Happy 2014 everyone. While I know not every day will be merry I hope you have more good than bad and in the end find yourself in a better place than you do now. Last week I talked about 3 words that could sum up 2013 for me. This week I’ll talk about 3 questions that I hope we get answered for us this year.
After winning MMORPG.com's Game of the Year Award Will FFXIV:ARR be relevant in the west in six more months?
Keep in mind these questions aren’t as important as, what is the meaning of life, is there really a God, or why did the chicken cross the road, but they are things that I’m genuinely interested in. I had the dubious honor or conducting the review of FFXIV:ARR for MMORPG.com. Before I actually had a chance to spend some time with 2.0 I really thought this game was going to be train wreck in waiting. I was wrong. FFXIV was well done and while there was nothing absolutely earth shattering about it, SE's relaunch was a perfectly passable themepark MMO in a day and age where most developers boil games down to the lowest common denominator, add a new coat of shiny, and wait for people to throw their money at the thing. Like I talked about last week, FFXIV also benefited from being the only AAA MMO launched in the last half of 2013. It was able to hold the content locusts that jump from new MMO to new MMO all to itself.
All of that will change in the next six months. We have a potential blockbuster in Elder Scrolls Online coming out in April. The staff pick as the most anticipated game, WildStar, should come out in the second quarter as well. While I think it is a safe bet that XIV will remain popular in Japan I’m not sure how well it will do in the west. Stiff competition, four months or greater lapses in time between content patches, and the newness wearing off do not bode well for its future prospects.
Can Subscription Based MMOs be Successful Again?
We have seen a shift in the business models supported by the industry over the past few years from subscription based MMOs to microtransaction or buy to play MMOs. Microtransaction based business models have finally been able to shake the stereotype of inferior games that are pay to win scams to gaining the support of AAA studios, most notably Sony Online Entertainment, staking their entire future to microtransactions.
Most of the MMO’s that launched as subscription based in the past two years have rapidly shifted gears and converted to microtransactions or were face with the prospect of having to just close shop. The only game to really avoid that fate was FFXIV. Greatness, luck, support of Japan, or more than likely a combination of all 3 have allowed it to stay subscription. Can this trend continue? Elder Scrolls Online, and WildStar will both launch as sub based MMOs? Can they both survive in today’s marketplace when microtransaction has become so ubiquitous?
Will Console MMOs be a Success and Expand the Genre?
While I have run into a number of players in FFXIV that play on the PS3 and my brother played FFXI on the PS2 for a few years I think it is fair to say that in the west console MMOs are still a niche market. With the release of the new console generation that could become a thing of the past. With games like Destiny due out later this year not only could we see a MMO spring on consoles we could change the way we even look at MMOs. While most of theses games will still be on the PC here are just a few you can expect to see on the PS4 or XBox One. Destiny, ESO, PlanetSide 2, The Division, Final Fantasy XIV, and you can already give DC Universe Online a spin for free on the PS4.
So there you have it, my three burning questions for 2014. I’ll admit that one of them isn’t the most profound but sometimes we have to remember not to take these things so serious. Also worth noting is that ESO and WildStar could fail not just because they are sub based but because they end up being subpar games. As a betting man I’m leaning more towards WildStar being the least likely to succeed. What about the rest of you? What questions are you looking forward to getting sorted out over the next 12 months? Let me know in the comments below.
Robert Lashley / Robert Lashley is a Staff Writer and Online host for MMORPG.com. Rob's bald and when he isn't blinding people from the glare on his head talking in front of a camera you can find him spending his free time checking out the latest games and technology. Feel free to hunt him down on twitter @Grakulen
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