One thing you can say for the MMO industry: It never ceases to surprise all of us. No matter what predictions we may make at the beginning of a year, by December we will all be proven fools who lack vision and foresight.
Although 2017 isn’t quite over yet, we here at Massively Overpowered wanted to count down the biggest news stories that crossed over into our neck of the woods so far this year. We witnessed controversies and delights, shockers and sadness. We saw launches and shutdowns, expansions and bugs.
So before we move into 2018, let’s take a look at the year that was and remember the biggest stories that dominated headlines.
1. The great lockbox controversy
Sure, lockboxes weren’t anything new, but a perfect storm over them erupted this year thanks to brewing public opinion, red-hot developer quotes, debates over their legality, bans in certain countries, and a little game called Star Wars Battlefront II. As studios attempted to defend their inclusion in games, players pushed back against predatory marketing tactics. While lockboxes are probably here to stay, at least a conversation over them began on a much larger scale than ever before.
2. Disney cans Marvel Heroes
Weeks before it happened, we were reporting that there was something very amiss with Marvel Heroes. The once-popular and well-liked superhero MMO went dark this past fall, with disturbing rumors of sexual harassment and declining sales hovering about. The omens proved accurate; Disney finally cut off Gazillion entirely and pronounced the death of Marvel Heroes, which was closed sooner than expected and all of its team laid off the day before Thanksgiving.
3. Blizzard shocks us with World of Warcraft Classic
“But I understand that for some of you — your favorite flavor is vanilla.”
With those words, Blizzard officially embraced legacy servers at BlizzCon 2017, announcing the development of World of Warcraft Classic. While details and a timeframe for Classic is still unknown, it’s mere existence delighted nostalgia-seeking players who wanted to go back to an earlier and more challenging era of the game.
4. Secret World Legends reboots and revives
In 2016, The Secret World was in a serious slump, with little to no new content arriving and Funcom’s sales slipping away. Little did we know that the studio was preparing a daring gambit to relaunch the game as Secret World Legends, which it did to pretty high acclaim this summer. With sales on the uptick and development revved up once more, Secret Worlders have a future to look forward to once more. Even if that future is the end of everything as we know it.
By the way, do you remember that time when Johnny Depp’s production company announced a Secret World TV show? We thought we dreamed that up.
5. Battle royale games become the new hotness
H1Z1 who? Daybreak might have been one of the first studios to get a battle royale game on the scene, but it was soon shoved aside in favor of two other titles this year. Both Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds racked up massive communities and become bona fide phenomenons of online gaming, with millions of players flocking to these titles and even more watching. Our prediction? Expect a wave of copycats in 2018, because we’re already seeing them rush to get through the door before this bubble bursts.
6. It was a great year for MMO expansions
I don’t think any of us will stand up and say that 2017 was awesome for brand-new MMO launches — it was pretty anemic, all things considered. But there were some strong, enjoyable, and high-profile expansions that picked up the launch slack, such as Stormblood, Morrowind, Mordor, Kamasylvia, The Fall of Oriath, and Path of Fire. This wasn’t a pure expansion, but Warframe’s Plains of Eidolon update added an open world zone and brought that game one big step closer to being a real MMO. These expansions and more got us excited and brought us back to the games. Heck, even the mere announcement of Battle for Azeroth served as World of Warcraft catnip for some.
7. Star Citizen Alpha 3.0 drama melts the internet
The repeated delays of Star Citizen’s Alpha 3.0 and the thinning patience of its long-suffering community came to a head in July when the team announced that the alpha was still nowhere near ready for primetime. The internet erupted, dogs and cats started living together, and the war on Christmas was canceled this year in favor of a war on Star Citizen. The studio had to repeatedly defend the delays and ramped up communication about the progress of the build. Will it arrive by the end of 2017 or slip into another calendar year? We shall see!
8. Ashes of Creation becomes the largest MMORPG Kickstarter to date
“Go, Ashes, go!” That was our chant back in May, when we saw Ashes of Creation sprint through one of the most exciting Kickstarter campaigns in recent memory to become the most-funded MMORPG on that platform at $3.27 million. With a strong showing at conventions, an expansion of the development team, and more sales on the website, this MMO became the game to watch in 2018 and beyond.
9. Several MMOs sailed off into the sunset…
Despite being huge stories, announcements of MMO sunsets are ones that we never enjoyed writing. This year we bid farewell to some beloved games such as Landmark, Asheron’s Call, Club Penguin, Master X Master, and Firefall, among others.
10. …while a few new ones appeared on the scene
We also said hello to a handful of new titles that kept the MMO dream alive. There was Fractured, a sandbox MMO that (for once) wasn’t all about open world PvP; Cryptic’s unnamed Magic: The Gathering MMO that had absolutely no follow-up; Ascent: Infinite Realm, a neat-looking steampunk title; and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, an MMOARG from the Pokemon Go folks.