Perfect Ten: Mobile MMOs coming in 2017
This past year, we couldn't seem to go a week without bumping into news of some new mobile MMO or a tablet spin-off of some existing franchise. It seems as though the mobile market is still blowing up, and MMORPG developers are looking for a way to take advantage of the popularity and market penetration that these devices offer.
What does this mean? It means that in 2017, we have a whole lot of games heading our way. With any luck, some of them might unseat the low-quality half-breeds that seem to make up a bulk of the existing mobile MMO library and set a higher standard for fun and engagement.
Let's take a look at about two dozen mobile MMOs we could be getting in 2017 -- and which ones might be the new contenders for our undivided attention. Unless we mention otherwise, these titles will be coming out for both iOS and Android platforms.
The Final Fantasy community was abuzz at the news in early 2016 that FFXI would be going into maintenance mode while adapting to the mobile market. Strangely enough, FFXI has continued to roll out updates even after its retirement while not saying much at all about the mobile version follwing this initial announcement in April 2016.
If it's still in the works, FFXI Reboot (working title) will be a joint collaboration between Square-Enix and Nexon to remake the title in Unreal Engine 4. The initial launch will not contain all of the expansions, although there are plans to eventually roll out the full game.
MZ and Square Enix have partnered up to create some sort of MMO based on the relatively new Final Fantasy XV. It remains to be seen how much of a true MMORPG this will be, as mobile developers like to play fast and loose with that term (online connectivity? It's an MMO!).
An offshoot of sorts from the original Lineage, Lineage Red Knights looks to be a territory control game in which players vie for sections of the land. The art style is definitely worth noticing, with its cuter and more colorful design than the standard Lineage games.
The ARPG MMO Tree of Savior kind of fizzled when it launched in the west earlier this year, but it's going to try to get a do-over by porting the whole game to mobile. We don't have a timeline for it, but there's a website up and a reported global rollout planned.
This is a little confusing, as it looks as if two Blade and Soul mobile spin-offs in the works. The first is a prequel called Blade and Soul: Hongmoon Rising, co-developed by Tencent and NCsoft for release on PC and mobile. Then there's Blade and Soul Mobile proper, which is a cuter game that's coming only to tablets and smartphones.
This pixel art-style, Viking-themed online action RPG has been pretty quiet over the past six months or so, but apparently that's because the team is waiting until the game is ready to show off for real. The first episode was promised by the end of 2016, so we'll see how it goes.
One of the producers of Final Fantasy XI and XIV is now working on this fantasy title over at Gungho. Seventh Rebirth focuses on a world locked in a cycle of destruction and rebirth, hence the title. Players will move between building up towns while picking up supplies and exploring dungeons with other players.
Cross-platform play is the new hot catchphrase of the online industry, although we suspect that some studios are going to kill themselves to try to accomplish such lofty goals. One of these cross-platform projectsis Becoming Preta, a hack-and-slash title that will feature not only a mobile edition but a virtual reality one as well.
Invoking EVE Online's name to describe the goals of your project is lofty, to say the least, but it's what this mobile title did this past spring. Don't hold your breath too much for a pocket EVE: Second Galaxy's studio has since pulled its videos and hasn't posted an update to Facebook since June. Still, you never know.
Make no mistake about it: The Lineage series (the first game in particular) is a massive cash cow for NCsoft. So it's a no-brainer that the company has licensed multiple mobile titles, including a version of the first game that crams the classic look down into a new format. We haven't heard too much about it following its initial Korean announcement, but considering its, erm, lineage, we have no doubts it's still in development.
Yet another Lineage franchise spin-off, this mobile MMO is being made by Snail Games for China -- at least initially. While there's no word on whether it's coming to the West, Snail's involvement (including the use of its own Flexi Engine) and the good-looking graphics makes it worth keeping tabs on.
ARK has certainly proved that there's a strong demand for survival sandboxes with dinos, so don't strain your brain by wondering why Nexon is working on an isometric dinosaur-themed survival sandbox. Cash cow in the making or a flight of fancy? Testing is progressing, so we might have the chance to judge its authenticity soon.
The high-energy hack-and-slash Vindictus is going mobile with a dungeon crawler that promises all sorts of furious (screen) button mashing. The main hook of the game is a character-swapping mechanic that allows you to tag different fighters in and out of combat.
A mash-up of SNES-style graphics and MMOs, Mirage Realms is attempting to sample the best of a few favorite categories of its designer. The game went into open alpha testing for Android devices this past fall with no word as to whether or not it might be coming to iOS in the future.
Movement is definitely happening with this mobile edition of the long-running Ragnarok series. It's scheduled to launch in March 2017... in China. Will it be coming to the west? We'll just have to hang tight and see.
The spin-off from the colorful MMO is being designed to complement its big brother. There are doubts over whether this will be a true MMO or simply a side game with the Aura Kingdom moniker, although in either case players will have plenty of dungeons to conquer and a world to explore.
There's definitely a mobile version of this action MMO in the works, although Dragon Nest's struggling popularity in the west throws its future as a title in this region in doubt. Not much else is known about this game right now.
Webzen's upcoming hack-and-slash MMO has the usual stable of eastern classes and the usual eastern focus on PvP. Its cinematic cutscenes and presentation might be the only things to set this apart from the rest of the pack.
Apparently Pocket MapleStory was somewhat of a bust for Nexon, so the studio has declared a do-over of sorts in the form of the improved MapleStory M. It's already out in Korea and looks like it offers a full-fledged (side-scrolling) MMO experience.
From the brief video teaser of this upcoming game, Elsword Slash looks like it will contain much of the over-the-top action combat and the bright, cartoony visuals of Elsword proper. A perfect button-masher for stress relief?
I'm starting to get the sense that fast-paced, flashy fighting MMOs are seen as ideal candidates for the mobile space. Maybe we don't need huge 3-D environments and the subtleties of a large MMO world when you've got blazing swords and huge numbers going everywhere. Anyway, pretty much everything I said about Elsword Slash looks like it applies to this upcoming adaptation of the Dungeon & Fighter series.
Most mobile MMOs are divorced from their desktop colleagues, but Albion Online is outright attempting to make its game playable on either, offering cross-platform play. If the studio can pull this technical challenge off, it might have a huge advantage over its competitors. Now if it only weren't pushing the gankbox model so hard...
Speaking of cross-platform MMOs, AdventureQuest 3D sort-of pseudo-launched last fall, but in reality, it's still very much in a beta state with a lot of work left to be done before it's a fully formed MMO. Seeing how this game develops in 2017 is of great interest to me, especially considering just how many different platforms can access this MMO.
Bless Online is one of 2017's mostly hotly anticipated MMOs, so why not make a mobile version to ride on the coattails of that hype? We don't know much about Bless Mobile other than it's being made using the Unreal Engine 3, which might speak to its potential visuals if nothing else.
Last October, Villagers and Heroes pushed out an Android version of its underrated MMO. But what about the rest of us mobile users? The team announced this month that an iOS port is in the works and should arrive by the end of February.
Hades’ Star is a top-down strategy MMO in which players will roam the galaxy looking for opportunities to colonize, mine, trade, and fight. It went into alpha testing last December, so it should be on track for a launch this year at some point.