I didn’t actually plan to make this an annual feature or anything; I thought of it last year as a fun list, and then it occurred to me this year that it’d make another fun list. Yes, that’s really the long and short of it. Sometimes it actually is that simple. And if you’re eager to rush over to the old article and see how well my predictions held up, I’ll save you the click by letting you know it was about a 30% hit rate. Three games (out of 10) actually had a good enough year that I feel that optimism was well-placed.
Assuming you count last year as being good for Star Trek Online, anyhow. I do!
But then, the point of this article isn’t predictions; it’s optimism. It’s looking to the future and saying that you have a good feeling about a title and the upcoming year, even if the logical part of your brain knows it might be a moderate or even lackluster year. So here we go. We’re a month into the year and have the lay of the land; let’s be optimistic and then next year we can look back on being wildly wrong. Roll the dice.
1. Final Fantasy XIV
There’s one obvious new thing that has me optimistic about this game this year, and that’s actually a pretty new development that’s still notable: This year’s fan festival is taking place in San Diego. Specifically, the convention center there, which is larger than the entirety of the conference centers at the Rio that has hosted the past several fan festivals. That is a bigger venue and no doubt a more expensive one.
Square-Enix, as a rule, has better things to do than spend money without justification. It seems obvious to me that this point the size of the game in terms of players and buzz justifies this added expense. That makes me optimistic even in what is, technically, an off-year for the game (in that there is no expansion this year).
2. Phantasy Star Online 2
I had long since given up hope on this game ever getting brought out over here, but I feel like on some level that’s good reason to be optimistic about it. After all, the whole slow roll-out and longstanding lack of a localized version gives it an air of being this weird, forbidden thing. It’s not new, but it’s new to us!
3. Blue Protocol
I mentioned to MOP’s Bree the other day that I feel like there’s a bit of a mistranslation issue that happens every so often with Japanese games, wherein the literal phrasing of “we have no plans about X at this time” is taken to mean that it’s not planned when it literally just means “that’s something we’re not thinking about right now, but that may very well just be a function of the moment.” So it goes with Blue Protocol, which has hints that it’s coming out over here as well.
Much to my surprise, Bandai-Namco has actually been hitting pretty solidly with its last few games, and between a charming graphical style to this one and the prospect of something really new? Yeah, I’m excited. I’m hopeful.
4. The Elder Scrolls Online
You may recall that my predictions on The Elder Scrolls Online were a bit more bearish this year, but that’s different from wants and optimism. And I feel like this could very easily be another year in which the game surprises us, that after humming along with reliable cadence and solid content this year it comes out with something forcing everyone to sit up and take notice. That’s the difference betwixt predictions and hopes, really.
5. Ascent: Infinite Realm
No matter how silly it might be, my optimism remains.
6. Astellia Online
I freely admit this is my underdog pick, but I stand by it just the same. It’s a game run by seemingly non-scummy people, it’s a solid game with a solo-friendly attitude and charming enough gameplay, it seems to be making a genuine effort to improve on old design elements from the original Korean version… in short, it’s a game that I like perhaps more than I ought to, but darn it, I choose to be optimistic.
Heck, I can think of at least two games on this list that were easy to write off with “they’re fine” until both of them started to glow up and show that they were actually far better than fine. So this one gets my optimism just the same.
7. City of Heroes
Yeah, that feels weird to type, but after the huge explosion last year, it feels like City of Heroes isn’t just back with a temporary lease on life – it is actually back. It still feels like something of a fever dream, and yet here we are months later and somehow the servers are still up and accessible, and we’re starting to reach that point that people are changing the game beyond even what’s already been done.
It might be silly, but seeing as how I never expected the game to be online again in any form, yes, I’ll be optimistic about it.
8. Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen
Here’s a somewhat odd case of a game I’m optimistic for even though it’s a game I have no desire to play personally. See… Pantheon is in a weird place now, with the unexpected and devastating loss of Brad McQuaid. There’s reason to be worried about whether or not the game (which was his passion project) will be able to keep going in light of the fact that he’s no longer around to keep it pressing forward.
But the reality is that out of the many games going for a throwback approach, Pantheon tended to be one didn’t simply believe it could relaunch 1999 EverQuest and call it a finished project; instead, it wanted to put more systems in place to encourage a different style of play. And so again… optimism. I think there’s space in the market for the game and want to believe that the people now in charge of the project recognize that.
It’s been a really long road getting anywhere with Crowfall, probably longer than the designers had ever intended. That having been said, I’m still optimistic about the game’s overall design ethos, and I’m optimistic that the game is going to get much more to be interested in once it stops being such a theoretical venture. Just have to, like… actually get some testing releases going.
Come on, guys. Any time now. Come on.
10. Guild Wars 2
Perhaps “dread” would be a better emotion to have with regard to this particular title. After all, we’ve got… well, lots of problems here, and lots of signs that there might be more bad decisions on the horizon. But I do actually believe in Guild Wars 2. I believe in the ideas behind it. I believe that it can go to better places, that it can grow, and that it can get itself out of the dead end it has been bumping up against for a while now.
Will it actually do so? Not sure. But that’s kind of how optimism works. You choose to look on the bright side, and even if you recognize it might not work out, the choice remains to be hopeful. And hey, if I’m wrong, there’s always next year.