If we were to count all the MMOGs and quasi-MMOGs presently in various stages of testing, I have no doubt that the total would have three digits. Naturally, they'd differ widely with respect to how much interest they are generating. Frankly, we'd find a fair number that are effectively invisible, unknown except to the most ardent industry observers. At the other end of the spectrum, however, some titles are attracting considerably more attention as they progress toward launch.
When considering possible candidates for this list, I took a western perspective. As a result, there are games I didn't consider even though they're highly anticipated in markets like China and Korea. In addition, since there's no consensus definition of what constitutes an alpha versus a beta, I basically determined eligibility according to whichever term each game's publisher is using while also taking into account whether and how it is accepting real money.
This is my subjective power ranking countdown of the top five projects currently in beta that fall within these admittedly somewhat fuzzy parameters. It's not meant to predict which games will be best. Your criteria and thus your mileage may well differ. Indeed, I'd be surprised if they don't.
This selection is probably the most arguable. It may well have been influenced by the fact that I've been waiting more than a decade and a half for a Tad Williams-inspired MMOG, since the days when he was the creative consultant on Dark Zion. It was a tremendously intriguing project that promised to couple his storytelling and world-building skills with unprecedented levels of player-driven and -controlled gameplay. Sadly, it never got funded.
But I digress. Otherland has my interest not just for its use of Williams' best-selling IP, but even more so because it has always seemed like a great fit for an MMOG. The prospect of exploring a virtual multiverse made up of diverse worlds that range from fantasy to science fiction and more provides an exceptionally intriguing foundation, one with immense scope for selecting weapons, apparel and other equipment. The class system could be intriguing, especially if the Energizer proves to be significantly more than just a renamed healer. The combat system, which seems fairly action-oriented, looks like it could be fun. From what I've seen to date, the art direction is solid and stylish.
On top of all this, I've been even more curious about the game since it more or less returned from the dead last fall. I'm not privy to any unpublished details as to what happened between the closing of the original developer, RealU, and the title's re-emergence in the hands of Drago Entertainment and IME, the latter as publisher, a role initially occupied by gamigo. In any case, I'm glad it's back in development.
I won't deny that Otherland has been less visible than some other titles I didn't list. However, since the project is now in the second stage of its closed beta, it seems reasonable to think we can expect to learn more before much longer. I'm guardedly optimistic that what we'll see will prove to be worth the wait. I'm hopeful but not especiallly confident it will launch later this year.
I could say the same thing about when we might expect the third offering in Wargaming.net's free to play military action series to enter service. As above, I can appreciate that with the title still being in closed beta, the full build-up of visibility and hype leading up to launch has yet to begin. At the same time, part of me can't avoid feeling like the rate of information release has been somewhat on the slow side. Accordingly, there's a niggling question in the back of my mind that won't completely go away as to how development is coming along.
Another query I can't shake is about World of Warships' ceiling. In terms of popularity, it seems highly unlikely to approach World of Tanks. At first glance, matching World of Warplanes might be a reasonable target. But then again, this may not be a high bar. Although I don't recall seeing definitive audience data, it wouldn't be a big surprise if the latter title hasn't met Wargaming's pre-release expectations. I also can't help but believe the company was looking for a more positive critical and gamer reception than it achieved. So, I am rather keen to see if the naval iteration will represent a rebound for the series and revitalize it with a breath of fresh air.
I'm also curious about the potential effect of limiting the available ship types to just aircraft carriers, battleships, cruisers and destroyers. In particular, while the most obvious omission, submarines, would seem very difficult to incorporate, not doing so immediately leads me to ask if other entire categories aren't present either (hint: mine layers and sweepers, patrol / torpedo boats, frigates and possibly more). Granted, this may not concern other people as much if at all. Indeed, it likely won't matter to me if, as I hope, the game is fun enough.