Massively Overthinking: Our MMO predictions for 2023

    
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Nobody can see the future, but it sure is fun guessing, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do for (to?) the MMO genre in this end-of-the-year-themed Massively Overthinking. I’ve asked our writers and readers to prognosticate on what we expect from the genre in 2023 – not what we wish will happen, but what we think will happen, ideally in a way that doesn’t lead to excessive embarrassment. Though if it does, we’ll laugh about it come December of next year! Join our roundtable for our MMO predictions for 2022…

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): I’m going to mostly stick with Not So Massivley games for this one, aside from Orna: The GPS RPG, which will continue to update its art, mechanics, and surprise us with player-inspired classes, specializations, weapons, and pets. Maybe even new GPS content will come out.

Since it was on my watch list last year, I feel like I need to comment on Overwatch 2, which I think will finally get its full PvE mode towards the middle or end of the year. Part of me thinks it’ll still be too late, but smaller companies have made comebacks. If FFXIV can do it, OW2 can probably do it, if Blizz does it right. I don’t think WoW will be so lucky this year though.

I want to be positive, but realistically, I have zero expectations from Daybreak, Star Citizen, and Chronicles of Elyria. Again, wanting to be positive but I think Crowfall isn’t making a major comeback to even its “glory” days, if it really ever had them.

I think Splatoon 3 will try to balance between Big Run and traditional Splatfests, but I think the former will end up turning some players off since the PvE is very much a skill check, but we’ll also get TableTurfBattles (the card game) online, possibly without needing an expansion pack.

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet will announce their own expansion that will bring in not only new paradox pokemon (which we know about) but more former pokemon, particularly the Kanto Starters which aren’t currently available in-game. I sincerely believe the current multiplayer bugs will be fixed and those who have lasted will have fun hunting paradox ‘mon in the end-game area(s), though we’re still not that much closer to a Pokemon MMO- the best we may hope for (aside from spin-offs) is for the series to become more Monster Hunter-esque.

I think Niantic will sadly sunset Pikmin Bloom before the year ends. Peridot may launch and may not be canceled since it’s an in-house IP, much like Ingress, which continues to, uh, exist. The new NBA game will be fine enough, but the Marvel game will either fail to launch or fail to make a big enough splash. A new Nintendo promotional game will pop up, and maybe Nintendo will be able to help make sure this one lands better than Pikmin did. Pokemon GO will be on Generation 8 proper before the year ends, and Niantic will be unprepared to make it as memorable as the Gen 3 release, despite the fact that it signals their worse fears: running out of premade main game series content. I expect Niantic as a whole to continue to be disappointing, both in gaming terms and PR/community relations terms.

Andy McAdams: Blizzard continues with its not-great, not-terrible improvements of WoW, and Dragonflight becomes to the first WoW expansion in half a decade to achieve levels of the “Okayiest Expansion.” Overwatch 2 continues to find every rake in existence to step on while remaining completely oblivious to its self-inflicted wounds; Diablo Immortal loses steam as the fickle Chinese market moves on to new things, while D4 launches with a series of groan-worthy design choices that my great-aunt Ethel could have called out as bad ideas (but everyone plays it anyway because Diablo).

New World continues its steady climb, flying mostly under the radar.

Guild Wars 2 continues to grow and be successful, but not really innovating or changing its formula – proving yet again that managing to not faceplant is a mark of excellence in the MMO space.

Star Citizen continues to sell absurd amounts of things that don’t exist even in-game while the game continues to tout how hardcore is because of its absolutely asinine user experience. It will also continue to enjoy its army of stans willing to protect the poor defenseless multi-million dollar company from the great evil of commenters on the internet.

In the wake of NFT and cypto collapse, the techbros will latch on ChatGPT as second coming of web 3.0 that will change the gaming industry by synergizing and reticulating those spines to build cross-functional collaboration native the web 3.0 evangelists. MassivelyOP email will be drowned under a tsunami of self-proclaimed gurus and “world-renowned” companies generously offering to provide us an interview about how smart they really are about the ChatGPT thing.

Microsoft, Epic, and Roblox will lean into the metaverse space in big way, taking lessons learned from Facebook’s abject failure in the space.

The MSFT-ATVI acquisition will get stalled in court, and while it won’t completely disintegrate, it will be 2024 before it closes

Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): Blizzard, noting the nostalgia for legacy versions of its products, will begin shipping overstocked DVDs of the original Overwatch, branding it Overwatch Classic.

Amazon, noting the synergy with its Rings of Power series, will purchase and distribute Lord of the Rings Online. All future expansions will be set in the past, allowing players to session-play as a sword-wielding Galadriel and visit Elrond’s library when it was little more than a floating shelf containing a couple of Percy Jackson novels and a squishy dwarf stress reliever.

Star Citizen will pioneer a new revenue stream: NFTs of NFTs. Players rejoice. The game makes another quintillion dollars.

World of Warships will introduce six new ways players can spend money on the game without removing previous coin sinks. I will write a column about it. Warships players will defend Wargaming in the comments.

Elder Scrolls Online finally breaks from its year-long content cadence but announces that future releases will bundle the story into two-year storylines because that will be twice as fun. Pete Hines shocks everybody in June when he announces that the new system to be released in Q4 is actually TES6, included as a minigame within ESO. Even Todd Howard’s head explodes.

Lost Ark ends abruptly when, out of nowhere, a teenager from Athens, Georgia, finds the ark.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I’ve got a few!

Lost Ark and World of Warcraft , and New World will all announce console launches for the end of 2023.

New World will finally come up with a monetization plan that is sustainable; I’m banking on optional subscriptions built around seasons.

World of Warcraft will also announce Cataclysm for WoW Classic coming by Thanksgiving, but WoW will continue to lose subscribers over the course of the year anyway.

Diablo IV will be a major mess at launch. Diablo Immortal will hit maintenance mode.

Dual Universe will pivot hard to the blockchain. Bluehole will relaunch TERA as a P2E monstrosity. Fractured will never move on from early access.

ArenaNet will announce Guild Wars 2’s next expansion, but we won’t actually see it until the end of 2024. The next living story season will be epic.

NCsoft will announce its collab with Amazon to launch Throne and Liberty in the west.

ArcheAge 2 will delay into 2024.

Lord of the Rings Online will announce a Grey Havens expansion.

Blue Protocol will be the sleeper hit of 2023.

Some famous name we haven’t heard from in a while will show up and try to Kickstart a new MMORPG.

All the games that tried to inject NFT garbage in 2022 will get their comeuppance next year as the genre continues to mock them mercilessly.

Roblox will announce Roblox 2. (It has to be spending all that money on something.)

Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX, YouTube, Twitch): Overwatch 2 will get its PvE mode, and folks that like it will stay, and everyone else will find flaws for it. I know I’m being really general about it, but that’s usually what happens.

I think WoW will do great for those that enjoy of. And finally the Diablo series will gain traction with Diablo IV. Be ready for login issues!

I think it’ll be a quiet year for Amazon as it continues to build on New World.

Guild Wars 3!?

Stormblood will become part of the FFXIV free trial. Deep dungeons. At least one news outlet is going to cover the brothels in Balmung.

The untitled Runeterra MMO finally gets a name, we see some key art, and maybe even the most basic of the basic gameplay. I’m probably going to push for this MMO for most anticipated MMO of 2023. Third time’s a charm.

At least one member of the ESO staff will get into some form of trouble for trying to read one of The Elder Scrolls.

It’ll be a normal year for Daybreak.

Another $300 ship for Star Citizen, and it pulls a Fortnite and accidently becomes the metaverse we’ve been waiting for.

Black Desert and Lost Ark will do fine. I worry we won’t see much more of Swords of Legends Online, and it will sunset.

Kickstarters are soooo 2015. Don’t know if we’ll get any worthwhile Kickstarter MMOs.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): The Microsoft deal will go through, and things will probably not change after maybe a month or two after the fact.

Kickstarter will probably shrivel in the MMORPG space, while games that started off on the platform will maybe make some greater strides towards launch (except Star Citizen).

Mobile gaming will continue to grow and sophisticate despite everyone’s haranguing and harumphing.

And our genre shall march on as online gaming and worlds continue to be the norm of “regular” games.

Colin Henry (@ChaosConstant): Guild Wars 2 will have another good year next year. Not as good as this year, but better than the year before. The Living World will finally continue the story of End of Dragons, filling out the map of Cantha with Southern Echovald and the Eastern Jade Sea. The macguffin will be Taimi and Joon searching for a new power source to replace dragonjade, but their search attracts the attention of a new baddie from the Mists or something. This season will come with some new strike missions, a new one about once a quarter. We won’t get much info on the next expansion, though, apart from some teases toward the end of the year. There will also be no mention of a new game from ArenaNet.

New World will settle into a comfortable release cadence this year. It will never draw anything close to the numbers it had at launch, but it will hold closer to where it has been since the new player experience and fresh start servers. And that’s OK. Late in the year we will get a revamp of the higher levels similar to the one for the lowbie experience we got this year. I’m also expecting a business model shift. We will definitely see “convenience items” like XP boosters in the cash shop, maybe a premium subscription that gets you a cash shop stipend and some quality-of-life features like slightly boosted XP, reduced fees, free fast travel, that kind of thing.

The Elder Scrolls Online just announced that it is cutting back on story content this year in favor of quality-of-life and “one of the most requested new features.” I’ve gone back and forth in my head a lot about whether this will mean the game is simply declining and its fans will be disappointed or it means it will finally make a big splash with something like a combat overhaul with a new weapon type or two that shakes up the stale meta. I’m choosing to be optimistic and predict the latter. I’m thinking spears and/or magic tomes. But I wouldn’t bet money either way.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): Amazon has spent a year working hard on New World, but moving into 2023 it becomes clear that it’s just not enough… and the dam starts to break. Without a significant source of additional income it just wasn’t going to persist this way, and the game starts to find itself lower on the priority list and getting smaller updates, which in turn makes it harder to attract people to the game. That being said, with Amazon’s bankroll this sort of slow decline can take a while, so it’s hardly dying by the end of the year.

Lost Ark loses more people and steadily drops out of notice, although the players who are there remain loyal and there seems to be no real risk of the title shutting down.

World of Warcraft follows up its routine of “we’re changing, really” throughout 2022 by… actually changing in 2023, in incremental but noteworthy ways. Cross-faction guilds are opened up during the year, for example, and cross-factional chat becomes a normal thing outside of War Mode. Players gain access to some useful deterministic gear options in patch 9.1, and the Trading Post is pretty well-received as a good way to encourage people to play more. While people still don’t trust Blizzard through the year and there’s grumblings and continued insistence that the game needs more, it really does feel like WoW is being run better than it has been in a long while.

Final Fantasy XIV continues to Final Fantasy XIV. Players are happy with the game, and the next expansion is announced in July as part of the next fan festival. While it’s clearly a bit slower than in previous years, the game knows what it’s doing and keeps fans and industry onlookers impressed. Controversies come up every so often, but they’re generally minor.

Square-Enix never does launch those NFTs it promised. No one is surprised. The corporate ghoul side of the company outside of Creative Business Unit III continues to corporate ghoul, just in case you were starting to think that the whole company was good or something.

Blizzard keeps kicking the Overwatch 2 PvE can down the road throughout the year while trying to intimate that it would happen sooner if people would just play the existing game. I’d give even odds that project is quietly scrapped and Overwatch continues its freefall. The studio as a whole remains mired in a negative light.

Guild Wars 2 announces its next expansion toward the end of the year while cautioning players that it’s not going to be early in 2024, but it’s still looking good. The studio generally keeps its head down and plugs away at updates and improvements, although its ongoing content for End of Dragons feels a little weaker and gets called out as such. Some people argue that everyone’s standards are a little skewed after the Icebrood Saga.

The Elder Scrolls Online finally gets a year in which everyone is impressed with its expansions and it generally gets its buzz going. After years of the whole game feeling like it’s a functional thing no one is paying attention to, it gets over! This is a good thing. Of course, some of it getting over is coupled with people noticing parts of the game that have never worked very well, so, you know. Swings and roundabouts.

Star Citizen’s total money brought in continues going up and the number of people still willing to carry water for the complete lack of meaningful progress continues going down. Squadron 42 does not so much as enter testing; on the off chance it does, it is beyond underwhelming even without the development time taken into account.

Blue Protocol launches in the late summer/early fall in the US after slowly pulling in more eyes during its beta testing. A lot of people dismiss it as anime junk and/or a slightly higher-rent Tower of Fantasy, but people playing insist it really isn’t, and player creativity and a surprisingly well-spun story help elevate it over time. It’s a solid enough launch that keeps picking up steam and has the people who like it (including me) continually arguing that it’s one of those good games people are sleeping on.

Black Desert continues to kind of hover. It’s not that updates have stopped, but the buzz seems to have slowed down, and the game itself doesn’t seem to inspire the fervent devotion it once did. Even its new classes kind of land with a thud. No disasters, but it increasingly feels like its place within the big five makes it more like the big four with Black Desert gamely trotting along behind, urging everyone to wait up.

EVE Online does at least one catastrophically stupid thing and sinks more money into projects that aren’t going to go anywhere. It is not looking good after 2023.

Crowfall does not return. At least one Kickstarter MMO shutters this year. Most of the ones that do make the news do not do so in any fashion that they would like.

Daybreak continues its relentless streak of not actually getting any project it plans to anything approaching a launch state. Its games continue to receive updates, but it’s still hard in the “make more money from existing players rather than trying to onboard new people” mode.

At least one sunsetted title gets a surprising new rogue server that inspires a lot of talk from the MMO community as a whole.

Book of Travels does not have a bright future in 2023, and it honestly would not surprise me if we see it bid farewell.

NFT games continue to pop up, utterly fail to catch on, and then quietly fading while the next one shuffles up like this time, this time, it’s going to work. No one feels bad when they fail to except for the financial speculators trying to push them. Richard Garriott does at least one interview about his that goes hilariously badly for him.

A new MMO is announced that makes everyone pause and stare in confusion with a “wait, what?” Whether that is a good or bad sort of confusion remains to be seen.

John Smedley’s project for Amazon is canned. None of the other projects in the “we’re watching but we don’t even have a name yet” category get names or any reason to expect they’re really truly going to happen.

Something big happens with the CoH rogue servers. Either really good or really bad.

People get very anxious when I post a WRUP specifically homaging Simon & Garfunkel’s “A Most Peculiar Man” and then go completely silent for a week.

Sam Kash (@thesamkash): This year we will finally hear that the full follow-up to WoW is in development. Will it be a sequel or just some kind of new game that gives you some legacy loot like GW2 did from the OG GW? Well I don’t know, but we’ll see. My money’s on the latter.

New World will continue to improve and even become a game that players who want to play its PvP without spending 100+hours will actually be able to. Lost Ark will continue to do much better than I can even understand.

Guild Wars 2 will get a new Living World scenario that adds aliens and creatures from outer space.

I’m going to actually play ESO enough to get to the PvP area. The new expansion is going to tie in to the new Elder Scroll 6 main game. It will shock and amaze.

Eastern MMOs are going to land in an even bigger way. Blue Protocol is really amazing and quickly becomes one of the top 5 games.

I’m currently most looking forward to the mobile Harry Potter Magic Awakened game. I wasn’t expecting much from it when I first heard about it, but the more info and videos they release, the more excited I am. I just didn’t expect it to be much of a real MMO, but the videos have me hopeful.

Tyler Edwards (blog): As with the previous two expansions, WoW Dragonflight will enjoy a few months of honeymoon before public opinion turns against it, though people may not sour on it as hard as they did Shadowlands.

Overwatch 2 will launch its PvE content, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see it delayed further and/or scaled down compared to what was originally announced. Its reception is mostly positive, though it draws some criticism for being a Left 4 Dead clone or otherwise unoriginal. Between that, long delays, and general Blizzard malaise, it fails to make a huge splash in the genre. It does earn enough fans to justify continued development, however.

New World follows a similar content release pattern to last year. Light at first, with a bigger patch in summer, and a huge update in fall — maybe a paid expansion, maybe just another big free patch. I heard a rumour aways back that the next zone is a forest area north of Mourningdale with an emphasis on Ancient lore, and I’m gonna say that rumour proves accurate. The next new weapon is the paladin-style flail and shield strength/focus weapon everyone’s been asking for, and I am delighted. We might also see daggers before the year’s end. Mounts and transmog will arrive, and I will repeat last year’s prediction that mounts will come with some sort of associated grind that proves mildly controversial. Overall, the game remains a comfortable mid-tier success.

Guild Wars 2 spends most of the year releasing a Living World season, which receives mixed reviews. We get an expansion announcement late in the year, with a release date in mid-2024.

Lost Ark will continue to chug along nicely and perhaps begin to be counted as one of the “big five,” replacing Black Desert.

Blue Protocol will see a launch delay, possibly into 2024.

We’ll see some progress out of the Palia and Corepunk camps, but no launch dates.

The TSW table-top RPG will miss its 2023 launch date.

RIFT and Shroud of the Avatar will sunset.

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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