End of the year top ten lists are dropping like snowflakes, and I believe Forbes’ own countdown is about to go live any minute now. Compiling my own list this year got me thinking about an issue that has a certain class of game overlooked in lieu of new releases every year: The Ongoing Game.
The Ongoing Game came be a MOBA, MMO, RTS, or really anything, so long as it provides a continuous experience for players year after year. MOBAs and MMOs are probably the most commonly referenced “perennials,” but the issue is that many of them are constantly being tweaked and patched into better and better games. Nearly all Ongoing Games are better than they were during their initial year of release, yet come “awards time,” they’re often forgotten about.
Making my own list this year, it occurred to me to actually have a spot open for League of Legends, instead of some other new title that just came out this year. The MOBA was first released in 2009, but it’s taken years for it to refine itself into the most popular game in the world, with 30 million+ monthly players at last count. And yet, I’d be shocked if it makes any top ten lists this year in favor of experiences that may not be necessarily better, just newer.
The same goes for something like Hearthstone, which made my own top ten this year. The game is in closed beta right now, and won’t even be in open beta until next year. So how should it be ranked? Was I wrong to put it in my list this year, when many still can’t play it? Would it be right to have it in lists next year during open beta? Do we have to wait until its official release possibly the year after that? Or should we simply have it eligible each year, and every year it exists after that?
I’m not sure what the answer is here. I’m not necessarily sure something like Polygon’s constant rescoring of games is entirely helpful, though it can be a step in the right direction. While I don’t believe in dropping Battlefield or Sim City’s official review scores by five or six points due to technical difficulties, I think that it might be worth reexamining these Ongoing Games annually to analyze how they’ve evolved and changed over the course of the year. Some outlets do this, but I think more should, my own included.
How is WoW holding up these days? I don’t think we necessarily need to wait for the next expansion to find out. The same goes for older giants like EVE Online or newer ones like Guild Wars 2. A game like Diablo 3 patched itself so much it became essentially an entirely different game a year later than it was at launch, yet at that point, it’s old news and not worth revisiting to most.
While I think new titles are great, and every year there’s a huge number of them worthy of “best of the year” lists, I don’t think we need to forget about old favorites which are constantly evolving into better and better games, and attract bigger audiences than many of these newer titles combined.
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