles ensue…

It’s also the talk of the day, with it’s beautifully crafted world, stylized graphics, accessible gameplay, tons of content and generally positive beta tester comments. It also has a very successful Asian launch – and associated patches – going for it, which puts Aion in the unique position of being the first MMORPG since World of Warcraft that looks guaranteed to do well.

Okay, it offers nothing genuinely new, but then neither did World of Warcraft (or most popular games for that matter). Innovation has never mattered for game sales figures and I’m betting it will not matter for Aion either; it’s too complete, well-crafted and accessible for it to fail like Age of Conan or Warhammer Online did in the past. Many World of Warcraft players will make the jump, as has happened before, but this time many more will stick around.

And its launch a few weeks from now puts it in the unique position of having no direct MMOG competition other than much older games. This will propel game sales and with its solid gameplay and swaths of content (it launches on version 1.5 people, not 1.0) it is like to retain most of these players for a long time to come. Which will help it weather through 2010 as one of the top MMOGs in the West and East.

Beautiful Aion will do well in the current market

Beautiful Aion will do well in the current market

2. Star Wars: The Old Republic

A new Star Wars MMORPG by BioWare. Do I need to say more?

Okay, so it’s going to be a fully-voiced MMORPG that focuses on storytelling and apparently more on solo than group gameplay, with a very BioWare singleplayer-RPG style approach to gameplay. This makes a lot of current MMOG players say it will gain loads of subscribers and lose them just as fast. I don’t think so.

Thus far it sounds little different in intent from Lord of the Rings Online: heavy PvE and lore focus, very accessible and solo-friendly. Lord of the Rings Online ranks 3rd in the current market, 2 years after launch, this shows PvE MMORPGs can and do work for a lot of players. A Star Wars MMORPG by BioWare even more-so, for it’ll be an instant purchase for countless Star Wars and BioWare fans.

Not to mention the new Star Wars Live Action series, which (as far as I know) is still scheduled to air in 2010. This will bring countless thousands of people straight into BioWare’s new digital lap as Star Wars returns to being a popular and current franchise.

Of course we know next to nothing about how it will actually play, in terms of space travel, PvP implementation, half the classes, etc. But none of that really matters. We all know this game will do well in 2010, if it is released by then, regardless of how good the game actually is.

1. World of WarCraft

Yup, it still ranks in at the top.

One year does not seem enough to reduce WoW’s multi-million lead to nothingness. With rumours of a new expansion pack on the way and subscriber figures certainly not dwindling by the millions, there is no reason to expect WoW to claim any spot but 1st place by late 2010.

The Old Republic will certainly not rival it in a few months time, even if it turns out to be the greatest MMORPG ever. Nor will Aion overcome it, when it offers nothing genuinely new, in spite of the level of polish. Right now the only game that might have a shot, unless World of Warcraft magically dissolves, looks to be Guild Wars 2. That or perhaps the new Blizzard MMORPG, but neither will launch in 2010.

Sorry haters, I certainly don’t like WoW any more than you do… but it’s going to be dominant for the next few years, no matter what.

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    30 Responses to “Top 10 MMO Games of 2010”

    1. Matt says:

      LMAO! WoW?? Sorry but no old republic will be the greatest mmorpg, it WILL beat WoW’s record. 1. SW fans 2. MMORPG fans who are tired of “fantasy mmos’ 3. ppl who are bpored of WoW 4. Bioware fans will all come to TOR, just you watch.

    2. Droniac says:

      Do tell, how will Star Wars: The Old Republic become the most popular MMORPG of 2010? It’s release date is spring 2011…

      At the time of writing it was thought that SW:TOR was scheduled for Q4 2010. That would’ve made a #1 place equally impossible. It can’t gain 10+ million subscribers in 1 or 2 months time. Even WoW took nearly 4 years to get to 11 million.

      So yes, SW:TOR might one day be the more popular MMORPG (I certainly hope so), but it will not be in 2010.

    3. Nashza says:

      he only said i would be the greatest mmorpg, but nothing about 2010 (unfortunately, that is the issue at hand)

      but i believe it will take slightly (by which i mean a lot) longer to unseat WoW at the throne.

      best of luck SW:TOR; i will definitely make the purchase.

    4. Fel says:

      Unless SWtoR has something up it’s sleeve that can compare to the end game raiding that WoW has it will NOT beat WoW’s record. The same thing happened with AoC, and the same thing happened with Warhammer. If they don’t have some solid end game content at release, or within 2-3 weeks of release, this game has no chance. That being said, Bioware can pull it off, they’ve made great games in the past, and this one looks great so far. I’m hoping that they do pull it off, the game has a ton of potential.

      • Steve says:

        Sorry, but end game raiding is the DEATH of MMOs. Sure, people say that the point of an MMO is to be social but I disagree. The point of an MMO is to be able to CHOOSE whether to be social, reclusive, whatever. THIS is why WoW will die and SW:TOR will rule, since they figured out that no one wants to wait for 24 other freaking people to do anything or get any gear. Just ask the 12 million girlfriend-less noobs who still think that 4 hours a day to raid for gear is acceptable. It sucks. Bad. Now go die in a corner, WoW. You still suck compared to UO anyway.

        • Kris says:

          12 million girlfriend-less noobs? you must know very little about WoW, considering not only guys play it, and not people in the nerd stereotype that have no experience in dating. considering most the people i know in game are husband/wife couples playing together. you must never have played since you don’t know. or maybe you did and /ragequit cuz you turned out to be the noob when you couldn’t compete with the people that have time to play 6 hours/day. less QQ more pew pew

    5. OOOM says:

      WoW number 1 because of addiction holding players in a virtual word.

    6. Aries says:

      WOW Forever!! There is no equal so many have tried and have never had the extreme pull that WOW has you want to play it you have to play it, at most the other games are a distraction or something to do for a few hours on a WOW patch day lol

      • Steve says:

        um no. WoW is something to do to torture yourself while waiting for a real sandbox MMO to come out. “Here go do this for 12 hours and get that .00001% drop rate item you wanted so bad! It’s the only way to compete with Ensidia noobs who have NO LIFE and raid 6 hours a day. No thanks. I’ll go have a beer.

        • Ismaell says:

          E pra começar so em servidores official tem 12 milhões de assinantes…So q ainda existe os famosos servidores privados em todo o mundo cada 1 com mais de 3 ou 4 mil jogadores!

    7. heyitzdave says:

      Lol Wow isn’t as good nor as popular as maplestory, which has around 10-20 million players

    8. Meenasan says:

      This writer has little first-hand knowledge with any of these games.

      Placing FF14 6th? You’re right, what a joke. Considering FFXI was ranked #1 mmo in 2004, (prior to the release of WoW). It was the top 6th played game on xbox live in 2006.

      It was the first cross-platform online game (playable on pc, xbox, and ps2), it was also the first cross-language game. With auto-translator functions it is the only game that can have international players all playing on the same server. American MMOs do not have same capabilities…they’re the ones that are limited.

      Not even Lineage 2 could hold a candle to FFXI when it was released. Only WoW was able to take players away from FFXI, nearly 2 years after it was released.

      To down play the new FF release when WoW gamers have been looking for the “next best thing” for the past 2 years is a joke….FF14 will obviously take a large chunk of players from WoW(who were originally FFXI players) back.

      You obviously have no long term experience with many of the games you’ve mentioned here. Nor the flows in which people “left” them.

      (I myself am a long-term player of FFXI, WOW, WAR, & AION)

      I have nothing against WoW, I played for years and it’s an amazing game. But just as people got bored of FFXI and left to WoW, people are already bored of WoW and will go back to the FF series with FF14 release.

      • Droniac says:

        The introduction clearly states that it’s a list of the top 10 subscription-based MMOGs in the west. Now considering the fact that FFXI didn’t do so well in the western market, with a majority of its subcribers hailing from Asia, I ranked FFXIV down to 6th place.

        It’s also interesting to note that you’re overrating your favorite MMORPG quite a bit. All market statistics (mmogchart, mmogdata) point out that FFXI at its peak had under 700.000 subscribers worldwide. Meanwhile the global subscription figures for Lineage were over 3 million at its peak, while Lineage 2 hit over 2 million subscribers. That’s hardly surprising, because the worldwide MMOG player base consisted primarily of Koreans at the time.

        The theory of ex-FFXI players mass migrating from WoW to FFXIV is fancy, but unrealistic. The vast majority of current and former WoW subscribers are people who have never touched a MMOG before. This is evidenced by the enormous growth of the western (and Chinese) MMOG player base since the release of World of WarCraft in 2005. It’s also important to note that there were more migrants from other western MMOGs, such as EverQuest and Ultima Online, than there were from FFXI. This is something any WoW player can attest to and I myself have witnessed during the year I played after launch.

        It’s also important to note that FFXIV will launch in a similar timeframe as the impending release of the World of WarCraft: Cataclysm expansion, as well as The Wrath of the Lich King in China. So in all likelihood, we’ll see a massive return of players to WoW and very few people migrating to new experiences such as FFXIV, Jumpgate, Heroes of Telara or The Old Republic. At least not until sometime next year.

        The ‘bored with WoW’ argument is old and has been proven false time and time again. If people truly were bored with WoW then there would have been a mass exodus when WAR and AoC were released near simultaneously with 1 million pre-orders each. That didn’t hurt WoW’s subscriber figures in the slightest, so it’s highly unlikely that another subscription-based MMOG would destroy WoW subscription figures overnight. I don’t particularly like WoW, but there’s no denying the fact that it’s here to stay – at least for the foreseeable future.

        As for my clearly lacking MMOG experience: I’ve been playing MMOGs since 1999. And out of the top 10 mentioned above I’ve played Aion for several months, WoW for nearly a year, EVE for nearly two years and have lifetime subs to LotRO and STO (may not have been such a good idea :p).

    9. Meenasan says:

      Asia comment aside…(because it was a big mmo in both North America & Asia)

      FFXI was the first in many things for the mmo world,(first multi-lingual/multi-platform comments aside). Many fans of the series bought FFXI specifically BECAUSE it’s Final Fantasy. This was many gamers first mmo experience because they were FF fanboys. Leaving to WoW was a natural cause of events but servers remained full in FFXI up until 2007.

      I think you greatly underestimate the Final Fantasy series, and it’s fans. That’s my point, in fact most other websites list FF14 in their top 3. Comparing short term mmos that have no fan base yet and incredibly short lifespans (which you probably already know will lack any endgame content) to a giant veteran like Final Fantasy seems ignorant.

      The games you mentioned in your 1-5, will most likely die out (excluding WoW of course) within their first year of play. That’s just my opinion.

      But I am jaded, too many stories about latest and greatest mmos, only to be disappointed and watch them all slowly fail.

    10. evenflow says:

      what about Guild Wars, Allods and flyff i find alot of the games mentioned here really sucky and i think that the games i mentioned deserve a spot in this

      • Droniac says:

        As is mentioned in the article it’s based on popularity for subscription-based MMOGs. That would disqualify all three titles you’ve mentioned, with Allods being nowhere near popular enough, FlyFF being free-to-play and Guild Wars not having subscription fees.

        It’s not about quality, because I certainly wouldn’t have ranked WoW in 1st otherwise ;)

    11. Kyle says:

      World of warcraft is so popular because it appeals to everyone of all ages and is beyond easy to just pick up and play. look at the community, it’s 80% children.

    12. Adam says:

      Don’t play Aion. The flight is very limited in game and it is also a very very unbalanced game. Their tech support is horrible, I am quitting the game because the tech support continues to not help me with anything at all. I reported a bug over a month ago, no help. Reported lag on the server(everyone experienced it an still does) and they just blaimed it on me. Good ol ncsoft ingenuity. Make something that -could- of been good and destroy but letting everything in it be broken. Save yourself the trouble, wait for tera to come out please!

      I beg of you, seriously, don’t waste your money. Aion doesn’t even have GM’s in game (except when the play the video game and don’t act as mods in anyway shape or form) and aion policy also disallows you even asking questions to ncsoft. It is just the crappiest experience I ever had with a game, ever.

      Plus I sexually harassed many times and it the GM’s did nothing to help me. Did not even ban a player for harassing me. It is just…there are not words that can express my distaste…my anger…my rage against this company.

    13. Aries says:

      Goodluck to SW:tor, let the SW freaks have their lil game. how long have we waited for SC2? and a week later everyone was bored and back on WoW(space just cant compare). What people dont understand is that WoW has many different facets to it, its not just mindless raiding. As a social game it rocks and teamwork is the order of the day. For all the anti-social recluse spiders out there, (that are boring in real life too) go play SW because there is nothing like being a lone Jedi against the Empire. Lets not get started on the “fictional” part of lil space games. Let SW beat the record then we will see but till then Viva WoW!! (btw happily married)

    14. raven says:

      I have played wow for aboout 4 yrs off an on I tried other games , aion guild wars 1 everquest age of conan they all sucked they all has something very large missing in those games. so I keep going back to wow. and yes stor looks really good so does guild wars 2 but I have gone down that path and im not going to do it again im sticking with wow. and blizzard. I love the game its fun and I meet people for all over the usa. and when diablo iii comes out I will prob play that one too im a blizzard fan for life. if it aint broke dont fix it.

    15. Shiro says:

      Lolol at you all WoW not surpirsed, Star wars might get it in the next few years. WoW has something that SW will never get, WOW did the revolution on how MMORPGs should be built. Blizzard is a great comp they can do there thing and can match BioWar any day. Star has high fans yes but how much percentage of them play MMORPGS.

    16. Ex4rKo0N says:

      1. Where the hell is RuneScape on this list? It’s got 1.3 million subs + and has been doing very well in the past half a year.

      2. Also: TOR will do VERY well, if not topple WoW from the current throne of #1 game. Mainly because it has a very popular and well known theme (Star Wars) that expands past the movies and into the other books, the new voices, overall change in class. I assure you Blizzard is contemplating what they should do about WoW in their war room.

    17. bobiish says:

      this list is complete crap. Runescape should be 2nd or 3rd.

      • Droniac says:

        Oh my, that’s too bad. Maybe that comment wouldn’t seem so misplaced if you had actually read the post you were replying to beforehand.

        I’ll try to clarify this so that even those individuals with severe brain damage might understand:

        The above is a list of western subscription-based MMORPGs. That means pay to play (P2P) MMORPGs. That means not RuneScape. It is also a very outdated list (August 2009).

    18. Bob says:

      I dunno about a “solo” MMO…the main attraction of an MMO is the community, and playing a game with others.

    19. Bob says:

      The “solo” MMO I mentioned would be SW of course.

    20. Bob says:

      Man…why did my smiley symbol have to be the angry one?

    21. Christo says:

      Lamest game ever

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