One of first commercial MMORPGs was the smash hit that was EverQuest. It brought fantasy RPGs into the mainstream and 3D and because of it people started to take them much more seriously. EverQuest helped inspire some of the most successful mmos out there, including its sequel Everquest 2. It was the first to achieve massive success and because of that hundreds of MMOs followed.
The MMO Boom.
Then MMOs started to get more advanced, in 2001 Runescape launched as a browser based MMO, it brought easier access to the genre since anyone with a PC and internet could play. It was one of the most successful browser based MMOs. The game had a subscription model or a free model and the developers did what they could to support the free model for players who were just looking for fun without spending large amounts of money, although they had to deal with ads.
MMOs became more and more advanced and eventually moved to consoles with Phantasy Star Online, although the first true console MMO wasn’t until Final Fantasy XI. In 2004 EverQuest 2 and World of Warcraft were released, each were successful although World of Warcraft completely took over the market and became the best selling and most successful mmo ever.
MMOs have continued to get more and more complex but have never quite gotten past the basis and effect of what World of Warcraft had on the genre. WoW was so widely popular because of the rich density of the mythology of the Warcraft universe, the gameplay, and the fact that it was not at all graphics intensive and could be played by almost anyone at the time with an internet connection. Many have tried to add on to what WoW started but none have succeeded. Even Star Wars: The Old Republic tried to add story into the mix and ended up going free-to-play in its first two years of availability, while WoW still has a subscription 9 years after it launched.
Twitch Plays Pokemon.
It is because of this that something like Twitch Plays Pokemon matters. In the olden days MMOs were played as text adventures, it was very simple and anyone could have an affect on the game. However, as the genre advanced, the ability to have any sort of affect on the game vanished as everyone was doing the same quest, there was no longer anything unique about your experience.
We seem to lose some depth as MMOs get more advanced, difficulty level can become easier, the ability to affect the world becomes smaller, and the unique quality of our adventures diminish. Now instead of being a group heroes you are just average everyday people as not everyone can be the hero of the world. You see this with games such as The Elder Scrolls Online. Instead of being the Dragonborn you will be one of thousands just existing in the same universe not being able to save the world because you are no longer special.
Twitch plays Pokemon changes that. They recently completed Pokemon Crystal after about 2 weeks; they did this by working together in chaotic harmony. Instead of being stuck being a normal person, they all played the same person, but everyone had the possibility of affecting the game, if one person voted to make a move and broke a tie then that person had a profound affect on the game. And the important thing to remember is that literally anyone could be this person, it could be you or the guy right after you, but you have a possibility of changing the game, whether that means winning or losing, it could all be on you.
Single Player Twitch.
Imagine playing a game like Skyrim through twitch, it would have to be faster paced and wouldn’t work anywhere near the same but you would still be playing a single player game with thousands of people. Just like a MMO you would be playing with strangers, except this time you could have an affect on things. Instead of being Joe from Winterhall, you’d be the Dragonborn who could save the world.
Twitch plays Pokemon is a single player mmo, and that’s why it’s good. It brings a whole new meaning to the genre. Because of Twitch we can now imagine playing single player games with friends, it might be impossible to play games like Skyrim that way, but it would sure be possible to play other turn based single player games. Without Twitch Plays Pokémon the next hope for something new in the MMO genre is Everquest Next (and possibly whatever Blizzard is working on), and while destructible environments are cool, it is still unlikely you would be able to affect the world in a profound way.