All right, so let’s start with the disclaimer that I put right at the start of this article every single year, which at least one fanboy ignores every single year to yell angrily in the comments about how game X isn’t going to shut down in 2022: This is not a list about games that are imminently at risk of shutting down. Some of them might be, but that’s not what the point of this list is or ever has been. Rather, it’s about games with uncertain futures, ones where things could go very well or very poorly and we don’t know which.
The thing about uncertainty is, well… it’s uncertain. You can tell a convincing story wherein good things happen or a convincing story where bad things do, and the usual indicators aren’t there. Heck, even the obvious break points aren’t there many times. I can definitely tell you that Guild Wars 2 will be in a bad way if everyone somehow turns out to hate End of Dragons, but the existence of the game and its expansion is known thing that’s going to determine the next year. With the MMOs on this list… who knows what the new year will bring?
1. World of Warcraft
Look, when a game wins our stormiest future award, that’s generally not a sign that things are going well for the title. Blizzard’s ongoing scandal has had an immense impact on literally every title that the company operates, but this is doubled in the case of World of Warcraft which had, for various reasons, not been doing super hot even before the scandal broke in the middle of the year. I made a joke at one point that if you got tired of being mad at Blizzard about being a terrible company, you could go right on to being angry about terrible design decisions, and… that hasn’t really changed, has it?
All of this is made worse by the fact that the official line for dealing with player discontent appears to be functionally sticking the company’s collective head in the sand and chanting that everything is fine, which means that ultimately this next year is going to come down to whether or not anyone admits there’s a problem… or the denial continues. We both know which one of these has a chance of positive outcomes.
2. Elite: Dangerous
Uh… welcome to the list, guy. We’d prefer you weren’t here, but… Odyssey. Every single thing that’s happened with Odyssey. Seriously, if you want a textbook example of how to take a promising game with a bright future and suddenly murk it up, Odyssey has been exactly that, and it makes me really unsure if the title is going to iron out these problems or be stuck with them through all of 2022 and watch itself falter.
3. New World
I don’t see Amazon giving up on New World. Not out of love or anything; I just don’t think the company sees the title as a loss it can take at this point. Unfortunately, the game is also struggling with retention, balance issues, design issues, player reception… basically, it feels like a big new MMO. These things are not entirely unusual.
The question, then, is whether or not these issues get ironed out and New World starts to push back, or if like many other titles its launch year was its big one in the sun and now it’s going to slowly drift out of prominence and into the second tier of releases. And that… is hard to be sure about!
4. Book of Travels
Oh, this one hurts. I think it’s a given that basically everyone working here loves the ideas behind Book of Travels and wants it to be successful, but at the same time, when people aren’t sure what they’re supposed to be doing in your MMO and feel off-put by it… that’s not a good sign. When you lay off 71% of your staff right before the holidays, that’s an even worse sign. I’m hoping this one pulls things together, but I worry there’s not enough gas left in the tank.
5. Embers Adrift
Meanwhile, this is a particular title that I had low hopes for even before it rebranded and cut ties with the big names behind it at launch. Things have not gotten less weird since its sudden rebranding and all that, and I wonder what the heck is coming next with a title that I still worry has fundamentally misread the general MMO audience in the year 2022 of the common era. But you can’t say it’s boring to read about, at least.
Oof. So when Crowfall launched we were all happy because hey, new game launching and it’s a Kickstarter title. But that launch was more like a wet flop to the ground, followed by diminishing numbers, followed by layoffs, followed by the just-before-the-holidays reveal that ArtCraft was basically cutting it loose and handing it to someone else with the hope that maybe those guys can make this work since we certainly can’t. I have absolutely no clue what happens from here. I don’t know whether it’ll be revitalized, stripped down, built back up, improved, or left to limp along in maintenance for a bit before shuttering. Not a clue in the world.
7. Camelot Unchained
Speaking of Kickstarter titles… eventually, you need to put up or shut up. This is a game that has been sadly mired in controversy for a while, not helped one whit by the sudden reveal of a second game developed using the same engine back in 2020, also not helped by said second game seeming to make approximately zero impact upon its early access launch. Like… seriously… none of this is a good look. None of this makes me think that yeah, things are going well here.
For the record, I want to be wrong and I want this year to be when the game (games?) moves into a new stage of beta and attracts some players and puts a lot of the controversy to bed. I want that to be the case. I am… really worried it will not be.
8. Star Citizen
“It’s not a Ponzi scheme; it’s a genuine effort to develop a video game that increasingly looks like it morphed into a Ponzi scheme almost by accident” is not what I would call a stable foundation to build the future on. I feel like this game should get whatever the opposite of a lifetime achievement award is for this stuff.
I will, however, note that I don’t agree with the people who predict this game pivoting to NFTs. Seriously, how does that enrich the developers any more? They’ve got a stable payment loop set up already; bringing in another scheme to facilitate more doesn’t benefit them in any way.
Speaking of launches that landed like a wet thud, folks, let me introduce you to Elyon. Once a game I was personally looking forward to, it managed to systematically strip out most of the things that made it look unique and interesting and replace them with the most generic nonsense possible. And now… now it’s here, and no one seems to care, and it has an uphill battle to make itself relevant. I don’t know if it can manage it. I don’t know if this one can rise up into that coveted “not runaway hit but stable” strata of games.
10. Legends of Aria
Signing on to sell your unsuccessful game to a cryptocurrency “metaverse” company? How could this possibly go wrong? Like, I don’t know if a shutdown is in the cards here, but absolutely nothing good is in the cards for this title now. It’s kind of a bad sign when the best-case scenario is that the NFT hucksters who bought the game in the first place are just wildly stupid about the reach and influence that the title in question hands and will quietly pump and dump it. Good work serving your community there, guys!
Personally, because this involves crypto nonsense, my hope for the future of this game involves people eating earwigs while crying. That’s not a euphemism or hyperbole. I realize that it’s unfair to the earwigs in question.
11. Overwatch 2
Look, a holding pattern is fine. It is, broadly speaking, fine to put your live game into a gentle maintenance mode because you’re working on the sequel that still ties into the aforementioned live game. What is not fine is when you then get mired in a scandal and the whole thing winds up delaying your game so that that maintenance mode gets extended even further, because suddenly it looks like you abandoned your live game for nothing. Congratulations, Blizzard, you did it again.
I just don’t even know any more.