I was thinking about old MMOs such as RuneScape and WoW, and I'm wondering if studies have been done or specialists have an understanding about the life span of an MMO. Can large scale massively played, well managed online games have an indefinite life span, or are all titles doomed to boom and bust?

That the gist of my question, and Im wondering if it would be on topic.


While interesting, it sounds to me like it would either be asking for a list of research papers (off topic) or for a discussion often he topic (too broad and maybe opinion-oriented). It's also hard to see what it has to do with a game you are developing, but it's hard to say for sure without the actual text of the question.

My gut feeling, though, is that you'd want to ask it elsewhere, maybe on GDNet.


Lifespan is a very central question in MMO development, and indeed central to any game model where there is expected to be more than a single release per platform - FarmVille-style casual social games, for instance.

If it were considered off topic, this SE would need to be renamed.

However, you aren't specifically asking for factors in calculating lifespan or anything, but rather just whether indefinite lifespans are possible for "large-scale" MMOs. A discussion of what constitutes success in MMO terms is a complex topic in and of itself, but there are a reasonable number of MMOs which have been continuously running for years, and at least one (Furcadia) which has been running for 20 years this year. Ultima Online is 19, though I'm not sure it's been running continuously.

As, until recently, the lead programmer of Furcadia, I'd be very interested in discussing some of the technical design decisions that were made to handle two decades of longevity (how to weather the thin times), which is in a way the exact opposite concern to the scalability issues that everyone normally worries about for MMOs.

Bartle's "Building Worlds" for example, stresses scalability very heavily, but carries the tacit assumption that if people start leaving, and the elder game becomes stale, then the game must die, and that assumption seems reasonably entrenched in the MMO design community.

I'm just a newbie to this community, but to me, this feels like an on-topic, critically important, and interesting question. In fact, it's exactly the kind of question I'd hope to see being covered in this community.

  • \$\begingroup\$ On the subject of the MMO you were developing, I wonder: Isn't the scalability solution rather simple on the server side? Utilize cloud servers that scale for you automatically matching server cost (expenses) to player volume (income)? Obviously "The Cloud" marketing term wasn't around back then but I imagine it was just as possible to do then as it is now. And then I imagine it was more difficult faculty side because a Cloud HR department would be more difficult, firing and hiring according to player volume. \$\endgroup\$
    – J.Todd
    Mar 10 '16 at 22:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ I imagine you'd have needed a strong dev team for large expansion to maintain player interests, so keeping an indefinitely small dev team seems like it wouldnt be viable if you're going to expand the game fast enough to generate new and returning player interest for a 20 year span. And also I'm curious about advertisement, I notice many big MMOs who probably have a big enough budget for advertising, dont advertise internationally at all, and it seems the advertisement would be really important for longevity. Reminding people the game is still alive and kicking and all.. \$\endgroup\$
    – J.Todd
    Mar 10 '16 at 22:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Viziionary If this question is deemed off-topic, then all that would be something you could never read or write about here :) \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10 '16 at 23:42

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