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Bill Murphy: What AAA MMOs Are Being Made That We Don’t Know About Yet?

By William Murphy on February 03, 2016 | Columns | Comments

What AAA MMOs Are Being Made That We Don’t Know About Yet?

The MMO genre is absolutely one of the most lucrative in gaming, with millions of players around the globe, across PCs and now consoles. But there’s one thing publishers and investors realize after a decade of chasing Azeroth… you can’t replicate what WoW managed to do. That said, everyone knows that long-term returns on investment can be gained with the right project. Today, we’re going to look at AAA studios I expect are making a new MMO, even if they haven’t announced it yet. Maybe sometime this year (or next) we’ll hear from a few of them.

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We’ve got more than a few Indie MMOs in development right now, and even Daybreak is still out there lurking, waiting to show off what’s become of EverQuest Next since they got a new name and a new investor. Heck, we even know there’s a Destiny 2 in the works, likely more “MMO-y” than the first, and quite possibly on the PC as well. But what about other studios? Some of the below you might expect, while others might seem outlandish, or even impossible.

Editor’s Note (me): I do not claim any of this is fact. I know folks within the studios, but none of them have confirmed or denied my guesses. This is all speculation. It’s speculation I hope is on target, but it’s just guesswork all the same.  Now then, let’s have some fun!

Amazon Game Studios

I’m starting off with the easy one here. Any studio that hires the likes of Eric Flannum, Jon Peters, Jeff Grubb, and Stephen Fowler (as well as others I’m aware of that I can’t speak about) is most definitely one to watch. Former Carbine staffer Stephan Frost was even there for a brief moment before taking a job at Blizzard on WoW.  They’re making something, and it’s very likely an MMO of sorts. There’s a studio in Seattle and Irvine, CA – though it’s unclear if they’re working multiple projects or one big title. My guess is the former.  Like all of the studios in this little column, we won’t know what shape the game will take until it’s here. But hey, let’s just hope the 20% off pre-order deal goes for Amazon’s own games too.


AGS’ Hiring Banner

Gearbox Software

During last year’s PAX South, Gearbox’ chief Randy Pitchford tweeted that the guys are hiring for the next Borderlands. There was a 2K title in China for Borderlands Online in development, from which the plug has been pulled.  I’m grasping at straws here, but I sincerely hope this means that Borderlands 3 will be an MMO-like title sort of akin to Destiny or the Division, and that it’ll come out in early 2017. The series, brought to even more depth and color with the fantastic Tales from the Borderlands, is screaming for the MMO treatment. And with Paul Sage (formerly Creative Director on Elder Scrolls Online) taking up residence at Gearbox, one can only hope that I’m right. Surely Paul could work on titles other than MMOs, maybe even the excellent looking Battleborn, but I suspect he was hired for a reason. Plus, I’m sure their longtime publisher 2K wouldn’t mind a worldwide MMO income stream.


From the mentioned 2015 Pitchford Tweet…

Zenimax Online Studios

Speaking of Paul’s former employer, let’s talk about Zenimax. The team, though ESO launched to some divisive ratings, has experienced great success as the game continued development to become one of the most highly played games on PS4 and XB1, not to mention the game’s big turnaround with fans (and this site) on the PC. It makes sense, in my small mind, that Bethesda would want the studio to try and make a second game and yes another MMO. Could it be the long-wanted Fallout Online, or something altogether new? Back in 2012, Bethesda won the case against Interplay and was awarded with the full rights to any Fallout online game there may be, by paying two million dollars.  Securing the rights was clearly a “protect the IP” move, but one has to hold out hope that Bethesda and Zenimax both see the potential long-term upsides for a B2P Fallout MMO on consoles and PC, with VR enabled.


The unannounced projects part is the most interesting…

Riot Games

Riot and parent company Tencent have LOTS of money. Like, more than any one developer in the industry right now.  People might ask, why would the king of the MOBA and eSports make an MMO? Why else but because they want to? Tencent as a company loves the genre, even having bought out ZAM to have base for their website, wiki, add-on and editorial content in the future.  They’ve hired Greg Street (formerly of Blizzard and WoW) and probably not for his PVP balance expertise. They’ve been hiring loads of narrative and creative positions, and while yes League has its fair share of lore, I don’t think you need an army of those folks to work on just LoL. It’s highly possible that an MMO of some sort, set in the League universe is in the making. Maybe Riot wants to do what no one could and topple WoW? Or maybe they just want to diversify. Either way, something is cooking at Riot, and I can’t wait to see what it is.

EDIT: Completely forgot that Riot also hired Graham McNeill, renowned and best-selling Warhammer author back in June 2015 too. Riot, indeed, is up to something.


It’s plural, though only LoL is there… conspicuous or an oversight!? (Both?)

These are just a few of the studios I’m hoping have something up their sleeve. Let’s not forget that Trion Worlds can and will likely be making another MMO in the future (Rift 2?)  ArenaNet won’t rest on just Guild Wars 2 forever, and NCSOFT seems hell-bent on keeping their AAA MMOs coming, along with Nexon – who is quietly working on Maple Story 2 and funding development behind studios like Lawbreakers and the more MMO-y QC Games (which was founded by former SWTOR and Warhammer Online developers).  Whenever someone gets all down on the genre, I remind them that there are always lulls. There are always times when game genres look bleak, because they get caught in a vicious cycle of trying to capitalize on others’ successes. We’re past that, or getting there. Experiments and new ideas are coming. Have patience, play what you like, and always look to the horizon.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all of his pointless rambling.