End-of-Year Eleven: The biggest MMO stories of 2021


As the year that was 2021 comes to a close — raise a glass, give a toast, and perhaps think of a few fond memories of the months bygone — we want to put a bow on the year and tidy things up before we turn off the lights and leave the room. Dang, that sounds a bit glum, but you get the gist!

This past year churned out piles and piles of MMORPG news, some exciting, some trivial, and a few far more noteworthy than all of the rest. As such, let’s go on a last tour of the biggest MMO news stories to come out in the past 12 months, shall we?

Turns out esports are terrible.

The Blizzard scandal, lawsuit, and fallout

A reckoning years in the coming finally crashed upon Activision-Blizzard this past summer, bringing with it cringe-inducing accusations of discrimination and abuse, a lawsuit by the state of California, ousted executives (including J. Allen Brack), multiple protests, the start of a union, boycotts, deflections, and far more drama than this year could handle. Instead of being a story contained to a week or a month, this huge mess kept rolling through subsequent months, picking up more developments along the way.

Riot and Ubisoft also deal with sexism lawsuits

Blizzard wasn’t the only MMO studio in hot water this year for its reprehensible work environment. Riot Games continued to be on Nixon’s enemy’s list thanks to a class-action lawsuit citing discrimination, a troubling accusation of sexual harassment against its CEO, and government investigation into the studio’s wrongdoings.

Ubisoft as well has continued to weather an ongoing sexual harassment lawsuit that spread across many of its studios — and stirred employees (those who weren’t fleeing, that is) to demand that the corporation change its ways.

Burning Crusade Classic arrives

Once again, we were not prepared for WoW Classic’s popularity as the legacy version of the game progressed into The Burning Crusade this past June. The launch generated a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for Classic, which was followed up by patches and a “Season of Mastery” fresh start servers.

New World’s big launch — and its messy wake

By the time New World arrived, we couldn’t ignore the signs that this was going to be an MMO launch on a grand scale, with hundreds of servers and hundreds of thousands of players crashing through the gate. And while Amazon’s first MMO received a lot of praise and excitement, it also stumbled, tripped, fell, smashed its face into every pie it could see, and generally juked from one crisis to another for the remainder of the year.

Daybreak confirms it’s working on a Marvel MMO

While we had strong suspicions that Jack Emmert’s Daybreak group was working on a Marvel MMO, EG7’s investor report in November finally confirmed this as fact. The company said it’s working on a “Marvel IP-based massively multiplayer online game,” which is all we needed to start speculating on what this could be like and when we might see it.

Amazon cancels its highly anticipated Lord of the Rings MMO

With the rise of Amazon as a game studio and the promise of a new Lord of the Rings TV series, there was a lot of hype behind a new MMO that the company was helping to develop. Alas, Hobbits and Ents everywhere were let down as the project was officially cancelled this past April.

Magic Legends is abruptly cancelled in early access

In the end, even a hugely popular fantasy IP and a successful MMO studio wasn’t enough to assure an instant hit with Magic Legends. The ARPG went into early access later this year, where it languished before Cryptic unceremoniously pulled the plug and fired a lot of people working on the project. It was a crushing blow, indeed.

Gamigo cancels, loses, and adds MMOs to its library

Gamigo had a wild year full of ups and downs (but mostly downs). The company started the year by canning several of its live games, including Defiance, Defiance 2050, Eden Eternal, and Twin Saga. Then it lost ArcheAge to Kakao, which took over as publisher. Finally, the studio ended the year by announcing that it had acquired Fractured as an upcoming title. Crazy!

Yes, this is one of the few cases wherein EA kinda gets to be the good guys.

BioWare effectively puts an end to Anthem’s future

BioWare’s dreams that its scifi looter-shooter Anthem would topple — or at least give serious competition to — Destiny 2 guttered and flamed out this year. Back in February, the studio announced that not only was it nixing the “Anthem Next” overhaul, but it was putting the live game into maintenance mode.

Fallen Earth returns for the sheer joy of it

Little Orbit made several post-apocalyptic fans happy when it decided this past fall to resurrect Fallen Earth in a “classic” form — after two years — while it continued to work on an overhaul to the buggy and janky title. While it was a small title, the resurrection of a long-dead MMORPG was a reason to rejoice… and perhaps hope that it would happen to other deserving titles.

World of Warships drives away a lot of its content creators

One of Wargaming’s more popular titles did its utmost to drive away free publicity this year, thanks to a series of blunders that alienated its content creators and angered players. As our own Ben Griggs reported, “At this point, Wargaming seems content to continue to take chances on aggressive monetization tactics and ask for forgiveness if it doesn’t work out. But perhaps that’s all part of the strategy.”

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten usually takes an MMO topic and divides it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. And per tradition, we’re cranking this column up to eleven with our annual special features in the End-of-Year Eleven!
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