Massively Overthinking: Hopes and fears for MMOs in 2021


Welcome to 2021, folks. It’s not even going to have to try all that hard to be better than 2020!

For our first official Massively Overthinking of the year, I’ve polled the Massively OP staff on all of our hopes and fears for the genre in the new year. Our predictions were what we think will happen, and our resolutions were about what we’d like to try to make happen. This round is all about what we’d like to see happen to our genre – and what we most definitely don’t.

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): MMO Hopes: More events/mechanics that consider social ramifications. Less raiding, more Ahn’Qiraj War effort type content.

MMO fears: Some of the bonuses we’ve had on and off throughout COVID have spoiled us, or worse, actually fixed the game but the devs don’t want to live in a world with those changes and strip them, alienating players.

Semi-MMO-related: That people in general have changed. I already knew quite a few shut-ins who had trouble keeping a social face, and I had struggled a bit when I first came back. I’ve noticed it on the faces of the few gamers I’ve tried online dating with while doing video chat, and it reminded me of a former coworker who had that issue. For those of us who played it safe, did social distancing, and wore a mask while talking to others, I’m worried that our facial reactions might be a bit off, and for you parents, I’m worried for your babies/very young children who have grown up during this. It’s such a weird time.

But on the flipside, I also hope that it means the general public “gets” online gaming better and can empathize with people who don’t get out as much. So many people who complained to me about work from home situations were ones I could tell didn’t take me seriously when I’d said the best part of my most recent job was working outside my home. I know some people love it, but it’s a nightmare for some of us, and sadly some people only understand things they’ve experienced first hand. 2021 would be significantly better if more people come out of this with a new appreciation for people who didn’t have to change many of our habits during the pandemic.

Andy McAdams: One fear that jumps to mind is that WoW backtracks the positive trend toward a game made for more than the raid-or-die and Mythic-or-die elites. I mentioned in office chat the other day that at the moment, Shadowlands kind of feels like that party that Ion and friends begrudging invited me and all my friends to — not because they want us around but because they know they need us to make the party a success. I’m worried that Ion will “Ion” it all up and move back towards a glorified lobby for a raiding game.

I’m worried that Camelot Unchained will have the stormy future we predicted, or that Crowfall, New World, and others won’t cross the line to release or release a steaming pile and that we’ll have to languish yet-another-year without a proper next-gen sandbox title.

My hopes are basically the other side of the coin for my fears. I hope WoW continues its trend away from being a glorified raiding lobby game. I hope that that 2021 is the year the WoW finally bloody surprises us with player and guild housing because the game is less without it. I hope that Jacobs proves us wrong and that Camelot Unchained finally releases to critical acclaim and a wonderful reception. The same for Crowfall and New World. We need some new MMO-blood that’s not just an imported grindfest. I’m not mad games like Black Desert exist, I just dislike that they are really the only new games we are seeing lately.

I hope that we continue to see more movement on the regulation of gambling mechanics in video games. I hope that we continue to see the increase in player choice of how we play and pay for our games, even if those currently championing that charge (*cough* Epic) are only paying lip service to players.

I hope Daybreak can finally get their shit together enough to put out EverQuest III or rebirth EverQuest Next or… something. Anything really on the EverQuest front.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I want all the games! No, seriously, this is shaping up to be a big year for online games, with so many major expansions on deck and several games planning releases. It’s likely to be the biggest single year for MMO releases we’ve seen since 2015. My big hope is that they’re all decent and populated and that none of them winds up in the failboat bin come December. And that goes for the games I want to play and the ones I don’t. I want all winners. I want all of you to be happy in whatever MMOs you play, and I mean that.

I mean, a little drama on the side wouldn’t be all bad either, but can we keep it to the mild entertaining drama and not the giant trash fires maybe? Wouldn’t it be great if the “biggest disappointment” poll were petty complaints about class nerfs and the “biggest surprise” poll were early releases and extra QOL patches?

Oh yeah: And can we please get NCsoft to finish up the City of Heroes negotiations and make that all official so we can stream as a team again? I got some video game banks to rob. If I could have one indulgent thing in 2021, that’d be it.

Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX, YouTube): I cannot think of any MMO-related fears to be honest. I’m so confident that we’ll be seeing a very strong year. I do have a bunch of hopes though:

  • That I get access an early build of that League of Legends MMO. Riot pls.
  • I make or buy at least 1 PEN item in BDO.
  • Bring positivity to the larger MMO community through streaming MMOs
  • Get a chance to play Crimson Desert!
  • Convince the MOP staff to help me start a 100-person conga line in an MMO. How hard can the logistics be!?
  • Black Desert Online making GOTY 2021.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): I fear for crowdfunding this year. There feel like so few true success stories and the big projects have poisoned the well for so many that I worry other titles won’t get their honest, deserved shot.

Meanwhile, I hope that cross-platform play continues to expand. Not just because I want to play more games with my husband and his friend, but because this past year has shown how unnecessarily arbitrary such restrictions are. And MMOs are so much more fun when more people get to experience them together.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Generally, I would love for this to be a year of solid releases and growth in MMOs. A lot of stuff got pushed off until this year, and so I’m looking forward to a lot of releases, which I hope will be well-received and -constructed. Specifically, I want more communication from SSG and Daybreak about their games, at least one huge hit of a launch (expansion or new title), a few pleasant surprises, a resurrection of WildStar (a boy can dream, can’t he?), some engaging post-launch patches for Shadowlands, a legendary item revamp for Lord of the Rings Online, and an expansion announcement for Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Mia DeSanzo (@neschria): I fear that companies will continue running away from the MMORPG label and game structure in favor of smaller multiplayer and hub-based games. I fear that the new releases will be bland and uninspiring. The genre really needs a new hit, something to shine up its reputation in the eyes of the gaming public.

I hope this will be the year of break-out games. I want New World to succeed to help push the boundaries of game settings. I want to see games that get people excited. It would be cool to have a new game with both a compelling story and robust mechanics that allow players to develop their own approaches to solving problems, e.g. multiple ways to win hard fights, multiple possible solutions to puzzles. I know all that takes time and time is money, but if they are going to make a multi-million dollar game, they might as well make something good.

But I would settle for stellar writing in just one game in 2021.

Tyler Edwards (blog): I’m fairly hyped for both Magic: Legends and New World, so mostly I just really want those to be good. Not just good in terms of game mechanics (because I’m reasonably confident both will do well on that front) but also in terms of being game worlds that I want to set down roots in. I hope ML does justice to the depth of the MtG universe and isn’t just a mindless ARPG grinder, and I hope New World isn’t just an aimless sandbox whose only structured content is meaningless kill ten rats quests.

I have similar hopes that Overwatch 2 can finally do justice to the world Blizzard created with Overwatch. I hope it backs off on the forced grouping and lets us play the campaign alone and/or with bots, so I’m not constantly being spammed by impatient man-children telling me to skip all the cutscenes.

I hope Wolcen continues the positive moment it’s built with Bloodtrail, and I hope Iron Harvest continues its strong post-launch support and evolves into a real force in the RTS field.

I hope Anthem’s reboot breathes new life into the game, and that the community gives it an honest chance.

My main fears are twofold. That the continued popularity of PvP and sandboxes further incentivizes developers to give up on artistry and story-telling in online games, leading to a field choked with soulless murder arenas, and that the cynicism of the community continues to tear down any game that stumbles before it has a chance to recover and prosper.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!
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