Here’s a not-actually-very-secret bit of honesty about the industry that I have been working in for about a decade now: I am not actually right all of the time.
I say it’s not actually secret because, well, I talk about this a lot. I make my guesses and understandings clear, I play my cards on the table, and I figure I’m right about 65% of the time or so. That’s good! That’s better than a coin flip, but it also represents the immense pile of uncertainty that goes along with, well, basically everything. You do the best you can.
This also means that there are a heap of games that I am, in various ways, very wrong about. And so today I want to talk about those because it’s easy fodder for a full list article and sometimes that’s what you need. Also, because admitting when we’re wrong is part of the pathway to being credible when you are right.
1. The Elder Scrolls Online
At launch, I didn’t see a whole lot of point to The Elder Scrolls Online. I mean, I’ve never seen much point to the series in the first place, but the actual game I played was lackluster at best and it seemed to mostly be there to be exactly what the name on the tin indicated. I figured that the developers would lose interest once the franchise fans left.
Turns out that not only was that not the case: The developers worked hard to deliver a better and more compelling game over time that doubled down on what worked while moving on from the stuff that didn’t. Seriously, I wouldn’t pretend the game is flawless, but when I played it for Choose My Adventure ages ago, I was genuinely impressed. It got turned around! It did a big glow-up.
2. Astellia Online
This one doesn’t exactly sting, but the game honestly seemed like it had the potential to advance into a solid mid-tier offering. However… at this point it also feels like it’s one bad month away from shuttering, because it never really connected with an audience and has struggled to find its footing in any market. It’s not exactly major potential lost, but I thought that the game would at least make good on its promise to un-genderlock stuff.
3. Black Desert
Black Desert has nothing but gender locks. It has also never promised to remove them, which is not actually commendable. And frankly, leading into launch it looked like the game had pretty graphics but not much meat on its bones to actually facilitate the fun. I really didn’t think this one had legs, especially after ArcheAge.
If you’re wondering why I made that comparison, well, that’s an illustration of my being wrong! Turns out that this one managed to get that blend of open PvP danger and other things to do right in a way that the latter title stumbled on. Good for Pearl Abyss, really! It wasn’t my cuppa, but I was wrong about its prospects.
4. Final Fantasy XIV
I genuinely thought that the relaunch of this title was going to be a moderate success at best, not a huge hit that is not only held up as a sign of how to do a subscription game right but one that has an army of fans and a plethora of people coming in to try the game reliably. And I am so happy to be wrong.
5. Chronicles of Elyria
I genuinely thought that this one was going to be a failure. And it was, but I was genuinely expecting a failure at launch with a game that was ambitious but barely functional and not very fun. I was not expecting the whole thing to collapse into a kleptocratic turd pile that’s ending in litigation.
6. Marvel Heroes
Has it finally happened? Have I decided that Marvel Heroes was actually good? Well… not exactly. I still think Marvel Heroes was, essentially, a Marvel skin on what was a basic Diablo riff. In my eyes, that was a case of “who is going to want to play that?”
The answer was a lot of people, as it turned out! I might have not been wrong about what this was, but I was wrong as heck about how many people were here for that, and the genuine sense of loss and trauma about the game’s shutdown (even apart from the supremely garbage way it was announced) is notable. I was very wrong about the game’s impact.
7. No Man’s Sky
If it weren’t clear, a lot of these are things I was happy to be wrong about. I wasn’t wrong about expecting that No Man’s Sky was writing checks that no game would be able to cash. The bright side is that once that launch happened… updates happened. Refinement happened. It was just last week I talked about how the game is the real success story for iterative development, and I’ll stand by that.
8. Star Wars: The Old Republic
Here’s the funny thing. If you traveled back in time to talk with me in, say, November of 2011, I would happily say that there is definitely a market for a story-based MMO that gives you a variety of interesting character options and lets you play out a largely linear storyline. Sure, it’s a game that’ll need to add more things in, like housing and more character choices and more story, but the foundational ideas there can definitely sustain a hit. And we did, in fact, get that… with the FFXIV reboot.
Star Wars: The Old Republic unfortunately didn’t hit that mark, and it feels odd because it really should have. I’ve talked a lot about where the game has stumbled over the years, and it hurts every time; this is a game I wanted to love so much. But as for how it delivered on its promise over time… well, the best analogy I can make is that when the game shut down its roleplaying servers and thus ensured I was never going back, ever, for any reason? It felt more like relief than anything. Like “at least I won’t be tempted again.”
Pity. There was a time I was really hoping to get a job at SWTOR Insider.
There are layers to this joke. Like onions. Or wholly avoidable tragedies wrought by people in charge making bad decisions.
10. AdventureQuest 3D
I really felt like AdventureQuest 3D was going to make a way bigger impact than it did. I thought this thing had the potential to light stuff on fire. And it didn’t, sadly. But you know… that’s all right. No, really, it’s fine because even though it didn’t become the Next Big Thing, it did actually do fine for itself. It keeps getting updates and new content, it makes its fans happy, it clearly has a nonstop array of concerts going on within it.
Hey, it’s possible to be wrong, but for the result of wrong to not be doom and gloom or insane success. Sometimes you just get things wrong, you know?