End-of-Year Eleven: The Biggest MMO Surprises of 2022

    
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Hey. I got a ball.

All right, 2022, you are officially no longer allowed to surprise us any more because we’re doing the end-of-year thing now and that means it’s time to return to the End-of-Year Eleven! One extra entry and all sorts of crazy crap that happened over the year because this way we can all vent our surprise and disappointment in a way that doesn’t end with anyone brandishing anything, much less saying certain things that we can never take back in the heat of the moment.

You don’t want to know what happens behind the scenes here when we are handling our year-end content. It gets wild. I still have the scars from 2019.

Regardless, this was a year full to the brim of surprises, some of them pleasant, most of them… less so. So let’s take a trip down memory lane and look at all of the things that surprised and (in a few cases) delighted us over the course of 2022, or at least the bits that managed to be most surprising. Maybe you were more surprised by something else, like the time you saw a bird drop a fish on your car. I don’t live your life.

Among all the many, many ways you are terrible.

1. Microsoft buying Activision-Blizzard

Following Activision-Blizzard spending 2021 making every bad decision possible and then finding some new bad decisions to make, somehow we wound up with the stock price being low enough for Microsoft to decide “hey, maybe we’ll just buy that outright.” Unlike some people, the company did not offer far too much money and then try to back out before ruining everything Activision-Blizzard does. Of course, that’s also because the merger has yet to go through and Activision-Blizzard seems to be working overtime to ruin everything it has before the merger finishes, so…

Actually, I don’t know where I’m going with this one. Every part of this one is bad. I’m so tired. What a miserable year.

Mature, intelligent decisions.

2. Blizzard loses China

Hey, remember back in 2019 when Blizzard decided to take a sledgehammer and blowtorch to its reputation for the first time with the whole Blitzchung fiasco? Pepperidge Farm remembers. That’s not really related to the fact that the studio’s longstanding arrangement with Netease fell apart for everything aside from Diablo Immortal but it does make that fact deeply funny, although it’s not really funny ha-ha.

There are a lot of rumors swirling about why this happened, but it went from rumor to reality very quickly, and it’s really surprising how quickly the whole situation collapsed. Not how anyone expected the year to close out.

You just... keep doing your thing, Strong Mad.

3. World of Warcraft: Dragonflight in 2022

Jeez, how many of these are going to be about the same company? How many surprisingly dumb things can you do in one year? A lot, actually, but we’re stopping at three and this one is actually sort of not-dumb. Like, it looked to all indications like World of Warcraft was going to miss its expansion cadence this year, but we’re throwing Shadowlands out to the land of wind and ghosts as quickly as possible and hoping that the third expansion since Legion actually lands.

You can read my impressions of the expansion this week, but I’m writing this early. Good job staying just above a 50% rate of good expansions if that turns out well! If it turns out badly, sad airhorn noises should go here.

We can buy things too!

4. Sony buys Bungie

Isn’t it great how the increasing consolidation of entertainment under an ever-smaller number of megalithic entities is accelerating? Are you excited? I’m excited. (I am not excited.) That being said, bringing Bungie in-house to Sony might seem like an odd move, but consider how Microsoft has already been on a buying spree perhaps it’s to be expected. Bungie has looked at the console war from both sides, now.

Shame, shame, shame.

5. Richard Garriott’s new crypto “game”

So with Shroud of the Avatar’s developers dodging all accountability for investments, Richard Garriott announces his involvement with a new NFT project, and then promptly includes the same people who are currently keeping SotA on life support. This is very odd considering how hard the man seemed to endeavor to distance himself from the game once it launched straight into the ground. But the good news is that this new project lost its website after it was up for two days?

I don’t know. I’m sorry. None of these are great surprises and we’ve got more not-great ones coming up. It gets better, I promise. Do not give this project your money, though.

Not the problem.

6. Elyon shuts down

So after Elyon rebranded from Ascent: Infinite Realm and systematically removed everything that made that project look interesting, my interest sort of tanked. But I still assumed that the game had a future because… well, look, you don’t pour all that time and all those resources into a game just to toss it in the bin after like a year, right?

Never mind, I guess you can. This was just such an egregious misfire on so many levels, but it was still a surprising and sad ending.

Oh no.

7. TERA shuts down

Speaking of surprising and sad endings, TERA left us. TERA. I’m not going to pretend that I was a huge fan of the game, as I definitely was not, but this was another case where the game seemed to be on stable footing and it had been running for years. And then all of a sudden it was just pulled aside from its console version, and I can’t imagine that one is exactly long for this world either. It’s always sad when one of the mid-tier games in the industry sunsets, and this really hurt.

Especially when its big finale quest wasn’t ever localized. I didn’t even play the game and I’m miffed about that.

Well, all right.

8. Embers Adrift launches

All right, some surprises this year were good. This is one of them. Whether or not you’re the target audience for Embers Adrift, it definitely did not seem like the title was in a good place after the development team split with the initial founder and it rebranded. Couple that with being a crowdfunded title and it’d be easy to assume that the game had no realistic path to launch.

But it did! It launched! You can play it now! Sure, there are questions to be asked about the size of the audience and its long-term future, but the point is that it is actually out and playable. That’s good!

Oh, this is still a thing!

9. Blue Protocol is finally launching

Here I go, here I go, here I go again. Girls, what’s my weakness? Cel-shaded anime-style MMORPGs. The first step is admitting you have a problem, although it would perhaps be more accurate to say I would have a problem if versions of these that weren’t super shallow titles with characters taking the place of classes actually launched.

After a year of relative silence it was easy to believe that Blue Protocol was going to go the way of Peria Chronicles and get quietly nixed, but instead it looks like the game is coming out in the not-too-distant future in Japan and there are already announcements of some localizations. Nothing on the US yet, but it seems like it’s in the cards. That’s a nice outcome! Please be good.

It makes sense, given the context.

10. New World rallies

Things did not go well for New World last year once the momentary sheen of “at least it’s something new” wore off and people started to actually experience what the game had to offer. However, rather than quietly letting it languish in the Forgetting Box like every other project Amazon has launched, the game’s developers really worked hard and tried to improve the game over the past year. It’s nowhere near reclaiming more than a fraction of the people it lost last year, but progress is progress!

WHOOSH

11. MultiVersus finds an audience

Sorry, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, looks like you really were just an inert lump after all. It turns out that the answer to the question of “who wants to see Shaggy, Black Adam, Rick Sanchez, and Bugs Bunny fight” is “a lot of people” and so MultiVersus has actually done all right for itself. How often has “we have a lot of properties we own, let’s make all of them fight” worked for anyone other than Nintendo?

No, Marvel vs. Capcom doesn’t count. Capcom had to license those Marvel characters. Now we just need MultiVersus to gift us with some dank memes.

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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