Instancing mission in online role-playing games isn’t a super new thing by any measure. Phantasy Star Online was doing it back in the early 00s, and within five years Guild Wars masterfully wove instanced missions in with large interactive cities straight out of Western MMOs and a competitive PVP scene. Guild Wars also provided something interesting in its press releases: in an era where every goddamn game wanted to be branded as an MMO, and to steal a slice of World of Warcraft’s pie, the first Guild Wars’s team basically always stuck to their guns in refusing to call it an MMO. Instead, their game was a “CORPG” - Co-operative Online RPG. The term didn’t really stick, especially because nobody else was doing this at the time.
A decade later we’re seeing an entirely different landscape. With the exceptions of a few titles that have persisted within their own niches, such as WoW, Final Fantasy XIV, and EVE, plus the notably ironic Guild Wars 2 (in which ArenaNet actually did make a semi-conventional MMO), most gamers in the West seem to have moved on from the conventional MMORPG structure. Instead, the instance-driven MMO has come to dominate. Destiny, The Division, and Bioware’s upcoming Anthem are all AAA titles in this vein, plus there are several instanced titles of smaller breadth (albeit with dedicated playerbases) such as Warframe, No Man’s Sky, or Elite: Dangerous.
Have we reached a world where the original strain of Everquest-like MMO is a dead genre walking, brought down by ballooning server infrastructure costs? Are games like Anthem a natural evolution of that original MMO genre, or much like the early mammals, are they descendant of Guild Wars and Phantasy Star Online coming to thrive in a world where their metaphorical dinosaur competitors are going extinct? How much evolution is there to go in the realm of traditional MMOs before they’re totally gone? Will co-op games meet the same fate as they struggle to compete for playerbases? These are the questions I pose to you, Waypoint.