I'm positive we're going to see about nine million of these over the coming weeks and days. And I'm sure we'll see a lot of rehashed ground in the process. But hey... what's one more for the pile? It's fun to make crass predictions about the times ahead and see how they all shake out. I like pretending I'm a serious analyst, but using completely nonsensical bases for my forecasts. And hey, let's face it. 2010 was not the greatest year for MMO gaming. When the best thing to happen is the re-molding of content that's six years old you know it's not been an excited time. There were plenty of downs to talk about though... but let's avoid that here. Instead, let's talk about the year ahead and what could be (both good and bad) because it's just plain fun.
THE LAUNCH HYSTERIA AND EVENTUAL SUCCESS OF DCUO
It's no secret that I'm partial to this game. It just clicks for me. But it won't for everyone. There are likely going to be a lot of discontent MMO gamers who flock to DCUO and find it's not for them. There will probably be just as many who flock to it and find it the refreshing take on the genre they've been waiting for. The forums across the web will be rife with people defending and attacking the game as it launches (over both its mechanics and on the PS3 the subscription fee). But when the dust settles I expect it to be the most successful "Super" game in the market. I don't dare predict the numbers, but SOE will be pleased and DCUO (should it provide the monthly content updates it's aiming for) will have a strong and supportive community.
THE EARLY SUCCESS AND DROP OFF OF RIFT
Though the forums around gaming fan sites might make you think otherwise, Rift will move a lot of boxes. Its combination of the familiar and somewhat new, along with a healthy dose of polish (should its performance problems be ironed out) will attract a throng of traditional MMO players who are looking for something that's like the rest but new. There will be a problem with folks who expected one thing and got another, but BioWare likely has more to worry about in that regard than Trion as I'll get into later. The problem I foresee is in its long-term viability. The market will be flooded next year with eagerly anticipated high-profile releases. Rift will likely launch first, but then TOR, TERA, Guild Wars 2, and others may wind up stealing away a lot of players should they all launch in 2011. Still, I expect that Rift (much like EQ2, LotRO, etc.) will maintain a healthy core throng of players throughout the next year.
SW: TOR WILL LAUNCH HOLIDAY 2011... AND IT WILL CREATE A SH*T-STORM
BioWare's first foray into the MMO market will launch to much fanfare in the end of 2011. It will be a critical darling, and will sell an absolute butt-load of boxes. It will also create the largest outcry on forums and blogs across the internet that we've ever seen. Folks from every walk of geekdom each have their own thoughts and expectations for what SW:TOR should be. The problem is, very few of these thoughts and expectations match what BioWare has claimed time and again to be delivering. The problem with an IP like Star Wars is that nothing will ever match the expectations its fans have for the game. The Old Republic will have a lot of fans, and deservedly so. But it will likely have just as many (and probably much more vocal) detractors.
GUILD WARS 2 WILL MEET EXPECTATIONS... SORT OF
Guild Wars 2 is the game that so many MMO-ites are counting on to save the genre. In a lot of ways it's an even riskier title than The Old Republic. The hype talked up by ArenaNet and the press thus far is nothing short of deafening in its loud proclamations that GW2 will change the way MMOs are designed. From what we've seen, which admittedly hasn't been much, the game is looking like it will accomplish all of its lofty goals. Plus it will launch without a subscription necessary, which will automatically entice thousands of MMO veterans in much the same way the original did. The problem is it seems like it could suffer a fate that befalls a lot of great movies this past year. That is: the hardcore get it, get excited about it, play it, love it... but the masses stick to what they know. This is not so much a prediction, as it is a question. If Guild Wars 2 winds up as good as we all hope, will word of its "awesomeness" spread or will it remain mostly a game that only we biggest fans care for?
STO GOES F2P
This is kind of a no brainer, but much in the same way that DDO tested the waters for LotRO; Champions will be testing the water for STO. The difference is that I don't think Champions will make as big of a Freemium splash as DDO did. But I do think that Cryptic will be pleased with the title's performance enough to shift the same premise onto STO with its episodic format. Summer of 2011 at the latest.
JUMPGATE EVOLUTION WILL RELEASE TO LITTLE FANFARE, BUT MUCH ACCLAIM
Though Scott Brown has left NetDevil (for something mysterious), Lance Robertson's baby of Jumpgate Evolution will finally see the light of day. Though it will not have much advertising or fanfare at launch, it will quickly become the second most popular space game on the market (as nothing will catch EVE anytime soon). It will capture all the people who ever wanted to like EVE but couldn't because it just wasn't "action-packed" enough. JGE's three-faction warfare will remind people of DAOC and the game's well blended PvPvE will garner a lot of media attention. It will be mostly about combat and warfare, and less about economy, but the game's bloodthirsty fans won't give a damn.
The lawsuit will be settled (though who knows how) and the game will launch, though not without its share of problems. However when the dust clears it will be considered one of 2011's most surprisingly strong MMO releases. As a side note, I did say these prognostications are baseless. So this is just me hoping against hope.
BLIZZARD WILL TEASE NEXT MMO, AND GIVE D3 RELEASE DATE
Blizzard’s next convention will finally detail the release of the much-anticipated Diablo 3, but that won’t be the biggest news. They will finally announce just what their next MMO will be: a steampunk-inspired action-MMO which will at once both excite and divide players with its mechanics and premise. This will be the first game in a long time in which Blizzard really tries something new. However, the title will still be at least three years from launch.
EARTHRISE WILL START SLOW AND BUILD LIKE EVE
Earthrise will not make a huge splash when it launches in February. It will have its share of problems that normally plague releases from small studios (bugs, stability, etc.). But, much like Fallen Earth before it, the talented and dedicated staff will turn this interesting player-driven title into a diamond by the end of the year. It will be a niche title, but unlike major releases, it doesn’t aspire to be more than that and its fans will be numerous and rabid like CCP’s in time.
BETHESDA WILL ANNOUNCE AN ONLINE ELDER SCROLLS
Not content with ruling the open-world RPG space, Bethesda will announce that the next Elder Scrolls game won’t simply be a sequel to Oblivion, but their own first foray into the MMO industry. It will delight players who are looking for a less directed experience, and will have a release date of less than a year from its announcement. The downside? It will still look like aged doo-doo.
FALLOUT ONLINE WILL REVERT TO BETHESDA
Still pissed that Interplay is trying to move forward with a Fallout MMO, Bethesda has recently filed a suit against Interplay stating they only have the rights to the Fallout trademark and nothing else that has to do with the Fallout myth and lore. In the end, Interplay and Bethesda will settle and Bethesda will begin work on a Fallout MMO of their own.
2011 WILL ACTUALLY SEE SEVERAL DECENT MMO LAUNCHES
It’s been a long wait. For years we’ve seen a slew of underwhelming releases due to overhype. 2011 will be no different when it comes to hype, but the difference will be that 2011’s games will be looked back at in 2012 as some of the best in recent memory. There will be something for everyone, and even some games which further blur the definitions of the genre. Not every game will please everyone, and in fact most will divide the community even further. But the diversity that’s set to come out in 2011 will be welcome breath of fresh air when all is said and done.