Home » Why is it so expensive to develop an MMO? [closed]

Why is it so expensive to develop an MMO? [closed]


The first problem is that the software itself is very complicated, particularly for a new or inexperienced game developer. You have to maintain (at the very least) a client and server application while providing more content than you would expect for a “regular” multiplayer or single-player game.

Even on their own as a single player game, an RPG with the complexity of a World of Warcraft would take professional teams years to develop to the same level of polish: an enormous content investment, lots of work up front and afterward with balancing and playtesting, and some of the most complicated interactions of any game genre. These are commercial-level games, and while yours might be smaller, it will still require a lot of effort just to be a good game before you pour in the extra work to make it become a good multiplayer game.

Networked game development is not trivial; there are large obstacles to overcome in not only latency, but cheat prevention, state management and load balancing. If you’re not experienced with writing a networked game, this is going to be a difficult learning exercise.

Building it shouldn’t be your sole concern for manpower and money, either; also consider the costs of running it after it’s developed. Even a small massively multiplayer online game will need constant improvements to its hardware/software to keep up with demand and staff to manage the game and provide support for your players.

Think about the following:

  • Hosting – Where are you going to host the servers? How will you pay for the bandwidth? How will you load balance players between servers and keep a minority of players from monopolizing the resources of the game? You’ll need people to keep an eye on the condition of your hardware and software hosting the game in order to make sure that it will continue to work well.
  • Technical support – Not just getting the game to run, but dealing with problems between players and handling player feedback in a way that will keep them loyal. If you’re charging money (say, for a subscription), the billing system will be even more complicated (and most likely require legal assistance and possibly international representation and banking/processing fees). People who deal with these things need salaries.
  • Security – Not just of their game accounts, but you have to consider cheat prevention and doing frequent repairs and community maintenance effort whenever a new exploit is discovered by players.

World of Warcraft has:

  • 5,500,000 – Lines of code
  • 1,500,000 – Art assets
  • 33,681 – Production tasks
  • 70,167 – Spells
  • 37,537 – NPCs (non-player characters)
  • 27 – Hours of music
  • 2600 – Quests in the original World of Warcraft
  • 2700+ – Additional quests in WoW: The Burning Crusade
  • 2350+ – Additional quests in WoW: Wrath of the Lich King
  • 7650+ – Quests total (how many have you finished?)
  • 4,449,680,399 – Achievements earned by players since their implementation (this figure is already a few days old, and therefore outdated)


  • 4.7– Petabytes (4700 terabytes) of data delivered to players through patches
  • 126 – Different versions issued of every patch, including those streamed to players and issued as self-extracting executables
  • Half – Of every patch’s size is audio


  • 13,250 – Server blades running WoW servers, with a total of
  • 75,000 – CPU cores, and
  • 112.5 – Terabytes of RAM


  • 179,184 – Bugs tracked by Blizzard (most of which have been fixed, according to the presenters)
  • 2,056 – Game masters
  • 340 – Employees in the billing department
  • 2,584 – Total customer service employees


  • 10 – Languages into which WoW is translated

Blizzard Online:

  • 12,000,000+ – Battle.net accounts
  • 900,000+ – Files on WorldofWarcraft.com

Source: World of Warcraft by the Numbers by The Game Reviews

The thing to remember is that an MMO is literally the most complicated piece of software one can make. Take every single problem that exists in software engineering, and you have it in an MMO.

A) Every problem from a normal game.

1) Resource streaming for an open world.

2) Particle system running on 5 year old commodity hardware

3) Physics system to handle projectiles (Even if it’s not havok you still need something for the characters falling from the sky.)

B) Every problem that a business app would have.

4) High availability clusters

5) Billing systems

6) Massive databases

7) Customer Support back end

8) Call center support

C) Every problem that ‘internet companies’ have

9) Latency kills

10) World wide datacenters mapping 1:1 and 1:many architecture pieces

D) Some nice unique problems for MMOs only

11) Cross server object replication

12) More hackers targeting it than they would some banks.

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