Massively OP’s 2019 Awards: MMO (or studio) with the Stormiest Future

    
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Massively Overpowered’s end-of-the-year 2019 awards continue today with our award for MMO with the Stormiest Future, which was awarded to Chronicles of Elyria last year. Prior to 2018, this award was usually called “Most Likely to Fail” and “Most Likely to Flop,” but we decided to change the name and expand it beyond just individual games to studios and ideas as well as fringe and unlaunched games. It represents something we’re worried about for one reason or another: Maybe we think the game or studios will sunset or struggle or simply fail live up to insane hype. (And we don’t actually want anything to have a stormy future!)

And the MassivelyOP staff pick for the Stormiest Future of 2019 is…

DAYBREAK GAMES

A quick note before we dive in: This award was decided several weeks before Daybreak announced it was sunsetting PlanetSide Arena, a move that unfortunately makes it even more poignant.

Andy McAdams: GW2/ArenaNet. I disagreed with the Massively Zeitgeist on this one. Daybreak has been a complete dumpster since it totally wasn’t ever owned even a little by Columbus Nova, and was a smoldering dumpster fire basically since it congealed into existence. I voted for ArenaNet who despite themselves can’t seem to get their act together. I think Guild Wars 2 is the particular toddler with a lighter and gallon of jet fuel to watch in 2020.

Ben Griggs: Star Citizen. If/when this game ever truly launches (or even makes it out of alpha) is there any way imaginable that it can hope to live up to the expectations that seven years of open development and $250 million in funding bring?

Brendan Drain: It has to be Daybreak this year. It’s just been a full year of layoffs, scandals, and cancelled projects. Secondary shout out to Star Citizen as I still think it’s only a matter of time before it collapses in on itself, but it’s proven me wrong every year so far.

Brianna Royce: We don’t usually give this award to a studio, but in this case, Daybreak and its entire stable worry the hell out of me, pitching from scandal to layoffs to game cancellations to more scandals and so few people left to actually build the EverQuest 3 everyone wants. Yes, I still think games like Shroud of the Avatar and Chronicles of Elyria are in extremely rough waters and probably would’ve won in any other year, but I expect so much more from Daybreak, a studio that used to win good awards on the regular. I want to be wrong about this. If I have a runner-up, it’d be ArenaNet and Nexon.

Carlo Lacsina: GW2, Daybreak. I don’t trust Daybreak. It’s the opposite of Grinding Gear Games. I don’t feel like the things they do is in the best interest of the players or its developers. I feel like it’s just too corporate, and that lack of trust is what gives them the stormy future. While Blizzard had a bunch of really bad missteps this year, it’s a big company and can take the hit. Daybreak can’t afford the mistakes it’s making.

Chris Neal: Daybreak. Even if the studio split goes away cleanly, I’m never going to feel super comfortable with Daybreak Games. DCUO always feels like it’s on a knife’s edge, the PlanetSide franchies feels like its barely fed… about the only IP that seems to get love is EverQuest, and even that’s not a guarantee. Yes, I’m still grumpy about Landmark.

Colin Henry: SWTOR, Anthem/Fallout, Daybreak. As if the lukewarm reception of H1Z1 and the cancellation of EverQuest Next and Landmark weren’t enough, Planetside Arena seems to be failing before it’s even out of early access. Whether or not you believe Daybreak is a front for shady Russian corporations, it’s sad to see what remains of SOE becoming such a shell of its former self.

Eliot Lefebvre: Whenever I think of Shroud of the Avatar, I think of this scene from Kill Bill.

Justin Olivetti: At this point, does anyone really think that Daybreak can pull out of this slow death spiral without a drastic change in management or ownership? I thought not.

Mia DeSanzo: Daybreak can’t catch a break. Let’s all just hope there aren’t substantial lay-offs in 2020.

MJ Guthrie: Honestly, this is one category I just can’t bear to fill out. I feel like it is too close to wishing demise on someone, and I simply can’t do that! I do agree that Daybreak has had a super stormy year, but to me it feels like 2020 will be the calmer aftermath of 2019. A storm is full of energy to me, and I just don’t see any energy coming forth from either the studio or the community. Players are pretty resigned now.

Samon Kashani: GW2/ArenaNet. The number of layoffs in February, the big players leaving to start their own studios or go elsewhere, it is very scary. I don’t think the game will shut down any time soon or anything crazy like that – hell Guild Wars 1 is still rocking. Yet, I am starting to worry. I hope they pick up the pieces and bring hope back into the studio.

Tyler Edwards: Star Citizen for sure. It was supposed to release in 2014, and it’s still in alpha. It’s already a disaster, and things are not going to get better from here.

Daybreak took our award for Stormiest Future of 2019. What’s your pick?

Reader poll: What MMO game or studio has the stormiest future heading into 2020?

  • Daybreak and its games (29%, 277 Votes)
  • Cloud Imperium and Star Citizen (11%, 102 Votes)
  • ArenaNet and Guild Wars 2 (15%, 147 Votes)
  • Catnip, Portalarium, and Shroud of the Avatar (6%, 55 Votes)
  • Soulbound and Chronicles of Elyria (2%, 20 Votes)
  • Bethsoft and Fallout 76 (11%, 109 Votes)
  • BioWare, Anthem, and SWTOR (12%, 110 Votes)
  • Barunsun and Astellia (1%, 7 Votes)
  • Nexon and its remaining games (1%, 6 Votes)
  • Gamigo and its games (1%, 10 Votes)
  • CCP and EVE Online (1%, 11 Votes)
  • Blizzard and its games (3%, 30 Votes)
  • Citadel and Legends of Aria (1%, 5 Votes)
  • Frostkeep and Rend (0%, 2 Votes)
  • Funcom and its games (1%, 9 Votes)
  • Standing Stone and its games (1%, 8 Votes)
  • Heroic and Ship of Heroes (0%, 1 Votes)
  • Broadsword and its titles (0%, 0 Votes)
  • ArtCraft and Crowfall (0%, 4 Votes)
  • CSE and Camelot Unchained (0%, 4 Votes)
  • Intrepid and Ashes of Creation (1%, 12 Votes)
  • PWE and its games (0%, 3 Votes)
  • Missing Worlds and City of Titans (0%, 1 Votes)
  • NCsoft's non-ArenaNet games (1%, 10 Votes)
  • Something else (tell us in the comments!) (1%, 9 Votes)

Total Voters: 658

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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 games and entities nominated plus others we thought had a chance. Or more accurately, didn’t have a chance.
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Jack Pipsam

While I don’t think Daybreak itself will shut (unless they really do sell off IPs), their future just is directionless. They need an EverQuest 3 and it needs to be damn good.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Ken from Chicago

While I would have agreed with the selection under the previous title, for me, “most likely to flop” reads differently to me than “stormiest” future. The former reads as it’s over, goodbye. The latter reads as more controversial as there are (arguably) reasons for hope and reasons for nope. On that reasoning, I would argue the choice should have been

CLOUD IMPERIUM (STAR CITIZEN)

On paper, you have a game that has been massively delayed, massively hype, massively grown in scale. It is feature-creep incarnate. Anyone who is well-versed (ahem, for lack of a better term) in the history of video games and mmos reading about the game and its development would understandably argue it’s doomed.

Except it’s the biggest crowdfunded, not mmo, not game, but biggest crowdfunded project, increases in donations and in backers. Then again, you have Theranos or Enron or the whole mortgage loan / Great Recession to show that millions of people and millions of dollars can indeed be wrong.

Then again, not everyone is buying in STAR CITIZEN. In this column alone, it’s called a “disaster”, a “tech demo” and that “things are not going to get better from here”.

For this:

And this:

And this:

And this (warning, NSFW toward the end, which is … restrained … for Rexzilla):

Or even 6 hours:

This is why it’s so “stormy”. There’s a debate in abstract vs what your own eyes can see from countless player videos–or if you suspect some massive conspiracy, you can even try the game for free during various “Fly Free” events during the year. Despite even Massively OP’s own MJ and Chris having livestreamed (at times buggy) gameplay there are still people who will casually call it merely a “tech demo”. That people are that committed to position despite what their “lying eyes” might say shows how controversial aka “stormy” a future lies ahead.

Reader
Mick the Barbarian

Hardly.

Think of all the systems, the economic modeling, the procedural environments that nobody has created before. Do you think that’s just scope creep? Star Citizen is only the vehicle to create and perfect those systems. You don’t think they have plans on licensing those? It’s those systems that are going to make Chris Roberts a fortune.

laelgon
Reader
laelgon

The futures of Daybreak and Soulbound seem less stormy, and more inevitable. Arenanet and GW2 take it for me, because it seems like they could right the ship, and there’s a lot of love for the franchise, if they could just figure out what they’re trying to do and follow through.

I don’t think much will change with CIG and Star Citizen. If we reach the end of 2020 and there’s no sign of SQ42 releasing, or if it does release but is bad, I think they may take this award next year. While their funding model has worked so far, nothing lasts forever. Star Citizen specific features have been repeatedly pushed back, been justified with “Well the focus is on SQ42.” If it’s bad and/or fails to generate the money needed to continue development, that’s going to put CIG in a very tough place with even the more loyal backers.

Reader
Armsman

Even though I backed and still believe the project will be completed to the point they have a V 1.0 retail release of BOTH SQ42 and SC in the next few years; I voted for Cloud Imperium Games because yeah, if they don’t deliver something soon, they’re done.

Reader
Bruno Brito

Really? I’m of the opinion that having hundreds of millions is a great safety net to keep developing.

Reader
Armsman

They’re spent the majority of that money over the 7 years (and counting) they’ve been developing SQ42 and SC. It’s not like they just have it all sitting across a few Banks somewhere.

While I’m sure they keep a reserve – they’ve spent the majority of the money on Development of SQ42 and SC and running CIG as its come in. That’s why the selling of ships and items continues as they need a continued revenue stream to continue paying for ongoing development.

laelgon
Reader
laelgon

Yeah, I can’t imagine they have much in reserve, unless they’re getting outside investments besides that 46 million one.

They have 500-600 people on staff, or at least that’s the number I’ve seen often repeated. I’m ballparking the typical salary to be 70k, which is low for software development (median for software development is 76k near me, including entry level). Obviously not all of them are developers, but it’s safe to assume most of the employees are in skilled positions requiring a degree or experience. So some quick napkin math would say they’re paying out $35 million per year.

The $300 million or so they’ve accumulated over the years doesn’t really seem like it could stretch too far in that light. If for whatever reason people stop buying ships at the rate they do, CIG is going to have a hard time paying all those people.

Cyclone Jack
Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Cyclone Jack

Eye see what you did here.

Reader
Utakata

And I bet Mr. Schlag didn’t need a sharpie to pull that off either. o.O

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Ken from Chicago

Eye like what you did there.

seculaparsec
Reader
seculaparsec

Voted for Star Citizen but then saw Bioware down the list…wish I could change my vote

Reader
Melissa Tatom

I voted “other” because Paladins was not on the list. With some of the recent changes, they will be losing people. They said there was an exploit that could be used by certain characters in third person view, so instead of manning up and fixing the exploit, they removed third person, and gave a big middle finger to people who specifically chose that game over other similar ones because we get motion sickness in first person.
I’m a stupid impulse buyer, they’ve made so much money on me, but them saying they’d rather screw people like me than fix the exploit means my money goes elsewhere. I know I’m not the only one! There was outrage on some forums when it was announced.

Reader
Arktouros

I throw Daybreak in alongside game companies like Citadel Studios (Legends of Aria) where the writing is on the wall and it’s just a matter of time. Like nothing Citadel does is going to stop it’s inevitable future, believe me they’ve tried flip flopping more times than a fish out of water. Daybreak has been in the storm a long time, only a matter of time till they’re resold or split up.

The game with a bigger future issue is GW2. GW2 as a game has pretty much lost it’s identity at this point. What would a new expansion really do for the game? Tack on to the already “jumped the shark” plot line? Add another round of 9 specializations that end up being problematic for game balance? Another set of masteries to gate expansion content but are usually useless outside of it? The kinds of updates and changes they need to make are just kinda too late to be done. ANet should be fine if they can manage to pull off a new title.

Reginald Bottomsworth
Reader
Reginald Bottomsworth

Next year will be crippling for Shroud of the Avatar…as it becomes clearer and clearer that Episode 2 isn’t coming, people will leave in droves.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
NeoWolf

The one with the stormiest future I think is without a doubt Bethesda they seem hellbent on self-destruction lately, but they aren’t really an MMO developer so with that in mind they also aren’t really relevant for the question beyond 76 and that isn’t even an MMO in the strictest sense of the word.

Daybreak would seem an obvious choice but I have a sneaky feeling they and their i.p’s will end up being bought out by someone else and largely disappear under the banner of some other company never to be heard of again.

So I would have to say Trion, they went from proactive up and comers to relative obscurity in a pretty short space fo time and none of their games are doing hugely well (trove maybe) and if they were to disappear tomorrow would anyone really notice or care? I think they need to pull a rabbit out of their collective hats stat!