I’ve decided that I hate MMORPGs, despite the fact that, once upon a time, I poured dozens of hours and bushels of dollars into their gaping maws.

Look at what happened to 38 Studios. The company was created from the get-go to make an MMORPG. It retained R. A. Salvatore to write 1000 (!) years of backstory and hired Todd MacFarlane as art director, to say nothing of the talent that was attracted from all over the industry. The studio put out (almost as an afterthought) a single-player game using those assets that was a success, but given the amount of money being shoveled into the MMORPG dev furnace almost no amount of cash flow would have been enough. Just imagine what kind of single-player game, or single-player game with a multiplayer component, that could have been made with that talent for the reported $500 million debt the company rang up.

Worse, when an MMORPG fails–as 90% of them do–there is nothing left. The game is useless and can no longer be played and all player progress is lost forever. If there’s a particularly dedicated fanbase a few pirate servers might be set up, but that’s it. Given the relatively short lifespan of some of these incredibly expensive projects, like Tabula Rasa (2007-2009) or The Matrix Online (2005-2009) or Earth and Beyond (2002-2004), all that money might as well have been piled up and burned. But because Blizzard has had such success with World of Warcraft, as well as a few other niche players, developers and financiers with dollar signs in their eyes keep trying.

From a narrative standpoint, too, the games leave much to be desired. Star Wars: The Old Republic has been lauded for creating an experience that feels almost like a single-player adventure (in other words, like the single-player Knights of the Old Republic) but that came at the cost of $200 million, the most expensive video game price tag of all time. Developers without that kind of muscle are severely limited in the kind of story they can tell, often falling back on repetitive fetch/kill quests or dungeon grinding. And it goes without saying that there can never be any kind of narrative payoff, as the games have no end. When you inevitably lose interest and cancel your subscription you don’t even have the satisfaction of a narrative well-concluded.

Just imagine if some of that money and talent had been spent on a game like Mass Effect or Skyrim.