Massively's end-of-the-year awards continue today with our award for the Biggest MMO Blunder of the year. This is also not a fun award to give or receive, but criticism is a necessary element of growth. This category focuses on a mistake made by a game or developer or the genre as a whole, something that has far-reaching negative consequences for the industry. All of our writers were invited to cast a vote, but not all of them chose to do so for this category. Don't forget to cast your own vote in the just-for-fun reader poll at the very end.
The Massively staff pick for Biggest MMO Blunder of 2014 is...
@ceruleangrey: WildStar's dedication to a hardcore raiding endgame was an unfortunate issue that I think could have been avoided. Even though raiding isn't my thing, I do understand why people like it and what it can bring to a game for them, but putting nearly every egg in the raiding basket means that a wider audience goes unfed. I think the time to advertise an MMO as being so brutally ass-whooping at endgame that your mama will cry (cupcake) is probably after you've established an overall experience that's welcoming for a wide range of players. Otherwise you've just given a bunch of prospective fans a reason to believe that they shouldn't waste their time.
@nyphur: Though there have been plenty of huge blunders this year, the biggest has to be Elite: Dangerous announcing that it would be an always-online game centred on a kind of evolving storyline. Elite: Dangerous was never intended to be a full-blown MMO, and that's certainly not the idea that people supported when they backed the original Kickstarter or pre-ordered. For me, Elite and its sequel Frontier were always about exploring your own little sandbox universe and the idea that there could be better trade routes, valuable missions or even secret things out there to find. Braben had the opportunity to bring the addictive exploration factor of procedural games like Minecraft and Terraria to the space genre, but instead he opted to give everyone a more crafted experience. Making it an online game with a focus on storyline may be a good anti-piracy measure, and it may even make it a more successful game, but that doesn't necessarily make it a good sequel to Frontier.
@nbrianna/blog: I admire people who stick to their principles, but I don't admire those who never stop to consider whether those principles were good ones to begin with. Flexibility and willingness to adapt to changing surroundings and trends is simply mandatory in this genre; the devs are happy to tell us so on every single MMO box we buy. But this year, we saw a parade of serious MMO development mistakes -- launching with unpopular business models, failure to launch on promised platforms, fixation on unprofitable playerbases, obsession with dated gameplay, unwillingness to learn from design lessons from the past, and so on. None of these mistakes was a surprise; all of them were utterly preditable and the direct result of unfortunate hubris, inflexibility, and obstinance. The big mistake of the year was developers digging in their heels and wilfully ignoring how other studios successfully navigate the choppy waters of the MMO genre.
@Eliot_Lefebvre/blog: Developers who refuse to back down from a particular stance no matter how bad an idea it is. The Elder Scrolls Online launching without an auction house. WildStar's raiding. Destiny's lack of a matchmaking system. Every single one of these elements was widely criticized prior to launch, during launch, and after launch, and this seems to be the year of developers doubling down and saying, "No, we're not adding/changing this," even as it becomes clear that these were bad ideas out of the gate. The worst part is that when these things inevitably do change, it just looks worse.
@Sypster/blog: "Subscription-only can totally work in 2014!" OK, I'm not arguing that subs are dead; WoW, EVE, and Final Fantasy XIV will push back against me there. But the hubris of both ESO and WildStar assuming that their games were so darn good that they could thrive with a sub-only model in an era of almost wall-to-wall free-to-play options was a facepalm moment even back in 2013. Sure enough, sticking to their subscription guns hurt both of these games and left cynical commenters snarking that it's only a matter of time before the F2P switch. (And they're definitely right.)
@MJ_Guthrie/blog: The handling of ArcheAge's launches as well as the seeming dismissal of all the hacking and exploiting. Giving the impression that a studio doesn't care one whit about its player base, especially by a lack of communication, is like tying your own noose. Hopefully future developers do not look back and equate the failures of ArcheAge with its sandbox features, thereby scaring off future endeavors.
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