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.
LordGeneral 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.