Sequels are a video game tradition. If you look at nearly any other video game genre, the shelves are littered with follow-up after follow-up after follow-up to popular (and more importantly high selling) titles. These sequels are generally pumped out every few years, keeping true to the original ideas and gameplay styles of the original. This is how games build franchises.
Yet, the MMO world seems to have been left behind in that area with only a few sequels having been created. This probably owes something to the continuing revenue stream that a popular MMO creates via subscription and probably also has to do with the way that MMOs continue to evolve via patches and updates throughout their lifetimes. Expansion packs also play a role here.
Still, a few brave companies (and a few more on the way), have dipped into the sequel wellspring to produce the more traditional follow-ups that the rest of the games industry takes for granted. They don't always come in the most obvious of forms, and they don't always have a "2" in the title, but they're out there.
#5 Asheron's Call 2
For every Godfather 2, there's a Matrix Reloaded. For every Wrath of Khan, there's a Highlander II. In telling the story of sequels there are successes and then, for whatever reasons, there are failures.
Now, in reality, it isn't fair to compare Turbine's Asheron's Call follow-up to some of the worst sequels ever made but the truth of the matter is that, for whatever reason, Asheron's Call II holds the dubious distinction of being the highest profile MMO sequel to have ever been cancelled post-production.
AC 2 launched in 2002 and closed in 2005 after the game's Legions expansion failed to bolster its flagging subscriber numbers. Many critics of the game cite too much deviation from the original Asheron's Call as a reason for the game's cancellation.
Sequel in the making - Jumpgate Evolution
In 2001, NetDevil released a space fighting MMO called Jumpgate, named after the game's primary means of faster than light travel. Those who enjoyed the original enjoyed dogfight-style PvP, a "near Newtonian" physics model that did its best to simulate actual speace flight (as opposed to more "arcade-like" space flight games, and a system that was designed to be used first and foremost with a joystick.
Those features, among others, endeared the game to a number of hardcore supporters. Now, eight years later, NetDevil is re-visiting the game, and bringing it into the competitive realm of AAA MMOs with the aptly named Jumpgate Evolution. This new offering will encourage players to once again take to the cockpit to pilot their way to power and fame.
#4 Champions Online
First, and before anyone starts to throw a hissy fit in my general direction, I do realize that, for all intents and purposes, Champions Online is not a sequel. It's actually the first game in a franchise. The reason that I've included it on this list is because, as the second ever superhero genre MMO, from the same company the produced the first ever superhero MMO, Champions Online has carried all of the same expectations with it that any other follow-up game would. Call it the spiritual successor to Cryptic's City of Heroes if that helps. If not, please feel free to head onto the forums to tell me how dumb I am.
Cryptic, informed by the successes and failures of CoH, set out to create another successful interpretation of the comic book inspired superhero game. As a result, Champions carries over many of the successful aspects of its predecessor, such as the robust character customization and improves upon them (more costume choices, more power set choices, etc.)
There's no doubt that Champions as a successor to City of Heroes evolves the original Cryptic-designed concepts of the genre, but as development continues on CoH under new management at Paragon Studios (NCsoft) it will be interesting to see if and when the offspring surpasses the parent game.
Sequel in the making - Guild Wars 2
There is a lot of hope for ArenaNet's most recent follow-up to the massively successful Guild Wars franchise. While many credit Blizzard's World of Warcraft for the boom in MMO popularity, a nod must also be given to ArenaNet's no-subscription contribution to the MMO scene which brought in players looking for an RPG experience more robust than a single player game, but who weren't quite ready to pay for a game monthly.
Guild Wars 2, set 200 years after its predecessors, promises to improve on the original game in a way that should appeal to most fans of MMOs and put to rest fears that GW2 might fall into the same classification hole that the earlier games did: This game will take place on one, persistent world with instancing used far more judiciously.
With a focus on storytelling, old problems resolved, and a highly recognizable name on its box, Guild Wars 2 is likely to draw the attention of more than a few gamers.