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The Daily Grind: What does "MMO" mean, anyway?

Samuel Axon

What is an MMO, and what isn't? There was the central question in a hearty debate in the Massively offices yesterday after some of us watched (or attended) the Nintendo and Sony E3 press conferences. It's an old question, but it's all the more relevant in the context of E3 this year.

At the Nintendo conference, a game called Animal Crossing: City Folk was announced for the Wii. In that game, each player has his or her own persistent town hosted on Nintendo's servers. There are likely thousands of players, but only four players can be in each town at a time. Is Animal Crossing: City Folk an MMO? On one hand, you have thousands of players in persistent worlds. On the other: only four players per world? That doesn't sound very massive! We decided it's not, but what do you think?

A couple of hours later, Sony announced a PlayStation 3 game called MAG, which stands for "Massive Action Game." In MAG, up to 256 players battle over control points in a persistent battlefield. There's even character advancement. Is MAG an MMO? That depends on just how many players have to be in the world for it to be called "massive," doesn't it? You might say that there should be thousands. Then again, some first generation MMOs like Meridian 59 didn't usually have much more than a couple hundred people on each server. Tough call?

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