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June MTD MMO Rumor Power Rankings

Richard Aihoshi Posted:
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Rumors don't come my way nearly as often as they did when I was a full-time editor, but even so, it's unusual for more than a few days to pass without seeing any. The period immediately before E3, which opens up today, has always occasioned an uptick in volume, so unsurprisingly, that has happened again this year. Naturally, a lot of what I've heard isn't very credible at all. With this caveat, these five, listed in no particular order, got my attention at least briefly and might also interest you. 

ZeniMax is getting more serious about Fallout Online

From the moment the studio was founded back in 2007, it was effectively certain that its first project would be an MMOG based on one of two IPs. Fallout was always the less likely due to the questions that existed about its ownership, so it was no surprise that we ended up getting TESO. As we saw, this title endured a lengthy gestation period followed by a less than completely smooth delivery and infancy for the PC version, then a substantial wait for the console SKUs.

During this entire time, like many other fans of the Fallout series, I never abandoned hope for an MMOG. Consequently, as the console versions of TESO moved forward toward launch over the past year, I expected and was pleased to see increasing speculation about the possibility of Fallout Online. The primary question I had was whether ZeniMax had enough money to fund the development of another AAA title.

Admittedly, I can still only guess. That being said, it seems that TESO for PS4 and Xbox One have already sold millions of copies. Obviously, this represents a significant amount of cash flow. The game's change of business model does mean there is somewhat less certainty about its ongoing revenue stream. However, this is mitigated by its having a monthly fee option. In addition, the monetary aspect of F2P offerings isn't completely unpredictable like some people think it is or want it to be.

Consequently, it wouldn't be a big shock if ZeniMax is looking at a financial scenario, albeit possibly a somewhat optimistic one, that will support developing a second MMOG. So, I'd say that this rumor, while definitely vague, does have legs. I can't imagine the studio ever wrote off making Fallout Online, and I also can't help thinking it has looked into making it without a TESO-like budget. These assumptions all seem reasonably possible. Accordingly, while I'm not confident enough to predict the title will be made, I'm at least more hopeful than I was a year or even six months ago.

NCsoft already has a contingency plan to close WildStar

The news last month that Carbine's release will go F2P this fall was only a shock to those who hadn't been paying attention. It's travails attracting and holding a sizable user base were well known. In my case, I thought even before launch that the game would probably last no more than two years as a subscription offering. So, I'm mildly surprised that the announcement came after less than one, but not that it came, this despite a fairly sizable body of opinion from both reviewers and players that it's both well-made and fun.

Be that as it may, the question arose as soon as WildStar's revenue model was unveiled as to whether including the CREDD system meant NCsoft was already prepared for the switch to happen. I don't have a strong opinion either way, but from a simple business perspective, it makes sense that the company would already have considered what to do if a worst case scenario type of situation were to happen. That's what any publisher should do most of the time – hope for the best but plan for the worst.

In a similar vein, I would expect that in making the decision to go F2P, NCsoft has thought about the possibility of closing it down. This may not have gone as far as setting absolute minimum performance targets for survival, but I would be shocked if the company doesn't have at least ballpark parameters in mind. And having reached that stage, it's a relatively small step to have a general contingency plan in place. So, I'm inclined to believe this rumor, not because I think it's going to happen – I hope it won't – but rather because it would be unusual, even silly, for it to be untrue.

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Richard Aihoshi

Richard Aihoshi / Richard Aihoshi has been writing about the MMOG industry since the mid-1990s, always with a global perspective. He has observed the emergence and growth of the free to play business model from its early days in both hemispheres.