1. Star Wars: The Old Republic's launch
My one big rule for this list was that I couldn't hit the same game up twice because there was a very real danger than SWTOR
would take about six spots, easily. From kicking off the beta testing weekends
to the pre-order situation
to the announcement of the launch date
to the actual launch itself
played a masterful hand of hype and buildup to the year-end cap of the release. While it's been plagued with queues and a few glaring issues at the time of this writing, so far the game has reportedly drawn in more than a million players who are raving over this MMO from a galaxy far, far away.
The biggest MMO launch ever? Quite possibly, and certainly the biggest in recent memory. We knew from the start of the year that SWTOR
would dominate the scene... it was just a matter of time.
2. Free-to-play sweeps everywhere
Free-to-play launches and transitions were an unstoppable business model juggernaut this year, and only a sliver of older MMOs and stalwart subscriber-only titles remained unaffected. It seemed like every other week a major MMO announced that it was offering a F2P option, including EverQuest II
, Star Trek Online
, Champions Online
, City of Heroes
, Global Agenda
, and Fallen Earth
. Even Warhammer Online
came out to play with its F2P MOBA, Wrath of Heroes
Love it or hate it -- and there are plenty of folks on both sides of that fence -- F2P became the clear majority in 2011, muscling out subscription-only games to win over the gaming populace.
3. Sony gets hacked, SOE goes offline for weeks
Hacking and security breaches became a major concern this year as numerous MMO and tech studios came under assault looking to steal personal information and cause havoc. Sony got the worst of it all, as the company experienced a massive security intrusion
in April that resulted in customer ID theft, huge amounts of bad publicity, and interruption of game service for all of SOE's titles. Players were abruptly disconnected from their MMOs and left waiting for days... which stretched into weeks of unplanned downtime. After the better part of a month, SOE finally brought its library back online with mea culpas and compensation for the situation.
4. EVE Online's Monoclegate
Brendan called it "the day that EVE Online died
," and by the weeping and wailing from CCP
fans, you could almost believe it to be the case. In fact, it was an ill-advised expansion patch, Incarna
, that set into motion much-disliked changes in the galaxy of EVE Online
. Players revolted against the long-promised (and halfway-implemented) "walking in stations," balked at the ridiculously overpriced microtransactions that CCP installed (including the infamous monocle), and stewed at a leaked internal memo called "Greed is good."
CCP not only had to deal with this PR fiasco over the year but also cut a number of jobs
and scaled back production of World of Darkness
. It was, in a phrase, the worst of times.
5. Atari drops Cryptic, Perfect World recovers the fumble
And that right there is the full extent of my knowledge of football lingo.
It looked like Cryptic
was headed for the final frontier when Atari
abruptly dumped the floundering MMO studio this past spring. Star Trek Online
and Champions Online
players were thrown into a state of panic for two weeks, until Perfect World
announced that it would be acquiring Cryptic and all of its properties.
Since then, STO
has announced its transition to free-to-play -- no doubt influenced by its new F2P-loving landlords -- and Neverwinter was sent back to the drawing board
to be fleshed out into a full-fledged MMO.
6. Star Wars Galaxies sunsets
It was a shock, to say the least, when news of Star Wars Galaxies' impending shutdown
hit the Massively offices. Tears and curses were shed, Jef spent the entire day pronouncing something called "woe" on LucasArts
, and the MMO industry as we knew it was about to change.
Following the announcement were six long months of goodbyes, retrospectives, and -- oddly enough -- atmospheric flight
. Because why not? Shortly after its Star Wars MMO brother began its early access, SWG
slipped silently into a maintenance mode from which it would never rouse.
7. World of Warcraft counters SWTOR with Kung Fu Pandas
As 2011's BlizzCon
approached, millions of WoW loyalists wondered how their almighty Blizzard
overlords would be answering the looming threat of The Old Republic
. The answer was not exactly what anyone was expecting. "Pandas!" Blizzard exclaimed. "Monk Pandas! Also, Pokemon! And you'll eat it all, mister, if you know what's good for you!"
Cue an unstoppable wave of Kung Fu Panda jokes. They're irresistable.
8. RIFT launches and soars
For many, RIFT
seemed to come out of nowhere to become the headline of the first half of 2011. Despite accusations of being yet another WoW
sucked in more than a million players
, produced a smooth launch, and became the golden child of the year. Trion Worlds
made a name for itself with both a solid product and its incredibly fast-paced rollout of meaty content updates (which continue to this day).
9. Dark Age of Camelot hits the 10-year mark
Newer games weren't the only ones making the front-page news this year, and Dark Age of Camelot
proved that this with its astounding 10th anniversary. It's hard to believe that it's been 10 years since the title's 2001 launch, but DAoC's
blend of PvP and realm pride have given this title legs beyond many of its competitors.
10. RuneScape's Bot Nuking Day
Why is this on the list? Three reasons.
First of all, the graphic that Jagex
made for its Bot Nuking Day has to be one of my favorite PR pieces ever. Second, it's rare to see a company outright declare war on a sizable segment of its playerbase knowing that it would cost the company a loss of revenue even though it was the right thing to do. Third, for those suffering from the bot-infested game, it must've sent them cheering for a straight week to see the cheaters nuked to hell and back.
Honorable Mentions: League of Legends tops 11.5 million active players
, EverQuest opens progression servers
, Hangame MMO accidentally deleted and shut down forever
, SOE closes offices and cancels The Agency
Justin "Syp" Olivetti enjoys counting up to ten, a feat that he considers the apex of his career. If you'd like to learn how to count as well, check out The Perfect Ten. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.