Massively Overthinking: Hopes and fears for MMOs in 2023

    
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As 2022 drew to a close, we spent our Massively Overthinking roundtables discussing our predictions for 2023 as well as our goals. Now, we’re going to talk about our hopes and fears for MMOs and the MMO genre in the year we’re now five days into. Our predictions piece, of course, is made up all the stuff we think will happen, whether we like it or not. This piece, on the other hand, encompasses all the things we’d like to happen to the MMO industry along with the things we’re super worried about in 2023. Let’s get at it!

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): Going wild here. I fear SWTOR won’t be picking up much steam, but I’m hoping private SWG servers will add content inspired by The Mandalorian, focused on NPC bounty hunting with new mechanics. Maybe we’ll get some Andor references and spy stuff too.

In a similar vein, I’m hoping to see more progress on the Asheron’s Call private servers. “Dekarutide” made some interesting sounding changes, but small tweaks would probably be better at holding the community together, as I don’t expect anything short of a graphics overhaul to really bring in new players.

I’m hoping for fewer Kickstarters and more MMO announcements that are further along in development and made by people who not only played MMOs but understand the current landscape, especially now that social media’s reflected the genre’s policing pitfalls and has maybe surpassed the genre in tackling them.

I’m hoping Blizzard’s clownshow ends and that Overwatch 2 gets the PvE mode people expected, but I fear the former will be outright wrong and the latter will be disappointing and over-monetized/grindy.

Niantic will continue to suffer blows against Pokemon GO from players. I’m hoping the free part of the Hoenn Tour in February will bring Kecleon and won’t feel overstuffed like past tour events. I’m hoping that towards the end of the year Gen 8 will be properly introduced with its starters and Dynamaxing will come, possibly with gym changes, as that system really needs to be spiced up (maybe something more PvE oriented and support stalking attempts less, if not outright stopping it).

Crowfall will not be making a return this year, but I do hope the code and data will be released so players can make private servers, which is more than I expect from Star Citizen and Chronicles of Elyria, which I fear will continue to disappoint, but I truly hope I’m wrong.

Andy McAdams: I hope that WoW continues its positive trend and continues to build a game for more than the hardcore cupcakes. Dragonflight has been such a fun experience with so many design changes that I’m hopeful they’ll keep going. This might be a bit of a weird one, but I hope the metaverse can start to be like the Oasis from Ready Player One and can divorce itself from the grifters with NFTs and crypto scams. I hope that we get a new game out of left field that completely blows our socks off and kicks off a renaissance in MMO gaming.

I fear that WoW will backslide, as organizational and strategy change is hard and its so much easier to keep doing the things that aren’t working, even when you know they aren’t working. I fear that we’ll go through another year with just the “Big 4” occupying most of the headspace. I fear that NFTs aren’t dead yet because a grifter never knows when to stop when he is playing with someone else’s money. I fear we’ll go through yet another stagnant year in MMOs when it’s the same gameplay loops with a different paint job — as it has been for the last 20 years.

Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): I hope that classics like LOTRO and STO keep plugging along. I hope that ESO’s new content strategy shakes things up enough to make things interesting again. I hope for a massive EVE battle of some significance.

I fear that World of Warships will continue pumping out new ships to sell to the detriment of balance and gameplay.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): My hopes and fears are always pretty simple and probably the same. I want the genre to do well, I want MOP to keep truckin’, I want to see less toxicity, I want to see more MMOs made and launched and succeeding, and I want to see all of the crypto scamming go away. Also, I want the games industry to unionize. Like, not just QA teams at a few studios. It shouldn’t keep falling to the least-privileged workers to be the only ones fighting this fight.

As for fears, it’s really the opposite of that. I always fear that we’ll lose more MMO treasures. And lately I fear that more people will fall for blockchain swindling.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): I genuinely, fervently hope that unionization efforts balloon and spread like wildfire across the games industry as a whole, not just in MMORPGs. The people who make the games we enjoy deserve to be treated with respect, dignity, and fairness, and the tech sector entirely has gotten well out of hand.

If I had to share a big fear for our genre, it’s that NFTs will actually make active inroads into our genre. So far we’ve been winning, but victory can lead to complacency, and as the past year has shown us, greedy techbros don’t sleep. Or stop.

Mia DeSanzo (@neschria): I am going to keep it simple: I hope there are some smooth launches of interesting new games. We are overdue a solid new offering with broad appeal. It might to be too much to hope the genre gains a ton of relevance in the market.

I am afraid of the opposite.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): Oops, apparently during my son’s illness I missed predictions for 2023, so these might have a bit of predictions flavor in them. My fear is that even the pretense of innovation in MMOs will be cast off this year as no one wants to really challenge “the winning formula” that isn’t winning much of anything anymore. Same old, same old will be what we get this year. I also fear that even fewer games will offer real massively multiplayer gaming. Heck even MMORPGs like SWTOR are aimed at solo play in all their newest content, which freaking sucks for folks who choose MMOS because they want companions and hate solo play. Speaking of SWTOR, I predict that it will struggle to release more than five hours of new content over the entire year. At first I was going to say it certainly won’t surpass 10, but I feel even that is being too generous; I am still expecting SWTOR to hit full maintenance mode or complete shut down in 2023. But can a new Star Wars MMO enter the scene? I’d like to see this.

As for hopes, I hope I am wrong! I really do want to see more non-solo game play, as well as something different. At this point, I really hope to find something like Stray in an MMO. Forget playing as humanoid races right now; I want to play as animals. Or plants. Maybe stars waging battle in galaxies across the universe. How about an MMO with wolf packs? Or Legend of Bambi where we are all forest critters? Watership Down the MMO? Lemmings? I feel like gaming is in a rut and my desire to play is in a rut, so I do want something different that is more fun-based. Party Animals isn’t even out and I already want an MMO add-on where I can be a plushy, living a plushy life, with all my plushy friends. OK, I hope for more huggable games – sounds about right. I also really really want more MMOs that involve investigative gameplay, diplomacy like games (a la Vanguard), stealth missions, and other meaningful non-combat gameplay.

Sam Kash (@thesamkash): I really hope some of these upcoming games deliver a somewhat solid PvP experience. I’m not asking for it to be perfect or even perfect for me. It just needs to be flexible and not overly demanding of players. A big part of that happening is going to be a team that isn’t afraid of making big changes really quickly. That might be totally nerfing and breaking builds, making massive changes to the PvP modes, and even admitting that the original expectations were wrong. I’m thinking about the Riot MMO but maybe also Ashes of Creation if it ever releases.

Something I’m worried about would be that Microsoft actually does have to abandon its purchase of Activision Blizzard. While I don’t love monopolies, I also really don’t think Blizz is going to be able to right their ship on its own. I also really hate the way Sony has been pushing players back into the mindset that exclusives are a positive for the industry. I’ve seen way too many posts of people poking fun at how great Sony exclusives have been and how few good ones Microsoft has had. Microsoft has really moved away from that in large part, and I think that’s why we see so few.

Tyler Edwards (blog): I hope that New World will continue its recovery and keep pumping out quality updates. I fear that its population will be bled by content droughts, or that it will start to lose what made it unique as it continues trying to expand its audience.

I hope that Blue Protocol will launch strong and be another good contender within our genre, and that for once they don’t half-ass the English translation. I fear it will be another case of an import title where I enjoy the gameplay but can’t connect with its story and setting.

I hope ESO’s new direction leads to some new innovation in its design and actually draws me back to the game. I fear it will just continue to keep putting out more of the same old, same old.

I hope Corepunk finally launches, or at least gets an open beta, and that it turns out to be an interesting game. I fear it will continue to languish in development hell, or that it won’t be worth the wait.

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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