Jeremy StrattonStar Wars:The Old Republic will continue to be a success, through the three-month mark. Voice-overs and an extremely solid build won't be enough to push it to the top without a major redesign to focus on future trends. It won't prove to be a replacement for World of Warcraft, damage any other MMOs subscription numbers or spawn any large, dedicated, commercial websites, but it will become a regular among the deeply rooted MMOs like Lord of the Rings Online, RIFT, and the many others doing quite well.

WoW's Mists of Pandaria won't be the magic sauce that keeps or raises subscription numbers. Blizzard will have to deal with juggling the business end of the MMO to remain on top. MoP's big claim to fame will be how it becomes a major contender in shifting design philosophy and changing player expectations to issue in a wider variety of gameplay between MMOs, which we'll only start to see toward the end of the new year.

Following in the wake of a slow, almost imperceptible shift in design and expectations will be a slow and steady rise in the popularity of existing MMOs, like Fallen Earth.

For the first time, since it launched, EVE Online will struggle with declining numbers as CCP suffers from growing pains with a rocky DUST 514 launch and a series of substantial hiccups.

MMOs, in general, will continue to look at console-based gameplay as a road-map for fun but less for massively multiplayer online gaming. The industries will converge somewhat, but this will also help profitable spots open up for more traditional MMORPG design.

One of the bigger movers and shakers that will continue pushing the evolution of the genre will be EverQuest Next, as new info and art trickle out to, causing a world-wide gamer blackout as computers everywhere short-circuit from all the drool.

None of the MMOs set to come out in the next year will do miraculously well, but the industry will be primed for more old-school meets new-school gaming experiences. The money-side of the industry will be able to afford to make room for much more than on-rails, repeat dungeon-running MMOs or fantasy-less sandboxes, as it will need to meet new expectations, resulting in a great year for more diverse MMOs catering to veterans and newbs alike. This next year will spearhead the next revolution in MMOs, and gamers will reap the rewards of more choices, different experiences, and more of it all in a shorter span of time in the next few years.

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

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