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What even is an “MMORPG”?

Gamingtodaynews1b - What even is an "MMORPG"?

Honestly it may sound like a simple question. But a quick look at all the game titles that classify themselves as "MMORPG", and you'll notice that almost all of them radically differ in terms of many core aspects like gameplay loop, mechanics, features, map design etc.

For example: compare "MMORPG" as a genre to, say, "FPS", and in "FPS" it is clear that there is a certain pattern of features and mechanics you immediately witness and even expect across all FPS games. First person perspective, gun in right or left corner of the screen, and a crosshair.

However the same cannot be said about MMORPGs.

Why is that though? Why do we continue to use such an umbrella term such as "MMORPG" so ubiquitously to describe games like "Black Desert Online" or "Archeage" of which are drastically different compared to other games like "Old School Runescape" or "Albion Online".

Games such as "World of Warcraft" which have a seamless 3D open world with a heavy focus on instanced party play versus "Tree of Savior" which have isometric maps seperated by portals with a heavy focus on character customization and solo grinding yet BOTH are still labelled as "MMORPG" despite sharing barely any common features.


Is it because there is a lack of a standard for what exactly qualifies as an "MMORPG"? I'm certain most would disagree (even the WoW fans) that even if we were to nominate "World of Warcraft" as the standard of what qualifies as an "MMORPG" due to it's obscene popularity as a game labelled as such, that "World of Warcraft" should not be the posterchild for "MMORPG" as a genre. No, considering the amount of inspiration that "World of Warcraft" drew from previous titles such as "Everquest" or "Ultima Online", it would not make sense for "World of Warcraft" to be what defines an "MMORPG".

Is it then, that "Everquest" or "Ultima Online" be what defines the genre "MMORPG" then because they came first? No that shouldn't be the case either because moving forward every game to be labelled as "MMORPG" has differed tremendously from these older titles as well.

What then, defines an "MMORPG", and what characteristics do you guys feel a title must have for it to be justifiably labeled as an "MMORPG"? This may seem like a silly question but I feel the ability to come up with an adequate answer would be the first step to differentiating titles moving into the future and to really preserve the meaning of "MMORPG".

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