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Predicting the MMO landscape in 2008

Mike Schramm

It's that time of year again-- before 2008 starts, everyone and their brother is going to throw out some predictions about what will happen with MMOs this year. So here's a Massively roundup, and a little meta-analysis of what might happen in this Year of the Potato.

  • Let's start with our own Zenke-- he says Wrath won't make it out in 2008, The Agency and Warhammer will hit big, and Dark Age of Camelot and Vanguard are on their way out. He's also got Tabula Rasa sticking it out for the year, and claims that a major MMO (Age of Conan?) will be delayed past 2008.
  • Ancient Gaming Noob is next: he also says Wrath is shipping late, but goes against popular notions to say that Star Trek Online will be released to cheers from fans on all sides. He also says the biggest story of the year will be Age of Conan's "titties," and that will throw a scare into the "adult" MMO market. He also says, tongue firmly planted in cheek, that Bioware is not actually making an MMO, and the announcement of that will "only spur greater excitement and speculation as to what kind of MMO BioWare is making." Funny.
  • Keen of Keen and Graev expects Warhammer to go gangbusters, but also says Funcom will have trouble with the nudity in AoC, causing them to patch it out. He has Wrath "bombing," but at least he thinks it'll make it out.
Lots more predictions for 2008 (including our own) after the jump.

  • Common Sense Gamer goes out on a limb and claims Tabula Rasa will be the big winner of 2008, but to do that they'll need to drop some big expansion content, either paid or free. He also says that both Warhammer and Conan will be delayed, but both of them will take a chunk out of WoW, whether Wrath releases in Q4 or not. And Jumpgate Evolution will be the "sleeper hit" of the year.
  • Ryan Schwayder claims it's a year of announcements and cancellations-- more fantasy than sci-fi, more sci-fi than last year, and at least one major MMO will be delayed out of the year. Vague, yes, but vague makes it more probable.
  • Wandering Goblin: Wrath in Q4, and WoW suffers. AoC and WAR hit big. Star Trek Online and Marvel Universe Online dead in the water.
  • Stropp's World didn't do predictions so much as a deadpool: they claim that STO and Fury are not long for this world.
  • Nexeus Fatale seems like they're joking, but they say virtual worlds will be more stable, will become more commonplace, MMOs will become mature (there's that AoC nudity controversy again), and that a social networking company will collide with a virtual world. Interesting.
  • Heartless Gamer also agrees with Nerfbat that there'll be announcements aplenty this year. Bioware and 38 Studios will have news for us. Wrath will release but not be as big as Burning Crusade. Dark Age of Camelot will have trouble, as WAR will be a hit. HG also says no major RMT, and lots of fun court cases to deal with.
  • Raph looks into the future and sees an "extinction level event:" high development costs will shake up the big publishers, and create lots of new species of games that come super cheap with digital distribution and other cost-cutting measures (casual games, web games, RMT). Serialized and episodic gaming, he says, will be the norm.
So. Having read all of these, what will happen? The MMO blogosphere sees bad things ahead for Star Trek Online-- at best, Perpetual will be forced to give it to someone else, and at worst, all that will be left is Star Trek fans yelling "Khaaaaannnn!" into the sky. They also want someone to come along and take a bite out of WoW, and the prime candidate seems to be Warhammer (despite what their devs say). Odds on Wrath of the Lich King coming out next year are slim to none. And finally, these bloggers think Age of Conan will be good, but will suffer from the Grand Theft Auto syndrome-- gameplay overshadowed by controversy.

So now that I've taken potshots at all of these prognosticators, what do I think? I think Blizzard knows winter is coming (in more ways than one), and they'll get Wrath out earlier than everyone thinks (although they may have to patch one or two instances in later). I think Warhammer will make a splash, but not as big a splash as Age of Conan (and I think Age of Conan's maturity will work for it rather than against it-- I think it might show up on TV, but it'll be more God of War outrage rather than Manhunt bans). I don't think Tabula Rasa is going anywhere (either up or down), but I think someone will come along and announce a sci-fi MMO that's much, much better.

What? You want me to go out on a limb, not just summarize what everyone's said already? Fine. I think that there will be an MMO on everyone's Game of the Year lists next year, but it won't be Warhammer or Age of Conan, or any of these gigantic titles. I think a game like Dungeon Runners or Mythos, or something we haven't heard of yet, will do what Puzzle Quest and Peggle did this year, and create an amazing, genre-crossing experience that happens to be in a massively-multiplayer format. Great graphics and tons of money in development is always nice, but if you want predictions, here's mine: I think the biggest thing to happen to MMOs in 2008 will be a simple but addictive game that comes up with a great, innovative idea, and then executes it flawlessly.

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