Massively OP’s 2017 awards debrief and annual recap

    
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As we did in 20142015, and 2016, today I’m going to recap our annual awards and other meta articles from the end of 2017. We gave out 19 formal awards this past year, all in addition to dozens of other recaps, roundups, listicles, predictions, bloopers, oddities, polls, provocations, and retrospectives. It was by far our biggest content dump to date, even bigger than last year!

Following our deep-dive into our awards and the attached reader polls, I’ll be recapping all of the end-year articles in one convenient place in case you missed something over the holidays – enjoy!

MMO of the Year: Elder Scrolls Online (2017), Black Desert (2016), Final Fantasy XIV (2015), Nothing (2014), Final Fantasy XIV (2013), Guild Wars 2 (2012), Star Wars The Old Republic (2011), Global Agenda (2010), Fallen Earth & Dungeons & Dragons (2009)

Community Poll: Elder Scrolls Online (2017) Elder Scrolls Online (2016), Elder Scrolls Online & Trove (2015), Nothing (2014), Star Trek Online (2010), Runes of Magic (2009)

Way back in 2014, the Massively staff and readers were so underwhelmed by the field of new MMOs that we voted to name “Nothing” our GOTY, which ultimately led us to relax the rules and allow in older games. MMOs are never really done evolving until they’re dead, after all! That’s how four-year-old Elder Scrolls Online – fresh off a year filled with solid DLC, the Homestead housing patch, and the Morrowind expansion – managed to nearly sweep the staff vote and pull in half of the reader vote to boot. In fact, 2017 marks the third year in a row the game’s taken the reader vote. The pro-ESO polling was accompanied by some commenter pushback, however, from gamers who believe lockboxes should be a disqualifying factor for GOTY.

Best Expansion/Update: Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire (2017), World of Warcraft Legion (2016), Guild Wars 2 Heart of Thorns (2015), Guild Wars 2 April Feature Pack (2014), Guild Wars 2 Super Adventure Box (2013), RIFT Storm Legion (2012), Lord of the Rings Online Rise of Isengard (2011)

Community Poll: Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire (2017), World of Warcraft Legion (2016), Guild Wars 2 Heart of Thorns (2015), World of Warcraft Warlords of Draenor (2014), World of Warcraft Cataclysm (2010)

While Guild Wars 2 didn’t take GOTY, its 2017 expansion, Path of Fire, took best expansion handily, beating out Morrowind (those mounts are just tough to top). The reader poll agreed, with nearly half of voters picking Path of Fire. That’s three years in a row we’ve agreed on this one! We did pick up quite a spike from Dungeons and Dragons Online players, however – not the first time DDO players have organized a campaign to upvote their home MMO!

Most Anticipated: Crowfall (2017), Star Citizen (2016), Star Citizen (2015), EverQuest Next/Landmark (2014), EverQuest Next (2013), WildStar (2012), Guild Wars 2 & WildStar (2011), Star Wars The Old Republic (2010), All Points Bulletin (2009)

Community Poll: Crowfall & Shroud of the Avatar (2017), Camelot Unchained (2016), Star Citizen (2015), Camelot Unchained & Shroud of the Avatar (2014), Star Wars The Old Republic & Project Titan (2010), Star Trek Online (2009)

Star Citizen couldn’t make it three straight years at the top of the most-anticipated list; Crowfall just barely took the staff award this year. “I do notice the trend that games seem to linger in this category for a couple of years before we give up on them or they’re canceled,” I wrote last year, “so if the pattern holds, Star Citizen better make a big move in 2017.” Our voting was locked in by the time alpha 3.0 actually fully launched, but I think the honeymoon might be over regardless. Camelot Unchained and Crowfall were at one point tied in the reader poll, with WoW Classic, Star Citizen, Ashes of Creation, and Pantheon trailing behind, though as of this morning, Shroud of the Avatar has pulled up to tie with Crowfall thanks to what was apparently a concerted effort to vote brigade.

Studio of the Year: ZeniMax & Square-Enix (2017), ZeniMax (2016), Square-Enix (2015), SOE (2014), SOE (2013), SOE & ArenaNet (2012), SOE (2010), Turbine & Fallen Earth LLC (2009)

Community Poll: ZeniMax & Square-Enix (2017), ZeniMax (2016), City State Entertainment (2015), Cloud Imperium (2015), Blizzard (2010), Frogster (2009)

ZeniMax (the Bethsoft studio behind Elder Scrolls Online) and Square-Enix (of Final Fantasy XIV and XI fame) have dominated this award for the last few years, so it’s no surprise that we all agree they deserve to share it jointly in 2017.

Most Improved: Guild Wars 2 & Trove (2017), Elder Scrolls Online (2016), WildStar (2015), Final Fantasy XIV (2014), Final Fantasy XIV (2013), RIFT (2012)

Community Poll: Guild Wars 2 (2017), Elder Scrolls Online (2016), Elder Scrolls Online (2015), Final Fantasy XIV (2014)

I always worry this award will seem like a back-handed compliment, but as my colleagues argued, this award by design goes to an older MMORPG that is putting in tremendous effort, and that’s deserving of the accolade — and a relook if the original version wasn’t to your taste. The staff picked both Trion’s Trove and ArenaNet’s Guild Wars 2 as having had admitted deficiencies that were happily nullified through new content this year. Guild Wars 2 alone took the reader poll with just about half the vote. You guys like mounts!

Best Business Model: World of Warcraft & Final Fantasy XIV (2017), Guild Wars 2 (2016)

Community Poll: World of Warcraft (2017), Guild Wars 2 (2016)

2017 was the year in which even fans of free-to-play and buy-to-play games called “shenanigans” over exploitative cash shop models (particularly lockboxes). While some subscription MMOs do indeed boast lockboxes, several do not, including World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV, which is why the duo nabbed this year’s best business model award. WoW alone led the reader poll, with XIV and GW2 not far behind.

Most Underrated: Black Desert & Secret World Legends (2017), Final Fantasy XIV (2016), Trove (2015), Elite Dangerous (2014), Neverwinter (2013), The Secret World (2012)

Community Poll: Secret World Legends (2017), Dungeons & Dragons Online (2016), Elder Scrolls Online (2015), Elite Dangerous (2014)

The staff was split again on this award as last year, ultimately tapping Black Desert (last year’s GOTY, which seemed to lose a little steam with readers this year) and Secret World Legends together. OG Secret World won way back in 2012 too, so we’ve come full circle! The readers agreed with the Secret World Legends pick, with Black Desert and Dungeons and Dragons Online behind (again, presumably an organized campaign there for the latter – last year they were positively incensed when we wouldn’t change our staff award to suit the poll they gamed, but DDO is legit underrated, so it’s a fair choice).

Story of the Year: The Lockbox Debate (2017), The Death of EverQuest Next (2016), Daybreak’s Drama (2015), ArcheAge’s Drama (2014), EverQuest Next’s Reveal (2013), 38 Studios’ Doom (2012), Monoclegate (2011), Blizzard’s Real ID Fiasco (2010)

Community Poll: The Lockbox Debate (2017), The Death of EverQuest Next (2016), Daybreak’s Drama (2015), ArcheAge’s Drama (2014)

We have three awards that focus on topics rather than specific games, and so we endeavored to spread them around rather than pile-on. While the lockbox/lootbox debate isn’t MMO-only, it began with our genre, affects us the most, and has been fought hard by MMO players for years, so it only makes sense that it was considered the biggest story by both our staff and nearly half of our readers. Since we began polling in 2014, the staff and readers have agreed on this award every year.

Worst Business Model: Star Citizen (2017), Star Wars The Old Republic (2016)

Community Poll: Star Citizen (2017), Star Wars The Old Republic (2016)

SWTOR should be thanking its lucky stars for Star Citizen this year, else it’d be going two for two. While some readers argued that Star Citizen shouldn’t be eligible for this negative award as it’s not launched yet, 60% of those polled agreed with the staff that a game already selling pixel starships, vehicles, and land claims has a business model, and it is one that is not exactly endearing itself to MMORPG players. Yikes. SWTOR, ArcheAge, and Destiny 2 also factored into the poll, but tolerance for Star Citizen’s model outside its backer community is clearly wearing thin.

Best Trend: Focus on Communities (2017), Content Scaling (2016) Resurgence of Expansions (2015), Sandbox Gameplay (2014), Sandbox Gameplay (2013); Best Innovation: SOEmote (2012)

Community Poll: Focus on Communities (2017), Content Scaling (2016), Resurgence of Expansions (2015), Sandbox Stuff (2014)

The staff were divided on this topic once again, with community focus barely getting the nod over nostalgia. Apparently it was a tough choice for the readers too; while community won that poll, nostalgia, content scaling, sub models, and lockbox crackdowns were major factors too.

Best Not-So-Massively Game: Warframe (2017), Overwatch (2016), ARK Survival Evolved (2015), Hearthstone (2014), Path of Exile (2013), PlanetSide 2 (2012); Best Mobile MMO: Arcane Legends (2012)

Community Poll: Warframe (2017), Overwatch (2016), ARK Survival Evolved (2015), Hearthstone (2014)

The award goes to “MOBAs, online dungeon crawlers, ARPGs, online shooters, survival sandboxes, and other games that tread into MMO territory but aren’t full MMORPGs” – i.e., games we cover that orbit the MMO genre but aren’t full MMORPGs (and therefore aren’t eligible for many of the awards we give). In fact, this year we changed the name of this award from Pseudo-MMO of the Year to Best Not-So-Massively Game of the Year in the hopes of staving off some of the complaining about what constitutes and MMO and whether we’re entitled to cover the online games we’ve been covering since long before we were Massively OP. Did the title trick work? Nah. But grats to Warframe anyway, which won chiefly by being an incredibly popular FPS that’s becoming more MMO-like by the year. Warframe took the reader vote by half too, though Path of Exile had a strong showing.

Best Indie or Crowdfunded MMO: Elite Dangerous (2017)

Community Poll: Dual Universe (2017)

This year, we retired our Best Popcorn MMO award (Marvel Heroes won that handily in 2016) and replaced it with a new one for Best Indie or Crowdfunded MMO. The aim was to figure out a way to honor a smaller game that’d never have a real chance at the big awards, but I suppose it was inevitable that the biggest fish in the smaller pond would win, and that’d be Elite Dangerous, the most successful Kickstarted MMO that’s actually fully launched to date. Elite did well in our reader poll too, but not as well as pre-alpha Dual Universe, whose community (along with pre-alpha Chronicles of Elyria’s) was clearly mobilized to the polls.

Most Likely to Flop: Star Citizen (2017), Star Citizen & WildStar (2016), Blade & Soul (2015), Star Citizen (2014), Elder Scrolls Online (2013)

Community Poll: Star Citizen (2017), Star Citizen (2016), Star Citizen (2015), Star Citizen & ArcheAge (2014)

This negative award never fails to generate angry first-time commenters parachuting in to tell us off, so we wearily remind everyone that “flop” can mean anything from outright sunset to financial ruin to simply not living up to insane hype (and that we don’t actually want anything to flop). Given enough time, Star Citizen will inevitably fail to live up to its own lofty promises — both our staff and our community (to the tune of 55% of those polled) are convinced of it. (In fact, our readers are harder on it than we are, having dinged it four years straight.) As in past years, many of the staff and readers who routinely vote Star Citizen most anticipated also think it will flop to some degree – a contradiction that somehow makes perfect sense thanks to the game’s impossibly, tantalizingly vast scope and expense.

Best Player Housing: WildStar (2017), WildStar (2016)

Community Poll: WildStar (2017), WildStar (2016)

The sad reality remains that a lot of bad or small or underrated MMOs have fantastic mechanics, and WildStar’s housing system is clearly one of them, as both staff and readers voted for the beleaguered sci-fi MMO’s housing as the best in the business (among live MMORPGs, anyway); in fact, we wrote a piece last year explaining what makes it so greatElder Scrolls Online and EverQuest II also had strong showings in the reader poll.

Best Crafting: EverQuest II (2017), Landmark (2016), Fallen Earth (2009)

Community Poll: Final Fantasy XIV (2017), Final Fantasy XIV (2016), Nothing (2010), Runes of Magic (2009)

There’s a pattern here with SOE/Daybreak: The studio makes – or made, anyway – games with the best crafting in the business. Alas, we’re left with just the originals, but it’s nice to see a classic game winning one of these. Hey, newer MMOs, try to keep up, would ya? Final Fantasy XIV won the reader poll once again, just besting both Elder Scrolls Online and EverQuest II.

Biggest Disappointment: The Sad Death of Marvel Heroes (2017), EverQuest Next & No Man’s Sky (2016), World of Warcraft (2015), WildStar & ArcheAge (2014), DUST 514 (2013), City of Heroes’ Sunset (2012), Star Wars Galaxies’ Sunset (2011), Aion (2009)

Community Poll: The Sad Death of Marvel Heroes (2017), EverQuest Next (2016), EverQuest Next’s Silence (2015), WildStar & ArcheAge (2014), Final Fantasy XIV (2010), Aion (2009)

There was nothing more disappointing in the MMO genre this year than the sudden and brutal death of Marvel Heroes after heaps of studio bungling on the part of both Gazillion and Disney, or so both the majority of our staff and readers say. Others that poked their heads up in the poll? Slow progress of Kickstarted MMOs, the mishandling of The Secret World, and toxicity.

Biggest Blunder: CCP’s VR Pullout & EVE Layoffs (2017), The VR Obsession (2016), Star Citizen Melodrama (2015), Dev Hubris – Multiple Games (2014), Elder Scrolls Online’s & WildStar’s Sub Models (2013)

Community Poll: The Death of Marvel Heroes (2017), EverQuest Next’s Cancellation (2016), Everything ArcheAge (2015), WildStar’s Endgame & ArcheAge’s Launch (2014)

The death of Marvel Heroes likewise topped the reader poll for biggest MMO industry blunder, but the writers stuck to holding CCP to account for bungling VR, shutting down studios, and laying off the EVE Online community team. The staff has a pretty good track record in this category, having previously pointed out the risk in the VR obsession and the foolhardiness of subscription-only models for WildStar and Elder Scrolls Online.

Best PvP: Nothing (2017), EVE Online & Black Desert (2016), Darkfall (2009)

Community Poll: Nothing (2017), Guild Wars 2 (2016), Star Trek Online (2010), Runes of Magic (2009)

As I noted in the award post for best genre PvP itself, the staff couldn’t reach a consensus for nominations. When we realized we were far more excited about PvP implementations coming in MMORPGs on the horizon, we choose not to bestow this award this year and in doing so communicate our dissatisfaction (even from our dedicated PvP players) with the current state of PvP in the genre. Surprisingly, a full quarter of our readers agreed with us, topping any single MMO. We’ll definitely reconsider whether to retire this one next year in favor of one that resonates better with the modern MMORPG community.

Best Holiday Event: Lord of the Rings Online (2017), The Secret World (2016)

Community Poll: Lord of the Rings Online (2017), The Elder Scrolls Online (2016)

Gotta love older MMORPGs still making it count in 2017! Lord of the Rings Online took both the staff award and the reader poll for best holiday event this year, specifically for its elaborate 10th anniversary questline.

And that’s a wrap on our awards for 2017! For those of you who missed other special content over the holidays, we’ve rounded up all our blooper awards, our weirdest story series, end-year content from some of our feature columns, our monthly news recaps, our staff roundtables, and our favorite top tens right down below. If you’re strapped for time, definitely hit the biggest stories list, healthiest MMOs list, best-value MMOs list, and our big list of every MMO coming next year!

2017 BLOOPER AWARDS
2017 WEIRDEST STORIES SERIES
2017 RECAP LISTICLES & ROUNDUPS
END-OF-2017 READER OPINIONS
END-OF-2017 STAFF ROUNDTABLES
END-OF-2017 COLUMN EDITORIALS
COMPLETE 2017 MONTH-IN-REVIEW SERIES
COMPLETE 2017 AWARDS SERIES
Are video games doomed? What do MMORPGs look like from space? Did free-to-play ruin everything? Will people ever stop talking about Star Wars Galaxies? Join Massively Overpowered Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce and mascot Mo every month as they answer your letters to the editor right here in Ask Mo.
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