When Did Online Multiplayer Become Popular? A Timeline of Multiplayer Competitions.

The rise of online multiplayer gaming has been nothing short of remarkable. From its humble beginnings to the sprawling online worlds we know today, online multiplayer has become a staple of the gaming industry. But when did this phenomenon truly take off? In this timeline, we’ll explore the history of online multiplayer competitions and the key moments that shaped the industry as we know it today. From the first multiplayer games to the rise of esports, we’ll delve into the fascinating world of online multiplayer and see how it’s evolved over the years. So buckle up and get ready to journey through the history of online multiplayer gaming.

The Emergence of Multiplayer Games

Early Multiplayer Games

In the early days of online gaming, the first multiplayer games were text-based and played on bulletin board systems. These games, known as MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons), allowed players to connect to a shared virtual world and interact with other players in real-time. The gameplay was focused on role-playing and socializing, and the games were typically created and maintained by dedicated fans.

One of the earliest MUDs was called “MUD1,” created in 1978 by Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle. MUD1 was a simple game that allowed players to explore a virtual world, complete tasks, and interact with other players. The game was an instant hit, and soon, other MUDs appeared, each with their own unique features and gameplay mechanics.

Another early multiplayer game was the Multi-User Real-Time Battle Arena (MUSH), which was developed in the late 1980s. MUSH was a text-based game that allowed players to engage in real-time combat with each other, using a simple combat system and turn-based gameplay. The game was popular among fans of fantasy and sci-fi genres, and it laid the groundwork for the development of later multiplayer games.

In addition to MUDs and MUSH, another early multiplayer game that gained popularity was MUD/MOO (Multi-User Dungeon/Multi-User Object Oriented). MUD/MOO was a more advanced version of MUD, with improved graphics and gameplay mechanics. The game allowed players to create their own avatars and explore a virtual world, complete with NPCs (non-player characters) and quests.

Overall, these early multiplayer games were a crucial step in the evolution of online gaming, laying the groundwork for the development of more complex and sophisticated multiplayer games in the years to come.

First Multiplayer Games

  • Doom (1993)
    • Release of Doom, a first-person shooter game that allowed players to connect via IPX protocol.
    • Introduction of multiplayer deathmatch mode, which became popular among gamers.
  • Quake (1996)
    • Release of Quake, a first-person shooter game that improved upon Doom’s multiplayer functionality.
    • Introduced multiplayer modes such as capture the flag and team deathmatch.
  • GoldenEye 007 (1997)
    • Release of GoldenEye 007, a first-person shooter game based on the James Bond film of the same name.
    • Featured split-screen multiplayer mode for up to four players, which was highly innovative at the time.
    • Introduced a variety of game modes, including multiplayer deathmatch, team deathmatch, and objective-based modes such as “Assault” and “Bombing Run”.

These early multiplayer games were instrumental in laying the foundation for the future of online multiplayer gaming. They introduced the concept of multiplayer gaming to a wider audience and set the stage for the development of more complex and sophisticated multiplayer experiences in the years to come.

The Rise of Online Gaming Platforms

Key takeaway: Online multiplayer gaming has come a long way since the early days of text-based MUDs and MUSH. From the release of Doom and Quake to the rise of online gaming platforms and MMOGs, online multiplayer gaming has evolved significantly over the years. With the emergence of professional esports leagues and tournaments, online multiplayer competitions have not only provided a platform for players to showcase their skills but also had a significant impact on society. The rise of mobile esports, the increasing popularity of battle royale games, and the challenges and opportunities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the future of online multiplayer competitions looks bright and full of possibilities.

Early Online Gaming Platforms

Kali (1993)

Kali, released in 1993, was one of the earliest online gaming platforms. Developed by the company of the same name, Kali was a text-based multiplayer game that allowed users to interact with each other in a virtual world. Players could explore the game’s environment, complete quests, and engage in combat with other players.

MPlayer (1996)

MPlayer, introduced in 1996, was another early online gaming platform. It was a client-based multiplayer game that supported various games, including Quake, Doom, and Duke Nukem 3D. MPlayer allowed players to connect with each other over a network, making it possible to play games together online.

GameServerPro (1998)

GameServerPro, released in 1998, was a server management tool for online games. It allowed game developers to easily set up and manage game servers, making it easier for players to connect with each other for multiplayer games. GameServerPro supported a wide range of games, including Quake, Unreal Tournament, and Half-Life.

Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs)

Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) have been around since the late 1990s, with the first notable MMOG being Ultima Online, released in 1997. This game allowed players to interact with each other in a persistent world, which was a revolutionary concept at the time. Players could engage in various activities such as trading, fighting, and completing quests, all while building their characters and forming alliances with other players.

Another influential MMOG was EverQuest, released in 1999. This game became incredibly popular and was responsible for many players’ first experiences with online multiplayer gaming. It featured a rich world filled with diverse races, classes, and locations, providing endless opportunities for exploration and socialization.

Additionally, Lineage, released in 1998, was another early MMOG that gained a significant following. It was one of the first games to introduce player versus player (PvP) combat, which added a competitive element to the gameplay. This feature was highly innovative at the time and contributed to the growth of the MMOG genre.

Overall, these early MMOGs helped to establish the foundation for the online multiplayer gaming industry as we know it today. They provided players with immersive worlds to explore, fostered social connections, and allowed for competitive gameplay, setting the stage for the future of online gaming.

The Evolution of Online Multiplayer Competitions

Early Multiplayer Competitions

The early multiplayer competitions were a significant turning point in the evolution of online gaming. These competitions introduced players to the exciting world of multiplayer gaming, and they quickly gained popularity among gamers worldwide. Here are some of the most notable early multiplayer competitions:

Red Annihilation (1998)

Red Annihilation was one of the earliest multiplayer games that gained popularity. It was a mod for the game Total Annihilation, and it was played on a single map called “Ta1.pbm”. The game featured two teams, the Red team and the Blue team, who had to destroy each other’s bases to win the game. Red Annihilation was unique because it featured a “neutral zone” between the two bases, where players could fight each other, making it a true multiplayer experience.

Quakeworld (1996)

Quakeworld was another popular multiplayer game that emerged in the late 1990s. It was developed by id Software and was the first game to support online multiplayer gaming. Quakeworld was played in a deathmatch format, where players fought against each other in an arena. The game was highly competitive, and players could join teams or play as individuals. Quakeworld was known for its fast-paced gameplay and highly competitive community.

Counter-Strike (1999)

Counter-Strike was one of the first games to introduce the concept of team-based gameplay in a multiplayer environment. The game was originally a mod for the game Half-Life, and it quickly gained popularity among gamers worldwide. In Counter-Strike, players were divided into two teams, the Terrorists and the Counter-Terrorists, who had to complete objectives such as planting bombs or defusing them. The game was highly competitive, and players had to work together as a team to achieve their objectives.

Overall, these early multiplayer competitions paved the way for the modern multiplayer gaming experience. They showed that players could enjoy gaming even more when they played with others, and they helped to create a highly competitive and engaged gaming community.

Professional Esports Leagues and Tournaments


The emergence of professional esports leagues and tournaments marked a significant turning point in the history of online multiplayer competitions. These events brought together players from all over the world to compete in high-stakes matches, attracting millions of viewers and generating millions of dollars in prize money. In this section, we will explore the origins and evolution of professional esports leagues and tournaments.

Cyberathlete Professional League (1999)

The Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) was the first professional esports league, founded in 1999 by Angel Munoz and Michael Saigh. The league was created to promote competitive video gaming and to provide a platform for professional players to showcase their skills. The CPL held its first event in 1999, featuring games such as Quake II and Unreal Tournament. The league gained popularity quickly, and its events were broadcast on ESPN and other major sports networks.

Electronic Sports World Cup (2000)

The Electronic Sports World Cup (ESWC) was established in 2000 by Gerard “GĂ©rard Leblanc” Lecomte and Nicholas “Nick” Vans, and it was one of the earliest and most prestigious esports tournaments. The ESWC featured games such as Quake III Arena, Unreal Tournament, and Counter-Strike. The tournament was held annually in Paris, France, and it attracted some of the best players from around the world. The ESWC was instrumental in the growth of esports, and it helped to establish Paris as a hub for esports events.

World Cyber Games (2001)

The World Cyber Games (WCG) was founded in 2000 by Il-pyo Hong, and it was held for the first time in 2001. The WCG was one of the largest and most influential esports tournaments in the world, featuring games such as StarCraft, Counter-Strike, and Warcraft III. The WCG was held annually in different cities around the world, and it attracted millions of viewers and millions of dollars in prize money. The WCG helped to popularize esports in Asia, and it paved the way for the growth of professional esports leagues and tournaments around the world.


The emergence of professional esports leagues and tournaments marked a significant turning point in the history of online multiplayer competitions. The CPL, ESWC, and WCG were among the earliest and most influential esports events, and they helped to establish esports as a legitimate sport and entertainment industry. These leagues and tournaments provided a platform for professional players to showcase their skills, and they attracted millions of viewers and millions of dollars in prize money. Today, esports is a global phenomenon, with millions of players and fans around the world, and it continues to grow and evolve at an exponential rate.

The Impact of Online Multiplayer Competitions on Society

Changes in Society

The rise of esports

Esports has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity over the past decade, with the industry now boasting massive audiences and substantial prize pools. In 2019, the total global esports audience reached 453.8 million, up from just 191.6 million in 2015. The growth of esports has been fueled by the rise of online multiplayer competitions, which have provided a platform for players to showcase their skills and compete on a global stage.

Increased accessibility of gaming

The rise of online multiplayer competitions has also made gaming more accessible to a wider audience. With the advent of online gaming, players no longer need to be in the same physical location to compete against each other. This has allowed for the formation of gaming communities across the globe, with players from different countries and cultures coming together to compete and connect.

Changes in gender representation

The online multiplayer competition space has also seen changes in gender representation. Historically, gaming has been associated with masculinity, and female gamers have often faced discrimination and harassment. However, the rise of online multiplayer competitions has provided a platform for female gamers to showcase their skills and compete on a level playing field. In recent years, female participation in esports has increased, with organizations such as the Women’s Esports Alliance (WEA) working to promote gender equality in the industry.

Criticisms and Controversies

  • Addiction

One of the most significant criticisms of online multiplayer competitions is the potential for addiction. Players can spend hours, even days, playing games and participating in competitions, leading to neglect of other important aspects of their lives such as work, family, and personal relationships.

  • Violence in games

Another controversy surrounding online multiplayer competitions is the prevalence of violence in many popular games. Critics argue that the violent content can desensitize players to real-world violence and contribute to aggressive behavior in some individuals. Some governments have even imposed age restrictions on certain games, citing concerns about their potential to harm minors.

  • Cheating

Cheating has long been a problem in online multiplayer competitions. Players may use glitches, exploits, or hacking to gain an unfair advantage over their opponents. This can lead to frustration and anger among players who feel they have been cheated out of a win, and it can also undermine the integrity of the competition itself. In response, game developers have implemented various measures to detect and prevent cheating, but it remains a persistent issue.

The Future of Online Multiplayer Competitions

Trends and Predictions

The rise of mobile esports

As smartphones have become more powerful and internet connections have improved, mobile esports has seen a significant rise in popularity. This trend is expected to continue as more people turn to their mobile devices for gaming experiences.

The impact of streaming platforms

Streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube have played a major role in the growth of online multiplayer competitions. These platforms allow players to stream their gameplay, interact with fans, and earn money through sponsorships and advertising revenue. This has led to a rise in the number of professional gamers and the overall popularity of esports.

The increasing popularity of battle royale games

Battle royale games, such as Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, have taken the gaming world by storm. These games have simple yet addictive gameplay mechanics and a high level of replayability, making them perfect for online multiplayer competitions. As a result, battle royale games are expected to continue to be a major force in the world of esports for years to come.

Challenges and Opportunities

As online multiplayer competitions continue to grow in popularity, there are several challenges and opportunities that must be addressed in order to ensure their continued success.

Balancing fair play and competition

One of the biggest challenges facing online multiplayer competitions is striking a balance between fair play and competition. With the ability to easily cheat or exploit game mechanics, it can be difficult to ensure that all players are playing fairly. This is particularly true in games that involve large sums of money or high stakes, where players may be more motivated to cheat in order to win. In order to address this challenge, many online multiplayer competitions have implemented strict rules and regulations, as well as robust systems for detecting and punishing cheating.

The impact of COVID-19 on esports

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the world of esports, with many events being cancelled or postponed due to concerns around public health. This has created a number of challenges for online multiplayer competitions, including finding new ways to engage with fans and sponsors, as well as dealing with the logistical challenges of hosting events remotely. However, it has also presented opportunities for the industry to innovate and adapt, with many organizations experimenting with new formats and technologies in order to keep their competitions going.

The growth of esports as a profession

As online multiplayer competitions have become more popular, they have also become a viable career path for many gamers. This has led to the growth of esports as a profession, with many players now able to make a living off of competing in online multiplayer competitions. However, this growth has also created new challenges, such as the need to manage and train teams, as well as the pressure to perform at a high level in order to maintain a career in the industry.


1. When did online multiplayer games first emerge?

The origins of online multiplayer games can be traced back to the early days of the internet. The first multiplayer games were text-based and were played on bulletin board systems in the late 1970s and early 1980s. These games were simple by today’s standards, but they laid the foundation for the modern online multiplayer experience.

2. When did online multiplayer gaming become mainstream?

Online multiplayer gaming became mainstream in the mid-1990s with the release of games like Doom, Quake, and Diablo. These games were among the first to feature networked multiplayer modes, allowing players to connect over modem and play together in real-time. The popularity of these games helped to establish online multiplayer as a key component of the gaming experience.

3. When did online multiplayer competitions start?

The first recorded online multiplayer competition took place in 1993, when a Doom tournament was held by the online service provider, GameSpy. This event attracted 250 participants and marked the beginning of the modern era of online multiplayer competitions. Since then, online multiplayer competitions have grown in scale and complexity, with major tournaments now attracting millions of viewers.

4. When did professional gaming become popular?

Professional gaming, or esports, became popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s with the rise of games like StarCraft, Warcraft III, and Counter-Strike. These games were widely played in tournaments and competitions, and the best players began to gain recognition and fame. In the 2010s, esports exploded in popularity, with major leagues and tournaments emerging in games like League of Legends, Dota 2, and Fortnite.

5. When did online multiplayer become widespread?

Online multiplayer became widespread in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as broadband internet became more widely available. This allowed for faster and more reliable connections, making it easier for players to connect and play games together online. Today, online multiplayer is an integral part of the gaming experience, with many games offering robust online features and communities.

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