Ultima Online (UO) is a graphical massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), released on September 25, 1997, by Origin Systems. It was instrumental to the development of the genre, and is still running today. The game is played online, in a fantasy setting similar to that of the other Ultima games that preceded it.
The success of Ultima Online opened the door for the creation of many new massively multiplayer games. Ultima Online is a fantasy role-playing game set in the Ultima universe. It is online-only and played by thousands of simultaneous users (who pay a monthly fee) on various game servers, also known as shards. It is known for its extensive timing-based player versus player combat system. To maintain order in the online community, there are Game Masters who resolve player disputes, police the shard for terms of service violations, and correct glitches in the game.
Several expansions have been released, but its aging game engine and graphics make it outdated compared to competitive, new massively multiplayer games. The release of Ultima Online: Kingdom Reborn in 2007 brought a new game engine which offers a slightly better visual experience. Since Ultima Online's prime in 2003, the overall subscriber base has seen a steady decline. Subscriber numbers peaked at around 250,000 in July 2003, and to date sit around 135,000 subscribers (approximately 70,000 of whom are Japanese). As of June 2006, Ultima Online held a 1.1% market share of the massively multiplayer online game subscriptions.
Quoting directly from the Electronic Arts press release announcing the Ultima Online: Kingdom Reborn expansion, Ultima Online was "The first MMORPG to reach the 100,000 subscriber base, far exceeding that of any game that went before it". Since then, it has added seven expansion packs and dozens of free content updates.