Massively Overthinking: Our MMO predictions for 2020

    
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With 2019 drawing to a close and a new decade of MMORPGs waiting for us just a few days away, the Massively OP writing crew has regrouped for another round of bold and goofy predictions for the year ahead. And we’re a bigger crew than we were last year, so we’ve got more opinions than ever!

What’s in store for the MMO genre in 2020? Here’s what we think – and naturally, we want to know what you think too, so we can all look back at our takes a year from now and cackle madly. That’s just how these things go.

Andy McAdams: here’s so much I could get to here – but lemme see what I can do in a reasonable word count. WoW Retail will take all the wrong lessons from “We announced Shadowlands and it didn’t result in boycotts” to perpetuate the misconception that it’s god’s gift to MMOs, while resolutely ignoring many of the small quality-of-life things that would make generate a lot of goodwill. WoW Classic will become the newest source of drama du jour as the community fractures over clashes between the “never change anything” and “progress to BC/WotLK” crowd. There will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

City of Heroes will get finally navigate the legal quagmire with NCsoft and become a real boy.

Guild Wars 2 will continue to languish with a lack of clear vision and competing directions. ArenaNet will slowly implode before throwing out a Hail Mary of announcing GW3 that makes the same promises that GW2 fell flat on.

Elder Scrolls Online will continue to plug again doing well but not cause huge waves in the news cycle.

Final Fantasy XIV will have a solid year of steady growth — boosted by the announcement of Male Viera and Female Hrothgar earlier than expected.

Daybreak will continue its trend of refusing to proverbially shower and hiding in the corner refusing to talk to anyone while stubbornly asserting that it is still relevant and doing something totally not a battle-royale, card game, MOBA, mobile game with the EverQuest franchise. 2020 will come and go with little to no change for Daybreak.

Camelot Unchained will delay again and become known as Star Citizen-lite with it’s never ending beta.

Crowfall will finally launch to moderate success that will slowly grow over time as more people give the game a chance.

Emboldened by CoH’s success with NCsoft legal issues, Wildstar will garner support and try a similar path to legitimacy, but it won’t be resolved in 2020.

Business-wise, lootboxes will continue to get side-eye across the world. While we haven’t seen the deathknell for these abominations, their power will substantially diminished as public opinion shifts.

Fortnite will continue to dominate the battle royale genre, but we’ll see the beginnings of the next big thing – though it won’t dethrone Fortnite in 2020.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): We already know Elder Scrolls Online is getting a Skyrim season and presumably a campaign next year, but I think it’s going to be significantly more popular than Summerset and Elsweyr and the game will explode in popularity even more than it did with Morrowind.

Ubisoft will finally cancel Skull and Bones. Sea of Thieves will hit maintenance mode. Grapecard will cancel Atlas. All the pirate games in one go.

New World and PSO2 will both be huge hits – especially New World with its Amazon advertising budget – but it will be Magic Legends that carries the year, pushing Torchlight Frontiers to the back of the PWE queue. That said, both New World and Magic Legends will be delayed at least once.

I’ll try this one again because at this point they’ve got nothing left to lose: Daybreak will finally announce EverQuest III, and it’ll be a sandbox MMORPG built for PC and mobile with a battle royale side mode. I’m still sticking to the conspiracy theory that someone, maybe PA, will buy out what’s left of Daybreak and save it.

Guild Wars 2 still won’t get an expansion, but it’ll give up on the Saga stuff and change course once again with that new NCsoft cash infusion. Both GW2 and Black Desert will land on the Switch.

Gamigo will finally end the Defiance franchise and continuing milking what’s left of RIFT without putting it into formal maintenance mode. As in 2019, we’ll see just a few key patches and maybe one small expansion for Trove. Its disasters behind it, ArcheAge Unchained will draw back in players who gave up on it during the ArchePass fiasco.

We’ll finally get Lost Ark, and it’ll be super fun and a mess for monetization, but pretty much nothing else we’re actively watching from the crowdfunding side of things and from Asia will release. Bluehole will continue stalling with Ascent: Infinite Realm if it doesn’t give up on it entirely. And Koster will leak the name of his new MMO.

World of Warcraft’s Shadowlands will not save it from its ongoing, self-inflicted decline, but Blizzard will make swimming pools full of money with Wrath Classic, bypassing Burning Crusade entirely.

Conan Chop Chop will be the sleeper hit of 2020.

Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX): I think one of the main things that’ll happen in 2020 is the emergence of legitimate mobile MMOs. Games like Perfect World Mobile and Black Desert Mobile are already making a splash, and they’re already impressive. I saw a few clips of Lineage 2 M as well, and boy that’s a legitimate MMO on a phone! This is the year people need to re-evaluate their position on what a mobile MMO is. I used to be against it, but after seeing what’s available and Black Desert Mobile being what it is, I think maybe it’s time to take a second look at the game!

I predict that we’re going to get a mobile announcement for Guild Wars 2. This might be more of a hope rather than a prediction, but maybe this GW2 saga will take us to Cantha. I’m still holding out hope despite my bitterness.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): It felt like there was a semblance of a pattern to maybe offer a prediction last year, but this year, it definitely feels like things are muddier than ever before. And when you had an October like we had in 2019, it feels like everything is just going out the window in terms of what to expect.

But if I had to force myself to divine something that would happen to MMOs in 2020, I’d say that we perhaps see a culling of the smaller titles. We see a few more games shut down, which gives rise to a few more smaller-scale multiplayer games. Maybe. I don’t know, 2019 was a weird year, fam.

Colin Henry (@ChaosConstant): Guild Wars 2 will continue with the Icebrood Saga all year and into the next. Many players will ultimately be disappointed with the content and, with no expansion in sight, start to drift away. No dramatic mass exodus, just a slow, steady decline.

ArenaNet will start talking about a new spinoff game. Not Guild Wars 3, but a tie-in on another platform. Probably on mobile, maybe console. Maybe both? It won’t launch in ’20, closed beta in Q4 at best.

Following successful launches from Diablo 4 and Torchlight Frontiers and the continued success of Path of Exile, 2020 will be the year of OARPGs.

City of Heroes’ revival will become officially sanctioned, with some oversight from NCsoft. The fact that it is official now will bring in a bunch of new players and some goodwill toward NCsoft. Other studios will take notice and start looking at their retired MMOs, and we’ll see one or two games licensed to player organizations in similar fashion.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): World of Warcraft: Shadowlands releases in September. (The error bar on that is half a month, but I feel good about September.) It’s definitely better than Battle for Azeroth, but the wall has already been broken, and people aren’t satisfied with some more customization options. They want more. There’s definitely a hard appeal to people who have left over the years, and a sense that the design team is caught between doing what people actually want and a top-end vision that insists they don’t really want that. At least one long-awaited feature or return is announced at BlizzCon. (My bet is faction-related.)

WoW Classic becomes far more calcified, but people are excited when an expansion nostalgia push is also announced at BlizzCon. It’s TBC first, though, they’re not jumping straight to Lich King. There is a huge amount of debate over whether Classic should all move up to the expansion or just some of it, and even more debate about new servers, free transfers, or paid transfers.

Final Fantasy XIV announces its next fan festival in the early part of the year. The game’s patches continue to be warmly received by fans and the game continues to do very well for itself. The actual fan festival announces the game’s fourth expansion. Somewhere along the way we get an announcement of Ishgard housing. Another leak spoils big chunks of the expansion for those who don’t mind looking up leaks.

The Elder Scrolls Online continues putting out its own yearly cadence, but this year… things don’t land quite right. Maybe people are finally exhausted of everything under the sun being tied back into Skyrim, maybe it’s that the storytelling wasn’t quite there, maybe it’s just sunspots. Whatever the case, it’s not a good year for the game, but after the goodwill built up from years of solid delivery, it’s more of a “down year” than a moment of panic.

Guild Wars 2 finishes up the Icebrood Saga to middling reception and players are desperate for an expansion announcement. You know, like now, but more so. We finally get an announcement of one near the end of the year, but it has an awkward sense of being a sort of desperate plea for fan approval. There’s a certain exhaustion setting in with the limitations of this particular game, one that is going to require some high-quality content to shake off the rust.

Black Desert has a pretty solid year of content drops. Crimson Desert gets talked up more and players continue to get hyped. Pearl Abyss starts getting visibly smarter about handling their games and their community; it’s another one of those years wherein people should really have noticed this game by now if they hadn’t already. It also introduces a couple of new classes, naturally.

Ascent: Infinite Realm finally starts a beta in the US. Phantasy Star Online 2 launches at long last to… decent reviews, but not great ones, most of the less-good reviews being tied to how it feels a bit older. (It’s still sustainable, though.) Astellia Online goes global and has to trim a little bit, but it’s still afloat by the end of the year with both Korea and North America on the same servers.

Blade & Soul gets at least one big update that players are over the moon about. TERA is starting to feel a bit too long in the tooth and stutters, but the console performance works out well.

Magic: Legends gets into beta and proves itself to be a bit like a more active and (arguably) more fun version of what Neverwinter was aiming to be. It still has The Cryptic Business Model, but people willing to overlook that have a lot of fun with it. But it doesn’t have playable Loxodons, so it’s actually horrible trash and no one should be having fun. (No, I would not be playing a Loxodon. I’m holding out for thallids.)

Crowfall… actually does its soft launch thinger! It’s okay.

Star Citizen continues to Star Citizen. That veneer is chipping away, month after month, year after year. Neither it nor S42 are released by the end of the year. The fanboys willing to defend it start to get fewer in number.

At least one Kickstarted MMO finally visibly collapses in a kleptocratic turd pile.

Daybreak starts selling itself off piecemeal. People are still holding out hope for an EverQuest 3. Even if it is actually announced, a lot of people are surprised that the majority of the target audience doesn’t particularly care.

Overwatch 2 is announced for launch in 2021 and moves into beta. It’s basically just Overwatch, but with the PvE people wanted from the start. It gets good initial buzz but can’t escape that element.

New World is better than it has any right to be, which is not quite the same as good. It’s better than Fallout 76, at least, and developers are active on trying to improve it. It’s not quite the monster Amazon was no doubt hoping for.

Square-Enix announces the mystery project Yoshida has been overseeing.

In a dark and undisclosed location, Jeremy Gaffney wakes up, pours himself a cup of coffee, and stares at the black-trimmed fields of the underground bunker wherein he lives and works now. His employees offer him a crisp salute as a huge monitor displays a running version of the latest build. “Soon,” he whispers, reaching over to gently pat the lucite-encased copy of WildStar he keeps near him at all times. “The third wave is almost upon us. This time… they will not be ready for our brilliance.”

CoH’s rogue servers start adding real new content and moving forward.

Shroud of the Avatar cashes in.

I will eat a hamburger. I like hamburger.

Mia DeSanzo (@neschria): This is hard for me because I have been around to be bitten more than once and to be more than twice as shy about games that aren’t out yet, and predicting the future of existing games seems like bad luck and I am always wrong. I am not going to speculate on sunsets because that’s just depressing. Here are a couple of guesses: New World will be the big new release of 2020. The Elder Scrolls Online expansion will be popular because some people love Skyrim. (It’s me. I’m some people.) Pantheon might go into alpha before the end of the year.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): Is it really sad to say that at this point, predictions feel like just death-knells? A voicing of the inevitable horror descending upon us? And that giving it utterance just rushes it closer? Yeah, I may not feel very optimistic about the genre after the last couple of years, but I certainly don’t wish ill on anything. But if I must make a couple of predictions, these are what I toss out for you.

Daybreak’s already-delayed EverQuest Fan Faire revival does not happen in 2020 either; maybe an invite to “come hang out with us in a bar” happens for those who are local or can get to San Diego. Is 2020 the year Norrath doesn’t get expansions? They came in under the wire in 2019. Another special sub option will be made available.

Dual Universe continues its development at a steady pace and makes it through alpha 3 and into beta. Either ship combat or territory warfare squeaks in by the end of the year. NDA goes down and I finally get to stream it live and try to make a passable ship.

Conan Chop Chop is freaking adorable and everyone wants to play it! It will be a blast and just bring smiles to your face. MOP must have special staff meetings inside the game. Live.

ARK’s upcoming DLC gets pushed back farther and farther. Maybe players see it by the end of spring/beginning of summer.

Secret World Legends gets an official announcement by the end of summer: Whether that is maintenance mode or the next step in Season 2 is up in the air. If no new (or former TSW) missions make it in for Samhain, all hope is lost. The Seven Silences, however, would reinvigorate the game some — if it gets added.

MOP’s Stream Team will release a new form of entertainment. Some laughter may turn into tears.

At least one studio’s April Fools’ day joke will turn into a legitimate concept. MOP will definitely not be doing any April Fools’ day jokes, Nope. None. Really.

NCsoft rakes in the goodwill for a really crowd-pleasing move.

Camelot Unchained finally opens up and shows folks what is going on and excitement builds up.

Grinding Gear shows more Path of Exile 2, possibly even getting a closed beta going at the end of the year. Players are frothing for it, and ExileCon 2021 is announced.

Samon Kashani (@thesamkash): I’m predicting that we’ll finally see Camelot Unchained let loose of its grip on the game and relax its NDA. From there it will get a lot of feedback and take the game back into a closed format.

Crowfall has a chance to release this year. And I think there will be an early release day announced soon, something in the April time frame. The devs will then officially open the Dregs campaign to playtesters. However, after two iterations, they’ll realize that it doesn’t improve any of the issues players have had with the game. The game is already sliced up and controlled by a handful of guilds, so it will effectively play exactly like the faction war we’ve had so far. ArtCraft will take it back into retooling and the release will be pushed to October or November.

Magic Legends will not launch.

New World will launch, but it will be so barebones (for an MMO) players will largely pan it. Perhaps by 2021 it’ll be worth playing.

Albion Online’s mobile focused version will launch, and I’ll have some good battles with Carlo and BDO Mobile over which game is the better mobile MMO experience!

Tyler EdwardsStar Citizen will continue to Star Citizen, to the woe of all.

Shadowlands will launch to resounding cries of, “Eh, at least it’s better than BFA.”

SWTOR will launch another “expansion.” It will have a better story than Onslaught, but be just as tiny.

At least one version of Defiance will sunset, and I will be one of the few genuinely sad about it.

Daybreak will be bought out (maybe by Pearl Abyss), and the company’s fortunes will at last begin to improve.

Anthem’s rumored reboot will be announced, and no matter how good it is, a significant portion of the community will decry it as too little too late, probably without even bothering to look at what it entails.

We’ll finally start getting some serious news about Ascent: Infinite Realm. It might even launch. Similarly, I expect Torchlight Frontiers to launch (probably late in the year), to mostly positive reviews. Lost Ark’s Western port will be announced, but not launch.

ESO’s new chapter will be based in Skyrim, to milk that sweet sweet nostalgia [Editor’s note: This prediction was made before the announcement confirmed it, so he’s already got a score here!]. It will include a new form of content, possibly mini-dungeons for small 2-3 person groups.

GW2 will finally announce a new expansion, but it will be late in the year, after a lukewarm reception to the current Saga and a steep decline in its reputation.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!
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