As we do every year, today we’re going to peer back into the depths of last year’s staff predictions for the genre and the games within it to determine just how we fared. After all, what would be the fun of making predictions if we couldn’t have a laugh at how wrong we were a year later? So let’s dig in and find out whether we nailed it or failed it!
Brendan: “The law in at least a few more countries will finally start catching up with gambling systems in video games. It’ll probably start with age ratings for games with loot boxes and other gambling mechanics to help prevent minors being exposed to gambling, and possibly a clamp down on third party casino-style sites that use game items and currency.” If this one seems remarkably prescient, it’s only because core MMORPG journalists have been covering this issue for years and it’s not new to our readers either. Still, score.
Brendan: “Valve will be caught up in the legal tug of war due to the official marketplace for Dota 2 and CS:GO items, and will announce changes to make its games gambling-friendly.” The lawsuits and investigations that came to to a head last year haven’t yet borne fruit this year.
Brendan: “I could definitely see free-to-play as a business model dropping off substantially in popularity and usage in 2017. People seem to be more accepting of subscription and buy-to-play games with cosmetic/convenience microtransactions lately, and true free-to-play games have had to resort to some really shady business practices to compete.” I think it’s fair to say that indie MMOs are becoming bolder in eschewing F2P models, but on the flipside, the oldest game in the genre is going F2P next year.
Archebius: “2017 will not be a year that sets any big new trends. Kickstarter is in a holding pattern, waiting to see how Crowfall, Camelot Unchained, Star Citizen, Dual Universe, and others manage. The good news is that none of the big ones will fail. […] Some Kickstarters will undoubtedly show signs of trouble, as is typical of game development, but since people have already spent money there will be demands for action and increased regulation.” The Kickstarter status quo keeps on status quoing, yep.
The games industry
Brendan: “On the media side, streamers and other internet personalities will grow in influence throughout 2017 and become a more potent driver of game sales while the traditional games media will lose influence. Gaming websites will either start to focus on individual personalities and rely on Patreon-type business models or double down on the clickbait and reactionary ‘news’ designed to provoke an emotive response after half a headline. Gamers will continue to ignore undisclosed conflicts of interest and obvious paid content placement in streams, videos and written articles because they only actually care about ethics in journalism when it’s a hammer they can use to bash someone’s head in. One of the major gaming websites may even close its doors this year.” Seems legit to me. I’ll even give him two half points for the last sentence: The Escapist and NeoGaf.
Brendan: “In e-sports, The International’s prize pool will drop for the first time in several years while Overwatch’s competitive scene will explode and it’ll get its first million dollar tournament.” The prize pool was bigger than ever, but Valve is letting viewers crowdfund it now. Blizzard is sure trying to make Overwatch e-sports happen in a big way.
Archebius: “The Division was a middling success; last year, I predicted it would kick off a new genre of Kinda Massively Multiplayer Online games, but that doesn’t seem likely. However, there has been much success around small-team tactics games. My most hopeful prediction for 2017 is that someone will take the best parts of Destiny, the best parts of Overwatch, and the best parts of MMOs, and make a persistent game universe that is still heavily centered around short gameplay loops, cooperation, and competition. What would this look like? Heck if I know, but watch for it.” Games like Anthem and Destiny 2 are nicely carving out this path.
Andrew: “VR will be popping up more, but true innovation will be few and far between, not just in general, but for this genre. Most of it will be separated from the actual MMO space, like character viewers, single player experiences, or lobby games. If we’re lucky, first person POV for action based games may occur, or at least be planned for (VR ESO options?).” Indeed, CCP capsized after taking on too much VR, and the price of the Oculus fell multiple times this year.
The MMO genre
Andrew: “The genre as a whole will continue to slow down in its core them of virtual worlds and socialization while expanding in terms of casual, multiplayer action. There’s a reason we cover games like Overwatch, League of Legends, and No Man’s Sky. We’ll get more MMO-like games like Sea of Thieves, with smaller, tighter action and guided activities that involve socializing.” Anthem and Skull & Bones seem to fit this category.
Eliot: “We get at least two more pieces of unexpected and alarming news by the end of the year. […] We also hear about a couple of new titles in the works that capture interest. 2017, as a whole, starts building momentum back in a positive direction, and while some old standbys have fallen by the wayside like Daybreak and Turbine, the landscape of MMOs feels pretty healthy by the time December rolls back around.” I’d agree we feel on solid footing right now with the crop of top MMORPGs we have. It’s the future that worries me.
Justin: “One formerly shut down and somewhat popular MMO will return under new management. There will also be an announcement of a new major IP-based MMORPG (Star Wars, perhaps?).” Does the Harry Potter MMOARG count?
Justin: “We’ll start to see the collapse of interest in survival sandboxes with the over-saturation of the market. Conan Exiles will do all right, but past that there won’t be many other success stories.” Fair. There are a few biggies, like ARK, but interest shifted more to survival shooters away from survival sandboxes.
MJ: “There will be a mega totally-out-of-nowhere announcement that makes everyone’s jaw drop open.” Vanilla WoW? Marvel Heroes’ CEO accusations?
MJ: “I also predict that the trend of focusing on shards and player-run servers will continue. Personal settings will trump mega servers; players want to congregate in like-minded smaller communities. This is basically the new form of guilds.” Seems as true now as then, especially for survival sandboxes.
Archebius: “All in all, a quiet year for new MMOs. Not counting kickstarted games, I expect there to be more closures than new game announcements.” We did get a lot of closures this year as you’ll see in the sunset post, but most for smaller games.
World of Warcraft and Blizzard
Bree: “I think World of Warcraft’s numbers are already declining sharply and will further decline after Argus, when I fully expect WoW to go dormant once again. But! I’ll be bold and say that I think Blizzard will announce both the next expansion and pristine servers at BlizzCon — in fact, I wouldn’t be shocked if pristine servers come out in 2017 as a way to stop the whining about the third major drought in a row. Oh people will still hate them, but they’ll exist.” BlizzCon did indeed deliver both announcements, though not for this year.
Brendan: “World of Warcraft will maintain [a] steady playerbase throughout the year.” It’s really hard to tell given that Blizzard is cagey about releasing useful info. Anecdotal data says there was a falloff, but probably not as much as after Draenor.
Eliot: “World of Warcraft’s updates do well through the first half of the year, but by August we’re finished up with the patches… and surprise, there’s another big content gap looming all over again, even though we do know the name of the next expansion. It’s back to focusing more on the Horde/Alliance conflict again, but there are also heavy internal conflicts for both factions, so it’s not as simple as ‘the Warchief is the villain.'” Instead, we’re still getting WoW patches.
Eliot: “Overwatch gets a dedicated PvE Horde-style mode that proves enormously popular.” Not yet, but given this trend in MOBAs like Dota 2 and SMITE, it’ll probably happen eventually.
Justin: “Despite fears to the contrary, World of Warcraft will keep its patch cadence going for most of the year without a significant drought.” Still truckin’.
Archebius: “World of Warcraft, with people back in its corner, will invite controversy by continuing to frown on private servers.” Blizz surprised everyone. Maybe even itself!
Guild Wars 2
Bree: “Guild Wars 2 will announce the expansion it’s working on: Tears of Elona, which’ll take us back to the Crystal Desert and be stuffed full of nostalgia.” Tears of Elona would’ve been a better name than Path of Fire, but nailed the rest.
Eliot: “Guild Wars 2’s next expansion gets a full reveal and promises of almost nothing that was in Heart of Thorns.” This is what expansions generally do.
Justin: “Guild Wars 2 will announce its newest expansion, Shards of the Crystal Desert, along with a full class revamp and a more aggressive cash shop model.” Expansion was definitely something we all anticipated.
Archebius: “Guild Wars 2 will finally stop chasing the e-sports market, but with a lot of momentum lost, will struggle to piece things back together. If they make another expansion, it will have the future of the game riding on it.” This is so specific, yet Arch nailed it: ESL and GW2 split in April.
Brendan: “I won’t predict that Star Citizen’s pre-launch crowdfunding and pre-sales will dry up this year as I’ve been consistently proven wrong on that front, but knowing my luck this will be the year that it actually happens.” You still don’t have to eat that hat.
Andrew: “Star Citizen […] will release with a satisfying space sim but barebones social space and an FPS aspect.” Nope.
Bree: “Star Citizen will still not launch.” Yep.
Eliot: “Star Citizen launches Star Marine, but little more than iterative improvements on existing content through 2017; the fans remain fans, but behind-the-scenes issues start to come more into the foreground as the year wears on.” Yep.
Justin: “We still won’t have firm release dates for Star Citizen by December 31, 2017.” Let’s assume yes.
Archebius: “Star Citizen will roll out pretty impressive features, but I continue to believe that some ideas will be scaled back, or at the very least will not be as fully realized as many are hoping. The usual factions will emerge – defenders, haters, and people who just want a decent space sim and don’t care one way or the other.” The scale-back on alpha 3.0 alone was huge.
The Elder Scrolls Online
Bree: “The Elder Scrolls Online will announce a major expansion pack post-housing update, far above the scale of DLC. I love the Morrowind rumors, so I’ll throw in with them.” That happened.
Eliot: “The Elder Scrolls Online’s housing launches with some nasty technical problems at first, but that gets polished off by mid-year and doesn’t impact the game’s next major updates, which focus much more on fleshing out the world and systems therein. Rather than introducing new systems like crime and the like, these installments are much more focused upon storytelling and new regions of the map.” Housing patch was pretty smooth actually, but Morrowind was definitely more about storytelling and location than systems.
Archebius: “Elder Scrolls Online will make up for the lockbox controversy by announcing new classes.” Druids, yep!
LOTRO, DDO, SSG, and Turbine
Bree: “LOTRO will see a nice resurgence of interest thanks to the new studio support. Standing Stone will do just fine, at least in 2017.” Happily so!
Eliot: “Under Standing Stone’s management, Lord of the Rings Online gets plenty of development while Dungeons & Dragons Online languishes badly.” Just as happily, DDO has also gotten lots of love.
Andrew: “I’m pretty certain this site will only be mentioning a Turbine-that-was except for referencing how it changed.” Yep.
Justin: “With the change to Standing Stone, LOTRO and DDO’s development will pick up pace and communication about both titles will increase. LOTRO’s expansion will briefly but brightly return the game to the spotlight while DDO’s expansion will be a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it event.” Seems fair, though DDO has found more traction than most of us thought – including with Justin!
EVE Online and CCP
Brendan: “EVE Online […] will maintain [a] steady playerbase throughout the year, with EVE floating between 45,000 and 50,000 peak concurrent users.” Brendan tells me this didn’t quite happen; the server dropped to between 30,000 and 40,000 users.
Bree: “CCP Games will be sold to a megaconglomerate, but Daybreak will pick up EVE Online.” I was joking, but parts of CCP are being sold off as we speak. Damnit.
Eliot: “EVE Online sees some falloff after the free-to-play shift, resulting in more options for free players around the middle of the year; the game doesn’t struggle to keep the attention of its fans, but shifting alliances begin to wear down even the faithful.” Yep.
Bree: “WildStar will announce console plans. WildStar will mysteriously continue to stay online.” No console, but it’s still flying.
Eliot: “WildStar flounders and eventually announces a shutdown by the end of the year.” Nope.
Justin: “WildStar will survive to see the end of 2017. It won’t be doing great, but it will hang on there.” Yep.
Eliot: “Daybreak finally launches H1Z1 to poor reception, resulting in talk of shutdowns almost as soon as it’s out of the stating gate among the community.” Still not launched. It did change names again, and it lost the majority of its former playerbase to PUBG; it’s now trying to reclaim them with the rebrand and TV broadcasting hoopla.
Andrew: “Daybreak will continue to piss off fans of what was SOE as the EverQuest IP slowly follows Next’s fate. H1Z1, will either of you survive the year? I’ll be optimistic and say ‘Yes,’ though I won’t be surprised if I end up eating my shoe for non-survival purposes.” Daybreak did close Landmark in 2017.
Justin: “Daybreak will actually announce a new EverQuest-related project. It won’t be EverQuest Next, of course, but fans will be happy to get something rather than nothing.” We know they’re working on something called Parabolic.
New World and Amazon
Bree: “We’ll get zero news on New World.” Pretty much.
Eliot: “We get our first look at New World [and it looks] pretty darn good.” Still waiting.
Justin: “The failure of Hero’s Song will unfortunately end up closing down John Smedley’s studio and send the former MMO exec into another period of self-induced exile.” Oh, Justin, my dude. These peeps fail upward. Amazon handed him a brand-new studio already.
Archebius: “AAA development will be largely limited to New World. More information will start trickling out, especially in the second half of the year. It will be neat, but not groundbreaking enough to convince other big companies to throw their hats back in the MMO ring. It may help generate indie interest in Amazon’s software development services, however.” We’re still getting lots of AAA development – it’s just happening in Asia, where A:IR is being designed specifically for the West.
Eliot: “Final Fantasy XIV launches its second expansion in June to more positive reviews, with the new jobs in particular earning widespread praise; there are some people who wonder, however, how long the game can maintain launching expansions that keep all of the same core mechanics in place.” Yep.
Justin: “Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood won’t be the huge hit that Square-Enix is hoping for, but it’ll do decently enough to keep the whole train rolling. Red Mages will cover the land.” Sounds legit.
Eliot: “Final Fantasy XI’s mobile version seems to enter a perpetual development hell.” Still true.
Bree: “It was a miss last year, so I’ll try again: Trion will announce two new MMOs, one an import and one in-house.” Still no. Trion seems frozen. Wanna go for three, self?
Larry: “What I want to happen is for people to get out from under the nose of negativity and see the great little games like Trove, RIFT, and Atlas Reactor that Trion is making.” Trove and RIFT got a lot of love this year!
Crowdfunded indie MMORPGs
Eliot: “We get our first look at Ashes of Creation [and it looks] pretty darn good.” Intriguingly, this was the only comment on Ashes, which we’d just learned about as we were writing these last year. I don’t think anyone foresaw it becoming a major player in 2017, and yet it was.
Andrew: “Crowfall will start allowing more people hands on with it, but something tells me the soft launch will be very, very soft. It will probably remain a rather niche product but will have design choices other game media applaud out seeming uniqueness while MMO critics will love the return or re-imagining of features we miss.” I think we all assumed Crowfall really would launch this year in some form, but it was delayed once again.
Bree: “Crowfall will stagger out the door mid-year too, badly in need of funds.” It didn’t launch, but ArtCraft did launch an equity crowfunding round for more cash.
Eliot: “Crowfall’s initial launch earns mixed reception, but patches do journeyman work on improving reception and fixing issues.” Ironically, not launching may help head off predictable post-launch patch messes.
Larry: “Although I want to say that a game like Crowfall will launch to amazing numbers and players will flock to its unique gameplay and art style, but the truth is that I think it will develop a small following of players who really enjoy what it has to offer, but most of the community will quit after the first month of launch.” Still don’t know yet; Albion, Elite, and SOTA haven’t given us a distinct pattern for post-launch crowdfunded MMO success.
Andrew: “Chronicles of Elyria’s nobility titles may have given some players motivation to create and manage virtual societies, but the early focus on old school communities and projects like their MUD will probably delay the actual game. What is released this year will probably cater to a much older crowd, but I’m not sure if it’ll be innovative enough to hold their attention.” Nothing released – they’re a ways off.
Eliot: “Chronicles of Elyria fails to deliver much of anything.” Well, tribes?
Bree: “Camelot Unchained will finally enter betar one!” Nope.
Eliot: “Camelot Unchained launches a newsletter long enough to kill an entire redwood if printed, and the game moves into beta and does well for itself in its clearly defined niche.” Nope. It seems as if patience is stretching thin.
Archebius: “Crowfall and Camelot Unchained, which have always been very focused in scope, will continue to develop – but their target audience will probably wander a little bit until they get closer to launch.” Hey, look over there! Shinies!
Bree: “Marvel Heroes and Champions Online will announce console plans.” Yes for Marvel, no for Champs. Nobody saw the Marvel Heroes implosion coming, sadly.
Eliot: “Black Desert Online struggles to keep up with the pace it set in 2016 for updates, and starts rolling out some more conservative PvP options that infuriate die-hard PvP fans while making the game more accessible to a larger base; it ends out the year in a good place and with a stable playerbase.” Nailed it. BDO did halve its cadence this year.
Archebius: “Black Desert will slow down a bit, but retain a good group of players.” Yep.
Bree: “SWTOR will continue to make money because Star Wars, but MMORPG vets won’t be fooled.” Self, what does this mean? Of course MMORPG vets will be fooled.
Justin: “Star Wars The Old Republic will relent on the command XP restrictions and mildly open up the game once more to the F2P crowd. The next expansion will return to a more open world experience and center around the Mandalorians.” No real expansion this year at all.
Eliot: “Blade & Soul continues to carve out its own niche.” Yep. Performed well for NCsoft, even in the west.
Andrew: “Pokemon Go will get Generation 2 and possibly legendaries/events like the Mewtwo one in the original preview. Niantic will find it causes more problems than they anticipated, but they’re also working on a larger scale than they did with their original IP, Ingress. I don’t know whether battles or trading will make it in since most people have shown interest in collecting and keeping gyms, so events that involve a little battling and rare Pokemon seem the safest bet, even if it threatens to create mass foot traffic situations.” All of this happened. This is why I never, ever doubt Andrew when it comes to POGO.
Eliot: “RuneScape continues to do surprisingly well for itself despite the fact that literally everyone (including me) forgets that it exists on a regular basis.” Yep.
Andrew: “Worlds Adrift may capture everyone’s imagination, and its art will probably give it an edge on attracting more casual gamers, but Killers eager to exploit the game’s physics may drive off a lot of early players, as the MMO genre has become more about catering to single player action and casual gameplay, not creating societies in a virtual world.” Still no launch on this one, but we’ll see how it finishes out in 2018.
Eliot: “Star Trek Online also launches its next expansion in the summer, with this one bringing another widespread overhaul to game mechanics like the Delta Rising level buff. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really capitalize heavily on the new television series, which prompts something of a widening gap between the franchise faithful and the game itself.” No expansion, just updates this year, and no tie-in to the new show, understandably since the show wound up being a prequel.
How did you do on your predictions from last year? Stay tuned for our 2018 predictions in the coming weeks!