All right, let’s do this one more time. Yes, it’s that time when we look ahead to the next year and ask which games look like they’re going to be facing some interesting contrasting pressures from a lot of sources, a tradition that I started several years back almost entirely unintentionally and now keep up because it turns out to have actually become really popular for some reason. People love speculating about doom, I guess.
Of course, what we’re talking about here is not doom, as I also clarify every single year. The whole point of the paragraph before was pointing out that these games will face interesting pressures, and I’ll say right now that most of the games on this list will probably make it to the end of 2021 in one piece. However, they’re all going to face some interesting potential outcomes, and a lot will depend on how this year goes from start to finish. So let’s talk about some uncertain futures, huh?
1. Guild Wars 2
There’s a lot of weight on Cantha. Really, you could argue there was always going to be a lot of weight on Cantha, but this time it’s coming after a year off from expansions that didn’t really work and an unsettlingly long holding pattern for the game. Combine that with ambiguity about who is actually in charge of the game right now and various ArenaNet layoffs over the course of the last few years, and I think a lot of fans of Guild Wars 2 are feeling a weird sort of pinch. I don’t think there’s any risk of the game going anywhere, but flubbing things this year could be a really bad sign… especially as the game has been facing storms before.
2. Camelot Unchained
Ugh, I hate putting this one here. Some of this is just a difference of perspective, of course; whereas some of the game’s backers might see something untoward having been done with the whole Ragnarok thing, I don’t. It’s entirely the right choice to make for the survival of the studio. Unfortunately, as mentioned (many times) before, it sure didn’t do the MMORPG any favors in the arena of public opinion… and that matters a lot with crowfunding, unfortunately. I hope this year sees good news for the game, but…
3. Astellia Online
This is still a thing! And it might not be for much longer. The whole Astellia Royal thing in and of itself raises questions about what is going on with the different versions of the game or whether or not this is even a game that can support one version let alone, and you’re left with a perfect storm of concern in the future. To the extent that you could call any of it a storm, yes, go ahead and get that joke out of your system.
4. Phantasy Star Online 2
The whole “New Genesis” thing manages to throw this game into questionable status after it had managed to weather a launch that made me so angry I’m still angry about it right now, typing about the game. The rest of the world has moved on from the trainwreck launch (especially since, you know, it’s on Steam now and that’s much better), but it’s an open question how much additional life this big infusion of novelty will get the game and whether it’s going to be worth it, beloved, or loathed. We’ll find out, though.
5. Magic: Legends
I can’t help but feel as if Magic: Legends is linked to Torchlight III, which went through a similar MMORPG-endectomy and wound up being the one that launched first. And… well, it had some problems, and I can’t help but wonder if some of the slower roll of this game was in part an effort to address the complaints before this title launches rather than after. It’s more likely that more of it has to do with the pandemic, sure, but it’s at least how I like to see things.
6. Star Wars: The Old Republic
The thing about this game is pretty simple, on the face of it: It was a big, expensive game that managed to justify its price tag with initial success, but it has increasingly seemed as if it’s flailing over the years and like updates come slower and slower (and servers get more and more awkward) as the price of continuing to push out new content isn’t changing but the playerbase falls off. This year is no different. And, like all of the above, I’d like to be wrong here and see the game have an absolute banner year.
7. World of Warcraft
So Shadowlands managed to impress! But at least to my evaluation, it’s less of a case where the expansion was great and more where “basically fine” was more than enough to clear the exceedingly low bar people had for the game at this point. But there are two problems with that. First, clearing a low bar adequately doesn’t delight people very long, which means that the expansion is going to need some follow-up especially addressing main criticisms… and that leads right to the other problem wherein “addressing criticism” has consistently been something Blizzard is bad at. It’s an open question if this year will be a good one or if the veneer cracks early. (Maybe Classic Burning Crusade will be the stimulant the game needs in 2021?)
8. Lord of the Rings Online
The good news for Lord of the Rings Online is that it’s still a long way away from having any serious competition in the arena of being an online game based on Tolkien. The bad news is that the game managed to erode all of the goodwill it had earned and then just earn some outright negative press… and it doesn’t seem entirely clear at this point that the developers are aware of just how much ill will was engendered by the whole content patch masquerading as an expansion charging people real money. Sheer chutzpah aside, that’s not a good place to be in moving into 2021 with a game that’s already long in the tooth.
9. New World
Oh, no pressure here, guys! You just need to deliver a full-featured MMORPG with multiple different styles of content for different players after originally being billed as a much smaller PvP gankbox while also managing to justify the continual hemorrhage of money and projects from Amazon’s game division by being the first of these projects to launch and not flop horribly! That’s not a whole lot of strain to put on any single project, much less this one! Seriously, I’m just happy that there’s been positive word of mouth here so that it seems merely like a steep hill to climb instead of absolute, unalloyed nonsense that will lead to inevitable doom.
10. Atlas Rogues
It’s the remake no one asked but people were rather happy to see… until it ran into some issues when actually going live. This always felt like a weird project, and like basically everything else on this list I’d like to see it do well and really justify its existence to the people who greenlit it. But it seems like an odd investment, and it’s hard not to feel some anxiety about whether or not it will be able to keep moving onward and upward.
11. Squadron 42
Haha, just kidding, this is never happening.