Guild Wars 2
Everyone who spoke up about Guild Wars 2 predicted a 2012 launch, though Shawn was a tad early with his hopeful "April 28th" release. But the staff was divided on how well the game would do. Justin wrote that the "game will triumph and will usher in a second golden age of MMO gaming," while Shawn argued that "major gaming news sites that ignore the fantasy title will change their tune when they see how wildly successful [it] has become." Eliot and I posted more tempered predictions (and were summarily flamed). "It will do pretty well for itself but won't wind up with a mass-market appeal," submitted Eliot, adding, "It won't be anything even close to a failure." I agreed that the game would "do very well but fail to achieve the numbers hardcore fanboys expect." How well? Shawn estimated just under one million players at launch -- about half of what the game actually had in early September.
Star Wars: The Old Republic produced similar variety in opinion. Shawn believed that game would plateau in 2012 but maintain "a healthy playerbase for many years" and "replace World of Warcraft as the game that everyone goes back to after trying new games for a month" -- a security blanket rather than a WoW-killer. A "slow and steady move upward," a three-month update cycle, and an expansion to launch against Mists of Pandaria were prophesied by Eliot, though he did accurately nail the sales numbers at two million. Jeremy, on the other hand, argued that TOR wouldn't replace WoW at all or impact other game's sub numbers but would "become a regular among the deeply rooted MMOs." And Brendan was most critical of all, predicting that the game would see a "very signifigant drop" three months in: "I'd expect the game to still be running fine six months from now, and I don't expect it to switch to a free-to-play model any time soon." (Hey, November was definitely not "soon"!)
The Secret World
I'm particularly proud of my (accurate if not pleasant) prediction that The Secret World would miss its original April launch and release "closer to late summer or early fall," having undergone a "massive rework of basic mechanics like quests and skills," and then "perform poorly in sales before going on to languish alongside Funcom's other games." Eliot was even harsher; he believed that heavy competition and a launch catastrophe would hamper the game from the start: "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." The ever-optimistic Justin anticipated a "monster smash hit," Funcom's redemption, and an Age of Conan-style F2P option.
World of Warcraft
The majority of Massively writers predicted (hoped?) doom for World of Warcraft's Mists of Pandaria expansion. Brendan envisioned "subs dropping significantly" after GW2's launch and Blizzard losing its #1 slot in the genre. Shawn believed Mists of Pandaria would "mark the last straw for die-hard WoW fans, who will turn away from the game in droves"; Justin joked that the expansion would "bomb and alienate large quantities of the playerbase, who would then flee for Star Wars: Mists of Rancoria." Jeremy agreed that MoP wouldn't keep or raise subscriptions, so Eliot and I stood alone. I predicted that MoP would launch in 2012 and "do very well" but not "bring subscription numbers back up to peak," while Eliot foretold a slow decline over 2012 and sub numbers that would raise, but not by much. "The game will still be an industry leader, but by a much smaller margin," he wrote. Sorry, doomsayers... this one goes to the moderates.
Alas, I was wrong to predict that 2012 would be the year RIFT went free-to-play (unless you count RIFT Lite); Shawn, by contrast, argued that RIFT would come to "regret its public proclamations against F2P and fall behind the curve as a result." Meanwhile, Eliot forecasted stability and an expansion announced mid-year. Nice one, Eliot!
Our resident EVE Online expert saw a rosy future for the game: "I'm confident in predicting that we'll get two fantastic expansions in 2012," wrote Brendan. "With DUST 514 due to release in 2012, one expansion will undoubtedly be a tie-in with DUST revolving around conquering planets and more strongly incentivising their ownership." Jeremy also based his opinion on the supposition that DUST would launch last year; he believed that EVE would "struggle with declining numbers" after a rocky DUST 514 launch.
You can tell Jef and I were smoking some wishful thinking when we both guessed at a western ArcheAge release in 2012. Alas, no ArcheAge, but Eliot was spot on in predicting Aion's US free-to-play conversion, and both Eliot and I anticipated TERA's failure to gain traction in the west. And what for beleaguered FFXIV? "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," declared Eliot.
Few writers chimed in on Lord of the Rings and Turbine besides yours truly, who demanded and got a Rohan-themed expansion, and Eliot, who prognosticated a new project altogether emerging from the studio. We're still waiting for the last bit, Turbine!
Shawn nailed it with his prediction that in 2012, SOE would embrace free-to-play for its entire library of games; both he and I specifically predicted F2P for Vanguard, and he accurately slotted PlanetSide 2 (which would "knock our socks off") for 2012. Meanwhile, EverQuest Next anticipation was simmering. "SOE will reveal that EverQuest Next is the sandbox we are looking for," said a very hopeful me. "Sony will unveil a project that looks remarkably like Star Wars Galaxies with a new graphical engine and the serial numbers filed off," agreed Eliot, "but most players will be too happy to care about most of that." In hushed tones, Jeremy revealed his vision of a "world-wide gamer blackout as computers everywhere short-circuit from all the [EQ Next-induced] drool." And that was before we knew EQ Next was being redone almost from scratch!
Justin and Shawn both predicted the closure of Warhammer Online, which did not happen, but Justin and I clashed over EA's stance toward F2P: He expected F2P from Dark Age of Camelot, while I believed EA would resist dropping the subs from Warhammer, Ultima Online, and DAoC in 2012. But, Justin speculated, "Mythic will announce that it is working on DAoC 2." Maybe Mark Jacobs will deliver on a spiritual sequel this year?
Jeremy's optimism led him to assert that 2012 would "spearhead the next revolution in MMOs" and yet older games like Fallen Earth would see a "slow and steady rise in the popularity," whereas Jef lamented the over-saturation of the MMO market and the likely impact of the economy on gaming, and Shawn predicted more game closures, including Anarchy Online, which fortunately for its sake lives to see another year. Brendan expected more indie titles, more free-to-play titles, and the blurring of the lines between MMOs and non-MMOs like Diablo III (which he said would "take center-stage") and countless MOBAs, of which, Shawn argued, people would be bored by 2013.
Shawn also foresaw more love for the mobile gaming genre, while Beau predicted good things for the browser as an MMO medium: "Browsers might not be king in 2012, but they'll be a prince." Justin anticipated the industry's timidity around sandboxes and suggested one indie sandbox might rise to the top. He also argued that gamers sick of elves would finally see more games shifting to "sci-fi, contemporary, horror, and post-apocalyptic worlds." Considering the deluge of sci-fi MMOFPS titles and MOBAs last year, I'm going to give this one to the team too.
Hits and misses
You know what, flatline? You weren't so far off the mark after all. We had some misses, definitely. We missed the Kickstarter/crowdfunding trend. No one saw City of Heroes' shut-down coming, either. (I'm sure you guys will think of more!) But we had a lot of good, solid hits too. Maybe we're not so bad at this after all. Maybe we should do soothsaying for a living. I bet cold reading pays a lot better than game journalism...
What should you play? Where is the MMO industry headed? How does Massively operate? Has Lord British lost his marbles? Why is there no edit button? Should "monoclegate" be hyphenated? Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce submits to your interrogations right here in Ask Massively every Thursday. Drop your questions in the comments below or ping us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Just ask!