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Kritika Online launched in the West through En Masse Entertainment, the company best known for publishing Tera. Despite the game’s hype gameplay trailers and other videos the game was largely meh. It wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t anything special. The core gameplay is almost exactly like Dungeon Fighter Online and Twilight Spirits or any of those instanced dungeons / persistent town games. Whoever invented this genre really did the MMO industry a giant favor as its inspired SO many games. These games all tend to be action MMORPGs with stylish combat. The most successful game in this genre is most definitely Dungeon Fighter Online from Neople, as it regularly earns over $1 billion a year, which actually makes it the most profitable MMORPG in the world. Ar:piel is a pretty fun anime inspired action MMORPG that plays a lot like Kritika but has an isometric camera angle. My favorite game in this genre is Soul Worker, but unfortunately it’s only available in South Korea and Japan. The Western version was supposed to launch through Gameforge but it never happened.
Anyways. Back to Kritika Online. I made a reaper character and got to my first job advancement pretty quickly. It only takes a few hours to reach so it’s pretty fast paced. My biggest complaint in the first 5-6 hours is that the game doesn’t really feel difficult at all. This problem isn’t unique to Kritika as it’s something that plagues practically all MMORPGs across all platforms. Just the other day I played a lot of Crusaders of Light, a Mobile MMORPG from Netease. While I loved the core gameplay and visuals it was mind numbingly easy. Most of these games get harder when you up the difficulty before jumping into a stage but the harder difficulties in Kritika also felt a bit too easy. For that reason I could only get myself to play it for a few days before getting burnt out. The PvP isn’t balanced or equalized either, so players with the best gear tend to win. Personally, I like arena PvP to be equalized (think Blade and Soul style arena PvP).
Tera is actually one of my favorite MMORPGs, so it was kinda disappointing to see En Masse license an older game like Kritika. it’s been playable for over a year before En Masse even announced that they’ll be launching it in the West. If they’re going to license an older MMORPG they should at lease launch something interesting like Phantasy Star Online 2 in the West. I’d love to see that happen as its actually a great game. Oh well. IMO Pass on Kritika.
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Given the dizzying pace of new PC MMORPG releases from Asia (Companies like X-Legend release a new MMORPG every year, think Twin Saga and LaPlace), you’d think Western game developers would be releasing games too, but most Western MMORPGs seem to be hitting roadblocks. Triple-A developers like Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts seem to be hesitant in investing in an MMORPG as MMO development costs seem to have spiraled out of control. This leaves the Western MMORPG scene limited to smaller indie studios which are relying more and more on crowd funding. Crowd funded MMORPGs though seem to have a poor record of delivering.


Camelot Unchained for example raised over $2 million on Kickstarter in early 2013, but over 3 years later, seems nowhere near completion. Star Citizen first launched its Kickstarter campaign in October, 2012 and raised over $2 million there. 4 years later it raised over $125 million and still seems to be far from release. The Repopulation raised a much more modest sum of $175,000 in January, 2014, but also hasn’t quite made it to launch. You’ve probably noticed a pattern by now. Countless MMORPGs have been funded on Kickstarter, but so few of them ever actually seem to make it to launch. It’s not fair to count Camelot Unchained or Star Citizen out just yet as they’re still working towards release, but both are behind schedule. Other delayed/slow to release crowd funded MMOs include Shroud of the Avatar, City of Titans, Project Gorgon, and Divergence Online.


Given the poor track record of crowd funded MMOs delivering on their promises, it’s surprisingly to see more games getting funded on Kickstarter. Chronicles of Elyria raised a whopping $1.3m on Kickstarter earlier this year after promising to deliver an ambitious MMORPG. After successfully raising the funds Soulbound Studios, the game’s developer, said that they needed around $3 million more to finish the game. Practically every MMORPG kickstarter has asked for more money even after reaching their stated "goals" on crowdfunding platforms. The story and dream behind Chronicles of Elyria seem great on paper, but I personally remain pessimistic about the studio's ability to deliver on said promises.


Given that Western MMORPG development has been pushed towards Kickstarter, I think the MMORPG scene going forward will be dominated by Chinese and South Korean developers. Companies like NCSoft, Nexon, X-Legend, and such seem to be releasing numerous new big MMORPGs every year, while larger Western studios seem to be ignoring the genre. Western game developers haven't abandoned the genre all together though. It seems like they refocused on mobile gaming over PC gaming, as some of the most popular mobile MMORPGs are from Western companies - think Order and Chaos 2: Redemption from Gameloft.
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Kill 10 rats. Slay the Dragon. Save the Princess. Its no secret that the MMORPG genre is dominated by the classic medieval fantasy setting. Many of the early quest lines from MMORPGs have become a trope used against the entire genre. Many gamers today consider the MMO genre to be tired, repetitive, and just plain played out.

 But what many of these critics miss is the explosive growth of smaller, free to play MMOs and MMORPGs that offer some radically different playstyles and settings. So let’s put aside WoW, Dungeons & Dragons, and all the other cliche fantasy games and take a look at some games doing things differently!


Absolver Online is an upcoming action MMO with an emphasis on melee combat. Players are trainees preparing for their careers as ‘Absolvers’ Interactions with other players plays a key role in the game’s story and unlike the standard fantasy MMO setting, Absolver Online will have no ranged weapons or tab targeting. Instead, players can expect real time combat that requires skill and practice to master. Even the graphic style in Absolver is unique. It has a claymation like feel to rather than the standard anime Asian game or Western realistic style.

Games set in prehistoric times are sorely lacking. Some MMORPGs throw in tundra regions filled with woolly mammoths or even dinosaurs, but what I would really like to see is more games set in the cavemen era. Since Aeria Games shut down Cave Story 2, we’ve been lacking such a title. Luckily a new multi-platform strategy game released just this year can scratch that itch. Age of Cavemen offers the standard town management found in games like Clash of Clans and Game of War, but with a few new twists. Firstly, Age of Cavemen can be played on mobile phones and the PC. Second, it offers an extensive single player campaign which means more casual players can enjoy the game for longer before being swarmed by a clan of premium users. 
Just because a game does chose to go down the beaten path of a medieval fantasy world, that doesn’t automatically mean it can’t offer a creative spin on the setting. Take Atulos Online for example. A 2D MMORPG that’s over 10 years old where players are thrown into a world under attack by a Dark Sorcerer. So why would anyone pick the game up today? Because so many of today’s games are filled with unnecessary early game grind and generic quests. Atulos Online offers a far simpler pick up and play style. Think Realm of the Mad God but with more late game depth and persistence. If oldschool gameplay is your thing, a game like Atulos Online or even LinkRealms is a great choice!

If you really want to get away from orcs, goblins, trolls, and dragons then you can’t get much further than outer space. Often sci-fi MMORPGs just slap on visors on orcs and call it a day. Star Wars the Old Republic is often guilty of this. But not Battlefleet Gothic: Armada. Inspired by Warhammer 40K, Battlefleet is a MMORTS based on the classic sci-fi tabletop game. The game offers both single player and multi player modes with both a unique setting and gameplay style. Like the tabletop game its based on, the community in Battlefleet Gothic Armada is tight knit and helpful to newcomers. Just be prepared to delve deep into this one!

Who said MMOs and MMORPGs are all alike? The genre originally drew its inspiration from Dungeons & Dragons with its ghouls and goblins, but it has come a long way. There are now dozens of games in every conceivable setting. Modern times, science fiction, prehistoric, colonial times (think Uncharted Waters Online or Voyage Century) plus many unique settings created wholly from the designers imagination! If you can’t find any MMOs or MMORPGs that aren’t classic medieval fantasy, then you aren’t looking hard enough!
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Every time I see an MMORPG label and market itself as an “Action MMORPG” I get excited for some reason. We've all played countless point and click tab targeted MMORPGs like Asta Online and Rohan: Blood Feud. This is your typical MMORPG – generic fantasy environments, point and click gameplay, the works. Combat in these games is usually secondary to character customization (builds/skill choice wise), as combat involves walking up to an enemy and mashing your skills as they come off cooldown. Action MMORPGs on the other hand require players to aim their individual attacks and dodge opponents. This sounds pretty intense, but I have a pretty serious issue with most action MMORPGs. They're brain dead easy.

Games like Onigiri, Tera, and Neverwinter which are all action MMORPGs would be A LOT more fun in my opinion if they had more difficult PvE. I've only played Onigiri a bit, but reached max level in both Tera and Neverwinter and it was unbelievably easy. Yes, you have to aim attacks and dodge enemies, but the problem is there's no real penalty for just standing there and mashing your attacks. Developers have dumbed these games down so much that PvE is an absolute joke. Yes, it gets a BIT harder towards late-game, but making the entire early-mid game experience a total skill-less joke is a big turn off in my opinion. I'm not asking for impossible level difficulty, but I want satisfaction from clearing a dungeon. As-is, leveling feels like a chore because it's merely repetitive with no challenge. Despite having enormous potential, these games don't take ANY skill. At least the PvE department. Action MOBAs like Battlerite have potential, but It's not out yet so I can't quite judge it. Even isometric MMORPGs like Tree of Savior, which are actiony, are stupid easy. Getting maximum level takes no skill, just patience to grind-it out.
On the PvP front, action MMORPGs like Blade and Soul can be quite fun. Now don't get me wrong, the PvE in Blade and Soul, like the PvE in Neverwinter and Tera, is an absolute joke. Pretty much anyone can reach max level without ever breaking a swear. I think I might have died once or twice during my questing to level 50. Both times because I wasn't paying attention at all and was fighting gimicky enemies that explode and do tons of damage. I'm not the only one that feels this way either, as the game's subreddit has also complained that the game is WAY too easy on the PvE front. The redeeming aspect of Blade and Soul though is that the PvP is well designed and takes skill. Way more skill than your traditional MMORPG. If it wasn't for PvP, Blade and Soul would be a flop in my opinion. The only aspect of an action MMORPG that takes skill is PvP, and that varies quite a bit game-to-game. Those looking for a purely skill based action MMORPG should play Blade and Soul for its PvP. I'd say Black Desert Online from Daum had good PvP too, but it's WAY too item dependent. The beauty of Blade and Soul is that the gear plays no role in arena PvP. Seriously, check it out if you haven't already. So do actin MMORPGs take skill? Only one game does - Blade and Soul (pvp). Everything else is a resounding "no".
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Blade & Soul is officially here. It's an MMORPG i've been waiting for ever since it was originally revealed nearly 5 years ago in South Korea. The game launched over there back in 2012 and those of us in the West had to wait over 3 years to get a chance to play it. NCSoft launched the game on January 19th, 2016 but I didn't get a chance to play it until today (mainly since I've been busy at work). The game is a cool ~24 GB in size, so it took me a couple of hours to download it. I had a chance to read Sean Sullivan's Blade and Soul review on MMOs.com while downloading it, which only got me more hyped for the game.

 I can safely say after playing it for a good 4-5 hours in my first session, I was pleasantly surprised. The game's character creation is in-depth (though not as detailed as Black Desert Online), character models are gorgeous, and combat is actually really fun. Some people complained that the female characters in the game were overly sexualized, but that didn't really matter to me. If anything, it was a bonus! Even though the tutorial is a bit lengthy, the game's storytelling is surprisingly decent. All of the main characters are voice acted and the in-game cutscenes are epic. Don't expect Star Wars: The Old Republic style voice acting though, because only the main characters in Blade and Soul are voice acted, whereas literally EVERY NPC in SWTOR has voice acting.
I found the first 2 hours to be a bit repetitive, but as I leveled my Blademaster and unlocked additional skills, things began to get interesting. The combat in Blade and Soul seems to be a mix of traditional MMORPG action combat (thinkTera or Neverwinter) mixed with fighting game mechanics (think Tekken or Marvel vs Capcom). Attacks have to be individually aimed and combos chained. The most interesting aspect of the combat though is that attacks can be manually blocked with precision timing of the block key (at least on my Blademaster). This introduces quite a bit of skill to the game uncommon to most MMORPGs. The skill based action combat is without a doubt my favorite aspect of Blade and Soul. It makes PvP competitive and fun. The PvP in the game is available to everyone upon reaching level 15 (at least for Arenas), which is nice since you don't need to grind to max level to start PvPing. In arena PvP skills and stats are equalized so no one has a gear advantage and the best player wins. Guild Wars 2 employs a similar system and it works really well in both games. I did quite a bit of PvP in Guild Wars 2 before I quit, but I'm finding the PvP in Blade and Soul to be way more fun. Then again, I just started playing so that whole “new game excitement” thing could be clouding my judgment.

 Another awesome aspect of Blade and Soul is its cosmetic system. There are a lot of in game costumes available to players just for completing in-game quests and defeating world bosses. Most MMOs typically sell cosmetics in the cash shop, but Blade and Soul has a ton of them available in game for free, which is great. I can't say for sure how long I'll be playing Blade & Soul, but given that I recently quit Final Fantasy XIV and Path of Exile, I definitely needed a new game to entertain me and Blade and Soul has been incredibly fun so far. If you haven't tried it yet – give it a chance. The combat is genuinely fun!
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After looking at MMOs.com's and MMORPG.com's 2015 game of the year awards, I think it's fair to say that 2015 was an absolute bust as far as free to play MMOs are concerned. Both sites awarded games like Skyforge and Elder Scrolls Online as the best MMORPGs of 2015. I've personally played both and can safely say that neither game was particularly good. I mean, they weren't awful, but the fact that these games are considered “game of the year” material, it means that 2015 didn't have a lot of good games. I actually enjoyed Blade and Soul a bit, but neither site gave any credit to Blade and Soul because it's not exactly a 2015 game. In fact, it's officially launching on January 19, 2016 worldwide, so if anything it's either a 2012 game (original South Korean release) or a 2016 game.

So given that 2015 was a bust, what can we look forward to in 2016? I actually think there's a lot of potential next year. There are countless obscure games like BattlecryThe War of Genesis 4 Online, and Hyper Universe on the horizon from Asian developers, but I'm personally more excited about 2 domestically developed titles. Namely, Albion Online and Paragon. Albion Online offers something no other MMORPG since Ultima Online did: A truly open world PvP experience that's easily accessible. The game is clearly onto something as it recently celebrated a major milestone when it announced it reached 60,000 founders. That's 60,000 people that paid upwards of $100 to support the game during its beta. That's impressive. Paragon on the other hand, is a new MOBA from Epic Games. I'm curious to see how well Unreal's Engine works in a MOBA setting.

The 2016 titles I discussed above look interesting, but they aren't exactly anything new and unique. On the new and unique front, Eco from Strange Loop Games has caught my eye. It's supposed to be a simulation / survival game, but one more titled towards farming and lighthearted fun than something chaotic like Rust. War Rage from Netease also looks like a unique game worth checking out. Gameplay wise, it looks a lot like Dynasty Warriors. Netease may not be a familiar name in Western gaming Lexicon, but Netease is one of the world's largest video game publishers and developers. They're China's second largely gaming company after Tencent. Unfortunately, there's little information regarding a Western release for War Rage, so it may not even launch in 2016. Eco on the other hand should have a beta release in 2016 with a full release aimed for January 2017.

So even though 2015 was a bust, I'm hopeful 2016 will bear better fruit. Luckily it won't take much for 2016 to be a better year. In fact, I'm already certain 2016 is better than 2015 already because I've already played Albion Online and Crowfall (beta) and both games are quite promising. Anyway, where does everyone else stand? Did anyone actually like Skyforge? I thought it was decent, but it was by no means good or even great.
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Black Desert Online (BDO) is officially launching in the West in early 2016. The only problem is that it's going to be buy to play. The decision by DaumGames to make Black Desert Online buy to play in North America and Europe is certainly an odd one, as the Russian and South Korean versions launched as and remain free to play. They aren't even adding anything new to the buy to play version. I mean if they added some new features, it might be worth it. One simple think they could add is Mac compatibility, as A LOT of Westerners use Macs now and there aren't very many Mac MMORPGs out there.

Surprisingly, many gamers on Reddit's BDO subreddit applauded Daum's decision to be buy to play. Their argument was that the publisher wouldn't need to nickle and dime players to make money, so it would create an overall more positive gaming experience. The game is also less likely to become pay to win, as the primary form of monetization won't come from a cash shop. Many even pointed to Guild Wars 2 as an example of successful buy to play MMORPG in the West to support Daum's decision. I'm not buying any of this though. I don't think Black Desert Online will be successful as a buy to play game, mainly because BDO doesn't have the same brand power as a game like Guild Wars 2. Aside from a few hardcore fans actively following the game's development, are casual onlookers going to pony up cash for a Korean MMORPG? In the minds of most gamers, Korean MMOs are supposed to be free to play. I mean even really polished games like Bless Online and Asta Online are both F2P.

With so many exciting new MMORPGs on the horizon, think Blade and Soul (finally) and Lost Ark (eventually), I just can't imagine people are going to pay for Black Desert. I mean, the game's character creation looks and feels great, but I think the game is shooting itself in the foot with its unusual business model. I only say unusual because its free to play everywhere BUT North America and Europe. I've played the Russian version and I actually really like the game, but I don't think I'm going to be paying for it. Even though there are IP blocks in place to prevent Westerners from accessing the Russian / Asian servers, players can use VPNs to get around IP blocks to play the game.

I'm personally not even looking forward to a buy to play Black Desert. Especially after seeing some of the newer MMORPGs on display at G-Star 2015. War Rage by Netease for example, looks quite intense. It looks a lot like Dynasty Warriors, as it has massive scale. I'm also eager to try some of the upcoming free to play shooters like BattleBorn and Paladins: Champions of the Realm. There's so many awesome games on the horizon, that I don't think people are going to pay for Black Desert, but that's just my 2 cents on the issue.
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Despite my cynical nature and overall pessimistic attitude, there are a handful of games launching later this year that I'm excited about. Not so excited that I'm setting myself up for failure, but more so cautiously optimistic. One game I've been eager to try since it was first announced is Ghost in the Shell Online from Nexon, which was recently renamed to First Assault. As a big fan of Ghost in the Shell, it's sad to see Nexon drop the anime's name from the title, but I suspect they did it to create a more streamlined title; as "Ghost in the Shell Online" could literally mean anything - from an MMORPG to an FPS, whereas "First Assault" has a more FPS-like vibe to it. Naming issues aside, First Assault looks fun because it's an FPS with sci-fi elements. I'm personally quite tired of the countless dozens of "modern" tactical shooters like Warmode and Soldier Front 2. These modern shooters are literally a dime a dozen. It helps that the visuals in First Assault are top notch too, at least as seen in the latest trailer that Nexon revealed in September, 2015.

 Moving along, another upcoming game I'm excited about is Lawbreakers, yes another FPS game from Nexon. Clearly Nexon has a thing for FPS games as they just released Dirty Bomb earlier this year and are also working on Combat Arms Line of Sight. Lawbreakers looks particularly fun because it's fast paced and features Tribes: Ascend like movement. I'm a bit of a sucker for FPS games as I've plaeyed free to play shooters like Soldier Front and Soldier Front 2 for years, as well as traditional shooters like Counter-Strike. Lawbreakers, like First Assault, is also sci-fi themed. The game also looks a bit like a MOBA, as it features 5v5 arena style matches with a unique cast of characters. What sold me on the game is its maneuverability; Nexon claims the game will feature jetpacks and grappling hooks to allow players the ability to zip across maps. Take a look at the official Lawbreakers gameplay trailer below and don't tell me you're not excited about it!
LawBreakers - Gameplay Reveal Trailer - YouTube

Another free to play MMO that should launch later this year is Paladins from HI-Rez Studios, the same studio best known for developing SMITE. Hi-Rez has been quite ambitious as of late, as they announced two new major games - Paladins (which I'm excited for) and Atlas Reactor, and upcoming turn based tactical game that looks a lot like X-Com. Paladins, like Lawbreakers, looks to mix MOBA elements with FPS gameplay. There's a lot of fun FPS games coming out this year, so make sure to check them all out! I'll leave my own reviews for them on this blog after I play them. Are you excited about any of these games? If so, which ones? Let me know in the comments!
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Inspirit Online, also known as Elite Lord of Alliance (ELOA) in Korea, is a global MMORPG developed in Korea by NPICSoft and published overseas by Game Release Entertainment inspired by anime and fantasy titles.

Inspirit Online has a core set of features established with the goal of being simple, approachable and fleshed out. In this Korean title, unlike some others, there are plenty of customization options. You start by choosing one of 4 playable classes (Knight, Mage, Gunner, and Psychic) and one of 3 races (Kartu, Liru, and Sapiens). Inspirit Online features a unique 3 weapon system where each class has access to 3 weapon types and each has their own set of skills, which players can switch between on the fly. The Transcendence System is Inspirit’s late-game level system that allows players to further customize their characters after hitting the maximum level. One of Inspirit Online’s most useful systems is its built in Encyclopedia, which is a very useful in-game tool to help with just about every action. One of Inspirit Online’s biggest draw-in is its pet system, which is heavily polished, allowing for pets to level alongside the user. And finally, this title boasts a robust crafting system with four types of craft skills (Weapons, Armor, Alchemists, and Accessory). Visually, the game has a top down isometric camera angle similar to games like Path of Exile and War of the Immortals.
 

The game has many other miscellaneous strong suits like its easy-to-use user interface, successful action RPG combat style and goofy yet unique graphics, but many other aspects of the game feel eerily familiar. The spell casting system, as well as many of the less-serious aspects of the game, are similar to Tera. Questing is the same as most other generic MMOs, which means a lot of fetch quests and a lot of grinding. Mission with friends are very enjoyable and more intimate than many MMOs, especially with all of the AOE attacks going off at once on screen.

With all that said, this game isn’t perfect. As Inspirit Online was originally the Korean title known as Elite Lord of Alliance, the entire game is basically a so-so translation, leaving some unrelatable references and confusing sentence structures. The user interface, while easy to use, was quite small. Even with 20/20 vision some of the icons were hard to make out, and I couldn’t find any settings to tweak it. As with most MMORPGs the story is bland and in piecemeal, but that isn’t really why people play MMOs, is it? Some of the less serious moments of the game are too far out there, and the fact that some players can earn wings is even more so. Even though combat was a blast compared to other MMO titles, Inspirit Online’s aiming can feel wonky at times, but not enough to mar the experience. From my experience, story driven MMORPGs can be fun when done right, but you can't expect a solid story from an MMO unless it has a huge budget, a la Star Wars the Old Republic. This is a bit of an aside, but my favorite story driven MMO is The Secret World, a lesser known buy to play gem.

After all is said and done, Inspirit Online is a mighty fine MMORPG with great combat, easy to learn game elements and stylish graphics. The experience falls apart a bit when the English is less than perfect or when things get a bit too wacky, but overall this is a grand experience for MMO fans that is simple, unique, familiar and extremely polished.
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If you’ve seen the infamous South Park parody of the popular online game World of Warcraft than you’re image of MMORPG players is likely to be that of greasy, overweight basement dwellers. Of course this popular stereotype couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s not just the nongaming public that holds this view. Even many gamers may have false notions of what kind of people make up the broad spectrum of MMORPG players.

south park - world of warcraft fatguy - YouTube


Research by such reputable organizations as Nielsen (a global compiler of TV and other media ratings) show that the male/female ratio in the high fantasy, D&Desque game World of Warcraft is about 60 to 40. This means about 40% of World of Warcraft players are female. Of course this won’t come as a surprise to most serious MMORPG players who’ve likely quested or raided with a broad range of people through the years. These demographics aren't specific to World of Warcraft either. Pick any game from an MMO List and you'll find the data generally holds true for most MMORPGs. Gamers who prefer other genres, however, are also likely to have a poor understanding of the MMORPG demographic. Hopefully as more information like this is released, the image that the broader culture has of MMORPG players will improve. 

Another methodical source, The Daedalus Project, has more interesting statistics. Did you know that only 25% of MMORPG players are teenagers or that 22% of MMORPG players actually have kids of their own? But is the general view totally off the mark? Not necessarily. Around 60% of MMORPG players claim to have played for 10 hours or more continuously at least once in their gaming history. Just how many of these gamers repeatedly play for 10 hour marathon sessions is still unclear but certainly represents a significant part of the demographic.

Just as the average gamer today is well over his teens and is nearly as likely to be a woman as a man, the average mmorpg player is equally diverse. If anything, MMORPG gamers show signs of being more mature and social than gamers who focus on other genres. Nearly 80% of MMORPG players report playing either with friends or loved ones which makes the MMORPG player one of the most social creatures in our society!


 The same trend holds true for another  genre that was once considered the exclusive purview of the 'hardcore' (read: single, teenage, male) gamer: FPS. A 2014 report by SuperData Research shows that the gender ratio for FPS games is 34% Female / 66% Male. Of course this will come as less of a surprise to anyone who frequents Twitch.tv. The number of female streamers trying Counter-Strike Global Offensive and sticking with it is apparent. 
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