Massively OP’s 2018 Awards: Biggest MMO Industry Disappointment of 2018


Massively Overpowered’s end-of-the-year 2018 awards continue today with our award for Biggest MMO Industry Disappointment, which was awarded to the sad death of Marvel Heroes last year. Disappointments can be games, launches, patches, trends, stories, sunsets, all manner of topics in the MMORPG genre and orbiting sub-genres. Don’t forget to cast your own vote in the just-for-fun reader poll at the very end.

The Massively OP staff pick for the Biggest MMO Industry Disappointment of 2018 is…

ArenaNet’s, Riot’s, and Rockstar’s employment scandals

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): Fallout 76. From what I saw/didn’t see at E3, it had all the signs of “We’re hyping something not hype-worthy.” Non-MMO/survival gamers I know were excited for this, and I understand why they would be, but as someone in the industry, the situation felt pretty clear, and that was disappointing.

Brendan Drain (@nyphur): AAA mobile spinoffs. Despite the fact that the median mobile game makes approximately $0 today, it seems that big IPs are still able to draw a crowd on the platform and the lure of making the big bucks is still strong. This year has seen a number of studios with major IPs pivot partially to mobile with Fallout Shelter, Elder Scrolls: Blades, a slew of Final Fantasy games, and that Harry Potter game where you have to pay money to stop a kid on screen from being strangled (I swear I am not making that up). Chinese mobile MMO giant NetEase in particular seems to have set its eyes on western MMO and multiplayer IPs this year, with the company now partnering with western studios on titles such as Diablo Immortal and EVE Echoes. I’d expect more announcements of this kind to follow in 2019 as the mobile market is still huge in China and South Korea and I imagine NetEase is able to make a pretty good business case if it’s getting the likes of Blizzard and CCP Games on board. This gets my vote for biggest MMO disappointment mainly because the business models that we know work best on mobile are abusive and they always intrude on game design. Games that could be enjoyable are chopped up and sold to you piece by piece, with time blocks and grind artificially inserted so that you’ll pay your way past them. I also just can’t get behind separate mobile spinoffs when all I really want from an MMO mobile experience is a companion app or a way to log into the live servers on my phone and access at least a portion of the core gameplay.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): My biggest disappointment of the year was watching studio after studio – Riot, ANet, Rockstar – treat its employees like disposable garbage. We could probably add in all the MMO companies with layoffs this year too (really, right before Christmas, Daybreak??). I see a silver lining here in the fact that the industry this year got a formal unionization movement, but this was absolutely one of the worst years I’ve ever seen in regard to the treatment of the industry’s workforce by the people at the top of the industry itself (or at least, it’s been much more public this year). My runner-up would probably be the fact that Fallout 76 bombed so hard with fiasco after fiasco. As I told my husband, sure, we get a month of coverage out of fiasco, but we get years of coverage out of a solid MMO – I always prefer the latter.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): “Disappointment” sells the feelings I have about the ArenaNet/Riot/Rockstar matters extremely short, but I get the application of the word here. Obviously, the industry still has a lot of work to do in order to cut down these miseries. For the sake of everyone looking to get into the games industry in any capacity, especially women and minority groups, I hope some real progress is made.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): So… after this year, I can’t really support ArenaNet. At all. The company basically decided to have the worst possible response to its PR fiasco this summer, and that’s a point past which I can’t just shake my head and say “jeez, corporate structure, innit?” The only reason that Riot wasn’t more personally affecting is that it didn’t surprise me that Riot was disgustingly sexist, but that doesn’t mean it’s now possible to support that studio with a clean conscience. And Riot just kept doubling down on being awful all year, to boot.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Seeing both Trion and Carbine go down. Both hurt a lot and both impacted several games that I cared about. The field is less for having lost these studios and WildStar, and I am disappointed that the latter did not get saved.

Matt Daniel (@Matt_DanielMVOP): The Industry Itself. I mean, between the absolute shitshows of Riot’s ongoing sexual harassment scandal, ArenaNet’s PR nightmare, and Rockstar driving its employees to the brink with its insane crunch-time development demands, the whole industry has shown a particularly ugly side of itself this year.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): I’m putting “treating players like/hoping players are imbeciles” right here. Or perhaps word it as “studios openly trying to change their history and hoping fans won’t notice.” We’ve got studios like Daybreak: trying to rewrite the past to suit their “no really, we aren’t Columbus Nova” narrative. We have studios like WildCard: Changing its story about working on its next game after fan backlash because the current game wasn’t even partially finished (and remains unfinished!) all while apparently still working on it by the looks of the sudden appearance of said new game. Perhaps even worse is hearing fans rail on how terrible a studio is, how dishonest or unscrupulous, and how they should never touch anything it makes with a 10-foot pole… except this next thing looks cool so they have to try it. Brain says. “You’ve hurt me too much,” but wallet says. “Hurt me more!” This only encourages studios to be slimy because they are still getting your money. This victim-jumping-back-in-expecting-to-be-abused-but-just-can’t-help-it-because-it-might-be-OK-this-time phenomenon is seriously the saddest thing to me. It breaks my heart to see that. Spoiler alert: There is no change when there is no reason to. Runner up to biggest disappointment — massive layoffs at the holidays. Heartless and money grubbing! Shame on studios that pull that just to crank numbers up on paper. Although I do agree with one sentiment that having it right before holidays may be better than immediately after so folks have a chance to budget their season a bit better spending-wise.

How does Massively OP choose the winner?
Our team gathers together over the course of a few days to discuss candidates and ideally settle on a consensus winner. We don’t have a hard vote, but we do include written commentary from every writer who submitted it on time so that you can see where some of us differed, what our secondary picks were, and why we personally nominated what we did (or didn’t). The site’s award goes to the staff selection, but we’ll include both it and the community’s top nomination in our debrief in January.

ArenaNet’s, Riot’s, and Rockstar’s industry scandals took our award for Biggest MMO Industry Disappointment of 2018. What’s your pick?

Reader poll: What was the biggest MMO disappointment of 2018?

  • ArenaNet's, Riot's, and Rockstar's employment scandals (15%, 157 Votes)
  • Fallout 76's launch disaster mess (15%, 150 Votes)
  • The Blizzard and Diablo Immortal mess (20%, 211 Votes)
  • The Daybreak Columbus Nova affair (3%, 26 Votes)
  • Pearl Abyss' CCP buyout (1%, 14 Votes)
  • Gamigo's Trion buyout (2%, 25 Votes)
  • WildStar's sunset and Carbine's closure (7%, 72 Votes)
  • WHO's gaming addiction classification and violence in gaming moral panic (3%, 36 Votes)
  • The push for MMO progression servers (1%, 10 Votes)
  • The Daybreak NantWorks and H1Z1 esports scandal (0%, 3 Votes)
  • Multiple MMOs get battle royale modes (5%, 49 Votes)
  • AAA MMOs pivot to mobile (9%, 94 Votes)
  • Way too few new MMOs on the horizon (8%, 78 Votes)
  • Way too many MMOs lingering in alpha, beta, or early access (8%, 82 Votes)
  • Nothing (1%, 6 Votes)
  • Something else (tell us in the comments!) (2%, 19 Votes)

Total Voters: 755

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Poll options include all disappointing things nominated plus others we thought deserved consideration!
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