Right now we are in a strange place in MMORPG history. Following the backlash of WoW clones and several high-profile titles that underperformed, major studios are becoming extremely risk-averse to creating big-budget titles the way that we saw not five years ago. Many former MMO teams are diversifying with shooters, MOBAs, and other safer and trendier titles.
Yet all is not lost! MMO features continue to ripple out into all types of game genres and new titles continue to be produced — just not from the usual suspects. Instead, most of what is on our immediate horizon comes from either crowdfunded indie teams or eastern giants. The good news is that 2017 should see the culmination of many of these long-brewing projects and adaptations, hopefully resulting in a bumper crop of interesting online RPGs for us to play.
So let’s run down the list of games that either are or possibly could be coming to you in 2017. We will provide an overview of each title, why you should care about it, and our best guess at the odds of its officially launching during the calendar year. If an upcoming MMO is not on the list, then it is our opinion that while we’ll see it eventually, a 2017 release isn’t happening.
What is it? Project Gorgon is a long-brewing indie MMO created by a husband-and-wife team that worked on Asheron’s Call. It’s focused on exploration and an ever-widening set of skills, many of which don’t have to do with combat at all.
Why should you care? Get past the graphics and early 2000-era special effects, as this game truly feels fresh and original in a sometimes stale genre. You can level up in dying, become a battle-hardened pig, be cursed forever by boss mobs, learn the secret behind the psychic mantises, and more. It’s unlike anything you’ve seen and has a lot of people raving about it. Plus, the alpha’s been publicly playable for years now.
Odds of releasing in 2017. High. The next step is an early access (beta) launch on Steam, followed by a full launch in late 2017.
What is it? An open-world sandbox that plays in a colorful isometric format. Yes, it has lots of PvP, a weird housing system, a player-driven economy, and purports to be the first major cross-platform MMO.
Why should you care? Whether or not PvP is your thing, Albion Online certainly looks gorgeous, and the ability to play it on tablets, Linux, Mac, and PC means that it’s accessible to all, provided that you purchase the client. Wouldn’t you like to play an MMO while sitting in the bathroom?
Odds of releasing in 2017: Practically assured. The MMO is currently in its “final beta” which should wrap up in early spring, followed by a launch barring any unforeseen factors.
What is it? A sequel to the long-running and popular (overseas, at least) 2-D MMO that is taking the series to the third dimension. It launched in Korea in mid-2016 and is reportedly doing quite well there.
Why should you care? Even if MapleStory isn’t your jam, you might be attracted to this sequel for its intense chibi cuteness, variety of activities (such as jamming with a band), and colorful world.
Odds of releasing in 2017: Fair-to-middling. It’s supposedly in the works, the only question is how fast and hard Nexon is pushing to get it launched here.
What is it? An anime-styled sandbox that is far more sandboxy than you might first expect, with a combat system that involves pet battles a la Pokémon.
Why should you care? While the cel-shaded graphics are simply breathtaking and look like you’re in an actual anime, the real attraction is the immense scope of the dynamic world and sandbox features that will allow players to reshape the landscape, build cities, and cause lasting change. With EverQuest Next out of the picture, Peria Chronicles might pick up the slack in this department.
Odds of releasing in 2017: Slim. The game still needs to go through testing in Korea and launch there before we can realistically expect to see it in the west. Still, there’s always a chance that it might squeak in before 2017 closes the door.
Why should you care? The debut trailer dropped jaws when players saw how incredible this game looked. While we might hold reservations to how the final product will come off, Lost Ark’s 18 advanced classes and action-packed gameplay might give mouse jockeys a reason to limber up their clicking finger once more.
Chances of release in 2017: 50-50. We know it’s coming, but then again, it’s been coming for a while. As it’s the main competitor to Lineage Eternal, Smilegate might want to be the first one to release its game to establish a loyal playerbase.
What is it? A “photo-realistic” fantasy MMO that might rival Final Fantasy XIV in the storytelling department.
Why should you care? If you’re one of those players that can’t bring themselves to say, “Graphics don’t matter,” then flee quickly to Bless, where your eyes will be treated to first-class visuals. The game’s been a long time coming to the west and is one of the more anticipated eastern imports.
Chances of release in 2017: Definite. It was supposed to come out in 2016, but the team wanted to spend more time working on its combat system and thus promised a 2017 launch instead.
What is it? A procedurally generated universe in which players will sail between airborne islands to mine, craft, and fight the natives and other competitors.
Why should you care? Other than the fact that some outlets are calling this the next evolution of online gaming, the distinct art style, airships, and freaking grappling hooks might just reel you in.
Chances of release in 2017: Decent but not assured. The game is currently in alpha and will be coming to early access at the start of the year. If it does fully release in 2017, it’s going to be on the back end for sure.
What is it? A wuxia-themed MMO with (again) really great graphics set in ancient China.
Why should you care? This looks like a good bet for players who want to play in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-like game, and with the combination of beautiful visuals, some major publishing power, and an expansive open world, it might be a cut above other competitors in this sub-genre. It’s also perfect for those who want to roleplay as little girls.
Chances of release in 2017: Maybe 20%. It’s live in China and being tested out in Korea right now, so if all goes well we might see movement toward a western port in the future. It depends on the reception abroad and interest locally.
What is it? A colorful coop pirate game for the Xbox One and PC by Perfect Dark and Donkey Kong Country developer Rare. It’s straddling the line between an MMO and not, depending on how you look at it.
Why should you care? If you’ve ever had fantasies of being a pirate, this game is made for you. You’ll be able to explore a hand-crafted world with friends on your own ship, play a jig together, and partake in cinematic combat. Did we mention pirates? There are pirates. Plus, it’s being made by Rare, and that’s some serious developer muscle right there.
Chances of release in 2017: Definite. Rare has stated that it’s targeting February 2017 for both platform releases, so even with some delays, we should have it before summer.
What is it? The third entry to the main Lineage series which is taking an MMOARPG approach this time around.
Why should you care? Hack-and-slash fans scarcely need a reason to get excited for a big-budget online title, but for the rest of us there’s the compelling argument made in its beautiful graphics and over a dozen playable characters to pique interest.
Chances of release in 2017: I’m going to put this one around 40%, mostly based on the fact that it’s right now going through a Korean open beta. We’ll see how hard and fast NCsoft pushes to get this released globally, but anticipation certainly is there.
Why should you care? It’s not a proper Ultima Online 2, but it’s going to be the best we’ll ever get. And you know what? It might actually be well worth playing in the end, especially with its focus on the community, housing, and roleplay touches.
Chances of release in 2017: Very good. The game is already operating in a persistent, non-wipe universe, but the “real” launch of episode one is currently scheduled for early 2017.
What is it? A Chinese action MMO that combines a bullet time mechanic with cinematic-level visuals.
Why should you care? Twilight Spirits is a heap of eye candy and is being designed with western sensibilities in mind, so it might not feel as strange when (if?) it arrives in the US and Europe.
Chances of release in 2017: Absolutely anyone’s guess. It recently went into closed beta testing in China, so it’s not even out there yet.
What is it? A sci-fi anime-styled MMO in which psychic players explore a broken city full of monsters.
Why should you care? The cel-shaded look is quite impressive to behold and the team is putting in a lot of work to make the game experience come off as an interactive anime. Plus, it has some really strange classes, such as the Howling Guitar.
Chances of release in 2017: Answer hazy, ask again later. We do know that there are plans to port it to the west — the only question is when.
What is it? NCsoft’s cross-franchise MOBA that contains a variety of game modes.
Why should you care? Nevermind that MXM has been getting good word-of-mouth, the fact that the game has a PvE mode that plays and feels suspiciously like an isometric MMO has a lot of people interested who normally avoid MOBAs. Plus, it’s kind of neat to be able to play characters from MMOs such as WildStar and Blade and Soul.
Chances of release in 2017: Quite strong. I was hoping that we’d see a 2016 release on this one, but the way testing is progressing, it now looks like it will be much more likely to come out around next summer.
What is it? A medieval sandbox MMO with a huge range of political, economic, and terraforming tools.
Why should you care? Punny name aside, this title has proved relatively popular on Steam and is a solid choice for players looking for an MMO that focuses on the holistic lifestyle of a character instead of just his or her combat prowess.
Chances of release in 2017: Definite. It’s gone into closed beta and the team has confirmed a 2017 launch.
What is it? A previous cancelled MMO sandbox that is getting reworked and relaunched by Snail Games.
Why should you care? An MMO getting a second chance isn’t something we see every day, and some of the graphics of this reboot are downright drool-worthy.
Chances of release in 2017: Good and getting better every day. Dark and Light was originally slated for late 2016, so we’ll say that delaying more than a year following that will mean the project is dead altogether. But that hopefully won’t happen.
What is it? Depending on whom you talk to, it’s either the be-all, end-all of space sims or an ambitious multi-featured spaceship game that has bitten off more than it can chew.
Why should you care? There’s pretty much something for everyone in this title, as long as you like a sci-fi galaxy. Spaceships, trading, mining, exploring, FPS combat, a single-player campaign, PvP, and a universe to explore.
Chances of release in 2017: Star Citizen’s shifting target dates and staged rollout makes this a tough call. More parts will come out next year, but the full MMO experience — the persistent universe — is probably a couple of years away still.
What are they? Two independent projects aimed at bringing back the pre-Unholy Wars version of Darkfall.
Why should you care? With Darkfall Unholy Wars pretty much abandoned by its developers and dead in the water, these twin MMO reboots are the only hope that fans have. Plus, there’s been some impressive work done on the source code to make vanilla Darkfall better than the original.
Chances of release in 2017: Both games are pushing hard through testing, and with two on the table, I’ll be that at least one comes out during the year. My money is on New Dawn releasing first.
What is it? A fleshed-out theme park game from Korea that has a tremendous amount of buzz.
Why should you care? For a while now, Revelation Online has been the hottest upcoming MMORPG, due to its fantastic visuals, wide feature set, and proximity to launch. If you always find yourself hopping over to the next big thing, you could find yourself playing this before too long.
Chances of release in 2017: 100%. It was expected to arrive before the end of 2016, but testing slowed that down somewhat.
What is it? A combat-free MMO set in the demure world of Jane Austen’s novels that has a heavy focus on roleplay and dinner parties.
Why should you care? Players looking for a break in the constant battles of other MMOs could find something unique and engaging here. Plus, it has ballroom dancing. Can’t say that about a lot of other games.
Chances of release in 2017: It’s hard to say. Ever, Jane has been in open beta since last August, but it’s being developed by a very small team and isn’t a large game yet. I’d put the odds at maybe 33%.
What is it? A MOBA-meets-sandbox-MMO in a brutal desert. It used to go by the name Das Tal.
Why should you care? If hardcore, old school (like, isometric old school) PvP is your thing, this game has a pinpoint focus on bringing that to bear for its playerbase. Plus, the devs are a seriously hard-working team that have been rolling out updates and localizations like no one’s business.
Chances of release in 2017: By virtue of the fact that it’s right now in closed alpha, I’m going to hedge and say 25%. The other 75% I’ll dump into a 2018 launch prediction.
What is it? An OARPG sandbox multiplayer game in which players set the server rules by choosing which deities to include.
Why should you care? It’s the first project by John Smedley’s (SOE) new studio and is sampling all sorts of trendy features, including survival and crafting, pixel art, and private servers. Unfortunately, it will not feature one massively official server.
Chances of release in 2017: Rock solid. The game’s already in early access, and the team has publicly stated that a spring launch will happen.
What is it? A sequel to some tiny online game you probably never heard of.
Why should you care? From what rumors and scant information we’ve heard about Destiny 2 so far, it sounds like it will be larger and more MMO-ish than the first game. Oh, and it might come out on PC too.
Chances of release in 2017: Pretty good. Despite the lack of public announcements so far, I’m feeling confident that this is in the cards for the next year.
What is it? A more realistic-skewed MMO with a heavy, heavy emphasis on grouping. Seriously, you’re going to have to group.
Why should you care? If you like your nights pitch-black and your game worlds truly terrifying to explore, this game could be the shot of hardcore PvE adventuring you’ve been craving.
Chances of release in 2017: “We are working outside of our day jobs, pushing towards an estimated launch date of December 2017.” So let’s say that’s a cautious 15% chance and move on.
What is it? A fantasy sandbox with multiple rulesets and even private servers that is being created by former Ultima Online devs.
Why should you care? The combination of attractive visuals (your mileage may vary) and a focus on crafting a virtual world instead of a cookie-cutter MMORPG might well make this a title worth exploring. Plus, there’s a ruleset here for everyone.
Chances of release in 2017: Very iffy. The game’s currently in alpha and is aiming to launch on Steam early in 2017. If good progress is made that year, sure, anything is possible.
What is it? A cartoony indie survival sandbox MMO.
Why should you care? The updated art style for this game has gone a long way to giving it more personality and making it far less grim than rival fantasy sandboxes. Plus it has that strong explore-and-settle focus that many sandbox fans crave.
Chances of release in 2017: Probably. Definitely. Maybe. The game’s been in early access and open beta for a good portion of 2016, and considering that the team publicly stated that it wanted to launch by the end of 2016, I can’t see this delaying another year.
Why should you care? SkySaga’s models and worlds seem more detailed and expressive than Trove (YMMV), and the focus on continuing exploration, crafting, and building could be a genuine rival to similar games in the market right now.
Chances of release in 2017: Low but not impossible. The game is barreling through alpha and shows a lot of steady, active development and testing. I think that bodes well for a shot at next year.
I have to draw the line somewhere, and there’s a difference in my mind between games that will come out next year, games that have some possibility of doing so, and those that just won’t. So while I didn’t list Crowfall, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, New World, Gloria Victis, Camelot Unchained, and a dozen or so other titles that you see in Betawatch every week, it’s not because I’m not excited about them — it’s just that there’s pretty much no chance of a 2017 release for any of these.
Then again, stranger things have happened, especially in this industry.