5. Elder Scrolls Online - ZeniMax Online Studios
OK, we don't really know that ZeniMax Online, the online cousin of Bethesda Softworks, is working on an Elder Scrolls MMO. The evidence so far is tangential and potentially misleading... but that doesn't make us any less excited about the prospect! The rumors started way back in October, when ZeniMax Media, the parent company of ZeniMax Online, received a hearty chunk of funding from an investment group to, "ramp up publishing and development, facilitate acquisitions, and finance MMOGs." This was followed a week later by the revelation that ZeniMax had already snatched up the elderscrollsonline.com URL as far back as August. And while the whole company has been utterly silent about the development since then, except to mention that information was probably still a long time in coming, that didn't stop us from speculating about whether an Elder Scrolls MMO would even work. The Elder Scrolls series already succeeds at making as feel as though we're part of a larger world, just by virtue of how thorough their lore is. With all that back story and industry hype already built into a title, it would seem that such a game would be destined for success. Their tight-lipped strategy so far has made us second-guess our assumptions, but at the end of the day it seems like the only game that would make sense, given the context.
4. KOTOR MMO - Bioware
Though gamers might have let the news that EA snapped up Bioware cripple their excitement about Bioware's up-coming MMO, we can't help but shake the goosebumps that originally settled over us when we first contemplated the prospect. Bioware has penned some of the most incredible RPGs to ever grace a computer screen, from Baldur's Gate back in 1998 up until Mass Effect for the Xbox 360 just a month ago. As such, we're supremely confident in Bioware's ability to produce a blockbuster game, whether it's an MMO or not - a sentiment which Bioware's Greg Zeschuk shares, saying that his company could do better than WoW. I don't know if I'd go that far. And while we've been speculating, salivating, and practically vibrating at the prospect of the new title bearing the Knights of the Old Republic name, it's still far from a certainty. The only reason this game isn't higher on the list? The aforementioned EA acquisition resulted in a reshuffling of development schedules, which reportedly bumped the MMO's release back perhaps as far as 2011. But we want it now!
3. Unnamed MMO - 38 Studios
The promise of a privately-funded "dream team" studio inspired by the creative genius of R.A. Salvatore and Todd McFarlane is simply too big to pass up. For as long as we've known about the studio, they've delighted in being evasive about the development of their new fantasy MMO property, asking us to be patient.. They've been talking a pretty big game, mentioning in interviews about how their new game isn't going to be merely an MMO, but a jumping off point for a larger move at media dollars. We'd be inclined to call BS, being the natural cynics that we are, if it weren't for the caliber of the staff they've brought on-board. Granted, games don't succeed on the pedigree of their developers alone, but we're going to stick this Unnamed MMO in the "cautiously optimistic" category. What can we say? When your owner and founder has won three World Series Championships on the strength of an 11-2 career post-season record... you tend to trust the guy.
2. Snow Crash - Google
Now, we know the inclusion of virtual worlds alongside more traditional MMOs is already a strong point of contention in our happy little community, but when you're talking about a virtual world developed by Google, even the most steadfast anti-SL has to stand up and take notice. Not content to let the likes of MySpace and Facebook rule the social networking sphere, it's been rumored that Google is going to make a huge push over the next couple months to develop a new, more intuitive sort of social network that is not only bigger and better than the competition, but also makes that long-awaited push to bridge the gap between the web and games. We're talking a veritable Web 3.0 here. Less than a month ago, students working for Arizona State University's student newspaper turned up some emails that seemed to suggest that Google was testing its new project on a small group of ASU students. It's still not entirely clear whether this new Google project would even be something that a site like Massively would be interested in, but the potential alone is enough to fuel wide-eyed speculation and excitement. We've definitely got our ears to the ground for this one.
1. Next-Gen MMO - Blizzard
Truthfully, of all the games on the list, this "Next-Gen MMO" is the game we know the least about. Discovered to be in development by eagle-eyed fans who spotted a couple new development job listings for Blizzard, the project was only recently confirmed to be in development, and even then it wasn't through the traditional media channels. There are only really three likely outcomes of this mysterious new property. The first, and perhaps most obvious, is a WoW clone based in their wildly popular Starcraft universe. Take the popularity of the WoW formula, and add in the east-asian obsession with all things Starcraft, and you have yourself a model for worldwide domination. Then again, Diablo is an almost equally popular Blizzard property overseas, and it's basic design already lends itself to an instanced-based massively multiplayer structure, perhaps in the vein of Guild Wars, making it almost equally as plausible as a World of Starcraft. The only other possibility? Blizzard could be working on a completely new IP. While we know the new Activision Blizzard mantra is to exploit all their IPs, this game has ostensibly been in pre-production far before the merger, so it's still possible that Blizzard is looking into making something entirely new. Whatever way you look at it, Blizzard is still the top-dog in the industry and it's a position that is their's to lose.