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The Free Zone: Summer Snapshots

Column By Richard Aihoshi on August 05, 2014

Let's try playing a little game. I'll pose a bunch of topics and provide my thoughts on each. You're invited to do the same. The only stipulation is that the word snapshot in the sub-head means there's a limit of 100 words per subject. Are you up for it? I guess we'll see soon enough. Here's your chance to join me in offering quick takes on Firefall, Destiny, WoW: Warlords of Draenor, WildStar, ArcheAge and which MMOGs may be approaching their sunsets.

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Firefall's chances of success

Developer and publisher Red 5 says its MMOFPS launched last week. I say it did so a year ago when the studio started accepting money. While it's clear that significant improvements have been made since last summer, I suspect some of the bloom is off the rose. Even though the game is F2P, a segment of players who didn't enjoy it before won't give it another chance even though their issues may have been addressed. If they discourage other potential users, Firefall might not fare as well as it deserves. I'm guessing it won't fail, but neither will it soar. 

Destiny's destiny

Despite my frequent use of genre titles, I don't consider them especially important, so I'm not about to suggest that Bungie's eagerly awaited project is an MMOG, never mind a particular sub-type. Decide for yourself. What matters far more is that it interests me even though I'm not normally keen on shooters. I have no doubt it will sell a lot of boxes, but am curious to see how well it will live up to its hype. So far, I'm not convinced it has enough MMOG- and particularly MMORPG-like elements to keep me playing for more than a few weeks.

Warlords of Draenor's ability to reinvigorate WoW

In the interest of full disclosure, I haven't played WoW since before Cataclysm. Neither it nor Mists of Pandaria made me want to return. Unsurprisingly, I feel similarly about the upcoming fifth expansion. What does interest me, however, is how Warlords of Draenor will impact the global user base. As of Q1, Activision Blizzard's game still had some 7.6 million “subscribers”, although I'd guess only about half were paying a monthly fee. It wouldn't shock me to see an increase of as much as 10 to 15 percent, but it will be temporary, lasting no more than about a year.

WildStar's long-term prognosis

Carbine's opus appears to have reached the two-month mark in good but not great shape. The overall reaction from players and critics has been favorable, although not effusive. It's often described as feature complete, visually distinctive and generally well-made. I wonder if such positives are enough for the game to carve out a significant place in today's market. While it's still early, my best guess is they're sufficient to provide decent longevity. However, for WildStar to become a true long-term hit, I think it needs to demonstrate fairly soon that it can bring some freshness to the MMORPG landscape. 

ArcheAge's chances of success in western markets

XL Games' sandbox MMORPG continues to generate reasonable buzz here despite performing rather unremarkably in Korea where it launched over 18 months ago. Although it's unclear whether switching to F2P has helped or hurt, I suspect the key issue wasn't its revenue model. As for the game itself, perhaps regional publisher Trion Worlds' input will help produce a better result in this part of the world. However, I don't have substantial cause to expect this will happen. So, my current guess is that ArcheAge will find a decent-sized niche audience but fall short of becoming a notable hit.

MMOGs that may be nearing their ends

The recent demises of Vanguard and Wizardry Online (although the latter is still running in Japan) led me to ponder which titles seem like good candidates to follow suit. We already know Ultima Forever won't fit its moniker; the mobile title will close shortly after barely a year. Although there's obviously no shortage of further possibilities, I'll only put forward a couple of venerable names. I wonder how much longer Asheron's Call and Dark Age of Camelot will be around for their small albeit dedicated audiences to enjoy. I hope both will be with us for years to come, but... 

Closing queries

Which defunct MMOGs do you miss the most?

Which MMOGs that were or are still being touted to launch in 2014 are likely to end up being delayed until next year? 

When should Blizzard aim to bring out the sixth WoW expansion? Should it be made ready faster if doing so means including less content?

Does the recent addition of a 14-day free trial for Final Fantasy XIV portend further changes in how it's offered?

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The Free Zone
Richard Aihoshi has been writing about MMOGs since the mid-1990s, always with a global perspective. As a result, he has observed the emergence and growth of the free to play business model from its early days in both hemispheres.

He is the former Editor of RPG Vault and his column, focusing on free to play MMOs, appears on MMORPG.com every Monday.
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