Massively's MMO predictions for 2012: Eliot Lefebvre

Not Really EliotMists of Pandaria will launch late in the year as World of Warcraft spends the year slowly losing subscribers. Expect about one million fewer by the end of the year, with the expansion trying to bill itself as a reason to return to Azeroth. Sub numbers, however, will not swing back up in a big way -- the game will still be an industry leader, but by a much smaller margin.

Star Wars: The Old Republic will round out the year somewhere between one and two million subscribers, with a slow and steady move upward. The game's major patches will be on a fairly steady three-month cycle, with an expansion murmured about mid-year and formally announced around the time MoP launches. People will still not shut up about whether or not the game works as an MMO or not.

Guild Wars 2 will launch this year. It has to -- an NCsoft executive is already looking at ArenaNet's monthly status updates and breaking out in cold sweats muttering, "Tabula Rasa." Launching just around the early fall, it will do pretty well for itself, but won't wind up with a mass-market appeal, much like its predecessor. That being said, it won't be anything even close to a failure, and the actual reviews will be stellar.

The Secret World will launch into the teeth of other games, something will go catastrophically wrong at launch, and it'll never quite recover. Rumors of free-to-play will swirl around the end of the year, but the game will actually be doing all right for itself, just not well enough to break into the top tier.

RIFT will be fairly stable, with an expansion announced mid-year. It won't grow by more leaps and bounds, but it will remain as a pretty darn big title despite that.

WildStar will start a beta late in the year and make steady updates along the way. Aion will convert to a free-to-play model in the U.S. mid-year. TERA will launch and essentially trip on its own shoestrings. Final Fantasy XIV will find more of a home with the pseudo-sandbox crowd late in the year, but the PS3 launch won't really help the subscriber base. PWE will roll out three more titles. Turbine will announce a new project, and Sony will unveil a project that looks remarkably like Star Wars Galaxies with a new graphical engine and the serial numbers filed off, but most players will be too happy to care about most of that.

Want more staff predictions for 2012? Pick a writer below:

Beau Hindman | Bree Royce | Brendan Drain | Eliot Lefebvre | Jef Reahard | Jeremy Stratton | Justin Olivetti | Shawn Schuster