Top 10 Most Played MMORPGs in North America

most popular mmorpgs america
A company of adventurers sit by a tavern fireplace to discuss the most popular mmorpgs of today.

What Are The 10 Most Popular MMORPGs in America?

‘MMORPG’ stands for ‘massive multiplayer online roleplaying game,’ which is a genre that could only be created in the Information Age due to widespread access to Internet and an increasingly global community. If you've been looking to jump into a new MMO but are afraid of ending up alone due to dwindling activity, don't worry. We’ve done a deep dive into the current top 10 most played MMORPGs in North America so you can be assured of in-game company for years to come. 

10. Lineage II: Revolution

Total Registered Players: 5 million in 2018 (Globally, across platforms)

Monthly Active Users: Average 90k in 2017 (North American Servers)

Elven Ruins in Lineage II

Lineage II: Revolution was launched for mobile devices in Korea in 2016. It was an instant hit, and generated over $176 million in first the month after launch. It runs on the Unreal 4 Engine and looks really good, despite being run on Smartphones. The draw for players was Revolution’s great PvP (player vs. player) combat system which balanced PvP and PvE (player vs. environment) nicely, catering to a wide audience. 

As for its current activity and engagement levels, it seems that Lineage II: Revolution has a very dedicated group of fans. As is to be expected, the global launch of the game in late 2017 triggered a huge user boost to its Subreddit activity, Twitch streams, and game registrations. At its peak, it was the 3rd most viewed game on Twitch, but now sits with an average of around 75 viewers per day. While the official forums are pretty ho hum (almost no activity outside of the developers’ announcements), the Reddit is hip happening. There are 11.2K subscribers to the Subreddit and it looks like there is a steady flow of users every day. There is also an unofficial forum that is quite active. 

Every game will experience ebb and flow in its active player base and MMOs are particularly susceptible to this issue. It looks like the latest few game updates have been pretty lackluster and fans are a little miffed, but, from what I gather, if you know what you’re looking for in your mobile MMO and Lineage II: Revolution satisfies your needs then everything will be just fine.  

9. Tera

Total Registered Players26 Million as of 2018 (globally, all platforms)  

Monthly Active Users: 65K as of 2018 (Steam only, North America, could be upwards of 150K globally across launchers) 

Tera Online Combat

Tera is a free-to-play (F2P) MMORPG available for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. On Steam alone, Tera has an average of 3,000 players active per day. It recently launched its 6th anniversary event to a great reception, meaning it has no plans of slowing down any time soon. What players seem to love about Tera, apart from its great real-time combat and well-designed areas, is its unique Vanarch Election political system, which adds a whole other level of immersion to the game.  

When Tera first switched to a F2P model in February 2013, they soon had over 1.4 million registered users. This was nothing compared to the boost the game would get from its Steam launch in 2017 which saw a 50% increase in the number of players. The Subreddit and official forums both look pretty active, which says a lot about Tera’s staying power in the MMO world.  

A search for forum posts about fan satisfaction shows that while the game is certainly not dead, it is experiencing a decline. Some theories for why that is include lack of meaningful content updates, the outdated locked class genders, and general mismanagement by En Masse. But as one user points out, any older F2P MMO will get boring pretty quickly if you grind to the higher levels because you will run out of content, especially if you don’t participate in any in-game transactions with real money. So, if you are a casual MMO player who only has time for a few hours a week and don’t want to spend any money, then Tera might be worth checking out.

8. Neverwinter

Total Registered Players: 15 million in 2018 (globally, all platforms) 

Monthly Active Users: 100K on Steam in 2018 (no verifiable numbers for other platforms, but if it’s around the same per platform/launcher it could be upwards of 500K)

Magic Combat in Neverwinter

Neverwinter takes place in The Forgotten Realms, the setting for a popular Dungeons & Dragons campaign. That connection alone provided a huge draw for players, as D&D is a beloved staple of roleplaying game culture. What I found interesting is how cagey Arc Games has been about providing statistics on active players. It’s a touchy subject for any MMO, but the reliable numbers only talked about the 15 million total registered players, and any gaming veteran will tell you that a solid chunk of those on the PC are bots. 

When Neverwinter launched on PS4 and Xbox One in 2016, they saw pretty impressive growth in registrations, with 2M and 1.6M new users respectively two months after the launch on the consoles. Of course, with any F2P MMO you see a lot of people signing up, playing for a little while, and then losing interest and dropping off. Nevertheless, Neverwinter seems to be in full swing, as some reports state that the last summer event map had over 50 instances of 50 players each on Xbox One alone. The devs are active within the community and post regular updates to the official forums as well as their YouTube channel. The latest DLC release, Lost City of Omu, came out earlier this year (2018), and they’ve just announced another content update called Ravenloft to be out this summer. If that is any indication of how things are going, then it looks like Neverwinter will be around for a while.

7. Black Desert Online

Total Registered Players: 7.2 million (NA and EU) 

Monthly Active Users15K players a day (Steam only) 

Creatures and Combat in Black Desert Online

Released in March 2016, Black Desert Online (BDO) is a sandbox MMORPG that uses a custom engine called Black Desert. It uses a buy-to-play model, which means once you purchase the game you are F2P from there. Developers released a huge infographic to celebrate their two-year anniversary and a lot of the stats are really interesting, while some (like the registered player stats) are probably a little embellished. 

BDO has great Twitch stream rates and a fairly sizable subreddit sitting at 74K subscribers. Fans generally agree that while the game’s custom engine is a huge asset to its success, the fact that its servers are a little rough can be a little discouraging. Due to BDO’s sandbox nature it can sometimes feel repetitive, so a lot of players make the roleplaying aspect their focus. Overall, BDO is a thriving community surrounding a really solid game, so if its aesthetic is something you’d prefer over the other more traditional high fantasy MMO titles, then give it a try. 

6. EVE Online

Total Registered Players: Estimated 300K subscribers (last confirmed numbers from 2015) 

Monthly Active Users24K active players a day (all servers) 

Space Combat in EVE Online

Perhaps best known for the space battle that cost $300,000 (in real currency) called the Bloodbath of B-R5RB, or the revenge heist dubbed Judge’ment Day, or the Phaser Inc. Investment Scheme, EVE Online is a sci-fi sandbox MMORPG that has no end game and no goal other than to acquire the in-game currency called Interstellar Kredits (ISK).  

EVE is an interesting game because it has very complex and realistic economic and political systems. The world truly evolves with its players and has no scripted expansions or event quests or canon plotlines. The players determine all of these by just being in the game. Hence the famous events listed above. It has a steep learning curve and is at a place where it’s hard to be a new player unless you’re willing to put in the work to basically make EVE a job. But no shame if that’s your thing! 

Bots have become a serious problem in EVE, as is to be expected in an MMO with an economic focus. But the problem here is that an overpopulation of bots will drastically affect the balance of the economy. CCP has admitted they aren’t doing enough to stop bots, but they are working on finding a better solution. They do release major monthly balance fixes and patches, though, so that’s a plus. EVE is currently #94 in the Players rank (as of this writing) on Twitch, and has an active Subreddit with just over 91K subscribers, proving the community is still pretty engaged. 

5. Guild Wars 2

Total Registered Players: 11 million 

Monthly Active Users: No numbers available… 

Guild Wars 2 Exosuit Armour

Guild Wars 2 is a F2P (or buy-to-play for the expansions) high fantasy MMORPG that came out in 2012. It’s the sequel to a highly successful game and was released to immediate praise. Fans were impressed by the personal narratives they could create as well as an innovative dynamic event system which replaced the traditional quest system of the RPG genre. 

Last September, the devs released the highly anticipated expansion update Path of Fire, which triggered a spike in Twitch streams and reddit activity. While the baseline of activity on Twitch and Reddit has been steadily going down over the past year, that is by no means a metric for determining a game’s success. Searching for talk of Guild War 2’s death brings up little more than a few trolls claiming only 12 people play the game and others trying to make up formulas to create guesses. No one is heralding GW2’s demise any time soon.  

4. Final Fantasy XIV

Total Registered Players11.2 million (world) 

Monthly Active Users: 562K (world) 

Final Fantasy XIV Combat

Final Fantasy XIV originally launched in 2010 to a dismal reception. Fans were disappointed by the clunky UI, choppy quest system, and overall lack of “awe” usually found in a Final Fantasy Game. That and the outrageous subscription fees. IGN’s Charles Onyett called it “an arduous experience” and said it “[wasn’t] worth playing.” But at Gamescom 2012, Square Enix revealed a totally overhauled FFXIV with brand new HUD, improved graphics and engine performance, and more polished content. The effect was immediate, and the new favourable reviews set the stage for the game to become a success.  

In October 2013, three months after the relaunch, Square Enix announced it had just over 1.5 million subscribers. Unfortunately, pay-to-play MMOs never last long, with World of Warcraft being the only one to consistently beat the odds. An interview with FFXIV: Heavensward producer Naoki Yoshida in 2015 revealed that the company had no plans of going to a F2P model and that of their now 1.8 million subscribers (500K of which signed in daily), 80% of them were happy with the monthly subscription model, calling the MMO a “service.”  

Now, FFXIV still holds regular events and festivals and releases hefty DLC updates. Through Steam alone, approximately 5000 players are logging in every day, but the majority of players log in through the game’s native launcher. The game’s subreddit has over 176K subscribers, and the Twitch activity has had consistent peaks and valleys over the past year, with expected spikes during events and new DLC launches and pits right before patches. There are some servers so crowded that new players aren’t even being allowed into them. If you don’t mind the subscription fee, then FFXIV seems to be worth checking out. 

3. RuneScape

Total Registered Players: 200 million as of 2012 (though a significant number of those are bots and duplicate accounts) 

Monthly Active Users: 105K on average per day (including both the Old School and New versions) 

RuneScape 3 Town

RuneScape was released in January 2001. It started out as a browser-based Java game, made as a passion project by Andrew and Paul Gower while they were in college. Apparently, they spent a lot of time roping friends into doing voices and sound effects for the game and got the sounds for things like fishing by dropping items into the kitchen sink of their family home. Since then it’s gone through a few different updates – RuneScape 2 in 2004, and RuneScape 3 (the current version) in 2013. They are also slated to launch a mobile version of the game for iOS and Andriod sometime this year.  

A big aspect of RuneScape was its free for all style PVP, where you could be attacked by anyone just about anywhere outside of towns. While for some players this was just all part of the strategy of the game, it was stressful for more casual players. The same goes for the unbalanced trades (a system where you can offer something for nothing in return if you both agreed). The trade system led to real world money being spent on in-game trades between players. In late 2007, Jagax eliminated these two systems to a big hullabaloo by fans which caused a huge drop in player activity. A referendum was held and after an overwhelming 91% of voters wanted the systems back, they were reinstated in 2011.  

So, what’s RuneScape like today? Well, it’s still the most updated MMO of all time, receiving weekly patches and attention from the devs. It’s currently ranked the 103rd most watched/streamed game on Twitch, and its Subreddit, which has 111K subscribers, was recently trending when they had a huge birthday celebration in January. I used to be big into RuneScape and seeing how far it’s come and how successful it continues to be makes me want to give it another try. With an active community and a F2P model, RuneScape is a classic that demonstrates the importance of changing with the times and listening to players. 

2. Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited

Total Registered Players: 10 million (global, 2017) 

Monthly Active Users: 2.5 million (global, 2017) 

Elder Scrolls Online SUmmerset Isle Creature Promo

Elder Scrolls Online, much like FFXIV, had a rocky launch. The Beta testing, which I was lucky enough to be a part of, made it abundantly clear that it was the brand-new studio ZeniMax Online and not Bethesda who took the lead on the game. The clunky controls and disappointing graphics and content made it a rough game to play. It suffered performance issues that lasted into its release in 2014.  

However, the biggest struggle for the game was the nearly $70 CAD after taxes ($59.99 US) initial cost which then had to be followed by a $14.99/mo subscription fee. With the lack of content and the serious issues with bugs and exploits, it was hard for many MMORPG and Elder Scrolls fans to justify the commitment. After seeing initially abysmal sales, ZeniMax announced it was shifting to Tamriel Unlimited in 2015, where you could now pay for the game once and play on the main map for no subscription fee, but to get the DLC and access to the best content you have the option of still paying the subscription fee. This helped their numbers immediately. 

They’ve recently launched the Summerset Isles expansion and the devs do regular Twitch streams and contests. The main Subreddit seems to be a pretty active place with 130K subscribers and an upward trend, and Twitch activity shows it to be #26 in the current player ranking (at the time of writing). If you’ve avoided ESO until now because of the poor press at launch, then perhaps it’s time to give it another chance, now that its added a ton of content and seems to be doing right by its players. No doubt if it sticks around as long as WoW, it could easily become the next top MMORPG. 

1. World of Warcraft

Total Registered Players: 100 million accounts created (as of 2014) 

Monthly Active Users: 5.5 million active subscriptions (2015, probably slightly less since then) 

World of Warcraft Character Reaction Shot

World of Warcraft turns a spectacular 14 years old this November. At its peak it had 10 million concurrent subscribers, making it the most popular MMORPG according to the Guinness Book of World Records (2009). As mentioned earlier, RuneScape surpassed this in 2012, but given that RuneScape is F2P, I think we can safely say that comparing them is apples to oranges.  

In 2015, Blizzard announced that with the release of 5.5 million subscriber number they would no longer divulge that information, meaning it’s hard to pin down just how many active users there are today. Given that there is a new expansion, Battle for Azeroth, slated for release in August 2018, we can safely assume WoW is not dead yet. 

Blizzard counts on these expansion packs to retain subscribers, so a lot of effort is usually put into them. They almost always add a new land, a new canon story for the world’s lore, and tons of loot and items, as well as raising the level cap. World of Warcraft is currently ranked #9 in current Twitch viewers, and the main Subreddit is #169 with over 527K subscribers and regularly sees topics on the trending page. All indicators point to WoW’s community being a strong and active one, so you don’t have to worry about being lonely if you decide to start for the first time or return after a hiatus.  

World of Warcraft has been doing right in the MMORPG sphere for long enough that it is old enough to go to high school. While FFXIV’s and Elder Scrolls Online’s early sales numbers nearly reached WoW’s records, they have yet to demonstrate the consistent staying power of the latter. The numbers all say that WoW is still the #1 MMORPG in the world, let alone North America. Well done, Blizzard, well done. 

As you can see, there are plenty of options for active MMORPGs. Don't forget, if the RPG genre doesn't hold your attention there are also MMO shooters, simulators, and strategy games. But hopefully now you have a better idea of the kind of traffic the top 10 MMORPGs in North America see. 

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Saviour of the Milk Way Galaxy, Defeater of the World Eater, and certified Simlish translator; I have a geekdom resume 100 lightyears long. I live to escape to other realities. Won't you join me?
Gamer Since: 1996
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Breath of the Wild
Top 3 Favorite Games:Mass Effect 2, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dragonborn, The Stanley Parable
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