Working As Intended: The hits and misses of MassivelyOP’s 2021 predictions


Last year’s MMORPG predictions didn’t exactly go to plan, since in 2019, we weren’t really expecting 2020 to play out the way it did. But at the end of 2020, we actually did have a pretty good idea how 2021 was going to look in terms of the gaming industry being somewhat OK in spite of COVID, at least in terms of production. So did we actually make the right calls?

Per tradition, I’m going to loop back through our 2020 predictions for 2021 and see how we did. Join me!

Blizzard’s MMOs

Andrew:Overwatch 2 will surprise quite a few of us.” Does the surprise of being heavily delayed count?

Andy: “Hazzikostas will lead the WoW in ‘two steps back’ that inevitably follows its “one step forward.” Shadowlands is fairly well received, so now is the time for it to misinterpret large swaths of data and determine that Raiding is the Future (for real, this time) and quadruple down on the raid-or-die mentality.” Welp.

Andy: “Blizzard will release a battle royale set in the Shadowlands.” Surprisingly, not yet.

Bree: “I don’t expect much out of WoW Retail at all, save an expansion announcement toward the end of the year, but I do think we’ll get confirmation of Burning Crusade Classic at BlizzConline, with a launch planned before summer. I kind of think we’ll see WoW Console announced this year too.” Score on Burning Crusade Classic, but Retail missed its announcement window for the first ever, and nothing on console either, yikes. Yikes for Blizzard, not for me.

Eliot:World of Warcraft Shadowlands starts to cool on the hype once it becomes clear that while the expansion is worlds better than BFA, the endgame is a bit undercooked once you actually get there. Unfortunately, the team still thinks that the solution to this is more raiding and pushing that harder… but this time, the push back actually gets traction. There are rumblings of leadership changes and different people stepping into roles as a result of player dissatisfaction. Some actual optimism is in place by the later half of the year, even if the expansion itself continues in the ‘unexciting, but fine’ vein.” Man, Blizzard should’ve gone with Eliot’s plan. We were all significantly less concerned about Shadowlands at the start, clearly.

Tyler: “We will get a release window for Overwatch 2, which may or may not be in 2021 itself.” No hard window, and investor calls make it look much further off than anticipated.

New World

Bree:New World will actually launch rather well, but I also expect Amazon will need to scramble afterward to keep players happy.” You might say that.

Colin:New World will delay one more time, then launch to moderate success.” Twice more, as I recall.

Eliot:New World launches to good reviews and Amazon being totally unprepared for that fact. It’s actually fun, and you almost immediately get flailing promises of more after the studio had never planned for an MMO-sized success like the one they’re clearly sitting on.” Bingo.

Sam:New World’s going to release too. It’ll be worth playing for a couple of months.” Fair.

Tyler:New World may or may not suffer yet another delay, but it will launch at some point in 2021. Despite Amazon’s best efforts, it will be a bit content light at launch, drawing criticism. However, strong underlying systems will be enough to keep it going, and aggressive post-launch support will see it improve with time, ultimately becoming a bit of an MMO redemption story similar to Elder Scrolls Online.” All of this is fair, and for Amazon’s sake, let’s hope redemption happens.

Guild Wars 2

Andy: “ArenaNet will start a slow, painful crawl back from the edge of the abyss. We get more information about End of Dragons, but End of Dragons will suffer delays due to multiple re-orgs within ArenaNet and we won’t actually see it until late 2022.” It did suffer a delay, but only to February, and it hasn’t really been painful as it’s seen great quarters.

Bree: “I’ll say Guild Wars 2 End of Dragons is a triumph, but the year leading up to it is a bit of a drag. I almost want to say it’ll be delayed to 2022, but honestly they don’t delay that much, so I doubt it.” Shoulda gone with the gut, Royce.

Colin:Guild Wars 2 End of Dragons will be a good, solid expansion, and a lot of people will return to Guild Wars 2 to play it. It won’t blow anyone’s mind, but it will be on par with Heart of Thorns and Path of Fire. EoD will add no new class, no new race, but will add new elite specs for each class and a new mastery that won’t be as game-changing as PoF’s mounts, but will add something that’s fun and useful throughout the game. It will contain three new raids, a new set of legendary armor for each armor type, a handful of new strikes, and a couple of new fractals, which roll out over the course of several months. The final boss of the last raid will reveal that the ArenaNet game director position was a mesmer illusion all along.” Of course, it was delayed, but Colin scored huge on content here.

Eliot:Guild Wars 2 winds up slipping its next expansion until very late in the year, maybe even falling to 2022. Still, player excitement is much higher than it has been for a while, especially as one big marquee feature for the expansion involves housing as players had long dreamed of.” C’mon Anet, where’s our housing?

Sam: “ArenaNet will announce they have a game director… haha kidding. But Guild Wars 2 will be chugging along nice and healthy. We might even see a boost in the playerbase when the expansion arrives.” They finally did! It’s weird but welcome to see it healthy again.

Tyler:GW2 will launch End of Dragons, and it will draw praise from the GW1 nostalgia crowd but receive a lukewarm response otherwise.” No launch yet, but what we’ve seen is driving serious hype.

Guitar solo!

Final Fantasy XIV

Bree:Final Fantasy XIV Forspoken will top even Shadowbringers in terms of mainstream approbation.” We still thought it’d be called Forspoken. That’s cute.

Eliot:Final Fantasy XIV announces its fourth expansion and players are thrilled. It launches in early August due to the existing delay. While it’s not Shadowbringers (nothing could be), its two new jobs are well-received and the game continues in its vein of being highly competent, beloved by fans, and generally fun. There are rumors about a follow-up by the end of the year, maybe a screenshot or two of the game supposedly coming after Final Fantasy XVI.” Just missed the delays!

Elder Scrolls Online

Andy:ESO will announce they are dropping support for PlayStation because eff those guys who don’t use Xbox. The latest story arc in the game will be fine.” Still working on PlayStation! Blackwood doesn’t seem to have lit the world on fire.

Bree: “I’m going to be hopeful and predict that [Elder Scrolls Online’s Year of Oblivion] actually does better than the Year of Skyrim, but not as well as the Year of Morrowind.” We don’t know for sure without numbers, but it sure didn’t get much buzz.

Eliot:The Elder Scrolls Online, to everyone’s surprise, really flubs its next expansion year. It shouldn’t, especially after 2020 failed to quite connect, but it still happens. It’s a blip, not a crucial failure, but it’s very clear that the more the game tries to mine out old content the more it gets stuck with diminishing returns.” Fair. A blip, not a mortal wound.

Tyler:ESO will start to see its reputation begin to tarnish a bit as it continues to play it safe with consistent but predictable content updates that fail to move the game in new directions.” A lot of us are clearly concerned about this.

Daybreak’s MMOs

Andrew: “The Daybreak purchase will mean ‘better’ news in the sense that the house won’t be on fire, but it may also finally get torn down and sold off piece by piece.” Surprisingly not yet. They’re gonna milk it.

Andy: “Daybreak will announce the next installment of the EverQuest franchise, but it won’t launch for years and people will grouse about ‘too little, too late.'” Strange we now have more info on the Marvel MMO than on this.

Bree: “I fully expect EG7 to start announcing games under the Daybreak banner, starting with something for EverQuest.” Well, the Marvel MMO at least, though it wasn’t much of an announcement.

Eliot: “Daybreak manages to put out promises of a couple new games, neither of which really wow anyone outside of the folks devoted to Daybreak. They’re both years away, though.” They promised jack-all.

MJ: “The new Daybreak overlords Enad Global 7 will make a bold move. Will a new true member of the EverQuest franchise finally be born? Or will it all go up in flames? Whichever, it will be bold!” How about ousting the CEO and replacing them with Daybreak’s CEO and then stealth-revealing a Marvel MMO, DCUO expansion, and LOTRO on console? Daybreak will always be Daybreak.


Eastern MMOs

Andy: “The hype-machine for Crimson Desert will reach Star Citizen levels, ensuring that whatever the game ends up being, it will be unable to live up to player expectations.” Interestingly, Crimson Desert did next to nothing but delay.

Bree:Elyon will make only a small splash.” Another unhappy hit.

Bree:Lost Ark will finally arrive in the west carrying the Amazon flag.” Delayed, unfortunately.

Bree:Crimson Desert will […] launch and do respectably well, though CD won’t top BDO for retention.” Nope, delayed.

Chris:Crimson Desert will launch on the PlayStation 7.” Yes this was a joke. But no launch anywhere!

Eliot:Elyon releases to notable and sizable praise. Seriously, no one expected much for it by this point, even me, but the game is solid, fun, and playable. People are calling it a real sleeper hit.” Awww.

Eliot:Crimson Desert continues to have kind of confusing messaging around its multiplayer vs. single-player aspects, but when it launches people praise the multiplayer side for doubling down on sandboxy stuff since the straight story is all much more segmented.” Still no launch, but the messaging is definitely confusing.

Eliot:Black Desert […] continues to be well-received and hum along rather nicely.” Had a quiet 2021, but fair.

Eliot:Blue Protocol gets a US beta and it winds up being an exceedingly niche title, but that niche really likes the heck out of it.” Where the heck is Blue Protocol?

Eliot:PSO2: New Genesis turns out to be enough PSO2 to please current players, but still basically more of the same and thus not able to quite attract as many new faces as Sega would have wanted.” Totally fair.

Sam:Crimson Desert is queued up for a big one. I think this will be the game we’re still talking about come 2021 rewards.” Pearl Abyss is dragging its feet instead.

Sam:Black Desert’s Shadow Arena will shutter.” Bizarrely, it’s still technically up. Who knows why?

Gamigo’s MMOs plus ArcheAge

Andrew:ArcheAge 2 will reveal some cool stuff that appeals to the original PvP crowd prior to the US/European release.” Still very little about this one.

Eliot:RIFT gets new content! It’s only decent, but hey, new content!” Close – it’s coming next year, supposedly.

MJ: “A new ArcheAge rebranding or relaunch happens. Of course, you have to buy it separately.” You gotta give this one to MJ, since Kakao’s relauched the game just last week.

Sam:ArcheAge is going to straight pop by allowing some kind of transfers between Unchained and the other version. That, or we’ll see an expansion called ArcheAge Unchained: The Binding.” Not yet!

Kickstarter MMOs

Andrew:Crowfall will finally come out, but the long development cycle will make it less of a bang than perhaps a bark.” Yep.

Andy:Camelot Unchained will spend another year in launch limbo, but Jacobs will continue to send out weekly progress emails that everyone appreciates but no one really understands.” And the whole refunds thing…

Andy:Crowfall will launch to moderate success.” Sigh.

Ben:Star Citizen will begin selling entire planets (starting price $600) enabling players to establish their own oligarchies, dictatorships, and empires (all available in a future release).” Ouch.

Bree:Crowfall [will] launch and do respectably well.” Nope.

Bree:Camelot Unchained will not launch, but Final Stand Ragnarok will.” Well, FSR did slink into early access.

Bree:Elite Odyssey will be a buggy mess but will still manage to poach players from both EVE Online and Star Citizen, putting a marked dent in the latter game’s crowdfunding.” Definitely a buggy mess.

Chris:Elite Dangerous’ Odyssey expansion will slap Chris Roberts awake from his Alice in Wonderland caterpillar-like smoke fog for all of a month.” I think we all hoped for more from both games this year.

Eliot:Star Citizen continues to Star Citizen and gets no closer to anything even pretending to be a launch.” Predictably.

Eliot: “At least one Kickstarted game completely collapses once again.” More than one.

Sam:Crowfall will really release too! It might be… a little late but it’ll be here. If they can get the performance issues for the large battles under control, it’ll be a contender.” Layoffs say otherwise sadly.

Sam:Camelot Unchained will drop the NDA. This time I’ll be right!” No idea what they’re doing over there honestly. I remain as bewildered as you guys.

Tyler: “People will keep giving Star Citizen money, for some reason.” Seriously, though, stop giving Star Citizen money. They are paying investors dividends. They are not a charity. You are paying for mansions, not funding the holodeck.

Other games

Andrew:Fortnite will still look like the Super Smash Bros of the battle royale genre, but I’m not sure it’ll be able to draw in older players after spending so much time focusing on kids and that fight with Apple.” Fair.

Andrew: “2021 is when Animal Crossing will finally give me back gyroids, the funky musical clay dolls that freak out some people but make me melt.” Direct hit. This happened in November!

Andrew:Pokemon GO’s COVID changes and Go Beyond Update will make it oodles of money.” It did, but not as much money as selling our data, so it spent all year undoing all the good changes it made. Ahem.

Ben: “Some Star Wars game somewhere will figure out another Mandalorian tie in.” You know it.

Bree: “I will wind up back in LOTRO farming happily.” That happened.

Colin:LOTRO will have a better year in 2021. (It kinda has to, right?) The Gundabad expansion will be successful, and restore some of the goodwill they lost this year. All of the long-time players will complain about the new class, but play it anyway because it’s new. A new legendary server will launch in the summer.” It was definitely better than 2020, though reaction to Gundabad has been a bit mixed.

MJ: “Grapeshot crumbles as Atlas sinks. The hype train of ARK 2 speeds down the track with very little to show development-wise.” It’s baffling that they’re still working on Atlas, but it chugs on.

MJ:Conan Exiles launches Isle of Siptah, and either a new map or an expansion of the current Exiles of Siptah map gets announced.” Conan actually did get a bit of love this year.

MJ: “Funcom’s DUNE game enters early access. The spice will flow.” Funcom missed its timing here, what with the movie and all.

MJ: “One new title is announced that becomes the next ‘I CAN’T WAIT!’ — but you’ll have to because it will be slated for far, far in the future with plenty of time to overhype so it can’t possibly meet expectations.” Palia fits this bill, maybe?

Sam:Albion Online’s mobile update, including fully Google Play release will pop – for sure.” That happened!

Tyler:Magic: Legends will launch to reviews that are mixed but lean favorable. Like Cryptic’s core MMOs, it will find a comfortable niche as a modestly successful mid-tier title.” RIP.

Tyler: “We’ll hear more about Anthem’s reboot, but it won’t launch, though we may see some large scale beta tests.” RIP. Damn, could you guys stop killing Tyler’s games, thanks.

Industry stuff

Andrew: “Improbable, the company whose platform was supposed to revolutionize the industry, still won’t have a released MMO in the wild.” Yep. But it did make some noise.

Andrew: “We may get 1 or 2 VR MMO announcements, but much like 2020, the tech still won’t be used to innovate as much as make current norms more immersive.” Does metaverse dithering count?

Andrew: “Mobile gaming will continue to eat into the console and PC markets, especially as we get more cross-platform play, which will also attract MMO players because we love big worlds.” Indeed, several larger MMOs hopped to mobile this year.

Andrew: “We’ll see signs of Epic and Apple coming back together, but probably not all at once.” Not yet; the post-lawsuit appeals are just getting started.

Ben: “We will continue to see major gatherings and announcements in an online space, as studios have learned that effectiveness is not affected by non-physical gatherings.” Yep!

Ben: “Twitch will continue to dominate, but smaller competitors will begin to pop up.” Maybe next year?

Colin: “Battle royales will decline in popularity, with the bubble bursting and a bunch of BR games shutting down, but Fortnite will continue to be a major player.” All fair. Battle royales got older faster than MOBAs did.

MJ: “In-person conventions will resume by the end of fall — even if it is just one crazy studio/group who want to get ahead of the game.” There’s always someone willing to risk your health over video games!

MJ: “The survival genre will slow down even further, but one new title will surprise everyone. Does Blizzard jump on the bandwagon? At least two small survival titles will go into maintenance or shut down completely.” Definitely it’s slowed down.

MJ: “Rogue servers get a big boost in acquiring legitimacy in certain circumstances.” We’re still waiting on NCsoft here.

Sam: “I also think we’ll see more traditional PvE games come out or announce. So many years it’s be a ton of “old school, hardcore PvP” style games. 2021 will be the year for PvE.” Can you think of anything that fits the bill? How about SOLO?

Chris: “The MOP Golden Yacht will finish its final engineering phase and become a golden airship, which we will name The Indefatigable.” Needs to happen.

The MMORPG genre might be “working as intended,” but it can be so much more. Join Massively Overpowered Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce in her Working As Intended column for editorials about and meanderings through MMO design, ancient history, and wishful thinking. Armchair not included.
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