The next few years are certainly going to be interesting, especially when we get to the point when three superhero MMOs are on the market with a fourth (CoH2) on the way. Just imagine a world where we comic book geeks must choose between four superhero MMOs to play. I can't wait!
Anyhow, getting back to the point: DC Universe Online is especially lucky for its IP, which is most definitely the strongest of all the superhero MMOs currently known to be forthcoming. Although, the rather unfortunate SOE stigma may cause a little turbulence in the formative months that come after any MMO is released. The stronger the launch, the stronger the sustained long-term subscirber base.
The real thing to be concerned over, however, is whether or not a more action-focused combat system will interest people enough to play the game in that mythical sustained long-term form. Age of Conan proved that people are interested in giving an action-formula a try. So if SOE is able to create a smooth, bug-free, action-based DC universe experience I think we'll all be pretty interested in trying it out. And hopefully people won't shun the title because of preconceived notions about what kind of company SOE was or has become.
Which brings us to the last game of 2009 to watch out for: The Agency. If any title can help DC Universe Online by shaking off the chains of SOE's past, it's this one. There are a lot of wild cards in play, but ultimately it comes down to what sort of message gets sent into the gaming industry. Whether or not The Agency is a financial slam-dunk doesn't really even matter. It only needs to meet reasonable expectations while proving to players that SOE is a place where fun, quality titles are made.
But let's not forget the other battle that's taking place in the minds of MMO players: RMT. Depending on the business model for this game (which could also influence DCUO) and how successful it turns out to be, we could see a whole lot of RMT-fueled news hitting us throughout the next year.
I'm fully aware of how skeptical many of you guys are about the whole RMT thing, but it's going to become a bigger part of the western industry in the next year. So we're all going to have to get used to seeing it pop up in our games.
A "kind of" Conclusion
It's pretty tough to try and conclude a look into the coming year. There are certainly other games that are worth watching over the next year like Star Wars: The Old Republic and Star Trek Online. However, I don't really see those two titles being rushed along their respective development roads.
As a sort of runners-up mention, it's likely that in the next year we'll see big announcements from Red 5 Studios and from Cryptic concerning their mysterious third project. I'm pretty convinced it's a pre-historic fantasy MMO where players ride around as cavemen on dinosaurs battling each other. I mean, it just seems so very perfect coming from a company that makes superhero and Star Trek games. Plus, there have been hints in screens and videos released by Cryptic.
I'm sure there are titles I've somehow forgotten that are indeed coming in the next year, in which case I hope someone mentions them to me so I can put them on my list and do some research on them. Until then, The Digital Continuum will be back in the next year!