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Age of Conan: Unchained Column: The Real Top 10 MMOs of 2012

By William Murphy on August 23, 2011

Last week we checked out a List Jon Wood wrote in 2009 all about his projected top ten MMOs of 2012. Jon’s crystal ball was a little foggy though, and things didn’t quite turn out like he had hoped.  I’m going to take a stab at the prognostications this week, and admittedly I have a better chance than Jon based simply on the fact that well… it’s almost 2012 now.  Still, this gives us a good chance to take a look at the current landscape of the MMO and think realistically about which games are “doing the best”, at least from my point of view. 

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Editor’s Note: None of this is based on real hard facts, and though some assumptions may be right, chances are Bill’s just talking out his bum as always. This is also counting only games we expect to be out for sure in 2012.  Your mileage may vary. 

In short, as always, The List is an editorial. I’m not basing it on hours of research or hard numbers; we’re just taking a wild stab in the dark at how the top games will pan out next year.

10.) Age of Conan: Unchained

People may scoff, but I suspect that AoC’s conversion to Freemium is going to continue to give this late-bloomer the shot in the arm it needed. AoC’s a gem these days, and even if it’s not the PvP haven it was billed as at launch, it’s a solid PvE game now with gorgeous visuals and engrossing combat.  I’m betting it’ll be doing well for a while.

9.) Aion

Maybe you laugh but Aion, while it wasn’t the barn-burner many expected, is still one of the top games right now in the market.  I think it will get pushed down a lot when the next crop comes out, especially TERA which I feel will take its market.  But that said it’s a fine game with a lot of great things going for it.  The team continues to make Aion more “western-friendly”, and I’m willing to bet it will be hanging tough in the top ten for another year or two.

8.) Lord of the Rings Online

LotRO is one of those games that just seems to always be improving itself.  It has a devout following, and a strong developer pushing the content behind it.  It had a slow period when converting to Freemium, but since then the team’s been pushing out the goods and this year’s Rise of Isengard seems like an expansion that could reinvigorate interest in the game.  I expect however that LotRO’s real time in the sun is over.  There’s just too much “new” coming out.  Expect some Hobbit-capitalizing when Jackson’s movie comes out though.  Just saying.

7.) EVE Online

EVE’s not going anywhere anytime soon.  If anything, it’ll be around long after many on this list have fallen to something newer.  CCP does an excellent job maintaining their game and DUST’s release should bring even more people into their universe.  Just don’t expect EVE to ever become top-dog without some radical game changes that would likely drive off their loyal and devout following.

6.) TERA

The Exiled Realm of Arborea is going to do pretty well when it launches next year.  With fantastic combat and gorgeous visuals, as well as an intriguing (if risky) political system, it’s bound to be one of the more anticipated games on this list.  But I suspect that when the dust settles, people will find it lacking in terms of other game features.  The combat, PvP, and politics will make it a very popular game with a core audience, but for others it may be too “samey”.  I do expect it to wipe the floor with any other eastern game come west though.

5.) The Secret World

It’s got a unique setting, a unique class and skill system, and three-faction PvP as well as ARG gameplay and mysteries that entire communities must solve.  This is the kind of game that a lot of people have been wanting.  It does things in a way that other games have been a little too scared to try.  I do worry that it will be a little too niche, but something tells me that it will be hugely successful regardless so long as Funcom can make sure it’s ready to go at day one.

4.) Rift

There are reports that Rift is currently the second most successful MMO in the west right now.  Nothing has officially come out as of this writing, but I’d believe it.  Trion’s flagship title didn’t do too much with its mechanics to stand out, but polish and technological advancements in server tech and dynamic events, along with a strong sense of listening to their player base has made Rift one of the best and most fully featured games on the market.  It has a long road ahead of it, but if the first six months are any indicator Trion’s baby isn’t going anywhere soon.

3.) World of Warcraft

Shocker time.  I’m not anti-WoW.  I lived in Azeroth for a while like most people.  But I do think that Blizzard’s domination in the western MMO market is coming to an end soon.  I may be wrong, but I think that at least for 2012 we’ll see the number 1 and 2 spot on this List knock WoW down a few pegs.  That could change with the next expansion, but I’m starting to think that WoW’s manhandling of the competition is at an end as serious players are starting to push the envelope more than Blizzard can with an older and established game.

2.) Star Wars: The Old Republic

This could be a toss-up, the top two spots.  I mean, here at MMORPG.com there’s no denying that GW2 is the reigning champion of pre-release hype.  For all we know the familiar combat and systems of TOR, combined with BioWare’s story-telling and the Star Wars IP could create a perfect storm in the MMO market and these two games could be swapped.  But I’m going with my gut when I say that ArenaNet’s game is going to be king in 2012.

1.) Guild Wars 2

ArenaNet is doing everything right before release.  From its slow but steady stream of press, to every feature and innovation they announce, Guild Wars 2 has people absolutely salivating.  I worry that we’ll be disappointed only because the game doesn’t cure cancer and bring peace to the Middle East.  The true test for Guild Wars 2 will be whether its subscription-free business model is sustainable and just how jeered or revered its cash shop will be.  If all the shows and hands-on impressions are to be believed though, NCsoft and ArenaNet could finally have the game that beat WoW on their hands. 

One thing’s for sure.  2012 will be an interesting year.


William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.

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Sometimes less than serious, in this space, we look back at the genre's history and far into the future to bring you a new list each week. Our countdowns are written by assorted members of the MMORPG.com Staff.
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