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Vicarious Existence

To blog about what is going on in the MMO genre from a casual MMO player's viewpoint.

Author: UnSub

MMO 2007: A Year of Mediocrity

Posted by UnSub Thursday December 6 2007 at 2:49AM
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Some people may think that early December is a little soon for a recap of 2007, but I see it as a good time to look back. According to MMORPG.com's game list sorted by date, no major MMOs are due to be launched this month, with the latest launches occuring in early November so the games are on the shelves for Xmas. 2007 has seen all the MMOs that count already released and, quite frankly, it's been a hell of a mediocre year for the genre.

If you went back to late 2006, 2007 seemed to be a reasonable year for MMOs. Both Warhammer: Age of Reckoning (WAR) and Age of Conan (AoC) were due out for 2007 release. Tabula Rasa was a likely release that was meant to offer something new and exciting, as was Dungeon Runners and maybe Exteel. Vangard still had the potential to not be awful. Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) was meant to be a challenger for WoW. Meanwhile, existing titles such as World of Warcraft (WoW), City of Heroes / Villains (CoH/V), EVE Online and so on appeared to be in the position of picking up their game if they wanted to maintain market share.

At this point of 2007, the above paragraph appears naive. In no particular order -

  • Vangard: Saga of Heroes set the bar very low at launch in January, with a buggy game full of some nice ideas but conflicting execution. Pretty much everyone involved in Vangard agreed it needed more time under development, but arguably under Sigil's management at the time, the game could have been in development until Rapture and still not be ready. SOE bought out the IP for Vangard, only to continue to draw the ire of players for making changes to what had been established, no matter how badly planned or implemented.
  • Both WAR and AoC were pushed back into 2008 for release, with both games apparently needing a lot more time to be polished for release.
  • Tabula Rasa received mixed reviews, with its much vaulted innovative features not meeting player expectaitons. Lord General British took to outer space to avoid having to answer criticism, leaving the awesomely-named Starr Long to deal with the problems.
  • LOTRO launched to strong sales and lots of comments about it just being a reskinned WoW. Given that Turbine doesn't want to talk player numbers, preferring instead to talk about the 4 million unique characters that have been created, I can only think that the churn rate on LOTRO must be fairly high. Estimates in the same article that LOTRO has between 800k and 1m active paying players based on these character numbers seem wonderful excessive and simplistic. I'm sure that LOTRO is making Turbine money, but it certainly wasn't the WoW killer.
  • Dungeon Runners turned out to be a more basic Diablo with more humour. Hellgate: London turned out to be a prettier Diablo with a lot more bugs.
  • Fury's launch was a non-event.
  • Gods and Heroes went on 'indefinite hiatus' on the cusp of launching while its developer Perpetual sold itself to ... itself and kept working on Star Trek Online, the only game more likely to more people than Star Wars Galaxies (SWG).
  • Fallen Earth (along with every other MMO that is developed at the same time as its supposedly time saving middleware which other MMO devs are meant to license and rely on) went into another year of development with nothing but vague promises of things happening 'next year'.
  • Existing MMOs did pick themselves up a bit. WoW's Burning Crusade got a lot of players back so they could hit the new level cap and find all their equipment was outdated. EVE Online continued to be the MMO-of-choice for the increasing number of paranoid meglomaniacs (I kid! I kid!) who found it. CoH/V was sold by the developer (Cryptic) to the publisher (NCsoft) who promised to put more funds into it while releasing free new content. SWG continued to be the MMO that could have, but didn't.  

And so on. All in all, 2007 was a year that offered much in the way of the new but delivered little. Let's hope that 2008 sees a positive step in the MMO genre, with some new offerings appearing that help wash the taste of this year out of our collective mouths.

BadSpock writes:

I disagree.

2007 wasn't a bad year at all for MMORPGS.

-WoW expansion: Massive success
-Lord of the Rings Online: Very good success, good reviews
-Tabula Rasa: Mediocre success thus far, average review around 8.0/10 which is far from being "bad"

Yes, there were negatives. Vanguard's bad release, WAR and AoC being pushed back...

But overall, I wouldn't say it was a year of mediocracy, but it was indeed a mixed year. Both good and bad.

Thu Dec 06 2007 9:23AM Report
JB47394 writes:

Patience.  The fact that games are attempting to provide MMO entertainment that isn't a clone of EverQuest is a very good sign.  It took years before the EverQuest entertainment experience was executed just right with World of Warcraft.  This next generation of games will have to complete multiple cycles of trials and refinements before they'll find new magic formulas that really catch on.

The industry is attempting a transition.  Hang in there.  It'll happen.

Thu Dec 06 2007 10:11AM Report
Thaliost writes:

Agree with you 100%

 

Mediocraty ruled this year.

Thu Dec 06 2007 10:59AM Report
gunderak writes:

I completely agree.  WoW became more and more of a grindfest

LOTRO is basically WoW in Middle-Earth

And the only reason TR has such high marks is because its the only semi-competant new MMO out.

Thu Dec 06 2007 1:19PM Report
phluux writes:

Here are a few other things that happened in '07:

- Star Trek Online goes through major changes, still facing many major outstanding issues

- Marvel Universe project on the brink of being scrapped

- Vitrium buys back Horizons

Thu Dec 06 2007 3:13PM Report
Proserpine writes:

After WoW changed the definition of sucess, you could say every year since its launch has been mediocre.   Even Lord of the Rings, with a trio of blockbuster movies and one of the most followed lores ever put to paper only came up with less than a million subs (far more than it deserves in my opinion, for being an empty shell of a game).

So still waiting for the next big thing, which may come in the form of AOC or WAR.  If neither of these two can cut it, then I'd put my money on whatever Blizzard comes up with next. (World of Starcraft anyone?)

Thu Dec 06 2007 5:50PM Report
darkrenown writes:

I pretty much agree with the blog post.

There were some good things this year, but nothing lasting. The WoW expansion, and EQ2 expansions were good, but nothign genre defining.

The games getting pushed back to 2008 mean that 2008 will be a year of expectation to rival no other! Which may be a shame, our expectations are much higher now having seen failures like VG, and although LoTRO was a pretty well playable game, it is just the same mechanic re-hashed for Tolkien (apart from a beautiful music system)

TR has potential, but got put into open Beta too early. The game as it is now, is much better, stable, and much more user friendly, but it still lacks something, it still feels like a grind.

But this was the year I discovered EvE, its simple, beautiful, the grind is a choice, not a necessity, and I can happily pick it up and put it down without feeling the need to constantly play to keep up.

TBH I don't think we will see anything massive until we either get STO (such a genre defining game, if it works, will be massive, if it fails, will tarnish the genre as badly as SWG:NGE), or the other big thing will be the rumoured new Star Wars KOTOR MMO, or a WH40K MMO.

MMOs need a big IP nowadays if they plan on getting the numbers to maintain development and longevity.

Fri Dec 07 2007 4:16AM Report
Jamkull writes:

yep, my favs to really win me over seem to be Hero's Journey or Aion.  these two seem to be very promising by experienced devs/companies.  I really wished companies would quit trying to be something they aren't tho overall.  But every "suit" knows that by just capturing 250k + subs you are making good money on these games.  but everyone wants a piece of the "WoW" pie so to speak.  15 bucks a month X 7 mil subs, that's an insane amount of  money.  you'd figure the battlegrounds feature would be much better than the insane wait times i experienced when playing WoW.  especially when they are making that sort of money off their product.  But then they had to go off and do the EQ thing and add in senseless raids.  And people have the audacity to call that content :/.  Talk about the most mind numbing time-sink aside from an endless level grind.

by all means don't create real content that is more challenging mentally as well as coordination.  Rather lets just throw down a dungeon full of really huge mobs and let the kids wack at it for an hour and give them a cookie for it. yay! /sarcasm off 

But please keep your raids, give me real content.  Guild Wars knows how to do that...

nonetheless, at least WoW started a good trend and got MMOs away from being EQ-esque for the most part.

Fri Dec 07 2007 5:03AM Report
Kenny3000 writes:

well... agreed. was a slow year. but im still waiting for jumpgate or infinity.

Fri Dec 07 2007 8:05AM Report
Jamkull writes:

one to look for as far as topping Blizzard though from their thrown will be the first title Bioware brings out for the MMO market.  It really isn't going to matter what it is, because they make outstanding games.  Almost willing to wager its probably going to be something based around their Dragon Age game tho.

Fri Dec 07 2007 10:10AM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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