Massively Overthinking: Hopes and fears for MMOs in 2019

    
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With nearly all of our end-of-2018 content finally and blissfully behind us – seriously, I always breathe a huge sigh of relief when it’s over because it’s months of extra work! – it’s time to look ahead to 2019. As in previous years, I’ve polled the Massively OP staff on all of our hopes and fears for the genre in the new year. That was what we think will happen. This is a summary of our most optimistic daydreams (and our worst nightmares).

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): My fear is that people, fans and devs, become more complacent with gamble boxes as governments realize they too can monetize the industry themselves, not to mention keep young people away from sugarcoated bad habits. I worry accessible game play and strong fan communities will more lazy design we literally pay to test and improve.

But my hope is that I’m wrong. That companies will see that online human cooperation, as opposed to simple interaction, keeps their games alive. That companies will learn from past MMOs to create better and safer online experiences where people can socially develop in a global society they may not have access to every day in meatspace.

…and that someone buys the Asheron’s Call IP and brings us a new game that does it some justice. Might as well add a cherry on top of my dream ice-cream!

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): My hopes are always the same: I want this to be the year that the wheel turns back around and core MMOs become something worth investing in again, and not just by developers overseas fleeing their own saturated or overregulated markets. I don’t really see that happening, so I’ll temper that by hoping we can at least hold the line another year. Massively OP did really well in 2018, but obviously our success depends on the genre and orbiting genres continuing to thrive. Even so, I say that as much as a player as press. It’s sad that I’m playing an emu for a dead MMO because I’m dissatisfied with so many of the offerings from recent years. We can do so much better than this! The full potential and promise of this genre just has not been met, and it’s so frustrating.

My fear is that more games shut down or give up in de facto maintenance mode. It concerns the hell out of me that China is willing to wreck its own homegrown game publishers, never mind everyone else’s, in the service of social engineering, so I’m worried about the future effects of autocratic bureaucracy on the industry. I worry that Blizzard appears to be genuinely struggling and WoW is floundering. I fear that the companies and players that acted like complete shitgoblins last year will continue suffering basically zero consequences and that the whole industry will slide backward instead of forward.

But I also have hope that small studios can buck the trend. Or as I put it, the only right answer to “hopes for 2019” is “please don’t eff this up, MMO studios.”

Tell me how I'm supposed to breathe with some air.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): I hope that Korean MMOs can make an impressive resurgence, or at least an impact to the point that they build a healthy niche. I have something of a weak spot for these kinds of games even though they can often let me down — sometimes spectacularly so in the case of titles like Bless Online. Still, with things like Ascent: Infinite Realm and Dragon Hound looming nearby, it’s something that still feels kind of possible.

On the other side of that coin, then, is the fear that Korean MMO devs will narrow focus to mobile only. This is probably the brutal reality to my fool’s hope considering that mobile gaming seems to be pretty hot in the region, and I don’t want to demean anyone who truly enjoys mobile MMOs, but it would really suck if Korean MMO devs just gave up on PC gaming and blindly chased the money.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): My biggest fear for 2019 is that Shadowbringers will be the point when Final Fantasy XIV makes a serious misstep. That’s the one that has the most immediate personal impact on me, after all, and it’s something that would really undercut the game that’s been my home for many years now. It’s not the end of the world if it happens, and I don’t think it’s likely, but it is definitely possible.

Of course, putting on my Serious Industry Professional hat, I think my bigger worry is that this is a year in which a bunch of titles need to sort of win over or win back the crowd. 2018 was not a good year for a lot of industry giants, and we’re looking at a future in which RIFT doesn’t really exist except in maintenance, a Daybreak that’s going out in a slow-sputtering fire, Blizzard is not doing nearly as well as it used to and appears to be moving closer to Activision… the list goes on. I could see 2019 as a year of severe winnowing in the online space, and while I doubt that the genre of MMOs (or MMORPGs specifically) are going to go away, 2019 feels like it could be a year of sharp turns.

But that’s also where my hope comes in. I don’t think that there’s really a path out for some of the companies and games I’m concerned about (I don’t see Daybreak suddenly becoming good, for example), but there’s space for things like breathing new life into Fallen Earth, a return to form for World of Warcraft, a good FFXIV expansion, new imports and announcements of new titles. I can even see hope for Fallout 76 starting to meet its potential. So it’s really all one of the same bundle. There are lots of signs of doom on the horizon, but this could be “doom for some and improvement for others” instead of just “doom for some.”

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): I think my biggest fear right now for the industry is a lack of bold big-budget MMORPGs on the horizon. With the attrition of game shutdowns and project cancellations over the past few years, it’s starting to take anticipation and hope away. The field feels like its shrinking somewhat and we’re leaning more heavily on mature MMOs to bear the weight of our interest while we wait.

However, I do think it’s going to be a good year. I can’t tell exactly how, just yet, but there’s so much potential out there for smaller games to be surprise hits and a lot of risks being taken by indie studios. I crave some major reveals and solid wins for our genre. I’m dying to know what’s going on at some of the studios out there, and I hope that they’re being smart about the next generation of online games.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): Hopes and fears eh? Well I am pretty good in the hopes department! My hopes may be more like wishes than likely outcomes, but the possibility is there. And it seems many of my fears are tied to those same hopes. I hope for less of a link between content and PvP; I’d like to see more games create content that does not require/is heavily influenced by/caters to PvP. One fear is that 2019 will still be a weird insistence that content = PvP. I also hope that more community-building features are implemented into games — ones that aren’t tied so closely with PvP. (That’s right, just making factions don’t count!) My fear is that everything will keeping drifting toward solo play. I hope to see more MMORPGs, and more innovations in MMOs, but I fear that the lure of esports and the mobile market will draw all development those directions instead. I hope that Daybreak breaks out of its downward spiral but fear that it won’t and more layoffs and closures will ensue in 2019. I’d also like to hope for less drama overall, but I am not sure I can see that happening at all; and besides, isn’t it better for MOP otherwise?

And I really hope that I can start streaming Dual Universe this year — the sooner the better! I am excited for the possibilities in this sandbox.

Your turn!

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