MMORPGs are the game of choice right now, both for players and for game creators. There are constantly new online games being released – Champions Online, Star Trek Online, Final Fantasy XIV and more are to follow soon. And there are even more expansions, patches and content downloads available for this huge selection of games. Graphics, gameplay, and severs continue to evolve and improve – so why are some people still playing games like Ultima Online or the original Everquest, which are more than a decade old?
There are a number of reasons why some people may choose to keep playing older online games, but first let’s take a look at both of these revolutionary MMORPGs.
Ultima Online was one of the very first graphical massively multiplayer online games. It was released in September of 1997 by Origin, and it hit a peak of roughly 250,000 subscribers. Players could play on different shards (servers) with their friends in a world similar to the one where previous Ultima games had been set. There have been several expansions and two sequels released since 1997, including Ultima Online: Kingdom Reborn in 2007, which introduced a new client with a new interface and a graphics upgrade. As of 2006, Ultima Online held roughly 1% of the MMORPG market share.
Everquest, which was perhaps one of the first online games to have mainstream recognition, was released by Sony Online Entertainment in March of 1999. There have been more than 450,000 subscribers over its release history, and seventeen different expansion packs as of October 2010. Sony Online Entertainment hasn’t released figures for subscribers since 2006, so any current player numbers are not official.
Both of these online games still have thousands of people playing them, despite their age. Many people can’t imagine playing games that are old or outdated at all.
Neither game is completely like the original anymore, but they still retain various classes, features, storylines, and worlds that some players are interested in. Nostalgia is definitely a factor for some players as well.
Everquest and Ultima Online players have built up extensive social networks, powerful characters, and large amounts of gold and items. Their characters are at the top level for the game. Perhaps they aren’t interested in starting over again – leveling another character, having to gather more gold, and make new friends. Others don’t have the computers to play the newer, more graphics-intensive online games. Some appreciate smaller servers without the massive numbers of modern online RpGs or even the crowded servers from back when the games were very popular. They have more items, don’t have to worry about kill stealers or overcrowded quest areas and can play the game at a more relaxed, leisurely pace.
Many players admit when they’re asked that the only people left playing their game are the hardcore players. It has cut out the casual players and new players rarely pick up a game as old as either Ultima Online or Everquest. Some people even feel that the new games are too easy, and that they are aimed towards casual players instead of hardcore players. They would prefer to stay with a harder game that requires more work and skilled players than down-grade (in their thoughts) to World of Warcraft or Everquest II.
They would prefer to stay with a harder game that requires more work and skilled players than down-grade (in their thoughts) to World of Warcraft or Everquest II.
One Ultima Online player says, in reference to this mindset:
“It was the only real MMO that had any risk to it, where you could lose all your stuff in one hit. It brought an element of danger into the game, which was awesome. Now it’s all insurance this, insurance that. Games are way too care-bear like now.”
Many player prefer the PvP and Raiding systems from the old games because they feel like they are rewarded for their time and hard work, rather than handed something that anyone, no matter how little time they actually play, can get.
And just because the games are old doesn’t mean they aren’t changing or constantly updated. In 2009, EA released an expansion for Ultima Online that was huge, adding things like new races and new dungeons. Sony released House of Thule in October of this year. The graphics and systems might be old, but there is still new content for players to experience and enjoy.
Another subset of players play either game along with another, more current MMORPG. They keep their characters, friends, and other connections in Everquest or Ultima Online, but also play World of Warcraft or EVE Online. Online games are very time intensive, but if you have put in the effort to have a high level character, you can play more than one game without having to spend hours upon hours leveling up characters.
The biggest reason, though, that there are still players for this game (which includes some of the previously mentioned reasons), is the “sunk cost effect”. This is a documented economics effect that exists outside the realm of online games. It means that people will consider past decisions and past costs (time, money, effort, etc.) when considering something new, even if those costs can’t be refunded. A player can’t get back any of the time they’ve put into Everquest, but they feel obligated to keep playing because they have invested so much into it, rather than begin again and have to reinvest a lot of time and effort into something different.
The final explanation is a simple one. Some people still enjoy playing the same game they’ve been playing for a decade or more – it can also be seen in Dungeons and Dragons campaigns that last for years. People are going to do what is fun for them, and while some people might think playing the newest, shiniest MMORPG is the best, others might not agree.