Working in this field has given me something of a sense of how a lot of the industry is going to play out. Take the ongoing early access saga of Atlas, for example. I already know what’s going to happen with the title. Patches will be rolled out, players will endure several apologies as things are fixed and more buggy content is added to the game, and the studio will find ways to make players angry in hopes that they’ll keep playing. I don’t know if it’s going to work, but I know what’s going to happen.
And then we have the titles on this list, wherein my own predictions are basically down to just guesses.
As always, it’s important to note that none of these are games I want to see fail or shutter (something that will come up when discussing the titles that are at risk of shuttering) and not all of them are even shuttering candidates. Several of these are cases where I simply can’t guess at what the next year will bring, for good or ill. I’m also sticking purely to launched titles this year, since we’ve got a round 10 entries where the future is… ambiguous. Always in motion, the future is.
1. Shroud of the Avatar
The story of Shroud of the Avatar over 2018 seemed to be all about trying to convince everyone that things were fine. They weren’t fine, of course, and there was a lot of evidence that things weren’t fine, but there still forces struggling hard to put out the line that everything around the game was just peachy. As a result, the year’s round of layoffs and Richard Garriott’s title change prompted a whole lot of uncertainty, never mind the weird free-to-play shift and loss of the EU publisher.
It could all be smoke and mirrors, of course. It could be that the game is doing all right for itself financially and players are generally happy. It’s just that there seems to be little evidence of that and lots of evidence of trouble. And so it’s not clear just what’s going to happen with this one.
2. Destiny 2
It seemed like a surefire formula, right? Make a sequel to a successful game. It launches with some issues. That’s fine; we’ll do a big mid-life update to breathe life back into it with a whole lot of issues fixed and everyone will be happy. It worked great once before, and I don’t think the team behind Destiny 2 had any idea what to do when it didn’t work. Which… is kind of what happened with Forsaken, and it has left the game looking a bit askance.
I say this with no concern that the title will shut down; the game is too big and has had too much money poured into it to possibly just go away quietly. But the “here, have the game for free” promo during BlizzCon alone sent up some warning signs, like no one is actually sure what to do at this point, and the Bungie/Activision split might be more bad than good. The plan has gone awry and there was no backup plan.
It seems like Gamigo bought Trion not for RIFT, but for ArcheAge and Trove. This means that it definitely didn’t buy the company for Atlas Reactor or Defiance 2050, but if we’re being totally honest with ourselves neither of those titles seemed to be in the healthiest state before any acquisition. It’s possible that even without getting bought out by Gamigo, those two might not have lasted this year.
But RIFT? For all the game failing to live up to its overly boisterous launch hype, it’s kept going for a long while and it has definitely earned a solid and devoted fanbase. It’s a good game! But team reductions and a general lack of interest from its current owners mean that it’s questionable if the game will continue to get attention or will just slide into a sad maintenance mode. I want to be wrong about this. I want expansion announcements and forward motion. But it seems… unlikely.
4. Secret World Legends
When I mentioned that this title was going to be on this list, Bree asked me what happened. To which I replied, “Nothing. That’s the reason.”
To be fair, it would be a lie to say that Secret World Legends has not gotten updates, including several that people were waiting for from its original incarnation. But the relaunch does not appear to have brought in a huge additional audience, and it seems like more than a few of its systems have fallen into the same rote of “re-releasing old stuff in repackaged form to get more use out of existing assets.” That generally does not inspire confidence.
Perhaps it’s all because something is being worked on behind the scenes that’s so awesome we just can’t see it yet. Let’s hope for that.
5. Star Wars: The Old Republic
Let’s not mince words, 2018 was not a kind year for Star Wars in general. Solo didn’t bomb at the box office, but it also didn’t produce the kind of success it had been banking on, thus proving basically every joke about “why would they make a Han Solo prequel movie” more or less right. Meanwhile, Star Wars: The Old Republic spent the better part of the year not doing much of substance and leaving players rather worried about the game’s future.
Also there were probably other things, but I’ve already got my segue into the game here.
There really does seem like there’s neat stuff on the horizon for SWTOR in 2019, but it seems like the game is in a constant state of trying to win back one crowd or another… and it always does so by alienating another crowd, which it then tries to win back. I don’t know how its efforts will fare this year or whether it’s going to start focusing in on the players it actually has instead of the ones it wants back. I hope so.
Full disclosure, I love the novels Otherland is based upon. Seriously, they’re great. Unfortunately, they’re also the sort of things that seem tailor-made to inspire people into making a game without noticing that a game in this world is antithetical to the point of the novels. Which meant that this always seemed like a long shot, and as the years have shown, it seems like a long shot that already missed its shot.
Again, as someone who loves the novels, I want to be wrong. But it feels like the writing is on the wall here.
Let’s be clear, H1Z1 – at least the version on PC right now – is not a story about a game that flopped. It’s a story about a game that made a ton of money despite negative reception, and that money was spent, and now there isn’t money being made and the niche it was fulfilling has other games doing the same thing. On console, it has at least some life left in it, but the whole operation seems to have been stuttering and flailing on PC for a while now.
Last year, the game’s survival spinoff was shuttered rather unceremoniously after we predicted that it had a cloudy future. Let’s see if the same holds true this time around.
8. Champions Online
Another year, another time to wonder how and why Champions Online stays around. It’s like the end of Old Yeller, if instead of just putting the dog down the film just lingered on a shot of someone about to put the dog down for several years without ever making it clear if it was going to happen. Seriously, either make some new content or shoot the dog.
…that mixed metaphor may have wandered afield somewhat. We don’t really anybody to shoot any dogs.
9. Fallen Earth
All right, this one feels like it’s really an all-upside possibility. If no forward motion happens for Fallen Earth, well, it’s in the same place it has been for the past few years. But the game’s new owners seem to be really trying to prop the game up, and there’s an awful lot of reason to hope and look forward with the title. I love the idea of this title hitting its stride and potential with the possible reboot.
This one is just plain hopeful. Sure, maybe nothing will happen. But maybe something will happen. That’s wonderful.
10. World of Warcraft
Remember how I mentioned that these games are not “on the verge of shutdown” across the board? Yeah, there’s basically no chance that World of Warcraft isn’t around in 2020, that’s for darn sure. But the ambiguity is still there because the whole conversation around the core game at the moment is so dominated by negative energy that you cannot possibly walk away and think that everything is fine. It feels like a case where someone needs to try at winning back the crowd, and yet it’s questionable if the people running the game even know what the crowd looks like (or whether they’re just too busy prepping Classic for launch).
This also would be the year for an expansion announcement. So, in other words, it’s going to be interesting. Strap in for the ride.