MMOs (or MMOGs as they are sometimes referred to) stand for massively multiplayer online games, games played by large numbers of gamers simultaneously via the internet. Particularly popular today are multiplayer online battle arena games, also known as MOBAs, which are a subsegment of the MMO market. The entire MMO market was expected to grow from 24.4 billion U.S dollars in 2014 to nearly 31 billion U.S. dollars by 2017. MMO games can also be segmented into free-to-play (F2P) and pay-to-play (P2P). Despite nominally being free of charge, F2P games category actually generates significantly more revenues than its pay-to-play sibling. This is mostly due to consumer in-game spending. Globally, the Asia Pacific is the region where F2P gaming thrives, with annual revenues in the region calculated at level of 11.2 billion U.S. dollars as of June 2016.
Within the MMO genre there are several subgenres of games which are amalgamations of pre-existing genres and the massively multiplayer online format. The most common type of these MMO subgenres is the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), a category which was first introduced in 1997 by the creator of ‘Ultima Online’, Richard Garriott. Among MMORPGs, one of the most well-known titles is ‘World of Warcraft’ (WoW). WoW was created in 2004 by Blizzard Entertainment and marked the fourth game in the already popular ‘Warcraft’ franchise. By the first quarter of 2005, WoW already had 1.5 million subscribers worldwide. This figure later peaked at 12 million subscribers globally, by the fourth quarter of 2014. However, as the subscriber numbers started decreasing since then, the developer chose to stop reporting on these figures.
The assumption that MMO gaming - and gaming culture in general - is populated solely by introverted, immature, socially-awkward young men has existed for years and this idea has been lent greater popularity through high-profile television shows such as ‘The Big Bang Theory’, a show which revolves around the exploits of its four leading characters, all of whom embody at least one if not all of these traits. In spite of this, statistics released in December 2016 saw the male dominated industry myth begin to diminish when it was revealed that 59 percent of women admitted to playing MMO games in the United States. It was also revealed in 2016 that the majority of women enjoyed these kinds of games mainly because of the competition factor as well as simple need to interact with other players, among many other reasons. These results were very much in line with those of their male counterparts.
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