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Michael Bitton: My Take on the 'Big Three' MMOs of 2014

Column By Michael Bitton on January 08, 2014

Last week, I was so caught up in all the other interesting developments coming to MMOs in 2014, that I didn't get a chance to weigh in on the 'big three' MMOs we're all closely watching. This week, I'll be doing just that, so let's jump right into it!

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WildStar

I’ve played this title both at shows and in the beta and having had extensive hands-on time with it, I can say that Carbine is definitely walking the walk with the game. WildStar is an original IP that is dripping with personality and even at this point feels like a polished and engrossing experience. I force myself to stay away from it only because I don’t want to ruin it for launch. There are a couple of wildcards, though.

Carbine has made a bet on going back to the more hardcore PvE designs veterans fans of the genre may appreciate, offering full 40 man raids and being seemingly adamant about their dungeon content being tough and not necessarily for everyone. This worked for MMOs for a while, but Blizzard had far more luck going in a different direction after attempting the same thing in the beginning and for better or worse we’re in a different world now as a result. Will gamers reward or reject Carbine here? It’s hard to say.

There’s also that whole subscription thing, huh? So far so good for FFXIV from what we can tell, but FFXIV, WS, and ESO aren’t competing for your $15 all at the same time yet, so we’ll see how it works out once they do.

Elder Scrolls Online

My experience with ESO has been pretty limited at this point, but I’ll be giving this one a shot at the very least as I am a fan of the series. However, what’s really likely to be make-or-break for ESO (for me) isn’t necessarily how well it reflects its pedigree, but whether or not Matt Firor (of DAoC fame) and his team can strike lightning once again with the game’s RvR.

I have a confession to make: I’ve seen a number of gamers assert their doubts over ESO due to feeling that the game is essentially Firor and Co. trying to create DAOC 2 with an Elder Scrolls skin. Yeah? Well…DO WANT!

Honestly, no matter what Zenimax does, ESO isn’t going to be a better Elder Scrolls than games in the single player series. Compromises have to be made for an MMO. That doesn’t mean we don’t want it to be the best Elder Scrolls it can be, but what’s really missing to me right now is a modern MMO offering an exceptional RvR experience, and this is really the area Zenimax has a chance to set itself apart.

My doubts for ESO are similar to my doubts with WildStar as both games are making bets on their approaches towards endgame PvE content. Unlike WildStar, ESO won’t be offering traditional raids at all, but instead we’re getting something called “adventure zones” and we won’t know until the game launches whether or not these will be a hit with fans.

Of course, ESO is also making use of a subscription model. I've been discussing the pitfalls of going this route since EA had the same not-so-bright idea of going subscription with SWTOR. Despite my preference for subscriptions, I just don't see them working long term for Carbine or Zenimax in the world we now live in. It was ultimately a losing fight for everyone but Blizzard before F2P took the Western world by storm and it's even more of a losing fight now. Carbine is at least offering a PLEX-like system to allow players to earn game time through play so this may help them out. ESO, at least for now, hasn’t announced anything along these lines.

EverQuest Next

Unlike ESO or WS, I haven’t played EQN, but I’ve seen bits of it in action and the technology looks awesome. I’ve also spoken to SOE’s Dave Georgeson about the game, and we have a decent amount of public information to sift through that can help formulate an opinion, but I’m just not there yet. Don't get me wrong, the game is absolutely gorgeous and it’s also a sandbox in both how you play it and how you can interact with the game’s environment. That latter bit is important, as we haven’t seen a major MMO developer really try to push a mainstream sandbox experience since Star Wars Galaxies in 2003. Still, I can’t help this feeling that too much of the emphasis has been put on what that cool technology can do and less on what makes EverQuest Next an awesome EverQuest game.  Hopefully we’ll hear more on that this year.

Will EQN be nothing more than an amazing tech demo? Or will SOE set the MMO world on fire once again with a groundbreaking experience that impacts the genre for years to come the way the original EverQuest did? One thing is for sure, I’m definitely excited to find out one way or another.

What's your take on all three of these games? How do you think 2014 will shake out for them? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB

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