Massively Overthinking: Our MMO predictions for 2018

    
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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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