Massively OP’s 2019 Awards: MMO Story of the Year

    
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Massively Overpowered’s end-of-the-year 2019 awards continue today with our award for Biggest MMO Story of the Year, which was awarded to the Daybreak/Columbus Nova saga last year. This isn’t an award based on popularity as measured by hits or comments, and it’s not meant for a single article; it’s an acknowledgement of an ongoing narrative or event of deep importance and significance for the genre during the year. Don’t forget to cast your own vote in the just-for-fun reader poll at the very end!

And the MassivelyOP staff pick for the Biggest MMO Story of 2019 is…

THE BLIZZARD BOYCOTTS

Andy McAdams: Going for the Triple Crown here for me was again – the Blizzard Royal f*ck up of 2019. I don’t need to rehash it here. again. for a third. Seriously, HOW IS THIS A THING THAT HAPPENED? THIS IS THE WORST TIME LINE. *grumbles*

Brendan Drain: I’d love to point to a big positive story for this, but the biggest story of the year was undoubtedly the Blizzard Blitzchung saga. It’s been an unmitigated disaster from start to finish, from the scorched earth approach with the initial ban and immediately canning the casters on the stream to the completely mismanaged public communication and half-apologies. The overreaction to a political statement in support of Hong Kong was seen as a move by Blizzard to protect its business interests in China, and was an interesting reminder for many that despite how much we think a company is on our side, its primary legal responsibility is to the interests of its shareholders. The resulting boycotts by fans and stories of employee frustration from inside the company have made for a very interesting end of year.

Brianna Royce: This was a hard one for me because we’ve covered some real whoppers this year. However, the fact that there was a spontaneous international boycott of Blizzard for part of this fall as gamers sided with human rights organizations and politicians to call out the studio for its behavior? That is definitely the biggest story of the year. It’s funny because this past spring when the Ovia story came out, I snarked that finally Blizzard had come up with something to top Real ID. I had no idea it had a way more explosive mess on the way.

Carlo Lacsina: The return of City of Heroes.

Chris Neal: Blizzard boycotts. One certainly can call in to question the resolve of some, but it was pretty obvious that Blizzard done f***ed up and an impact was felt that likely those at the top never felt before. I’m not saying Blizzard scrambled in terror, but at least their ears and eyebrows got perked. And that is saying something. For the record, I am continuing to stay my course with a full breakway from the company.

Colin Henry: City of Heroes, Blizzard boycotts.

Eliot Lefebvre: I don’t want to spend another two thousand words explaining how badly Blizzard handled everything about Hong Kong, but there was one bon mot that I came up with that never came up, sadly: Yes, we have phones, but do you have spines?

Justin Olivetti: Yup, I’m going to haul out WoW Classic’s launch again because pound-for-pound, the build up to the release and the subsequent live operation was a popular and dominant story this year. Sure, you might pretend now that you weren’t following this with avid fascination, but that would be a lie.

Mia DeSanzo: Blizzard’s Hong Kong story was such a big thing that I even heard about it on NPR while I was driving to work. You know the fit has hit the shan when gaming studio news escapes from the game press into the mainstream media.

MJ Guthrie: Scope wise, the biggest story goes to Blizzard’s squashing of democracy — it was picked up on news outlets across the world.

Samon Kashani: Blizz boycotts.

Tyler Edwards: Blizzard boycotts. Pretty rare for a video game story to be picked up by major outlets and become an “international incident.”

The Blizzard boycotts won our award for Biggest MMO Story of 2019. What’s your pick?

Reader poll: What was the MMO story of 2019?

  • Blizzard boycotts and Hong Kong mess (39%, 323 Votes)
  • Resurrection of City of Heroes (19%, 159 Votes)
  • Launch of WoW Classic (13%, 103 Votes)
  • The passing of Brad McQuaid (6%, 46 Votes)
  • Shroud of the Avatar hot potato (1%, 7 Votes)
  • Daybreak planning to split into substudios (1%, 5 Votes)
  • New LOTR MMO underway (3%, 27 Votes)
  • Anthem's ongoing mess (2%, 15 Votes)
  • Fallout 76 and Fallout First (3%, 25 Votes)
  • Riot Games working on multiple new titles (2%, 16 Votes)
  • ArenaNet Guild Wars 2 layoffs and Saga (4%, 29 Votes)
  • Riot Games' discrimination lawsuit (2%, 13 Votes)
  • Blizzard's Ovia expose (1%, 12 Votes)
  • EA and surprise mechanics (2%, 16 Votes)
  • EVE Online brings back gambling (1%, 7 Votes)
  • Nexon's non-sale and canceled titles (0%, 1 Votes)
  • New World put on hold (0%, 3 Votes)
  • Blizzard's flagging financials (1%, 9 Votes)
  • Something else (tell us in the comments!) (0%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 657

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How does MassivelyOP choose the winner?
Our team gathers together over the course of a few weeks to nominate and 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.
How does MassivelyOP populate this poll?
Poll options include all stories nominated plus a few others we thought belonged in contention. Do note that we have several other awards (like Biggest Blunder and Biggest Surprise) that can have some overlap here.

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Slaphammer

The takeover and revitalization of Pirates of the Burning Sea by a new publisher should at least be on the ballot, although shouldn’t win the category. This site routinely forgets that PotBS exists.

Reader
Kurt Shadle

Earlier this year when CoH returned from the dead I thought to myself, “There’s the story of the year award this year.” And it would have been such a great one to give this to.

Then Blizz decided to drop and roll all in it. As many have already said, when my gaming news hits main stream news, something big is going on. I’m with MOP on this one.

Reader
Crowe

If I thought that the people boycotting Blizzard would actually maintain said boycot, I’d give that serious consideration. But I believe it’s a truly empty threat with anyone successfully staying away from their games would have already made that decision prior to the event.

Honestly, it’s stupid NOT to have a “no politics” policy for a large company in this era. But they definitely handled it poorly/inconsistently — this should have been handed over to their HR (or whatever internal group manages that) to take a measured reaction.

Reader
Jim Bergevin Jr

There really shouldn’t be any doubt here. The Blitzchung Incident takes top banana. I would put the Ovia incident as a solid second. Both of these stories had/should have a far reaching impact beyond just the MMO genre. That’s what makes them big.

Sure, FFXIV, Classic, and CoH were big events in our genre this year, but really only impactful to the fanbois. Outside of that, those stories really aren’t all that meaningful.

Reader
rafael12104

Easy peasy. The Blizz/HK debacle. Or, as I like to call it the

“The Blizzacle 2019!”

Reader
Utakata

Thanks for not calling it Blitzchun’gate though. >.<

Reader
Steven Williams

Sometimes I think awards like this need a second or third place. The last few years have had myriad great stories overshadowed by one giant mess of a moment.

There’s just no contest here – the Hong Kong mess was that big. Everything with Daybreak/Columbus Nova overshadowed everything last year, too.

So aside from casting my vote on the obvious, my “second place” is WoW Classic’s launch. It wasn’t just a crazy big launch – it spurred discussions about streaming culture, too. As much as I really don’t like the guy and his toxic, frothing-at-the-mouth community of stans, Asmongold’s Classic stream was a story in itself.

My “third place” would be FFXIV Shadowbringers’ launch. Perhaps it was because of all of the WoW refugees, but it felt like the biggest launch yet in a game that has yet to reach its peak. The fanfest announcements, the controversy over gender-locked races, the glowing reviews, etc etc.

I just don’t think City of Heroes’ return was that big of news. Not trying to say it’s a bad thing people are so excited, I’m happy that the community gets to connect again over the game. I think it was big news specifically for the community on this site, less so for MMORPGs as a whole. To me, the news was on par with Black Deserts’ seas update or Peria Chronicles’ cancellation. Or PSO2 coming to the west in 2085. Still gonna try CoH out one of these days.

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Crowe

It all depends on what you play. Shadowbringers doesn’t hit my top 20 since I don’t play FFXIV. Different strokes for different folks. :)

Reader
Steven Williams

That’s pretty true! I’m definitely biased for that haha! What were your top 3?

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wratts

Blizzard was a huge story, but I didn’t feel like it was truly an “MMO story”. Gaming generally, and esports certainly, but only indirectly connected with our little genre.

For MMO specific news, the resurrection of COH seems pretty dramatic. Even though I’d been over it for some years, even I got a little emotional being able to download and experience the nostalgia. Of course, that only lasted hours in my case; I imagine for the people who’d been pining away for it, it was a really amazing story

Reader
jealouspirate

Unpopular opinion: The Blizzard “boycotts” were massively overblown. Boycotts generally don’t work, and there’s no evidence that this one has either. Blitzchung himself still plays Hearthstone. There were 30-40 protesters outside BlizzCon, while tens of thousands of people gladly attended to see the games.

Media and gaming sites ate it up, it generated some social media outrage, people who already hate Blizzard got to feel good about themselves, and that’s about it.

Meanwhile, the successful launch of WoW Classic is probably the biggest good news story in the entire MMO genre for years. Millions of people flooding to play it, and still playing. I don’t doubt it’s the most popular/successful MMO “launch” in a long time. But it’s not a Blizzard hate story, so it doesn’t fit with the narrative a lot of people want to have.

Reader
Utakata

We’re talking something that made the news in a big way, not how “popular” it was in action. If your standing around waiting big floods of protesters at a convention, you will surely be disappointed, as well as missed the boat on that entirely. As there more to this than boycotts or protests. And there where those too, lol.

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rafael12104

Yup. You might not like the story and how it was treated by the press and political institutions, but that doesn’t negate the event and the publicity it received. By any rational and or empirical measure the Blizz/Hong Kong debacle was the big story of 2019.

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Utakata

Goodness, we had senators crossing the floor to call Blizz out over this. How could this have been overblown even? I mean, it’s not that the OP’s opinion is unpopular, rather inaccurate to say the least. o.O

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rafael12104

That’s a great point.

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Crowe

Respectfully disagreeing, having senators do that makes it even MORE overblown to me.

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Bryan Correll

I don’t think the boycott’s themselves were that big of a story. But the inciting incident and Blizzard’s actions in the aftermath were undoubtedly the biggest gaming story of the year. No one outside the gaming community gave a rat’s ass about WoW Classic, but the bad Blizz story definitely went mainstream.

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Bruno Brito

Boycotts generally don’t work

I’m highly sure it 1- forced Brack to apologize, which is something that i see as working. No matter how shallow he is as a head.

And 2- forced Blizzard to deliver on Blizzcon. Which is something that i also see the boycotts working.

And, i may be wrong here, but didn’t Acti-Blizzard stocks dropped a bit while this shitshow was on the road?

Reader
Crowe

I concur, JP. If there’s a category for “Most Overrated Story” I would nominate the boycots for that. I can’t even come up with anything close. But yeah, it’s likely an unpopular opinion. Agree or disagree, I like my politics kept OUT of my gaming.

MurderHobo
Reader
MurderHobo

It sure feels like everything happened this year, and it looks like everything that happened this year will pale in comparison to what’s coming up in the next.

The Blitzchung event was the story. The Devil’s deal our gaming landlords made with an authoritarian regime has been laid bare even to the apolitical, and the response from the gaming community provides some comfort in the face of 2020.

Buckle up, MOPpets. Be brave and kind. Paradigms are ripe for shifting.

Reader
Utakata

“EA and surprise mechanics”

Not the top honors, but worth repeating though: <3

Credit: Mr. Schlag, of course. :)

surprise-m-ea-chanics_712044_1.gif
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rafael12104

Lol! Nicely done.