I've already touched on how the MMO genre has affected off-line RPGs, but I'd like to take a while to discuss the subject in a bit more detail. MMO games have been a growing phenomenon ever since Everquest, peaking due to the recent, mind-boggling success of World of Warcraft. Unfortunately, old-school gamers such as myself might see this as a bad phenomenon, as MMO games have been muscling out offline RPGs of the market, whether intentionally or not.
Whether MMOs are good or bad is something up to the individual. I can't rightly say that anyone is wrong for liking World of Warcraft, Everquest, Warhammer Online, or any other Massively Multiplayer Online game. However, many have seen the success of these games, and they try to cash in on that craze. Ever since World of Warcraft, the RPG genre has taken a complete plummet, as most RPG fans are now playing online games instead of the single-player variety. For those of us who prefer offline games, or games that have features normally only associated with offline games, like multiple characters, we're in a bad position.
Sure, the occasional bone is still thrown. We have Dragon Age, for a recent example. Still, once that is done, we will have little choice but to either go to another genre or go crawling back to the MMO giant to get our RPG fix, like the terrible addicts that we are.
It does make me wonder if the MMO giants know the stranglehold that they have on the genre, and how negatively it's impacting it in terms of diversity. Still, game developers are out to make money, and no one can deny that MMOs make money. Whoever is running Blizzard Entertainment must be a filthy rich man indeed. I think they know full well the way the genre has shifted, and are taking complete advantage of it. By adding solo-ability to MMOs, they're also reaching into the more standard RPG audience and attracting their attention as well, due to their starvation from the lack of normal fare.
I do have to salute those that continue to make RPGs, though. Bioware continues to put out quality products, and while I have my own issues with Dragon Age and Mass Effect, they're at least trying to keep the genre alive.