Follow along after the jump for a few paragraphs from Kyle Horner, Eliot Lefebvre, Seraphina Brennan and me. In addition to our ramblings, we'd love to hear from you as well. So drop us a comment to let us know what you predict for 2010.
2010 is going to be a worse year for free-to-play than 2009 -- the novelty will have worn off, and I suspect fewer people will be investing in some of the item malls. Microtransactions aren't going anywhere, though, and the DDO model might get picked up a couple other times.
FFXIV is going to focus a lot less on the holy trinity and group content -- either that, or it'll face a sharp decline after the first couple months. STO, despite skeptics such as me, will do all right for itself -- nothing outstanding, but a solid success for Cryptic. The expansions we're due to get this year will be significant, and I think most of the games currently out are going to face a fairly solid year, but I suspect one or two more deaths are coming. And the Fallout MMO will die in Interplay's hands. Sorry.
"... the Fallout MMO will die in Interplay's hands. Sorry."
2010 will be a much better year for MMOs than 2009, largely due to some promising titles hitting throughout the year. Final Fantasy XIV will succeed beyond FFXI, largely because the game is going to be friendlier to newcomers and veterans alike. Cataclysm will dominate the late-year MMO news and discussion, unless SWTOR releases sometime by or before the game. All Points Bulletin will be a game changer, proving that you can do a lot more with the MMO concept than previously thought.
Cryptic studios may reveal a third title, depending on how well Star Trek Online performs. We'll probably see an expansion (whether it's a full-on xpac or mini-spansion) for Champions Online announced sometime in the year, as well. Guild Wars 2 will continue to not be released, but we'll all wish it would.
2009 was a year of clean-up for the misconceptions of 2008. There will not be a "WoW killer" any time soon, and studios are realizing this. The alternative that we've seen work so far is the niche indie MMO that is developed for a smaller audience. If these indie studios aim for low sub numbers, they won't need to disband the whole shebang when the $150 million investment doesn't pay off in a year. I'm looking at you, Tabula Rasa.
In line with this, 2010 will continue this trend for niche games. The only exception to this will be Star Wars: The Old Republic, which I predict will launch in Q4 2010.
Games that will make the biggest splash in 2010: SWTOR, Global Agenda and Allods Online.
I think 2010 might be a quieter year for MMOs than 2009. We have more projects that are early in development, keeping them from being released on the market (without being rushed) until 2011.
Beyond that, 2009 was really a trying year for MMOs. With the closures of The Matrix Online and Tabula Rasa, and the fall of high profile games like Age of Conan and Warhammer Online, I think more developers will be taking a step back to make sure they're doing the right things with their games before they push the "release game" button.
"I think people as a whole will have more reserved expectations for the genre this year."
In 2009, there was an almost industry-wide over-estimation in the future success of new MMOs. Coming up to their release days, every game was hailed as the next big thing and few did as well as predicted. I think people as a whole will have more reserved expectations for the genre this year. This may just be the optimist in me speaking, but hopefully studios will focus less on launches and stop over-estimating their ability to keep subscribers in the long-term.
I think 2010 will bring something fresh to the genre. With several sci-fi MMOs on the way to challenge EVE Online and companies currently experimenting with alternative business models, it looks like studios are up for taking some risks. Hopefully then this year will bring some much needed innovation to the industry.