Last December, when we sat down to write out our annual MMO predictions for 2020, I don’t think anyone had “biggest global pandemic in a century disrupts everything and makes gaming really weird.” So nope, we’re not fortune tellers here. We know MMOs, but there are some things you’d need to have been an epidemiologist to predict.
Nevertheless, I’m gonna follow our long–running tradition around here and poke back through last year’s predictions for this year and see how we did. After all, what would be the fun of making predictions if we couldn’t snark about our guesses and marvel at our direct hits a year later? Let’s find out whether we nailed or failed it!
World of Warcraft
Andy: “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.” That’s as much history as it is a prediction!
Andy: “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.” It’ll probably ramp up more next year.
Bree: “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.” Pools of money from Shadowlands in spite of its delay. Still no next leg for Classic, yet.
Eliot: “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.)” But for the pandemic, Eliot would’ve been bang-on here for September.
Eliot: “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.” Still waiting on more for Classic.
Tyler: “Shadowlands will launch to resounding cries of, ‘Eh, at least it’s better than BFA.'” It’s faint praise, but it seems to be the take.
Bree: “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.” Oof. Well, New World and Magic Legends were indeed delayed, multiple times, but since neither has yet to launch, it’s hard to call either a success. Torchlight 3 did launch but isn’t Torchlight Frontiers anymore either. PSO2, though – that’s fair.
Bree: “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.” Still no Lost Ark, though Amazon is likely pubbing it, and we’re still in the dark on Koster’s game. But Bluehole did indeed keep stalling with AIR, in fact revamping and renaming it and only getting it out this past week in Korea.
Colin: “Following successful launches from Diablo 4 and Torchlight Frontiers and the continued success of Path of Exile, 2020 will be the year of OARPGs.” No Diablo 4, nor even Immortal, and Frontiers is… yeah.
Eliot: “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.” Still waiting for Elyon’s beta here in the west, but the rest is fair.
Eliot: “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.)” Legends barely made it to alpha, unfortunately.
Eliot: “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.” Still not here, though it’d be fair to say its beta reception was better than expected.
Mia: “New World will be the big new release of 2020.” Sadface.
Sam: “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.” Point for Sam on Magic, but still no New World.
Tyler: “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.” All close; Frontiers did launch as TL3, though the reviews have been meh. We got the Lost Ark tease but not confirmation. And the only serious western news we got on AIR was that it’s not AIR anymore.
Guild Wars 2
Andy: “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.” No Guild Wars 3 yet, and in fact the game is getting an expansion next year. Let’s see if it can turn the game around.
Bree: “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.” The one year I don’t predict Cantha, we get Cantha! I’m not even sad.
Carlo: “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.” No mobile yet, but Cantha is happening fam.
Colin: “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.” I think it’s fair to say Icebrood hasn’t blown anyone away, and revenue has been meh all year. But now, we’re Cantha-bound. No real news on the new game(s) either, apart from intermittent reorgs.
Eliot: “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.” Icebrood’ll go well into 2021, and it’s probably fair to say the expansion is meant to stoke fan approval. But wouldn’t it be weird if it didn’t?
Tyler: “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.” Fair.
Elder Scrolls Online
Andy: “Elder Scrolls Online will continue to plug again doing well but not cause huge waves in the news cycle.” Oddly fair. Even for the year of Skyrim, the buzz was lower for the game in 2020.
Bree: “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.” I’m calling this one a half miss. The game had more players than ever, but it seemed more due to the pandemic.
Eliot: “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.” Fair. Being forced to delay because of the pandemic didn’t help either.
Mia: “The Elder Scrolls Online expansion will be popular because some people love Skyrim. (It’s me. I’m some people.)” It’s not like it did poorly, but it also was no Morrowind.
Tyler: “ESO’s new chapter will be based in Skyrim, to milk that sweet sweet nostalgia. It will include a new form of content, possibly mini-dungeons for small 2-3 person groups.” Tyler actually predicted Skyrim last year before ZOS announced it, so score for him.
Final Fantasy XIV
Andy: “Final Fantasy XIV will have a solid year of steady growth — boosted by the announcement of Male Viera and Female Hrothgar earlier than expected.” Hard to say about the growth? The delays were surely frustrating.
Eliot: “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.” Again, the pandemic really wrecked the XIV event schedule so badly.
Eliot: “Square-Enix announces the mystery project Yoshida has been overseeing.” Dead-on hit here with the reveal of FFXVI.
Andy: “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.” Really, the company didn’t do much but rearrange the deck chairs – right up until the buyout. The games all seem to have had a solid year, at least.
Bree: “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.” Yay, I got a hit finally! And the big Daybreak buyout gave us our first slice of transparency into the company since its launch. Still no public confirmation of the next EQ title, though.
Eliot: “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.” Well, the sale wasn’t piecemeal, but it did happen.
MJ: “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.” To be fair, no fan festivals happened anywhere this year!
Tyler: “Daybreak will be bought out (maybe by Pearl Abyss), and the company’s fortunes will at last begin to improve.” Another hit, though it wasn’t PA!
Andy: “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.” Still waiting for Camelot, but Crowfall at least hit beta.
Eliot: “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.” We’re not quite there yet with Crowfall, but yes, Star Citizen lingers on. And can we call Chronicles of Elyria… well.
Eliot: “Shroud of the Avatar cashes in.” Has it ever done anything else?
Mia: “Pantheon might go into alpha before the end of the year.” In fact, Pantheon seems to be struggling a bit in pre-alpha.
MJ: “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.” A solid hit here; DU did hit beta and drop its NDA.
MJ: “Camelot Unchained finally opens up and shows folks what is going on and excitement builds up.” It’s still locked up, though we did get some video footage this year.
Sam: “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.” Nope, still under NDA.
Sam: “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.” Made it to beta at least, with plenty of revisions!
Tyler: “Star Citizen will continue to Star Citizen, to the woe of all.” Indeed.
City of Heroes and emulators
Andy: “City of Heroes will get finally navigate the legal quagmire with NCsoft and become a real boy. 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.” Still nope.
Colin: “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.” Not yet!
Eliot: “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.'” The best we got this year was WildStar emulator teases!
Eliot: “CoH’s rogue servers start adding real new content and moving forward.” Many of them did just that!
MJ: “NCsoft rakes in the goodwill for a really crowd-pleasing move.” Come on NC, make it happen.
Bree: “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.” Defiance isn’t dead, in spite of the sunset of one of its versions this year, and RIFT is still malingering. Trove did get an expansion, but ArcheAge Unchained invented all new snafus for itself.
Tyler: “At least one version of Defiance will sunset, and I will be one of the few genuinely sad about it.” A direct hit: Defiance lost its Xbox 360 version this year.
Andy: “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.” It does feel like we’re in a holding pattern when it comes to lockbox gambling, doesn’t it?
Bree: “Both GW2 and Black Desert will land on the Switch.” Nope, but Skyforge made plans to. Nobody saw that comin’.
Carlo: “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 2M 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.” It’s fair to say that these types of games are becoming popular and making money, but it’s not really changing the core MMORPG scene much in the west.
Chris: “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.” Fortunately, we didn’t lose many MMOs this year. Stay tuned for our whole roundup of 2020’s sunsets!
Andy: “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.” Fortnite made gobs of money, continued edging out other BRs and still didn’t have the best year.
Bree: “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.” Skull and Bones saw more delays. Atlas is malingering. Sea of Thieves got sadly few updates this year for sure.
Bree: “Conan Chop Chop will be the sleeper hit of 2020.” I know it was a joke, but this thing has been delayed so many times now, ug.
Eliot: “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 its 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.” Black Desert had a surprisingly quiet year too, and we didn’t learn much new about Crimson Desert apart from video teasing and the planned launch at the end of next year.
Eliot: “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.” Blade & Soul’s content usually flies under the radar of the core MMO playerbase, while TERA… well, nobody foretold Krafton taking a wrecking ball to En Masse.
Eliot: “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.” Still waiting. Feels like a long way off still.
MJ: “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.” See, people want the Chop Chop.
MJ: “ARK’s upcoming DLC gets pushed back farther and farther. Maybe players see it by the end of spring/beginning of summer.” I can’t even remember which DLC this was supposed to be, but ARK was nothing but delays this year, apart from the ARK 2 announcement, so I’m calling it a win.
MJ: “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.” SWL snagged a big content announcement at least.
MJ: “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.” It certainly seems like a lot of the planned reveals got caught up in the pandemic problems.
Sam: “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!” It’s kinda crazy that we’re still waiting on the official Albion Mobile launch, eh?
Tyler: “SWTOR will launch another ‘expansion.’ It will have a better story than Onslaught, but be just as tiny.” Nope, sadly.
Tyler: “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’re still bereft of knowing what all it entails!
Eliot: “I will eat a hamburger. I like hamburger.” It happened.