An online game is a video game that is either partially or primarily played through the Internet or any other computer network available. Online games are ubiquitous on modern gaming platforms, including PCs, consoles and mobile devices, and span many genres, including first-person shooters, strategy games, and massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG). In 2019, revenue in the online games segment reached $16.9 billion, with $4.2 billion generated by China and $3.5 billion in the United States. Since the 2010s, a common trend among online games has been to operate them as games as a service, using monetization schemes such as loot boxes and battle passes as purchasable items atop freely-offered games. Unlike purchased retail games, online games have the problem of not being permanently playable, as they require special servers in order to function.
The design of online games can range from simple text-based environments to the incorporation of complex graphics and virtual worlds. The existence of online components within a game can range from being minor features, such as an online leaderboard, to being part of core gameplay, such as directly playing against other players. Many online games create their own online communities, while other games, especially social games, integrate the players' existing real-life communities. Some online games can receive a massive influx of popularity due to many well-known Twitch streamers and YouTubers playing them.
Online gaming has drastically increased the scope and size of video game culture. Online games have attracted players of a variety of ages, nationalities, and occupations. The online game content is now being studied in the scientific field, especially gamers' interactions within virtual societies in relation to the behavior and social phenomena of everyday life. As in other cultures, the community has developed a gamut of slang words or phrases that can be used for communication in or outside of games. Due to their growing online nature, modern video game slang overlaps heavily with internet slang, as well as leetspeak, with many words such as "pwn" and "noob". Another term that was popularized by the video game community is the abbreviation "AFK" to refer to people who are not at the computer or paying attention. Other common abbreviations include "GL HF" which stands for "good luck, have fun," which is often said at the beginning of a match to show good sportsmanship. Likewise, at the end of a game, "GG" or "GG WP" may be said to congratulate the opponent, win or lose, on a "good game, well played". Many video games have also inspired internet memes and achieved a very large following online.
The culture of online gaming sometimes faces criticism for an environment that can promote cyberbullying, violence, and xenophobia. Some are also concerned about gaming addiction or social stigma. However, it has been argued that, since the players of an online game are strangers to each other and have limited communication, the individual player's experience in an online game is not necessarily different from playing with artificial intelligence players.
The history of online games dates back to the early days of packet-based computer networking in the 1970s, An early example of online games is MUDs, including the first, MUD1, which was created in 1978 and originally confined to an internal network before becoming connected to ARPANet in 1980. Commercial games followed in the next decade, with Islands of Kesmai, the first commercial online role-playing game, debuting in 1984, as well as more graphical games, such as the MSX LINKS action games in 1986, the flight simulator Air Warrior in 1987, and the Famicom Modem's online Go game in 1987.
The rapid availability of the Internet in the 1990s led to an expansion of online games, with notable titles including Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds (1996), Quakeworld (1996), Ultima Online (1997), Lineage (1998), StarCraft (1998), Counter-Strike (1999) and EverQuest (1999). Video game consoles also began to receive online networking features, such as the Famicom Modem (1987), Sega Meganet (1990), Satellaview (1995), SegaNet (2000), PlayStation 2 (2000) and Xbox (2001). Following improvements in connection speeds, more recent developments include the popularization of new genres, such as social games, and new platforms, such as mobile games.[better source needed]
Entering into the 2000s, the cost of technology, servers, and the Internet has dropped so far that fast Internet was commonplace, which led to previously unknown genres like massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) becoming well-known. For example, World of Warcraft (2004) dominated much of the decade. Several other MMOs attempted to follow in Warcraft's footsteps, such as Star Wars Galaxies, City of Heroes, Wildstar, Warhammer Online, Guild Wars 2, and Star Wars: The Old Republic, but failed to make a significant impact in Warcraft's market share. Over time, the MMORPG community has developed a sub-culture with its own slang and metaphors, as well as an unwritten list of social rules and taboos.
Separately, a new type of online game came to popularity alongside World of Warcraft, Defense of the Ancients (2003) which introduced the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) format. DotA, a community-created mod based on Warcraft III, gained in popularity as interest in World of Warcraft waned, but since the format was tied to the Warcraft property, others began to develop their own MOBAs, including Heroes of Newerth (2009), League of Legends (2010), and Dota 2 (2013). Blizzard Entertainment, the owner of Warcraft property, released their own take on the MOBA genre with Heroes of the Storm (2015), emphasizing on numerous original heroes from Warcraft III and other Blizzard's franchises. By the early 2010s, the genre had become a big part of the esports category.
During the last half of the 2010s, hero shooter, a variation of shooter games inspired by multiplayer online battle arenas and older class-based shooters, had a substantial rise in popularity with the release of Battleborn and Overwatch in 2016. The genre continued to grow with games such as Paladins (2018) and Valorant (2020).
A battle royale game format became widely popular with the release of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (2017), Fortnite Battle Royale (2017), and Apex Legends (2019). The popularity of the genre continued in the 2020s with the release of the Call of Duty: Warzone (2020). Each game has received tens of millions of players within months of its releases.
The assumption that online games in general are populated mostly by males has remained somewhat accurate for years. Recent statistics begin to diminish the male domination myth in gaming culture. Although a worldwide number of male gamers still dominates over female (52% by 48%), women accounted for more than half of the players of certain games. As of 2019, the average gamer is 33 years old.
The report Online Game Market Forecasts estimates worldwide revenue from online games to reach $35 billion by 2017, up from $19 billion in 2011.
Xbox Live was launched in November 2002. Initially the console only used a feature called system link, where players could connect two consoles using an Ethernet cable, or multiple consoles through a router. With the original Xbox Microsoft launched Xbox Live, allowing shared play over the internet. A similar feature exists on the PlayStation 3 in the form of the PlayStation Network, and the Wii also supports a limited amount of online gaming. Nintendo also has a network, dubbed "Nintendo Network", that fully supports online gaming with the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS.
This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. (Learn how and when to remove these template messages)
The development of web-based graphics technologies such as Flash and Java allowed browser games to become more complex. These games, also known by their related technology as "Flash games" or "Java games", became increasingly popular. Games ranged from simple concepts to large-scale games, some of which were later released on consoles. Many Java or Flash games were shared on various different websites, bringing them to wide audiences. Browser-based pet games are popular among the younger generation of online gamers. These games range from gigantic games with millions of users, such as Neopets, to smaller and more community-based pet games.
More recent browser-based games use web technologies like Ajax to make more complicated multiplayer interactions possible and WebGL to generate hardware-accelerated 3D graphics without the need for plugins.
Types of interactions
Player versus environment (PvE)
PvE is a term used in online games, particularly MMORPGs and other role-playing video games, to refer to fighting computer-controlled opponents.
Player versus player (PvP)
PvP is a term broadly used to describe any game, or aspect of a game, where players compete against each other rather than against computer-controlled opponents.
First-person shooter game (FPS)
During the 1990s, online games started to move from a wide variety of LAN protocols (such as IPX) and onto the Internet using the TCP/IP protocol. Doom popularized the concept of a deathmatch, where multiple players battle each other head-to-head, as a new form of online game. Since Doom, many first-person shooter games contain online components to allow deathmatch or arena style play. And by popularity, first person shooter games are becoming more and more widespread around the world. As games became more realistic and competitive, an e-sports community was born. Games like Counter-Strike, Halo, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Quake Live and Unreal Tournament are popular with these tournaments. These tournaments have a range of winnings from money to hardware.
Expansion of hero shooters, a sub-genre of shooter games, happened in 2016 when several developers released or announced their hero shooter multiplayer online game. Hero shooters have been considered to have strong potential as an esport, as a large degree of skill and coordination arises from the importance of teamwork. Some notable examples include Battleborn, Overwatch, Paladins and Valorant.
Real-time strategy game (RTS)
Early real-time strategy games often allowed multiplayer play over a modem or local network. As the Internet started to grow during the 1990s, software was developed that would allow players to tunnel the LAN protocols used by the games over the Internet. By the late 1990s, most RTS games had native Internet support, allowing players from all over the globe to play with each other. Popular RTS games with online communities have included Age of Empires, Sins of a Solar Empire, StarCraft and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War.
Massively multiplayer online game (MMO)
Massively multiplayer online games were made possible with the growth of broadband Internet access in many developed countries, using the Internet to allow hundreds of thousands of players to play the same game together. Many different styles of massively multiplayer games are available, such as:
- MMORPG (Massively multiplayer online role-playing game)
- MMORTS (Massively multiplayer online real-time strategy)
- MMOFPS (Massively multiplayer online first-person shooter)
- MMOSG (Massively multiplayer online social game)
Multiplayer online battle arena game (MOBA)
A specific subgenre of strategy video games referred to as multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) gained popularity in the 2010s as a form of electronic sports, encompassing games such as the Defense of the Ancients mod for Warcraft III, League of Legends, Dota 2, Smite, and Heroes of the Storm. Major esports professional tournaments are held in venues that can hold tens of thousands of spectators and are streamed online to millions more. A strong fanbase has opened up the opportunity for sponsorship and advertising, eventually leading the genre to become a global cultural phenomenon.
Battle Royale games
A battle royale game is a genre that blends the survival, exploration and scavenging elements of a survival game with last-man-standing gameplay. Dozens to hundreds of players are involved in each match, with the winner being the last player or team alive. Some notable examples include PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, Fortnite Battle Royale, Apex Legends, and Call of Duty: Warzone, each having received tens of millions of players within months of their releases. The genre is designed exclusively for multiplayer gameplay over the Internet.
MUD is a class of multi-user real-time virtual worlds, usually but not exclusively text-based, with a history extending back to the creation of MUD1 by Richard Bartle in 1978. MUD were the direct predecessors of MMORPG.
Other notable games
A social deduction game is a multiplayer online game in which players attempt to uncover each other's hidden role or team allegiance using logic and deductive reasoning, while other players can bluff to keep players from suspecting them. A notable example of the social deduction video game is Among Us, which received a massive influx of popularity in 2020 due to many well-known Twitch streamers and YouTubers playing it. Among Us has also inspired internet memes and achieved a very large following online.
Online game governance
Online gamers must agree to an End-user license agreement (EULA) when they first install the game application or an update. EULA is a legal contract between the producer or distributor and the end-user of an application or software, which is to prevent the program from being copied, redistributed or hacked. The consequences of breaking the agreement vary according to the contract. Players could receive warnings to termination, or direct termination without warning. In the 3D immersive world Second Life where a breach of contract will append the player warnings, suspension and termination depending on the offense.
Where online games supports an in-game chat feature, it is not uncommon to encounter hate speech, sexual harassment and cyberbullying. Players, developers, gaming companies, and professional observers are discussing and developing tools which discourage antisocial behavior. There are also sometimes Moderators present, who attempt to prevent anti-Social behavior. Online games also often involve real-life illegal behavior, such as scam, financial crimes, invasion of privacy, and other issues.
Recent development of gaming governance requires all video games (including online games) to hold a rating label. The voluntary rating system was established by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). A scale can range from "E" (stands for Everyone) inferring games that are suitable for both children and adults, to "M" (stands for Mature) recommending games that are restricted to age above 17. Some explicit online games can be rated "AO" (stands for Adult Only), identifying games that have content suitable for only adults over the age of 18. Furthermore, online games must also carry an ESRB notice that warns that any "online interactions are not rated by the ESRB".
Shutdown of games
The video game industry is highly competitive. As a result, many online games end up not generating enough profits, such that the service providers do not have the incentives to continue running the servers. In such cases, the developers of a game might decide to shut down the server permanently.
Shutting down an online game can severely impact the players. Typically, a server shutdown means players will no longer be able to play the game. For many players, this can cause a sense of loss at an emotional level, since they often dedicate time and effort to making in-game progress, e.g., completing in-game tasks to earn items for their characters. In some other cases, the game might still be playable without the server, but certain important functionalities will be lost. For example, earning key in-game items often requires a server that can track each player's progress.
In some cases, an online game may be relaunched in a substantially different form after shutting down, in an attempt to increase the game's quality, remedy low sales, or reverse a declining player base, and see significantly greater success. Final Fantasy XIV was negatively received upon its 2010 release, and relaunched as A Realm Reborn in 2013 - the new version was met with considerable positive reception, and is still running as of 2022. Splitgate: Arena Warfare relaunched as Splitgate in 2021, switching to a free-to-play model and adding cross-platform multiplayer, and subsequently saw 2 million new players, with the servers being unable to handle the influx.
However, games may remain a commercial failure despite a planned relaunch. These include the 2015 asymmetrical first-person shooter Evolve, which transitioned to a free-to-play title known as Evolve Stage 2 a year after launch, after it was criticized for its significant amount of DLC despite being a full-priced game, but had its servers permanently shut down roughly two years later after its user base "evaporated" as a result of infrequent updates. The 2019 looter-shooter Anthem was also planned to be relaunched as Anthem Next, but the changes were never implemented, partially due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and an unwillingness to further invest in the game by Electronic Arts, and it was permanently shut down.
- List of video game genres
- Game server
- Massively multiplayer online game
- Multiplayer video game
- Online text-based role-playing game
- Voice chat in online gaming
- Andrew Rollings; Ernest Adams (2006). Fundamentals of Game Design. Prentice Hall.
- Quandt, Thorsten; Kröger, Sonja (2014). Multiplayer: The Social Aspects of Digital Gaming. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-82886-4.
- Skeldon, Paul (January 9, 2020). "Global online games revenue to reach $17.8 billion by 2024 | Media & Content". Archived from the original on August 6, 2020. Retrieved April 27, 2020.
- Marshall, Cass (November 11, 2019). "The decade when online video games changed everything". Polygon. Archived from the original on April 23, 2021. Retrieved November 11, 2019.
- "How games as a service are changing the way we play". Red Bull. Archived from the original on September 18, 2018. Retrieved September 15, 2020.
- Hachman, Mark. "Infographic: A Massive History of Multiplayer Online Gaming". PC Magazine. Archived from the original on October 8, 2015. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
- David R. Woolley. "PLATO: The Emergence of Online Community". thinkofit.com. Archived from the original on September 4, 2013. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
- Says, Cannon (September 8, 2020). "Among Us' Improbable Rise To The Top Of Twitch". Kotaku Australia. Archived from the original on September 9, 2020. Retrieved July 12, 2021.
- Martney, R. (2014). "The strategic female: gender-switching and player behavior in online games". Information, Communication & Society. 17 (3): 286–300. doi:10.1080/1369118x.2013.874493. S2CID 144974067.
- Worth, N. (2014). "Personality and behavior in a massively multiplayer online role-playing game". Computers in Human Behavior. 38: 322–330. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2014.06.009.
- Schiano, D. (2014). "The "lonely gamer" revisited". Entertainment Computing. 5: 65–70. doi:10.1016/j.entcom.2013.08.002.
- Barnett, Jane; Coulson, Mark (2010). "Virtually Real: A Psychological Perspective on Massively Multiplayer Online Games". Review of General Psychology. 14 (2): 167–179. doi:10.1037/a0019442. ISSN 1089-2680. S2CID 144524947. Archived from the original on May 27, 2023. Retrieved February 22, 2023.
- Paez, Danny (March 17, 2020). "How "PWNED" went from hacker slang to the internet's favorite taunt". Inverse. Archived from the original on March 17, 2021. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
- Paez, Danny (February 18, 2020). "How "n00b" became the nicest way to be mean online". Inverse. Archived from the original on April 21, 2021. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
- Vicente, Vann (November 8, 2020). "What Does "AFK" Mean, and How Do You Use It?". How-To Geek. Archived from the original on February 28, 2021. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
- Andrew Heinzman (January 26, 2020). "What Does "GLHF" Mean, and How Do You Use It?". How-To Geek. Archived from the original on February 26, 2021. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
- Vicente, Vann (May 8, 2020). "What Does "GG" Mean, and How Do You Use It?". How-To Geek. Archived from the original on February 27, 2021. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
- "Gaming the System: Among Us memes convey the pain of an internet-dependent world – The Daily Free Press". March 9, 2021. Archived from the original on September 30, 2022. Retrieved July 12, 2021.
- Rouse, Margaret. "Gaming". WhatIs.com. Archived from the original on April 23, 2021. Retrieved May 13, 2015.
- "What's the Future of Online Gaming?". Next Generation. No. 19. Imagine Media. July 1996. pp. 6–10.
- Mulligan, Jessica; Patrovsky, Bridgette (2003). Developing online games: an insider's guide. Indianapolis, Ind. [u.a.]: New Riders Publ. ISBN 978-1-59273-000-1.
- The LINKS (Network) Archived June 11, 2021, at the Wayback Machine, MSX Resource Center
- Takano, Masaharu (September 11, 1995). "How the Famicom Modem was Born". Nikkei Electronics (in Japanese). English translation by GlitterBerri. Archived July 3, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
- Donovan, Tristan (2010). Replay: The History of Video Games. East Sussex, England: Yellow Ant. ISBN 978-0-9565072-0-4.
- "Mobile Games". Techopedia. March 4, 2012. Archived from the original on June 11, 2021. Retrieved May 13, 2015.
- Chikhani, Riad (December 31, 2015). "The History Of Gaming: An Evolving Community". TechCrunch. Retrieved July 18, 2020.
- "How Warcraft 3's modding community paved the way for League of Legends and Dota 2". PCGamesN. March 26, 2018. Archived from the original on June 15, 2018. Retrieved September 6, 2020.
- Walbridge, Michael (June 12, 2008). "Analysis: Defense of the Ancients - An Underground Revolution". www.gamasutra.com. Archived from the original on October 19, 2020. Retrieved September 7, 2020.
- "The history of MOBAs: From mod to sensation". VentureBeat. September 1, 2014. Archived from the original on April 20, 2017. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
- "From Warcraft III to Heroes of the Storm, Talking Art and Blizzard's Long History with Samwise Didier - AusGamers.com". www.ausgamers.com. Archived from the original on August 6, 2020. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
- Wood, Austin (October 25, 2016). "What the strange evolution of the hero shooter tells us about the genre's future". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on June 12, 2018. Retrieved July 12, 2021.
- McWhertor, Michael (April 10, 2020). "Call of Duty: Warzone hits 50M players in first month". Polygon. Archived from the original on April 20, 2020. Retrieved April 21, 2020.
- "Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry" (PDF). entertainment software association. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 9, 2015. Retrieved March 24, 2015.
- "2019 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry". Entertainment Software Association. May 2, 2019. Archived from the original on January 20, 2020. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
- Gaudiosi, John (July 18, 2012). "New Reports Forecast Global Video Game Industry Will Reach $82 Billion By 2017". Forbes. Archived from the original on December 5, 2014. Retrieved November 27, 2014.
- Reeves, Ben. "How Flash Games Changed Video Game History". Game Informer. Retrieved April 15, 2022.
- Wawro, Alex (May 6, 2016). "Hero Shooters: Charting the (re)birth of a genre". Gamasutra. Archived from the original on May 7, 2016. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
- Rollings, Andrew; Ernest Adams (2003). Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design. New Riders Publishing. pp. 290–296. Archived from the original on March 31, 2017. Retrieved April 25, 2018.
- Amstrup, Johannes; ersen (September 15, 2017). "Best Modern MOBA Games - LoL, Dota 2, HotS & Smite Compared". Pro Gamer Reviews. Archived from the original on October 19, 2019. Retrieved October 19, 2019.
- "Video game warriors do battle before 40,000 fans in China". INQUIRER.net. Agence France-Presse. November 5, 2017. Archived from the original on July 18, 2020. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
- Webb, Kevin. "More than 100 million people watched the 'League of Legends' World Championship, cementing its place as the most popular esport". Business Insider. Archived from the original on January 31, 2021. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
- Boudreau, Ian (August 26, 2019). "The International 2019 was Twitch's most-watched Dota 2 event ever". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on March 9, 2021. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
- Meola, Andrew. "The biggest companies sponsoring eSports teams and tournaments". Business Insider. Archived from the original on September 19, 2020. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
- Livingston, Christopher (December 11, 2019). "How battle royale changed the last decade of games (and the next one)". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on December 4, 2021. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
- Castronova, Edward (2006). Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games. University Of Chicago Press. pp. 10, 291. ISBN 978-0-226-09627-8.
[pp. 10] The ancestors of MMORPG were text-based multiuser domains (MUD) [...] [pp. 291] Indeed, MUD generate perhaps the one historical connection between game-based VR and the traditional program [...]
- Marshall, Cass (September 11, 2020). "Why Among Us' Emergency Meeting is the big social media mood". Polygon. Archived from the original on September 21, 2020. Retrieved July 12, 2021.
- Nahmias, Jordan. "The EULA: What it does, how it works (and, what does EULA even mean)". nahmiaslaw. Archived from the original on May 24, 2015. Retrieved May 14, 2015.
- "Community: Incident Report". Second Life. Archived from the original on August 20, 2008. Retrieved February 12, 2010.
- Inkblot (February 29, 2012). "Back to Basics, Getting Beyond the Drama". shoryuken.com/. Archived from the original on February 2, 2013. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
- Amy O'Leary (August 1, 2012). "In Virtual Play, Sex Harassment Is All Too Real". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 9, 2017. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
- Portnow, James. "Extra Credits: Harassment" (video). penny-arcade.com: Extra Credits. Archived from the original on July 7, 2012. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
This week, we tackle the rampant bullying, misogyny and hate speech that occurs within the gaming community.Alt URL Archived November 13, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
- "Fraud in the Online Gaming Industry". November 5, 2020.
- "Hate is No Game: Harassment and Positive Social Experiences in Online Games 2021".
- "The Potential Perils of Online Gaming". June 8, 2023.
- "Ubisoft has officially shut down online services for over 90 games". VGC. April 26, 2022. Archived from the original on June 25, 2022. Retrieved February 17, 2023.
- Leon Hurley (April 16, 2015). "7 online worlds that ended while people were still playing". gamesradar. Archived from the original on February 17, 2023. Retrieved February 17, 2023.
- "Splitgate won't launch into 1.0 until August as 1047 Games deals with servers". VentureBeat. July 26, 2021. Archived from the original on June 30, 2022. Retrieved June 30, 2022.
- Wood, Austin (June 5, 2018). "Evolve dev says '4v1 caused more problems than we ever imagined'". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on June 28, 2022. Retrieved June 28, 2022.
- Juba, Joe (February 24, 2021). "Anthem 2.0 Canceled By BioWare". Game Informer. Retrieved June 28, 2022.