Perfect Ten: The biggest MMO news stories of 2018

    
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THIS IS NOT FINE! THERE WAS NO REASON TO LET IT GO THIS LONG OR GET THIS BAD!

With the turn of every new year, I know we are entering unexplored territory in the field of MMO news. No matter what we may predict, it’s inevitable that the bizarre left turns and out-of-nowhere stories will defy our prognostications.

It’s actually what I love about covering MMORPG news — the unpredictability. And boy howdy was it an unpredictable year! Looking over the list of the Top 10 biggest news stories from this year (to date), very few of those anyone could have seen coming. From a revolt at a convention to two major studios tanking to Daybreak sort-of gaslighting its entire community, it was a strange year start to finish.

Let’s walk down memory lane, shall we?

1. Daybreak denies any affiliation with Columbus Nova

It was a quiet weekday. We sent an email to request a quote on a story involving any possible impact to Daybreak Games Company by the actions of the U.S. government against a Russian oligarch who happened to own Columbus Nova — which happened to be the company that bought Daybreak back in 2015. Or so we thought. Daybreak came back with a statement saying that it had absolutely no affiliation with Columbus Nova despite its own press release and three years of articles saying otherwise.

The story escalated as Massively OP investigated, with Daybreak saying that the original claim of ownership was in error (while deleting several incriminating articles from its site and on Wikipedia) and others concerned that the studio was trying to gaslight its entire community. It may not have been entirely malicious, but the shady cover-up and the seemingly unrelated high-profile layoffs that happened that week left Daybreak fans quite concerned indeed.

2. Torchlight Frontiers embraces the MMORPG spirit

It may not have been the AAA-budget MMO that we’ve always dreamed about, but the reveal that Perfect World was funding the development of Torchlight Frontiers as an MMORPG certainly put a smile on our faces. Even better was the news that former Blizzard developer and Torchlight creator Max Schaefer was heading up the project.

Since the initial announcement, Torchlight Frontiers has made steady progress into alpha testing and has intrigued us with its talk of fully customizable player housing and rich horizontal progression.

3. Diablo Immortal tanks BlizzCon

Here’s how you don’t reveal that you’re making a new entry in a beloved franchise: You position it as The Major Headlining Announcement of BlizzCon and attempt to enthusiastically sell a Netease-developed mobile MMO to a community that’s been starving for any new Diablo content on PC for years now. Blizzard’s epic mishandling of the Diablo Immortal announcement led to piles of bad press and angry backlash from a community that outright mocked and berated the studio at its own convention.

4. Trion Worlds sells out to Gamigo

One of the biggest mainstays of classic MMORPGs, Trion Worlds stunned and shocked everyone in late October when it announced that it would be closing its doors and selling all of its properties to Germany-based Gamigo. Players fled games like RIFT, ArcheAge, and Trove while they ascertained the fallout from this move. While the future isn’t completely assured for these games, it looks like Trion’s stable of titles will continue development and operation under Gamigo’s leadership.

R.I.P. Trion. Your corgis will be missed.

5. Lord of the Rings Online and RIFT launch progression servers

With fewer new high-profile MMOs on the way, attention turned back to the older crop with expansions and — yes — progression servers. Both RIFT and LOTRO drew in crowds of novelty-starved players by opening up specialty servers that initially limited content and would gradually unlock areas and expansions. This turned out to be a boon for both titles, with LOTRO experiencing heavy queues and opening up a second server to handle the demand.

6. Guild Wars 2 sparks a PR nightmare

ArenaNet seems to be a magnet for bad publicity, no more so than this past summer when the studio fired narrative designer Jessica Price after she flew off the handle on a Guild Wars 2 content creator over Twitter. With some people defending her and some claiming her firing was justified, the situation blew up in all sorts of ugly ways. Price’s colleague Peter Fries was also fired for publicly defending her, with CEO Mike O’Brien taking a hardline stance against both — and losing face with the internet in general.

The dual firing drew ArenaNet into the mainstream media and sparked conversations and debates about social media practices, company relations policies, internet vigilantism, and personal responsibility.

We all began with good intents.

7. The Fallout series goes online — and bombs

A high-energy Bethesda showcase at E3 this year consisted of jaw-dropping reveal after reveal. But perhaps none was as electrifying or as controversial as the announcement of Fallout 76 — the first online multiplayer entry in the series that attempted to fuse the single-player game with MMOs and survival titles.

Unfortunately, the game wasn’t ready for prime time. Even though Bethesda ran into many snags, it went ahead and pushed out a half-finished, sub-par title that instantly received savage reviews, poor ratings, hints of a class-action lawsuit, loads of negative press, and bad sales. To make matters worse, the studio stayed quiet for the better part of two weeks during this horrible launch even while Fallout 76 was greatly discounted over the holidays.

This year’s No Man’s Sky? It seems so, sadly.

8. WildStar goes offline

Everyone knew this was going to happen. It was merely a matter of time. After years of NCsoft stringing WildStar along without any serious development by Carbine, finally the word came down that both the studio and sci-fi MMORPG were slated for destruction. Regrets and post-mortems ensued, but at least the game went out with a bang, queuing up all of its holiday events for one last shindig and delivering the rest of the story script to give fans closure.

9. Pearl Abyss buys CCP Games

The same day that we learned about WildStar, we also found out that CCP was being sold off to Black Desert developer Pearl Abyss. Naturally, everyone freaked the heck out, but the dust seems to have settled from that sale and business resumed as normal. It certainly helped that we got a late-year expansion to show that EVE still had some life ahead of it.

10. World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth flounders, but WoW Classic rakes in nostalgia

While initially raking in strong sales and player acclaim, Battle for Azeroth didn’t prove to have the legs that Blizzard hoped. The expansion was clearly reheating the leftovers of Legion, and players weren’t that thrilled with Azerite armor, warfronts, or island expeditions.

Yet while the studio raced to shore up BfA, it kept eyes on the game with the development and demo of WoW Classic. Players at both home and the convention got to check out this special legacy server and be teleported back to 2004 for some slow-as-molasses combat. The news that the server would release next summer and be included with the standard WoW subscription didn’t hurt anything, either.

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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Toy Clown

I’m honestly surprised Star Citizen… anything didn’t make the list. Maybe it’s because they’re always in the news and we’re numb to it now? haha

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Ken from Chicago

News about STAR CITIZEN has been relatively good this year. Quarterly patches, OCS, improved FPS, you can earn in-game currency within the Alpha to buy or even rent ships. Aside from that massive, bone-headed, blunder with wanting to charge for the CitizenCon livestream, it’s been a relatively up year.

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Utakata

You know, Mr. Justin…we have more than a month left in this year. The biggest news story or two could yet unfold, throwing this entire list off. So let’s wait to see what the fat lady sings before signing this MMO year off. >.<

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

We have six weeks of end-of-the-year content planned. :D Can’t dump it all on the last day!

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Utakata

Fair enough then! :)

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Ken from Chicago

What if it was posted in January?

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

There are too many EOTY P10s for them all to go in January, people are bored of EOTY content by January, and it’s the holiday time, mostly December, that needs the help (studios get back to work in Jan!). This one in particular has to go before the award too. It’s over a hundred extra pieces… trying to spread them out a bit. ;)

Ocho
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Ocho

Here’s hoping December is a quiet month, eh?

But, yeah, when #6 happened it really soured me on Guild Wars 2 (and sadly, even Guild Wars 1!). Haven’t touched the games since it happened, and I’m not sure if I’ll be going back to them. Never say never, of course, but it did seriously sour me to the product, and if I do go back, I wouldn’t be expecting a decent community.

PurpleCopper
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PurpleCopper

I think what really pisses Diablo fans is when Blizzard confessed that Diablo Immortal exists because “China really wants it”.

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Alex Willis

I get that the Diablo Immortal story was “big” when measured in media impact and forum comments, but holy cow, I just don’t understand the depth of the anger. “Sequel to come on mobile” is now a frickin’ negative meme. It’s one of the most immature and gormless reactions that I’ve seen in years and far, far less important than the other stories mentioned here. (I mean, FFS, people are still gonna get a Diablo 4 at some point.) At the WORST, this story should have been “Blizzard mishandles launch in a PR noob move”, and then people would carry on with their lives. But…nope. Leave it to gamers to escalate beyond reasonable measure.

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Ironwu

Would have been FAR better, in my opinion, to have kept Diablo mobile in the back pocket until they were ready to announce Diablo IV (or SOME new Diablo PC content), and then announced them together. Nobody would have made a peep about Immortal then.

Minus 10 billion style points to the suit that made the decision to even mention a Diablo mobile game, much less make it a major reveal, without a new Diablo PC announcement.

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Armsbend

There is nothing to imply we are getting Diablo 4 at any point. Its the same as saying we are getting Warcraft 4 at some point? Are we?

Oh, Activision said they were making it after the Immortal fallout? OKAY.

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Minimalistway

Thank you, you said it better than i’ll ever do … i wanted to say that while the whole thing going but i knew it’s no use, people are too angry, i’m disappointed BTW by mobile Diablo but i was more on the level of “sigh … well meh”.

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Ken from Chicago

The fury was the seeming acknowledgement of a lot of what “traditional” gamers fear and loathe: development of the “real” game being delayed–or worse, abandoned–in favor of casual, mobile games. PC gamers have felt that way about console games. Console gamers have felt that way about mobile games. PVE gamers have felt that way about PVP games. Sandbox gamers have felt that way about theme park games. Western gamers have felt that way about Eastern games (especially the latter’s acceptance of pay-to-win). Subscription gamers felt that way about Free-to-play games. Titan mmo gamers felt that way about Overwatch shooter game. STAR CITIZEN original backers felt that way about the switch from releasing the single-player SQUADRON 42 first and then the multiplayer STAR CITIZEN to developing the CIG doing the reverse. CITY OF HEROES gamers felt that way about whatever the frell NCSoft was making that required them NOT to release, lease or even sell COH to others to run. STAR WARS GALAXIES gamers felt that way about NGE game.

IOW, the game they wanted being delayed–or replaced–by the game they didn’t want.

It’s the Cirrrrrrrrrcle!
The Circle of Games!

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Wilhelm Arcturus

I would replace 2 and 8 with the DMCA exception for MMORPG preservation, limited though that ruling ended up being, and the lockbox controversy, which did manage to get some mainstream attention, if only momentarily.

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Ironwu

In no particular order:

* WoW Classic
* CCP Sells Out
* Fortnite Clones Dead or Dying
* F’76 Bombs
* Trion Sells Out
* Warframe Eclipses Destiny 2
* Gambling Boxes Draw Regulatory Attention Globally
* WoW BfA Bombs
* Diablo Immortal
* H1Z1 Franchise at Death’s Door

Just my 2c list. :)

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Oleg Chebeneev

why people say BfA bombs? I dont see much negativity around it on wow forums.

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Ironwu

I think a far more interesting question would be: “Why does one not see more negativity on WoW forums?”

There used to be a crap-ton of criticism and analysis of the shortcomings of WoW on the forums. Every little issue picked apart to the bone. Now, nothing.

Makes one wonder, yes it does.

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Denice J. Cook

There were thousands of negative BfA posts in GD, all throughout its beta and launch. Mods were stealthily deleting whole threads, many per day, even for weeks after launch. I know because I posted in some of them along with the throngs.

Probably most people who thought poorly of BfA are no longer subscribed is why you many not be seeing many more negative posts– that, and most of those left playing have realized it’s hopeless.

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Ironwu

^^^ This ^^^

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Oleg Chebeneev

I mostly have read mmo-champion for wow discussions. There was criticism ofc, some even called it WoW’s worst expansion, but this happens with every single expansion, people just love to complain. There just wasnt overwhelming amount of criticism or maybe I missed it.

So Im curious what are the BfA’s shortcomings that made it “bomb” in your opinion?

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Darthbawl

7. The Fallout series goes online — and bombs

Since there are nukes in the game, was “bombs” on purpose or pure coincidence? 😉

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Armsbend

Out of the top ten – only one was a clearly positive development. 2017 was the worst year on record for gaming by a mile. 2018 not only topped 2017 – it absolutely destroyed it. 2019 needs to be an epic disaster – and it will – for the healing to begin.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Lost Ark finally, after 7 or 8 years in development, reaching open beta.

SC releases its first planet and hits 200 mil milestone.

All the fuss about New World.

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Armsbend

Number 5 and 6 were forgettable imo.

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

It’s hard to whittle a list like this down to 10. I have a lot more too! :D