Massively Overthinking: Our MMO predictions for 2018

With 2017 drawing to a close and 2018 rushing up to meet us, the Massively OP team has regrouped for another round of bold and goofy predictions for the year ahead. We’re feeling pretty good after our fairly successful predictions from last year! What’s in store for the MMO genre next year? Here’s what we think.

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): OK, this year, for sure, Star Citizen will finally come out, but again, it can’t live up to the hype. It may be serviceable at best. Chronicles of Elyria may get its MUD online, but I can’t imagine much more than more demos of the MMO proper.

Daybreak will retire Planetside 2 because it exists but isn’t making bank. H1Z1 (both versions) won’t make any major comebacks as the survival genre’s time is passing. Yes, the arena play style for PlayerUnknown’s Battleground is up, but Daybreak’s baby’s probably too old already and losing its following. Warner Bros (which sadly owns Turbine) will continue to make bad mobile titles of popular IPs and I’ll continue crying myself to sleep knowing they own the rights to Asheron’s Call but won’t do anything with it (please, please Santa, let this be the one thing I’m wrong about!).

World of Warcraft’s next expansion will exist, but not do as well as the previous ones as the mighty Titan has fallen, but people will still come back and enjoy it for a month or so before waiting for another major update while they play other games.

Destiny 2 will not do well. Bungie will continue to struggle to make it cool again, but lighting seems to have escaped the bottle. Amazon may be working on games, but I don’t think we’ll see anything from them this year.

Current MMO darlings Elder Scrolls Online and Final Fantasy XIV will do well enough this year. ESO will probably stumble with some lockbox thing because, let’s face it, all games with lockboxes do this, so doing it at least once this year is bound to happen. On the other hand, FFXIV will put something overpriced in their own shop, but most likely just a vanity item and not something game breaking like a ghillie suit of ganking goodness.

VR may continue to see a push on console and mobile, but I think its PC time (especially for MMO) won’t see any major renewal outside of maybe whatever work’s done on the Sword Art Online game. Speaking of mobile, yeah, expect more mobile MMOs, especially from Asia, but at this point, don’t expect them to “get” the western market yet. I’m actually still struggling with it myself!

Nintendo will continue to skirt the edge between multiplayer games with social media community events tying into larger narratives and actual MMO but still refuse to commit to making the latter. Pokemon Go, in particular, will continue testing the waters. Gen 3 legendaries actually won’t shake up the meta that much, and I really believe Niantic will get the missing mythic Pokemon (like Mew and Celebi) out, but like Mewtwo, the release will probably be not what players expect, especially as distribution of passes and spawns remains something Niantic tries to better understand. Towards the summer, the release Generation 4 will maybe actually herald either 1v1 PvP or pokemon trading/breeding in some limited scope. If I’m being super optimistic, Niantic will finally be able to tie the game in with some kind of social media and/or messenger to make the game easier for communicating and finding play partners. Again, something will go wrong, probably something of ethical consequence, but I’m hoping it’s small enough that I’m finally able to recommend the game for MMO fans and not just those looking to combine online gaming with reality.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): We will get a trickle of info about New World, but it’ll become clearer that it won’t be a sandbox MMORPG and will look a lot more like PUBG than originally planned. Ironically, I don’t think we’ll still be talking much about PUBG in the west a year from now.

World of Warcraft’s expansion will do much better than Legion. We won’t see Classic in 2018, however (fall 2019 is my bet). Overwatch’s e-sports push seems like a longshot to me, but I’m sure that if and when it capsizes, someone will be walking away with a ton of cash and call it a win.

NCsoft will leak news about Guild Wars 2’s next expansion, starting the whole cycle again. WildStar will somehow manage to get another year of life. I’ll try this one again: WildStar announces console plans, and the Blade & Soul console launch will be a windfall for the company.

Definitely think we’ll see more companies grudgingly showing transparency on lockboxes and trying to head off legislation (which will come anyway) by playing nicely while the teacher’s watching.

Destiny 2 won’t recover, in spite of popular DLC, and Bungie will move on to the next thing. Sea of Thieves, on the other hand, will rope in a ton of MMORPG players.

Star Citizen will eventually get alpha 3.0 out the door in March. It’ll settle that lawsuit by summer. It won’t launch, and the next phase it does promise also won’t launch next year.

Elder Scrolls Online will announce a new chapter. It and Black Desert will vie for dominance next year.

Crowfall will finally launch and do pretty well, but not a blockbuster. Camelot Unchained will finally roll into beta one by late spring. Ashes of Creation trucks along in quiet testing but doesn’t make any bold moves in 2018. Ship of Heroes will also find moderate success, beating the other superhero MMOs to a truly playable early access.

Standing Stone will hang in there. Daybreak too, but H1Z1 will still not officially launch, and Parabolic will be an Overwatch clone. Funcom will continue tinkering on the games it maintenance-moded and fall back on Secret World Legends content. Trion will put RIFT on console. Hilmar Petursson will exit CCP and EVE will hover as it does now. BioWare won’t get any bounce off The Last Jedi for SWTOR and continue its anemic updates.

Cryptic will cancel the Magic MMO it’s working on, but otherwise, PWE does fine with its whole stable.

The F2P pushes for Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot will make mainstream news for a day but not really pull in new players in the long haul.

If The Lineage (Lineage Eternal) and Lost Ark do finally launch, they won’t have nearly the impact in the west that they did years ago when first announced. A:IR will not make 2018.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth releases in early November after people repeatedly predict incorrect earlier dates for it. Island expeditions and warfronts are almost immediately popular (although there are balance issues), while dungeons and raids notice a bit of a downturn. It’s too early to tell how the game is doing by the end of the year, but there’s a fair amount of, “Wow, I thought it was a weak premise, but the actual gameplay is surprisingly good.”

World of Warcraft: Classic servers arrive midway through the year. They see a brief population surge, followed by a whole lot of people swiftly leaving while claiming that the servers ere somehow mismanaged because they wanted something other than the actual true-to-vanilla servers. It’s because of bugs/balance/something other than the actual inconvenience, definitely. In a darkened room, a man chuckles, lights a cigar, and whispers, “You think you want it, but you don’t.” Somewhere in the distance, a wolf howls.

Final Fantasy XIV continues to update on a reliable schedule and reveals its third expansion in November, bringing players either to the southern or western continent. It knows what it’s doing and continues to do it well.

Guild Wars 2 starts the year out strong, but a few controversial business decisions hit in the middle of the year and update cadence slows down significantly through the later months. It’s still better than life was with Heart of Thorns.

EVE Online spends the year mostly in recovery mode; rather than CCP spinning out more big and expensive projects, it focuses on doubling down with its existing content. Things are looking up more toward the end of the year, although there’s a certain degree of player apprehension focused around the game’s financial health.

Cryptic reveals details on its Magic: the Gathering MMO, with release scheduled for late 2018 or early 2019. People who love Cryptic’s other games are going to enjoy it, and it’ll bring in some new blood. It will still feature some obtrusive lockbox stuff.

Star Citizen’s 3.0 issues prove to be extremely deep-seated and keep hampering the game as more and more backlash materializes through more obscure funding methods (like, stuff that makes the land sales seem downright prosaic). Squadron 42 is, at best, in an early test state at the end of the year; whether or not it is marketed as a launch will depend on too many factors to examine here.

WildStar continues to limp along with no real updates, waiting for the actual shutdown. (That might happen next year, actually, but I’m tired of guessing about when.)

The Elder Scrolls Online has two major updates. One is well-received and in the same vein as the stuff that we’ve had over the past two years; the other is… less so. One step forward and one stumble, then.

Ascent: Infinite Realm launches to some mixed responses at first, gets some polish passes, and is looking very healthy as it starts testing in the west. Black Desert continues to grow and expand, with another big landscape update to help spur more player interaction. TERA does all right on consoles, but it shows its age. A few more import MMOs open, a few more close, as it always has been.

Daybreak continues to flail around looking for a hit vaguely like H1Z1 before PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds existed, ultimately being unsuccessful. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds falters a bit as well once the novelty wears off, but Daybreak makes it clear that things don’t really fully materialize. By the end of the year, H1Z1 appears to be in real trouble.

Amazon’s game studio continues to put out a grand total of nothing. Whee.

Destiny 2 has a minor revival mid-year as its underlying issues finally start to be patched out and fixed, but there’s still no talk about Destiny 3 or even rumors of same. The game finds its niche as it becomes more convincingly MMO-esque.

We get at least one surprising new title announced that isn’t a Kickstarted probably-not-happening indie that promises tons of backward-looking systems. Speaking of that group, at least one of the well-known smaller titles (like Chronicles of Elyria, Saga of Lucimia, City of Titans, et al.) winds up shutting down altogether. (It’s happened before.)

Next year sees some shakeups across the genre, with some well-known titles shutting down and some others stepping into places of renewed prominence. We also see more titles embracing the pseudo-MMO aspect that has become far more common in ostensibly single-player titles, including at least one title that actually provides an interesting question of whether or not it really is an MMO or just close to one.

I will eat a burrito bowl.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): There is never a time of year that I make myself out to be so foolish as when I try to predict what’s going to happen in this industry over the next 12 months. That said, I’m comfortable being foolish, so here are some thoughts.

Amazon’s New World will eventually be proven to be vaporware, but John Smedley’s team is going to come out with a neat little MMO thing that gets us excited in his visions again. Ashes of Creation and Crowfall are going to pick up serious steam this year and begin to generate a ton of buzz. World of Warcraft is going to have a strong year based on the new expansion and classic server buzz, but it won’t see the typical expansion high based on the apathy levels of Battle for Azeroth’s announcements.

I think we’ll see a winnowing of the City of Heroes successors, and that Ship of Heroes will be the game to come out on top of that effort. Daybreak’s going to announce a new EverQuest title, but it won’t be what we expect. Smaller studios, like SSG and Broadsword, are going to continue to tread water with interesting expansions and updates for their games that won’t quite recapture former glory.

We’re definitely going to see far fewer new MOBAs and far more “battle royale” shooters, because copycatting is a constant.

Camelot Unchained is going to start its long-awaited beta test in June. Shroud of the Avatar’s launch will be a non-event for most gamers. Star Citizen will get alpha 3.0 out… and it will be plagued with issues.

Kickstarter won’t be a thing of the past, either; 2018 will get not one, but two major MMO crowdfunding projects that stir up buzz.

I’m going to call it: This is the year that WildStar will shut down. And that will be a shame. Oh, and I’ll lose myself in Sea of Thieves for about two months straight.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): We all know by now that I don’t do predictions right? But I will give it the old Christmas spirit… or something like that!

1) Season 2 of Secret World Legends will launch and it will be glorious! Veterans and new players alike will be frothing at the mouth wanting more because cliffhangers will be involved. Something shocking happens with a well-known/beloved NPC.

2) Survival sandboxes will continue to be a popular design choice, but companies will have to start getting more creative with unique hooks to distinguish their game from the massive sea of similar titles.

3) Following the very, very delayed release of ARK’s third DLC (which will again break the base game), Wildcard announces a new game that will be going to early access.

4) A handful of games will actually launch launch, surprising players who all thought Early Access actually means launch. One game will completely forgo Early Access and paid betas, shocking the industry and endearing itself to fans.

5) At least one more developer/game will jump on the fan convention bandwagon (as more should!) and it will an awesome time to hang with devs and fans. At least one special announcement will be made there!

6) The EverQuest franchise will have a major closing scare (loss of major dev, legal troubles by by parent company?), but it will make it through to 2019.

7) Warframe will take another long stride into MMOness and be “discovered” by more MMO players (but it will still not officially launch =P).

8) I will be totally surprised by a new game that I will love in a genre I’d have never expected.

9) Instead of lessening, lockboxes will find their way into even more single-player and co-op games — even TV shows and streamin services! New “no lootboxes” lootbox mechanics will be introduced.

10) Mo’s secret relationship finally comes to light!

Bonus: Nothing will even come remotely close to having as feature-rich a virtual world as SWG, and Bree and I will lament that fact no less than 142 times.

Your turn!

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Sykes

The Chinese version of DNF(Dungeon Fighters Online in English) launches a client on either Nvidia Shield or Switch. The West doesn’t notice, but it continues to be among the most successful MMOs of all time and an internet cafe favorite, and becomes the first real portable MMO. Shanghai subways are never the same again.

Augmented Reality becomes more mainstream with apps that take advantage of 3DS and mobile software in Nintendo’s park, essentially creating a park-wide MMO AR experience that shocks everyone. Gameplay is casual and light at best, but the concept is impressive and somehow it is still fun.

The world’s first VR-capable phone launches. We look back in 10 years and mark this as the year where the tech for AR MMOs became a reality. The only hint at this future is when the rights to The Matrix quietly change hands.

Intel and AMD release a joint SOC in a form factor optimized for compact use as shown at CES 2018, but the project is abandoned after release.

SWTOR has a remarkably quiet expansion launch in mid-2018 and seems dead throughout the year, but makes a surprise comeback the next year by rebranding and playing to it’s strengths of late 2017 hires of former EU authors such as Timothy Zhan. It becomes even less of an MMO for it, but 2019 delivers on a cinematic story that rival’s KOTOR. People play it for a month, but leave after exhausting the content. SWTOR announces no further content updates in 2020, entering maintenance mode while Disney and Lucasarts shop for a new developer and publisher. Depending on WoW classic’s success, SWG classic launches in 2020 or 2021 as a stopgap.

Anthem sales tank worse than ME: Andromeda despite receiving critical acclaim as console games prove once again that the appetite for sci-fi shooters is waning (see COD, ME). This leaves Bioware in the awkward position of having SWTOR as it’s only profitable modern game. They shutter all but one studio and refocus their efforts on development of a passion project, using SWTOR’s cartel market and a few remakes to support themselves financially in the interrim. As part of these efforts, KOTOR is remastered in 2019.

RGB-lit rotating fan displays become 1080p capable at an affordable price, giving users access to HD 3D without glasses that doesn’t suck and redefines the public’s perception of a display device. This takes off in movie theaters first, with holoprojection 3D tech of paneled RGB fans providing a Star Wars like theatrical experience of high-res, true color holoprojections by the end of 2019.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Well, some predictions already failed lol. Like Bree’s claim SC 3.0 will release in march 2018. Nope, already happened. Also there is basically zero chance for Lost Ark to release in the west in 2018 with developer not yet having deals with western publishers and asian launch most likely happening in the second half of the year (if we are lucky).

I’ll drop my 2 cents about what will happen in 2018:
SC – we gonna see alot of SQ42 on next Citizencon but it wont release in 2018. As far as PU goes, we’ll have the next major patch that will add almost whole Stanton system besides one planet that they wont be able to finish in time (probably Microtech). But we’ll see new cool mechanics added like mining, info running, salvaging. Game passes through 200 mil before December 31. As for lawsuit, they gonna clear it before going to court and CryTek recieves some money and wont know how much.

WoW: BfA – about the same sales as Legion and same amount of players. There will be noticable influx of people after they launch level scaling in Jan or Feb 2018. Nothing else to add here.

Lost Ark – launches in Asia and becomes a smashing hit. Western gamers will beg for western release but will have to wait till 2019.

Project PL aka Lineage Eternal – wont risk to compete with LA in 2018 and delays launch to 2019. But this wont help them and game will be always overshadowed by LA. We will also see more isometric MMOs from Asia appearing and it will be come a new trend.

Monster Hunter World – huge success, millions of copies sold. Constantly discussed in MMO community.

Anthem – I feel like this game can become the redeeming turning point for Bioware. Everyone is pissed at them now but Anthem looks incredible and after it launches in 2018 everyone will speak highly about Bioware again.

City of Thieves – will also be a success and fun MMO to play for few months. But it wont have enough content for most players to last long.

Camelot Unchained – will launch “beta” which will look like pre-alpha and feel like its still at least 3 years away from being finished. Fans will praise “potential”, I will keep being unimpressed.

Pantheon – will just be in development throught 2018 and will start looking nice visually. But I dont see them doing public release any time soon. Maybe early access for biggest whales.

Shroud of Avatar – will launch as planned in March. Noone will care.

Ashes of Creation – will keep proving its mediocrity.

Crowfall – launches in 2018 and flops.

Wildstar – I dont think it will shut down in 2018 although I wouldnt be surprised. They probably keep it on life support and drop minor updates.

LoTRO – will be milking Mordor throught 2018 and part of 2019. Devs wont step on the path of creating “outside movie trilogy” content cuz its too hard for them. Well, not until they milked everything they know dry.

TESO, FF14, SWToR, GW2 – will keep throwing content patches that only fans care about.

EVE Online – new big war happens that goes all over MMO news. Well, thats wishful thinking, but possible. Population declines abit.

Funcom announces a new game. Small one like The Park. They seem to like trying to reap money with minor effort. Conan Exiles releases and remains their biggest golden goose.

We learn more about Age of Wushu 2 and it will be absolutely awesome.

The biggest prediction is about new Blizzard’s title. They might announce it at Blizzcon’2018 and it will be either PUBG type game in sci-fi setting (most likely scenario) or their risky VR experiment that will look awesome and everyone looses their mind.

I also feel like 2018 will be a big year for VR with the first AAA VR projects being announced and more big companies joining VR race.

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Ryan Allgood

Ship of Heroes really needs to change their name. >< Not a prediction, just a suggestion.

I hope they do well, but like…it's going to be interesting trying to get people into it.

"Hey, have you heard about that MMO Ship of Heroes? It looks pretty good."

"Oh, is that the pirate MMO?"

"Um…no…"

"Oh okay, it's one of the spaceship ones, I think I remember hearing about that."

"Actually…no, it's a superhero MMO…"

"Ohhhhh…I thought you said *Ship* of Heroes…what did you actually say?"

"…Ship of Heroes."

Nathaniel Downes
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Nathaniel Downes

Finding the right name is a PITA. I know City of Titans went through several before we picked one. (Super Human, Ascendant Online, The Phoenix Project, Titan City Online, for examples of names we almost went with)

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Tobasco da Gama

I like Bree’s theory about New World being quietly turned into a battle royale game. It’s exactly the right level of cynicism to have a chance at being correct.

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johnwillo

At least one MMO will launch and then, thirty days later, launch a Classic Edition based on the one-month old launch version. Players will tell them that they didn’t get the classic version right. Third world pirate emulators will pop up everywhere, with mixed success.

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Bryan Correll

Star Citizen will not launch, but will throw out some more ‘playable’ chunks. Chris Roberts will become increasingly Howard Hughes-like.

Brendan Drain will EVE online. Yes, it’s a verb now.

One of the CoH successors will make a big break ahead of the pack and become the one game most seen as CoH’s “true” heir. It’s not clear which game it will be, but it won’t be Heroes and Villains.

Andrew Ross will get lost in the woods for three days trying to track down a rumored rare pokemon.

Wildstar will continue to operate with a low profile as NCSoft has forgotten they didn’t already close it.

Melissa McDonald will mysteriously disappear for several months only to reappear bearing news of an exciting virtual world she has been exploring.

Loot boxes will continue to plague the industry, but attempts will be made by several publishers to rebrand them without making any real changes to the mechanics.

Schlag Sweetleaf will announce that image memes are passé and that he will be redirecting his creative energies toward interpretive dance.

Eliot Lefebvre will contract E. Coli from a burrito bowl. This will not, however, deter him from eating future burrito bowls.

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Cosmic Cleric

Wildstar will continue to operate with a low profile as NCSoft has forgotten they didn’t already close it.

Ok, this made me laugh. Thank you!

Andrew Ross
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Andrew Ross

HEY! How did you know about my knack for getting lost in meatspace!?

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Bryan Correll

I just assumed it happens to all Pokémon Go players at some point.

Nathaniel Downes
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Nathaniel Downes

I will admit a bit of amusement at some of these predictions. How about I give one:

I predict that it will be a very good year for gamers. Whatever happens, this is the year that innovation arrives on many fronts. From the CoH successors, to Project Gorgon, to Camelot Unchained, to Star Citizen, to Crowfall, to Ashes of Creation, the gamers themselves have created 2018. I stand in awe of your power.

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mistressbrazen

It’s telling isn’t it that the players do not share the same hopeful outlook as the developers. If at least some of you would deliver a good, playable game in 2018 maybe our faith can be restored a bit.

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Alex Malone

2018 will be another year of stagnation for the MMO genre.

* ESO, WoW and FFXIV will continue to plod along with regular updates and healthy communities, but nothing ground breaking. Their continued success is more to do with lack of competition rather than intrinsic awesomeness.

* WildStar will shut down.

* WoW classic server will launch 4 months before the new expansion. This will give blizzard a boost to income for those 4 months and then just as most people are getting bored, the new expansion hits to drag them back in. Classic server will be moderately successful.

* A couple of crowd-funded MMOs will release. They will all be shit. It will finally sink in that you cannot build an MMO with more features than a AAA MMO on a tiny budget. They will each do 1 or 2 things well, but the overall experience will be poor.

* Camelot Unchained will move into beta testing and possibly even release Dec 18. This will be the game that finally inspires change. The CUBE system will show the way forwards in terms of building in the world, their bespoke engine will prove that massively-multiplayer actually means something (1000+ player battles! woot!) and it will be the first game to successfully use horizontal progression. It will be moderately successful in its own right (~75k subscribers)

* Amazon’s New World will not be an MMO. It will be a survival sandbox.

As you may be able to tell, I’m resting all of my MMO hopes and dreams on CU, so I’m probably setting myself up to be disappointed. But, the genre as it is today sucks for a player like me, so it can only get better.

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Hope

I don’t think that, with WotC such a lucrative potential source of licenses and Sword Coast Legends having failed and closed, either WotC or Cryptic can afford not to release Magic. Especially since WotC is in the middle of relaunching Magic’s entire digital existence. Magic will come out.

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Sally Bowls

GW2: IDK about starts the year out strong. We will know more in Feb when we find out how big Q4 is. IDK about expansion hints next year; they really need to ship one next year, but if they are on a two year pace, and continue the no hype/promotion strategy of PoF, then leaks may be more Q1 ’19 than ’18.

NW: MMO from Amazon was the electrifying hope. But I think trends mean it will be far closer to PUBG than an MMO.

BDO: will continue to do well but its “domination” will be more in terms of mentions here rather than revenue. I don’t see it making many top-10 list from market research firms.

EVE: SSDD – no growth but the decline is slow

SC: who cares? It may launch and do well (but not in ’18) But I currently see it more as a parody or tragedy of game development than something to be taken seriously.

DBG: a misfortune would not be a surprise but ’18 is probably just same old, but at somewhat lower revenue levels.

Assuming CU just hits beta but does not launch, I predict the number of successful crowd-funded MMOS, from the beginning of time through the end of the 2018, will remain zero.