Make My MMO: The biggest MMO crowdfunding news of 2020


Welcome to a special edition of Make My MMO, Massively OP’s weekly and sometimes biweekly recap of the big news in crowdfunded MMOs. If you’re one of those folks always down in the comments claiming that no crowdfunded MMOs ever launch, then this is the column for you. Of course, this special holiday edition isn’t just our regular recap; instead, we’re going to look at the most important MMO crowdfunding news of the entire year. Let’s check-in.

The fizzling storm

Chronicles of Elyria most certainly “won” the top slot for biggest crowdfunding news of the year, but not for any of the good reasons, as in March we declared it the “the highest-profile MMORPG Kickstarter to crash and burn.” That’s because immediately after reaching pre-alpha and running a funding campaign, the developer announced it had laid off the entire staff and shuttered the studio. As outraged players began to mobilize with lawyers and complaints to the state attorney general, studio reps walked back the statement, claiming that that game was still in production with volunteer staff, though backers certainly haven’t been mollified if ongoing legal filings are any judge. Just this month, in fact, the team resurfaced with a new video discussing the path forward for the game.

The space MMORPGs

Dual Universe stole the summer of 2020 with its beta launch and NDA drop and mildly contentious decision to charge post-beta-launch newcomers a subscription fee, bringing its 20,000 alpha testers along for the ride.

Star Citizen, meanwhile, continued to not launch, making it only to alpha 3.12 this year, though it had no trouble expanding its workforce and offering expensive ships. Players struggled mightily to pin down a real roadmap for Squadron 42’s development too, plus CIG missed the mark with its dynamic events and canceled the annual CitizenCon thanks to COVID-19, but little seemed to temper backers’ enthusiasm, as people just keep funding the game in record numbers: The game even passed $300M in crowfunds this year.

As for Elite Dangerous, it was a relatively quiet year apart from the bundling of Horizons and the community uproar over lore content that was settled amicably, as developers have doubled-down on the Odyssey expansion coming in 2021. Expect more from it soon!

The fantasy MMORPGs

Camelot Unchained raised eyebrows across the genre when devs announced a second side-game at the top of the year, followed by promises of roadmaps, continuing work on the MMORPG, and extended refunds that aren’t yet complete, though we did get our first real looks inside the title. That side-game, by the way, is called Final Stand: Ragnarok, and it’s in pre-early-access you can buy your way into right now. The year wasn’t kind to the games’ perception, leading our team to choose it for Stormiest Future.

Ashes of Creation, meanwhile, surged back to reclaim gamers’ attention with a pre-alpha after a year of dissent over its own sidegame, Apocalypse, which is now closed down.

Unfortunately, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen had a rough year following the devastating death of Visionary Realms’ Brad McQuaid at the end of 2019. While it’s pushed along in pre-alpha, developers have been open about the game’s funding problems, and yet another of its key developers passed away just a month ago.

And Crowfall had a triumphant 2020, raising another $12M from investors, blasting into beta, and overhauling its classes. It’s expected to launch in 2021.

The superhero MMORPGs

Believe it or not, all four of the big superhero MMORPGs in development tried to put their stamp on 2020.

Ship of Heroes opened up its beta to bring in new players multiple times this year, testing its large invasion capabilities; it’s currently aiming for a launch in 2021. Valiance Online likewise rolled out a short beta this summer; in his report, Justin acknowledged that “it’s functional, but it’s so far from prime time, so testers and readers and the MMO faithful really need to understand that this is not a game on the verge of release.”

City of Titans had a quieter 2020, chiefly appearing to focus on fleshing out its character creator. We even checked in on Heroes & Villains. Hey, it’s not dead!

Gazelle upon my works, ye mighty

The MMOs that funded

We had a couple of new Kickstarter successes this year! Perhaps most notably, afrofantasy MMO The Wagadu Chronicles – which is backed by no less than Riot Games – brought in almost $200,000 on Kickstarter (and gave away a free roleplaying game book to boot). We’ll hopefully be playing this one Q3 2020.

VR MMORPG Ilysia scored $159,000, racking up 13 stretch goals along the way. Fantasy MMO Past Fate scooped up over $25,000, too, though we won’t see launch until late 2022. And finally, let’s not forget about Swords ‘n Magic and Stuff, which funded for $79,000 and continues to make us look it up to make sure we’re typing it right.

The MMOs that didn’t fund

Yeah, we had a few of these too. Occupy White Walls, the bizarre but unique art curation MMO, fell short of its $124,000 Kickstarter ask, though perhaps the bigger news for it this year was its artist upload fee. The game was already live, of course, and continues on anyway.

Titan Reach, likewise, didn’t make it to its $416K goal, instead saying it would turn to Indiegogo, though it’s since opened a web store and told fans its funding situation is grim.

Other notable crowdfunding moments in 2020:

  • Legends of Aria, which Kickstarted as Shards Online way back in 2014, formally left early access this year – after launching a $20 DLC pack.
  • Cyberpunk MMORPG Zenith planned to move from pre-alpha to alpha this year but wound up delaying it to 2021. We’re keeping a concerned eye on this one.
  • Fractured likewise spent the year running alpha tests; it also lowered the price of entry.
  • Temtem pushed right on into PC and PS early access and made known all its next-gen console plans. A proper launch is expected in 2021.
  • Book of Travels made it to beta this year but delayed its early access to 2021.
  • Saga of Lucimia kept its head waaaaaay down; it’s eyeballing launch next year.
  • Shroud of the Avatar continued posting tiny monthly updates largely consisting of cash-shop stuff; it has yet to address the concerning business issues raised last year or communicate with its equity crowdfund investors about the sudden sell-off in 2019. Yeah, this is still a major problem, and no, we will not let it go.
  • You’ll need to squint to see The Repopulation’s forward motion, but at least it’s not dead.
  • Albion Online was partly crowfunded but not on Kickstarter, so it’s worth mentioning that it had a banner year thanks to popular patches and a surging playerbase that helped it get bought out by a big conglom.
  • Destiny’s Sword got a free-to-play demo up on Steam.
  • Kickstarted cardgame MMO Hex sunsets this month, presumably over its ongoing legal issues.
  • Orbus is still going strong, with a price cut and DLC this year. This lil indie is one of the success stories of the MMO Kickstarter craze, and it’s VR to boot.
  • Oath, Kickstarted in 2019, didn’t make its planned alpha and appears to have gone belly-up, making it one of the biggest MMO Kickstarter failures ever.

What would you say was the biggest MMO crowdfunding story of the year?

Yes, some crowdfunded MMOs most definitely do succeed. But others crash and burn, and you need to hear about the whole spectrum of games that sought your money early in exchange for the promise of input and transparency. And that’s exactly what Make My MMO does every Saturday. Help us keep ’em accountable, would ya?
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