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Ask Massively: Scoring last year's MMO predictions

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One of my favorite things to do every year is go back to the previous year's staff predictions. What did we think 2014 was going to look like in the MMO world back at the end of 2013? How wrong were we, and where did we hit eerily close to the mark? I won't include everything, just some of the more prophetic and ridiculous ideas our current staff offered a year ago. Feel free to share your own fulfilled prophecies down in the comments.



Genre stuff

  • Bree: "I think it's going to be a fabulous year for MMOs. We're getting four AAA titles for sure." Well, we got four AAA titles, self, but a fabulous year for MMOs? That's debatable.
  • Brendan: "2014 is either going to be either a year of disappointment or a sandbox revolution." Let's call it both, eh?
  • Brendan: "The lines between MMOs and other online games will continue to blur with the addition of new pseudo-open-world games that use seamless lobby systems to manage a large playerbase." I think Destiny would qualify here!
  • Jef: "I predict that additional companies will jump on the pre-pay-for-alpha-access train. I predict that MMOs will continue trying to ape single-player game mechanics while single-player games continue trying to ape MMO payment mechanics." All true.
  • Justin: "The shift to producing make-your-own-MMO sandboxes will be more pronounced, with several additional titles along those lines coming out." Good call. Shards Online, Trove, SOTA, Landmark, all fall into this category.
  • Justin: "Famous IPs that will be announced as receiving MMOs include Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and The Hobbit." Nope! Unless you count that Harry Potter MMO that is totally going to be shut down because copyrights still exist.
  • Mike: "I think the biggest trend for next year is a continued blurring of the lines between MMOs and non-MMOs. Destiny is probably the best example of what the future holds." Even the academics in the MMO genre agree with this, but they're not happy about it, and neither are most of us. Good call, Mike.
WildStar
  • Bree: "WildStar is going to need to tone its hardcore down a lot to really put a dent in WoW's remaining market." This just goes to show how far back people were talking about WildStar's sudden marketing shift to the hardcore population. It didn't tone it down, and it didn't put a dent in anything at all.
  • Justin: "WildStar and WoW's expansion will go head-to-head with casualties on both sides, although they'll both be fine." Sadly for WildStar, it wasn't to be. Happily for World of Warcraft, I suppose, it wasn't to be.
ArcheAge
  • Jef: "I predict that ArcheAge will continue to not launch in the West." While ArcheAge did in fact launch here this year, maybe it would have been better for everyone if it had waited a bit longer after all.
Elder Scrolls Online
  • Bree: "I don't think ESO understands the market it's launching in and will lack much in the way of staying power." I still think Zenimax missed the mark, but staying power is hard to judge when the console launch never happened and we have no solid numbers on how the game's doing.
  • Justin: "Elder Scrolls Online will have a large launch but will very, very quickly tank in numbers, finding a middling spot to survive as it spreads out its playerbase among separate platforms." Without published numbers from a reliable source that isn't a widely discredited aggregator, it's hard to measure whether ESO tanked when all we have is layoffs. I think "finding a middling spot" is probably more accurate.
WoW and Warlords of Draenor
  • Bree: "Who will win? Who always wins -- World of Warcraft, of course." I'd call returning to a playerbase of 10 million a win.
  • Jef: "I predict that World of Warcraft will continue to not fail." Yep!
  • Justin: "I think World of Warcraft will go down to 6 million subscribers by the end of 2014." This isn't as crazy as it sounds; he just had the timing off a bit. WoW did dip down to 6.8 million subscribers in 2014, having lost well over 3 million players since MoP. It just regained everyone it lost in time for Draenor. Think it'll keep them?
Star Citizen
  • Brendan: "I predict that Star Citizen's funding will start to dry up in 2014, and we'll find out whether its backers think the game was worth their cash when the various parts of the game start getting released." SC's crowdfund is nearing $67 million as I write this; it even set a Guinness Record for crowdfunding in October. In fact, in 2014, SC has almost doubled its combined total from 2012 and 2013, even as modules trickle out. Sorry, bro; this one's a bust for now.
Elite: Dangerous
  • Brendan: "Elite: Dangerous will grow in popularity and start putting Star Citizen to shame as a sci-fi sandbox." It's probably too early to call one or the other a winner, but our hits alone suggest that Elite has been growing in popularity, perhaps by virtue of "actually releasing."
Landmark/EQN
  • Justin: "Landmark will boast huge numbers as everyone piles into the game really wanting EverQuest Next and finding something that's not quite expected but fun nevertheless." We don't have hard numbers on Landmark's closed beta population, but I think we can safely say that if SOE could boast about "huge" numbers in Landmark, it would have done so.
Guild Wars 2
  • Bree: "Please, Guild Wars 2 -- a proper expansion worthy of the Guild Wars name? Thanks." Sigh.
Other games
  • Brendan: "DUST 514 will die a slow and relatively unnoticed death in 2014 or the game will get a release for PC and PS4 when its mechanics are more fleshed out, though I'm inclined toward the former of those two options." Brendan completely nailed this one. At this year's EVE Fanfest, CCP announced that it would be revamping DUST as Project Legion and bringing it to the PC. The DUST Oceania server was nuked outright.
  • Justin: "We're going to have one good sleeper hit this year, and I'll just call it... Black Desert." Alas, no Black Desert in the West yet, but we did learn in 2014 that the game is headed here eventually.
  • Justin: "PlanetSide and Wizardry Online will be quietly shut down. Asheron's Call 3 will be announced, as will Ninja101, and the first Ultima Online expansion in years." Justin hit Wizardry Online's sunset dead-on; it was shut down this summer. PlanetSide is still alive, if quiet, however. Ultima Online continues to get regular updates but not a new expansion. Turbine told us this year that it is not working on AC3, and if Kingsisle is secretly plotting Ninja101, it's not yet been announced.
Indies and crowdfunding
  • Bree: "All the indie sandbox MMOs still in development will keep being in development, ensuring that we will all be old and grey by the time we see one." We're all getting older and greyer by the day.
  • Brendan: "Crowdfunding will continue to become more competitive in nature, and both publishers and the majority of media outlets will continue to largely support established projects like Star Citizen, leaving indies struggling to get attention in a crowded marketplace." Crowdfunding fatigue is definitely something we've seen this year across the entire industry; small, indie games are having a harder and harder time getting funding when a year ago they'd have been guaranteed gold.
  • Mike: "I also believe that crowdfunding is overdue for a huge backlash, and the immense failures we're sure to see in 2014 should bring that backlash to bear." Also true. We haven't seen many crowdfunded MMOs fail this year, but we've seen several MMOs fail at Kickstarter -- consider the relatively high-profile Pantheon and critically lauded Project Gorgon.
All told, I think we did rather well. We'll be tackling our predictions for 2015 next week in The Think Tank, so stay tuned!

What should you play? Where is the MMO industry headed? How does Massively operate? Has Lord British lost his marbles? Why is the edit button on a timer? Should "monoclegate" be hyphenated? Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce submits to your interrogations right here in Ask Massively every other Friday. Drop your questions in the comments below or ping us at ask@massively.com. Just ask!

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