Every year, we lodge our predictions for the next. Funny, strange, and deadly serious, these predictions are a glance back on the naïvetés of 2014 and a chance to reflect on the last 365 days before launching into a new round of predictions and awards. In this week’s Massively Overthinking, we’ll be doing just that: Scoring last year’s predictions for 2015, counting both the hits and the misses, cheering when we got it right and giggling like fools with perfect hindsight when we whiffed at bat.
Note, the predictions naturally include notes from two former writers, both of whom now work for game studios, but they’re fun and we love them, so we’re including them!
World of Warcraft
Bree: World of Warcraft will drop down to 8 million players by summer, but it’ll go back up to 8.5 million when the next expansion, Murloc Invasion, is announced at BlizzCon in the fall (instead of farms and garrisons, the “special” mechanic will be swimming pools). Jokes aside, WoW lost way more players this year than even my dire forecast suggested and didn’t perk up after Legion was announced. Murloc Invasion would have been better tbh.
Eliot: World of Warcraft’s subscribers dip again, and we hear about another expansion toward the end of the year, but the looming threat of another content lull does the game no favors. Unfortunately spot on.
Mike: World of Warcraft’s three million subscriber boost will probably vanish by mid-year if not earlier. Yep!
Guild Wars 2
Toli: ArenaNet will announce Guild Wars 2’s first traditional expansion at PAX Prime for release in 2016, and the major features of it will be new Legendary items, one (and only one) new weapon option for each profession, and mounts, but no player housing. The setting will either be Elona or the unopened areas surrounding the current map. Mostly hits, though we’re missing mounts still, and it was PAX South!
Bree: Finally, we have to be getting a Guild Wars 2 expansion/campaign, but I think it’ll launch late in 2015. It won’t be Cantha exactly, but it’ll be big; Toli’s probably right about Elona or the northern desert. It won’t come with a level cap bump; it will come with a new playable race (Tengu?) and two new classes whose mechanics didn’t port over yet (Rit and Derv, though maybe not called that). A few hits there, though the Revenant is more of a Rit than a Dervish, and we still have no extra playable race.
Eliot: Guild Wars 2 announces its first expansion (complete with cries that it should have come out far sooner). Yep.
Mike: Guild Wars 2 will get at least the promise of an expansion. And more!
Bree: WildStar will perk up a bit, though probably not to SWTOR or FFXIV levels of rebound. I think we’ll see [it] move to a buy-to-play model in 2015. Free-to-play it was to be. We don’t yet know how much it rebounded.
Eliot: WildStar [will] make the free-to-play leap. Score.
Justin: WildStar will go free-to-play and gradually turn the game into a respectable and crowd-pleasing title. Still working on that bit…
Larry: WildStar will actually create a true free-to-play model. I foresee the game creating a modular design possibly based on C.R.E.D.D. The price of C.R.E.D.D. will drop, and we will see certain aspects of the game cost a certain amount of C.R.E.D.D. For instance, raiding might cost one C.R.E.D.D. and PvP would cost another. And since you can buy C.R.E.D.D. with in-game currency, there will be people who can play the game literally for free. The rest of the studio costs will be made up from cosmetics and consumables which will be sold in the cashshop. F2P yes, but the C.R.E.D.D. hasn’t figured much in the transition.
Final Fantasy XIV
Toli: Final Fantasy XIV‘s Heavensward expansion will launch and bring in a huge influx of new players to the game, and a few veteran players will claim it’s been ruined. Years from now, some people who started playing during Heavensward’s heyday will say it was the only time the game was good. SE won’t release hard numbers, so we don’t know how much Heavensward bolstered the playerbase still.
Bree: Heavensward will be huge and run away with the expansion of the year. Whether it wins any awards remains to be seen.
Eliot: Final Fantasy XIV continues to pull good numbers leading into its first expansion, until by the end of the year people sort of have to start realizing that the game managed to sort of slip a lot of radars but is making plenty of money.
Mike: FFXIV will hum along under the radar like it did in 2014, slowly leeching people from this or that MMO.
Elder Scrolls Online
Bree: I fully expect to see The Elder Scrolls Online bragging about 3-4 million players after that console launch, but that’ll fade by the end of the year. I think we’ll see [it] move to a buy-to-play model in 2015 […] just in time for its long-delayed console launch. Big hit on the B2P and console launch, but miss on the bragging. ESO has never released brag numbers.
Eliot: The Elder Scrolls Online [will] make the free-to-play leap, and ESO’s console launch gets quietly shoved under the rug. B2P! And console launch did happen, at least.
Justin: Elder Scrolls Online will finally come to consoles in the spring and be so well-received that it will make up for the long wait and will propel that title back into the spotlight. Justin also predicted it would not go free-to-play, which was partly right. It’s hard to argue ESO is in the spotlight.
Larry: I’d say the [MMO] that has the biggest chance of turning around is Elder Scrolls. The IP for ESO obviously has a great following, but I think the clincher for that game turning itself around will be things like the Justice system. When the game launched, I don’t believe the designers had a firm grasp on what it took to make a good MMO, but now that they’ve had time to get their feet wet, they will put out content that MMO players and Elder Scrolls fans will both enjoy. Will it go free-to-play? I don’t think it will until they launch the game for console, and then it will not be a true free-to-play (not even a hybrid like Star Wars: The Old Republic) but a trial like World of Warcraft.
Mike: Elder Scrolls Online is going free-to-play. B2P! Interesting how so many of us missed B2P.
ArcheAge and Trion
Bree: I don’t see ArcheAge recovering, though I do think Trion will somehow manage to clean up its image this year, probably through RIFT and maybe by announcing a new home-grown MMO. I think now Trove helped Trion more than anything.
Eliot: At the start of the year, ArcheAge finally gets out of its launch fiasco and starts settling into a reasonable groove; it never makes a huge splash, but it’s solid for the people who want to play it.
MJ: ArcheAge can actually go either way: It will find a way to move past its troubles and deliver a solid experience for the fans or it will do a server merge and the game will crash and burn due to the land fiasco. Here are MJ’s thoughts today: “ArcheAge did, in fact, server merge — and the land situation did cause a big uproar. Servers do not appear to have recovered.”
EverQuest Next, H1Z1, and ‘SOE’
Toli: We’ll start to get a great deal of information about EQ Next. Sigh.
Bree: H1Z1 will launch and make a bigger splash than anticipated because it’s not indie fast-cash junk. Still not launched, but it did make a nice chunk of change. I do think it’s interesting just how many of us commented on H1Z1 given the year it’s had, and everyone expected EQN to be doing just fine.
Eliot: H1Z1 fails to make the desired impression and fades into the background.
Justin: H1Z1 will be buggy and somewhat forgettable, while Landmark will get everyone jazzed up when it officially launches next summer and EverQuest Next will begin its beta program. Still no sign of Landmark’s launch or EQN.
Mike: This time next year no one will remember there was a game called H1Z1. Landmark might make some good gains if its features are on par with what SOE is promising.
MJ: I see H1Z1 finding its groove and filling a fun niche, taking over the post-apocalyptic genre. At some point during the year the difference between Landmark and EverQuest Next will finally click and people will wonder why they were ever confused in the first place (possibly even denying they ever were!). Landmark launches after a lengthy open beta, and then EverQuest Next launches soon after, surprising only those who didn’t get the dual-development situation. After the amazing adventures players cook up with Landmark’s game master system, someone in the community is going to get a job in the industry creating quests and events while another moves on to join devs in developing assets! Not one of us saw the SOE/Daybreak implosion coming, which is probably the reason for the faith in the EQ franchise games.
Mike: Star Citizen will make eight hundred million more dollars. At least.
MJ: To the chagrin of detractors, Star Citizen will deploy modules that will utterly wow folks and the resulting frenzy to back the game will net even more millions. MJ calls this one a win: “SC deployed the persistent universe Alpha 2.0 update (that’s a pretty wow thing!), and it definitely kept bringing in the millions.”
The Secret World and Funcom
Eliot: The Secret World expands again and turns some heads by moving into southern Africa.
Justin: The Secret World will announce that it’s going to Africa with its next expansion.
Bree: Cryptic will finally announce that secret MMO it’s working on, and it’s zombies. Still no word on that game.
Eliot: Champions Online quietly moves into maintenance mode; Cryptic’s other games continue to do good trade. Champs actually got some love this year!
Justin: Cryptic will finally reveal its newest MMO, which will be a (why not) post-apocalyptic horror western with a strong showtunes element. I’d play that.
Eliot: Star Wars: The Old Republic puts out another expansion. As always!
Mike: SWTOR might enter hemorrhage mode, depending on how much interest Shadow of Revan was able to generate. Plenty, apparently.
LOTRO and Turbine
Eliot: Lord of the Rings Online gets a little bit closer to Mordor. Finally, we’re at the White City!
Justin: Lord of the Rings Online will reenact the Battle of Pelennor Fields. Turbine’s going to reveal a funky little mobile MMO that will make the industry rethink that space.
Eliot: Skyforge turns some heads by being better than it ought to be.
Justin: We’ll see at least one major sleeper hit of the year, which will most likely be Skyforge. I think a lot of us expected more of an impact from Skyforge.
Bree: Marvel Heroes will rebrand itself Marvel Heroes 2018. Marvel Heroes 2016, actually.
Eliot: Another studio picks up the concept of a Transformers MMO. Not yet!
Eliot: Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen will start attempting to raise money by selling untaxed cigarettes. Pantheon surviving and getting an investor surprised a lot of gamers.
Eliot: Destiny finally announces a PC port. Still nothing.
Mike: The Division won’t launch. Well this might just have been the safest bet on the whole page.
MJ: Shroud of the Avatar will continue to grow and pull in sandbox fans, winning over anyone who revels in player-generated content and community in a grittier fantasy setting. Score! MJ says, “SOTA is still gong strong and growing, with regular updates.”
MJ: Wander will quietly gain a strong, if small, following. MJ grudgingly admits defeat on this one. She writes now, “Wander pretty much died out with no updates of things to do and places to wander in. Too bad — it would have been nice to see something different really get a little foothold.”
Toli: A new big MMO will be announced as being in development, but fans will still be so burned out on releases of the past year and the resulting struggles that everyone will cast a wary eye on it, particularly if it claims to do anything differently. Crowfall might fit that bill.
Bree: 2015 is going to be a recovery year. All of the disasters of 2014 have a solid year when they can rebuild and mature before the hype cycle for the next round of games begins. I still think of 2015 as a recovery year.
Justin: The Oculus Rift will fade into the novelty section of our memories. Ah, ’twas not to be.
Mike: E-sports will continue to seep into the mainstream, bringing bigger championship pools and higher quality productions. Bigger every year.
Mike: Crowdfunding and Kickstarter might even get better now that the initial gold rush has slowed and people are being more careful about whom they trust.
MJ: As a whole, the industry becomes more comfortable with and accepting of the idea of niche games, focusing on fulfilling the needs of the few that will support the game until their last breath and stop chasing after WoW-esque numbers and paychecks. It will be the year of of the sandbox (even more than 2014) as more titles with those coveted features become playable and not just concepts. And a few more games — thankfully — embrace the subscription or buy-to-play models. Niche has definitely been the buzzword this year.
Stay tuned later this month for our 2016 predictions!