Perfect Ten: The MMOs with the most uncertain futures in 2018

    
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It's a fooler.

This is, bar none, the column I hate doing most on a regular basis. None of the games I highlight in here is something that I actually like pointing to; they’re games that people like, games that may very well be someone’s absolute favorites, and yet they’re also games where the future looks difficult if not outright bad. A cloudy future is never a good thing, and this particular column does not make it all right.

But we’re still here in the early days of 2018, and that means it’s still the right time to look at the games we might not see around next year. For various reasons, these are the games that already look like they’re in trouble, instead of absolute face-shattering surprises like a couple of the shutdowns last year.

It's a world of human wreckage.

1. WildStar

Another year, another prediction of doom? Not a happy one, of course, but one that still seems apropos. This is a game I really enjoy but that never got the traction it needed to make itself sustainable, and its subsequent efforts to fix things up seem to have… well, not done so. It’s probably the game that everyone here is the most worried about, to boot. We want it to do well, and yet all of the evidence points to it not making it much longer.

Having said that, this game has also showed up on this list for two years running now, so perhaps it will get another stay of execution this year. That would be a welcome sight. May you continue to defy the odds and run for another year, possibly with more patches. May you live up to the promise you initially had when you launched. We’re all cheering for you!

How could this have failed? Oh, right, in every fashion.

2. Pathfinder Online

One of the best comments I saw about this game was sheer bafflement that someone would see the tabletop games this was based upon and think that this was the setting that needed an open PvP gankbox. And it does seem kind of ridiculous, when you think about it that way. But the game is also kind of in a longstanding limbo where it’s not actually dead, but it has neither the funding to finish the game nor any real top-level idea about what went wrong.

It’s one of those games in limbo, and it really seems like it’s going to finally wave farewell this year. We don’t know that for certain, of course; perhaps it will persist, perhaps it will move into some sort of launch state, and so forth. But that’s not the way to bet.

yeah this isn't going to happen

3. Champions Online

Another year and the same story about Champions Online as last year. It doesn’t need to be shut down from a purely financial standpoint, obviously, but in practical terms that’s just because it’s cheap to keep it on life support. Any sparks of life are brief and non-indicative. Much as I would like it to be otherwise, the game is functionally not going anywhere good.

Please, let this just be me.

4. TUG

This is another one that showed up on this list last year, and its actions over the past year apparently amounted to a few gestures and rumors about most of the company’s staff being let go in spite of reportedly raising millions of dollars from investors. It’s a sad story and what may wind up an unpleasant ending to a story of a game with a cute art style and big ambitions.

If we can learn anything from this story – and that’s definitely possible – it’s that something big and ambitious is actually hard to make, and the reason for not making the big ambitious title might be less down to “everyone with money is a coward” and more down to “it is actually hard to make and might not even be that fun when you do make it.” Not that this really mollifies the people looking forward to TUG specifically, of course, but it’s useful data for the future.

Broken.

5. Lawbreakers

This would already have been on here even before Nexon basically stated that it was writing the game off altogether, but that doesn’t help its future. Nor does, well, just looking at the Steam chart for the game for giggles. Nor does anything Cliff Bleszinski has said since the game launched to positive player reviews and rather tepid actual numbers.

Should we take a lesson from this, too? Well, perhaps that would be that just because not all “ambitious” ideas are actually workable and good ideas does not mean that all relatively straightforward and rote ideas are actually good, either. It’s almost like there’s a certain number of people who are going to be interested in playing, say, an online arena shooter, and if there are two or three dividing up those players, a fourth one isn’t really going to attract much, maybe?

uhhhhhhhhhhhh

6. Age of Conan

I don’t want to get embroiled in a discussion of how well Secret World Legends is doing; it seems to be a case of a spike followed immediately by a decline and a slide, but we’ll see how things look once updates start rolling out. Nor does Anarchy Online seem to be in some urgent risk for me; it’s been quietly put in maintenance mode, but there are rumors something will happen with fresh start servers, and it seems to hum along all right. But Age of Conan still feels like the outlier in Funcom’s catalog.

Especially when, you know, there’s already Conan Exiles preserving the company’s use of the license and also serving as a modest success, thus making Age of Conan a bit more optional.

Of course, with games in explicit or soft maintenance mode, it’s always difficult to predict how the future will go. Heck, I doubt anyone predicted that one of the most reliably updated games running would be a game in explicit maintenance mode. Yet here we are.

There's a metaphor for fecundity here, I'm sure.

7. The Repopulation

Good news, everyone! New owner Idea Fabrik has been actually working on The Repopulation after the last few years of brouhaha around the game. The bad news is that in the process of doing so there was talk about basically not providing backer rewards and compensating players. (Not with returned money, obviously.) That… does not bode well. It honestly feels uncomfortable and rather unstable.

It’s totally possible that the game is going to find its footing once again, but the transition of ownership seems to have left a bad taste in the mouths of many fans, and that doesn’t make things any easier. Here’s hoping that this story doesn’t have an ending this year.

Or perish.

8. Just Survive

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, to me, feels like a rock thrown through the front door of a lot of survival sandboxes that really only ever cared about dropping you into a box to shoot at people. That bodes ill for games like H1Z1, which seemed to be titles that no one really liked but everyone who played tolerated anyway simply because, well, it was the best-populated way to get what you wanted. And then you have Just Survive, which was the actual survival half of the game that got spun off, de-branded, and now exists in a weird limbo of weak communication.

Do I think it’s going to live much longer? Well, it’s been a while since Daybreak shut anything down, so that does seem to have a certain viability to it. Plus, it follows a long-time strategy. My personal prediction is that this game gets shut down and the resources get poured into H1Z1, which fails to attract more players because the bubble has already burst and thus ultimately serves as a cautionary lesson about throwing away long-term potential for short-term gain that doesn’t materialize. You know, a lesson that doesn’t need to be repeated.

But the same old story.

9. New World

The back-and-forth on this one leaves a bad taste in my mouth after the rather abrupt moratorium on Breakaway. I don’t know if I’d actually enjoy New World much, but that’s not the point; we have yet to see much of it in a playable state and it’s remaining quite mysterious. But I’m wondering if we’ll ever get the chance to find out one way or the other.

The lesson here is… no, no, I’m done assigning lessons to these from here on out. No more lessons, but I would like this to be all right and for the rumors to be dispelled. Full stop.

Turns out that you can't just do Ultima with the serial numbers filed off again.

10. Shroud of the Avatar

I worry that this one might come across as somewhat mean-spirited, but at the end of the day it’s not about being mean, it’s about looking at the game’s development history and funding history and just feeling a little bit leery. As much as we rag on other games for having a perpetual crowdfunding model when it doesn’t seem appropriate, Shroud of the Avatar engages in the exact same antics, and it’s supposed to be launching this year? The game has spent most of its life without an actual functioning map and this is still where we’re at?

The whole equity crowdfunding thing also left a bit of a bad taste in our mouths (or minds, however you’d like to phrase it); looking at the game’s finances, it looks like it’s being funded by the constant rotation of fundraising drives. Which means that the game isn’t actually sustaining itself at its current price, and that means… well, let’s be brief and just say nothing good.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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Raleigh-St-Clair
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Raleigh-St-Clair

You are spot on, re: Shroud of the Avatar. We’re four years on, and people still haven’t got their physical rewards from the Kickstarter (!!!) Clearly the money they paid, four years ago, has been eaten long ago and the money that will actually pay for your map, box, whatever you pledged for, is coming from the ever-increasing beg-a-thons done on Twitch. So, hey, if you pledge during a beg-a-thon, you aren’t necessarily even backing the game, but helping to pay for stuff that should have been done years ago (and, in a perverse way, this means you might be re-paying for things you’ve already paid for if you were a Kickstarter backer). I mean, seriously, just think about that for a moment. Mind blowing. And all of this without even mentioning the lacklustre development, terrible project management, repeated launch schedules that got pulled, and the fact we’re four years in, over 500 days beyond persistence, and very basic things are still not right and being tweaked. Case in point: changes to PvP, of things that never should have been done in the first place. It’s been a soup sandwich from the start. Just horrible.

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Melissa McDonald

STO/SWTOR/LOTRO gotta end some day, or be replaced with new versions from those who own the publishing of new shows and movies, sent into maintenance mode, etc.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Im surprised you didnt put Star Citizen on the list

rahkeesh
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rahkeesh

As long as the game doesn’t actually release, they can continue to sell imaginary plots of land indefinitely. I think they will be well set through this year at least.

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Solaris

Conan was such an amazing game in it’s Prime. I will be sad to see it die, if that indeed happens this year. I don’t think SotA is going anywhere anytime soon. Community is faithful. I also think the game is sorely underrated. It would be a terrible loss imo.

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TotalCowage .

Shroud is actually hemorrhaging users; Despite now being permanently free to play, it can’t convert even those trial users into paid Steam accounts. The only way you can excuse that is if somehow, miraculously, no one ever has even tried to link their game into the Steam client and take advantage of the far faster patching servers.

In the Dev’s own words, 80% of new users aren’t lasting more than 2 hours before quitting the game.

And as I pointed out on the recent commentary about fundraising here, in January they’ve actually got in only half the amount of money they stated they needed per Begathon, and the second lowest they ever achieved.

The reason it’s going for a “Launch Candidate” now is because after a SeedInvest, after selling future revenues to partners for a short term cash investment, after selling their blood, hair and even their deceased Mother’s artwork, the game is running out of ways to earn money, and their remaining assets are too small to hang on for much longer.

It’s only been hanging on as long as it has based upon the utterly irrational cult like belief of a tiny number of Whales; Of the 65,000 odd accounts they’ve sold, even in their own words, the record of concurrent users was only 500. And even those are starting to give up as they’ve seen just how poor the basic game is, despite being close to a “soft launch”.

And some of the community may still be faithful… but it’s also spectacularly toxic.

I had the pleasure of watching one of them spend all of Christmas, including the day itself, stating my family would be raped and killed if I continued to criticise the game. Who joked about swatting people, and some of the more unhinged people on Reddit thought it would be funny to put up an address and tell him to come visit them too… until events in Wichita made them go back and delete that.

Who, when they’ve even gone as far as publicly claiming Portalarium themselves are helping him harass people, Portalarium won’t act to remove him from the community (or his obvious sock puppets) because he claims to be a supporter. As with everything Shroud, it ALL comes down to the money you’ve given them.

But you will get banned if you call the game “Free To Play”, rather than the weasel-worded “Freemium” they prefer you use, because F2P has such negative connotations. Remember how Ultima IV taught you the virtue of Honesty? Today, it’s Shroud of the Avarice… or possibly Shroud of the Amway-tar as the users compete to recruit people into their Add On Store re-selling ponzi scheme.

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Jeffery Witman

I’m surprised Secret World Legends didn’t make the list. If it sees 2019 I’d be surprised.

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Melissa McDonald

yes i agree, that game is one big WTF.

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Sally Bowls

Good luck to them all!
IMO
Wildstar is a psychological question – how does NCSoft feel? It is not keeping up with the rest of the company and is a trivial amount, it would surprise few if they shut it down. OTOH, NCSoft is a pretty big company and can afford to keep its minor losses for as long as they wish. So shutting down this year or lasting 5 would not surprise me, although the former seems more likely. But most of us have been wrong on this before.

While I am increasingly less interested in New World as a true MMO I want to play, I am unclear on the game. On one hand, successful companies should try a lot of games and cancel most of them. So there would be nothing particularly surprising if Amazon said “Nope. Next?” about any game. OTOH, Amazon does not need to pre-hype anything so this could just be being dark because they are not ready to say anything.

I would replace it with ” Chronicles of Elyria” layoffs and the exec making comments about not criticising us and surprised that mainstream publishers are backing a non-mainstream game strikes me, I hope I am wrong, as a level of naivety that may be inconsistent with making payroll.

—-

It’s almost like there’s a certain number of people who are going to be interested in playing, say, an online arena shooter, and if there are two or three dividing up those players, a fourth one isn’t really going to attract much, maybe?

I absolutely share this sentiment. But I would change the conclusion to “it would be very expensive to be successful.” Blizzard was able to leverage its brand and big budget to make its MOBA do OK. Turbine did not have those resources. So if Cliff had had an extra IDK $50M? $25M? 75M? marketing budget, then it might have been a viable plan (assuming a good game.) As is, in hindsight, it seems extremely dubious. Ten Cent, Blizzard, Amazon and a few others can do things that smaller companies/budgets can not and even they are fighting a strong headwind.

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Bruno Brito

C’mon, Wildstar. Hang in there!

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Liandreth

Please just die already Repop. Die a fiery death, like my hopes and dreams for you.

As for PFO, you said it perfectly – One of the best comments I saw about this game was sheer bafflement that someone would see the tabletop games this was based upon and think that this was the setting that needed an open PvP gankbox. Hubs is a huge huge huge PF fan and for the life of us, we could NOT figure out why it went pvp gankbox. Won’t be sad to see it finally go.

deekay_000
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deekay_000

i remember during the ks campaign and for a long time after they were super vague about using the 3.75 ruleset or a number of other things that would make the game at all likeable by people who like pf.

even tho the game is based on an actual pf branded table top game, ultimately it’s not the vast majority of pf fans are familiar with the brand for (i would wager more know rise of the runelords than this one).

which it turns out that their teasing the potential of using 3.75 was all bs anyway, as uit turns out the open game license that 3.75 uses to update dnd 3.5 specifically and explicitly denies use of deriviatives from being used in video games.

was no surprise when paizo finally parted ways with the pfo devs and stopped offering stuff for the game on the paizo store forget how many years ago now.

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markfromindy

Poor PFO. The victim of a publisher who dreamed of making her own MMO, but knew absolutely nothing about making computer games, let alone MMOs. I could see them ditching the D20 system the tabletop game is based on ( that was because of legal reasons, wasn’t it? ), but it should have been at least a PvE game and kept the spirit of what we love about Pathfinder. A PvE game with sandbox elements like crafting, all taking place in Paizo’s excellent Golarion setting could have been really special. Or something along the lines of a ” spiritual ” NWN game with a toolset that let people create their own content, set up their own servers.. Oh well. Wouldda, couldda, shouldda.

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NeoWolf

I wouldn’t hitch my wagon to ANY ncsoft game if your wanting a game to be around for years, because they have shown time and again that once a game is not making enough money they will smite it without mercy or remorse without a second glance. They make ZERO effort to keep a game ticking by even in maintenance mode for fans. Zero confidence in them.

Pathfinder Online also, this wqas a game I backed I never downloaded or played it though, never had any intention of doing so. I support Paizo and the Pathfinder brand but that game was ALWAYS doomed and the reason is simple. They made it a PvP game. PvP in a setting whose basis is a small group of people working together to overcome evils and obstacles and puzzles..NOT killing each other masde ZERO sense, it was a bad call and I told them that when I backed it. Should have been obvious…never cross the streams :)

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Bruno Brito

Wildstar isn’t “making enough money” for like two/three years now.

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NeoWolf

And thats why its on the list hehe, frankly I am surprised it has lasted this long. I suspect it only has because they threw a bunch more money at it during the f2p conversion but the hope that will turn into profit won’t last forever.

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Bruno Brito

I don’t even think they hope anything anymore. I just think it’s a relatively cheap game to keep nowadays, and it has a good focus. So, i’m willing to bet it’ll stay afloat with minor, casual updates since the core game is pretty much complete.

I honestly believe it can keep a healthy pop. Just gonna take a while more.

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NeoWolf

You may be right, for the Wildstar fans I hope you are.. however the more rational part of me says just look at all the games before even when they still had a healthy pop they killed them because they were not making enough money (city of heroes). Their track record for killing games that don’t make money is pretty established.

If it means anything though, I hope your right ;)

deekay_000
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deekay_000

to be fair gw2 hit revenue levels that were below where wildstar got removed from the quarterly report charts last year and it’s still getting expansions and such.

which will be interesting to see pof sales figures, but from what i’ve seen off site people are less than thrilled unless they were already hardcore dedicated fans.

Raleigh-St-Clair
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Raleigh-St-Clair

They would have been swung, to some degree, by what I call, “the PvP crowd”. You see them in every up and coming game’s community. Being noisy, demanding to kill everyone and loot everything otherwise it’s not “real” man. And devs get antsy and try and pander to them, sometimes in a small way, sometimes in a major way… ignoring the fact that “the PvP crowd” is NEVER satisfied and has never liked any game long enough to stick with it, and they move on. What the SMARTER play is, is make games that cater for the quiter, and perhaps more polite, PvE crowd, with a good splash of sandbox features to make them feel like the world is truly alive, and they will stick for freaking YEARS. A decade. Whatever you like. But time & time again, devs don’t get it.

misterpiece84
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misterpiece84

Wilstar puzzles me. I can’t play that game for a number of reasons but it seems to me that they are settling down to be a niche game instead of the WoW-killer it was advertised to be; and they are making it work.

I get that if you put it on the list for 2 years in a row and then omit it the third, and if by any chance third time would have been the charm, you get a bad reputation and all, but does it not make more sense to accept WS as a niche PVE game?

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Bryan Correll

That would make sense, except that it’s owned by NCSoft,

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TotalCowage .

*Spots the CoH avatar and is forced to agree…*

Yup, City of Heroes was still making money at the time of closure, but it wasn’t making enough for NCSoft, so it got the chop. Unless they’ve learned from that, which would be a miracle in the corporate world, I’d be nervous about any game carrying that mark of Cain on their boxes.

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Melissa McDonald

Blizzard outfoxed them by making a new cartooniverse – Overwatch.

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Daniel Villalobos

What does that got to do with anything? They’re totally different genres.
Your comments are pretty weird and clueless overall.

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markfromindy

That’s one game I almost wish I’d tried. I was really interested in it until the devs started talking about how it was going to be raid focused. Memories of being frustrated with EQ and WoW groups and raids immediately turned me off.