MassivelyOP’s complete 2022 awards debrief and annual recap

    
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As we did in 201420152016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021, today we’re going to recap our annual awards and other meta articles from the end of 2022.

We gave out 21 formal awards over the span of December 2022, in addition to our annual recaps, roundups, listicles, predictions, golden yachties, oddities, community discussions, and retrospectives. Per tradition, we delivered over 100 special articles headed up by Larry’s Mo art – Mo juggles about as well as most of us do.

Following our deep-dive into our awards, we’ll be collecting all of the end-year articles too so you can scoop up any you missed over the holidays. Enjoy!

MMO of the Year: Lost Ark (2022), Final Fantasy XIV & New World (2021), Final Fantasy XIV (2020), Elder Scrolls Online (2019), Final Fantasy XIV (2018), Elder Scrolls Online (2017), Black Desert (2016), Final Fantasy XIV (2015), Nothing (2014), Final Fantasy XIV (2013), Guild Wars 2 (2012), Star Wars The Old Republic (2011), Global Agenda (2010), Fallen Earth & Dungeons & Dragons (2009)

Community Poll: Guild Wars 2 (2022), Final Fantasy XIV (2021), Final Fantasy XIV (2020), Elder Scrolls Online (2019), Final Fantasy XIV (2018), Elder Scrolls Online (2017) Elder Scrolls Online (2016), Elder Scrolls Online & Trove (2015), Nothing (2014), Star Trek Online (2010), Runes of Magic (2009)

Years ago, we decided to include both new and old MMOs in our GOTY award so as not to discount existing live-service MMOs, but this year, we were able to award it to a new MMO – Lost Ark – rather cleanly, mostly on the strength of its massive launch and persistently huge playerbase. The readers sided with Guild Wars 2 by a hair, which I can’t be sad about because Guild Wars 2 was my own other pick, and it cleaned up no fewer than four other awards from us this year.

Best Expansion/Update: Guild Wars 2’s End of Dragons (2022), Final Fantasy XIV’s Endwalker (2021), World of Warcraft’s Shadowlands (2020), Final Fantasy XIV’s Shadowbringers (2019), Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset (2018), Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire (2017), World of Warcraft Legion (2016), Guild Wars 2 Heart of Thorns (2015), Guild Wars 2 April Feature Pack (2014), Guild Wars 2 Super Adventure Box (2013), RIFT Storm Legion (2012), Lord of the Rings Online Rise of Isengard (2011)

Community Poll: Guild Wars 2’s End of Dragons (2022), Final Fantasy XIV’s Endwalker (2021), World of Warcraft’s Shadowlands (2020), Final Fantasy XIV’s Shadowbringers (2019), Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset (2018), Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire (2017), World of Warcraft Legion (2016), Guild Wars 2 Heart of Thorns (2015), World of Warcraft Warlords of Draenor (2014), World of Warcraft Cataclysm (2010)

Guild Wars 2’s End of Dragons was a clear favorite among our writers, easily edging out WoW’s Dragonflight. Our readers agreed.

Most Anticipated: Soulframe (2022), Palia & Guild Wars 2 End of Dragons (2021), New World & Crimson Desert (2020), Book of Travels & Torchlight Frontiers (2019), Torchlight Frontiers (2018), Crowfall (2017), Star Citizen (2016), Star Citizen (2015), EverQuest Next/Landmark (2014), EverQuest Next (2013), WildStar (2012), Guild Wars 2 & WildStar (2011), Star Wars The Old Republic (2010), All Points Bulletin (2009)

Community Poll: Ashes of Creation (2022), Guild Wars 2 End of Dragons (2021), Ashes of Creation (2020), Pantheon (2019), Pantheon (2018), Crowfall & Shroud of the Avatar (2017), Camelot Unchained (2016), Star Citizen (2015), Camelot Unchained & Shroud of the Avatar (2014), Star Wars The Old Republic & Project Titan (2010), Star Trek Online (2009)

There were actually quite a few MMOs in contention for our most anticipated award this year; Digital Extremes’ Soulframe, however, was the one that came up with the most nominations. Our readers are more enthusiastic about Ashes of Creation and the Riot MMO, which itself is a surprise to me; I expected Blue Protocol and Throne & Liberty to fare much better.

Studio of the Year: ArenaNet (2022), ArenaNet (2021), ZeniMax & Cryptic (2020), Grinding Gear Games (2019), Grinding Gear Games (2018), ZeniMax & Square-Enix (2017), ZeniMax (2016), Square-Enix (2015), SOE (2014), SOE (2013), SOE & ArenaNet (2012), SOE (2010), Turbine & Fallen Earth LLC (2009)

Community Poll: ArenaNet (2022), ArenaNet (2021), Visionary Realms (2020), Square Enix & Cloud Imperium (2019), Standing Stone Games (2018), ZeniMax & Square-Enix (2017), ZeniMax (2016), City State Entertainment (2015), Cloud Imperium (2015), Blizzard (2010), Frogster (2009)

ArenaNet’s frequent roadmaps and communication with the playerbase stole the hearts of both our writers and readers for the second year in a row.

Most Improved: New World (2022), Elder Scrolls Online (2021), Black Desert (2020), Black Desert (2019), RuneScape (2018), Guild Wars 2 & Trove (2017), Elder Scrolls Online (2016), WildStar (2015), Final Fantasy XIV (2014), Final Fantasy XIV (2013), RIFT (2012)

Community Poll: New World (2022), Elder Scrolls Online (2021), World of Warcraft (2020), Final Fantasy XIV and No Man’s Sky (2019), Elder Scrolls Online (2018), Guild Wars 2 (2017), Elder Scrolls Online (2016), Elder Scrolls Online (2015), Final Fantasy XIV (2014)

New World was an easy win for this award, given its massive collapse post-launch in 2021 and its slow but steady comeback over the course of the middle and end of 2022 as Amazon improved the game significantly. The readers’ vote aligned with ours.

Best Business Model: Guild Wars 2 (2022), Guild Wars 2 (2021), World of Warcraft & Elder Scrolls Online (2020), No consensus (2019), Guild Wars 2 (2018), World of Warcraft & Final Fantasy XIV (2017), Guild Wars 2 (2016)

Community Poll: Guild Wars 2 (2022), Guild Wars 2 (2021), No Consensus (2020), Elder Scrolls Online & Final Fantasy XIV (2019), Guild Wars 2 (2018), World of Warcraft (2017), Guild Wars 2 (2016)

It’s difficult to argue with a free-to-play game with paid expansions and a wholly ignorable cash shop, which is likely why Guild Wars 2 took this award easily – from both writers and readers – once again in 2022.

Most Underrated: Elder Scrolls Online (2022), Elyon (2021), Star Trek Online (2020), Lord of the Rings Online (2019), Lord of the Rings Online & MapleStory 2 (2018), Black Desert & Secret World Legends (2017), Final Fantasy XIV (2016), Trove (2015), Elite Dangerous (2014), Neverwinter (2013), The Secret World (2012)

Community Poll: Lord of the Rings Online (2022), SWTOR (2021), Albion Online (2020), Lord of the Rings Online (2019), Lord of the Rings Online (2018), Secret World Legends (2017), Dungeons & Dragons Online (2016), Elder Scrolls Online (2015), Elite Dangerous (2014)

“Underrated” is always a contentious award; it’s inevitable that anything we choose will find detractors in the comments telling us the game is simultaneously overrated and bad, actually. In this case, we chose Elder Scrolls Online because in spite of having a decent year, it failed to take even a single award, which makes it the highest-profile underrated MMO. LOTRO won out among our readers, though of course, LOTRO is winning an award from us this year, so even those of us who love and play it wouldn’t really consider it underrated. LOTRO has also gotten the nod from our readers three out of the past five years.

Story of the Year: The Crypto Clownshow (2022), Blizzard’s Sexism Scandal (2021), Daybreak’s sale & COVID’s impact (2020), The Blizzard boycotts (2019), The Daybreak Columbus Nova Saga (2018), The Lockbox Debate (2017), The Death of EverQuest Next (2016), Daybreak’s Drama (2015), ArcheAge’s Drama (2014), EverQuest Next’s Reveal (2013), 38 Studios’ Doom (2012), Monoclegate (2011), Blizzard’s Real ID Fiasco (2010)

Community Poll: The Crypto Clownshow (2022), Blizzard’s Sexism Scandal (2021), COVID’s impact (2020), The Blizzard boycotts & Hong Kong mess (2019), The Daybreak Columbus Nova Saga (2018), The Lockbox Debate (2017), The Death of EverQuest Next (2016), Daybreak’s Drama (2015), ArcheAge’s Drama (2014)

Absolutely no MMO gamers want the crypto clownshow invading our genre. Go away.

Worst Business Model: Diablo Immortal (2022), Star Citizen & Crypto Scams (2021), Star Citizen & ArcheAge (2020), Star Citizen & Fallout 76 (2019), Star Citizen (2018), Star Citizen (2017), Star Wars The Old Republic (2016)

Community Poll: Diablo Immortal & Star Citizen (2022), Star Citizen (2021), Star Citizen (2020), Star Citizen (2019), Star Citizen (2018), Star Citizen (2017), Star Wars The Old Republic (2016)

When Diablo Immortal launched and tried to worm its way into our wallets (and bank accounts, college funds, and retirement savings), we were treated to an endless parade of stories about Blizzard and NetEase’s egregiously greedy moneygrubbing, hence this award. As I type this, Star Citizen and Diablo Immortal are neck-and-neck with the readership, followed by “anything blockchain,” which is also fair.

We note once again that this award is given from the perspective of MMO players and customers, not from the perspective of executives or investors making money from us.

Best Trend: Games Industry Unionization (2022), Games Industry Organizing (2021), MMO Console Ports (2020), The Rise of Rogue Servers (2019), Progression Servers (2018), Focus on Communities (2017), Content Scaling (2016) Resurgence of Expansions (2015), Sandbox Gameplay (2014), Sandbox Gameplay (2013); Best Innovation: SOEmote (2012)

Community Poll: Games Industry Unionization (2022), Games industry organizing (2021), The Demise of Raid-or-Die Philosophies (2020), The Rise of Rogue Servers (2019), Progression Servers (2018), Focus on Communities (2017), Content Scaling (2016), Resurgence of Expansions (2015), Sandbox Stuff (2014)

Let me put this trend into perspective: Between the time we nominated our winners for this award and the time it was published, two more groups had announced plans to unionize. This is far beyond “trendy” now; it’s a major shift in our industry. Our readers agreed.

Best Not-So-Massively Game: V Rising & Multiversus (2022), Valheim (2021), Genshin Impact & Animal Crossing New Horizons (2020), No Man’s Sky (2019), Warframe (2018), Warframe (2017), Overwatch (2016), ARK Survival Evolved (2015), Hearthstone (2014), Path of Exile (2013), PlanetSide 2 (2012); Best Mobile MMO: Arcane Legends (2012)

Community Poll: V Rising (2022), Valheim (2021), Genshin Impact (2020), No Man’s Sky and Path of Exile (2019), Warframe & Path of Exile (2018), Warframe (2017), Overwatch (2016), ARK Survival Evolved (2015), Hearthstone (2014)

There was no clear winner among the staff nominations, so we chose vampire survival sandbox V Rising and brawler MultiVersus to tie. Among the readers’ nominations, V Rising just barely edged out Valheim and No Man’s Sky – all of which are worthy picks, as Valheim and NMS have both won before.

Best Indie MMO: Zenith (2022), Ship of Heroes (2021), Albion Online (2020), Villagers & Heroes and Project Gorgon (2019), Project Gorgon (2018), Elite Dangerous (2017), Marvel Heroes (2016 – as “Best Popcorn MMO”)

Community Poll: Pantheon (2022), Project Gorgon (2021), Ashes of Creation (2020), Villagers & Heroes (2019), Dual Universe (2018), Dual Universe (2017), Marvel Heroes (2016 – as “Best Popcorn MMO”)

When we first ran nominations for this award, Albion Online took it, until everyone realized that Albion was sold in 2020 for $122M and really isn’t indie anymore. Fortunately, 2022 offered a plethora of smaller Kickstarted games making it to launch; of them, we chose VR cyberpunk MMO Zenith as the most worthy. Our readers, spurred on by Twitter urging, selected Pantheon.

Stormiest Future: Shroud of the Avatar and Richard Garriott’s New Game (2022), Blizzard & World of Warcraft (2021), Camelot Unchained (2020), Daybreak (2019), Chronicles of Elyria (2018), Star Citizen (2017), Star Citizen & WildStar (2016), Blade & Soul (2015), Star Citizen (2014), Elder Scrolls Online (2013)

Community Poll: Shroud of the Avatar and Richard Garriott’s New Game (2022), Blizzard & World of Warcraft (2021), Camelot Unchained (2020), Daybreak (2019), Star Citizen & Fallout 76 (2018), Star Citizen (2017), Star Citizen (2016), Star Citizen (2015), Star Citizen & ArcheAge (2014)

As always, we note that we’re not hoping for a stormy future but merely predicting one along the current trajectory, and this year, we singled out both Shroud of the Avatar (which has dodged accountability and suffered major rollbacks in 2022) as well as its original founder, Richard Garriott (who put his name on a crummy crypto MMO project this year). The reader poll agreed.

Best Player Housing: SWG Legends (2022), Elder Scrolls Online (2021), EverQuest II & Elder Scrolls Online (2020), Elder Scrolls Online (2019), RIFT & EverQuest II (2018), WildStar (2017), WildStar (2016)

Community Poll: Elder Scrolls Online (2022), Elder Scrolls Online & Final Fantasy XIV (2021), Elder Scrolls Online (2020), Wurm Online (2019), Elder Scrolls Online (2018), WildStar (2017), WildStar (2016)

We decided to allow rogue servers in this year because the best addition made to a housing system was by far in rogue server SWG Legends. I’ll just quote myself:

“I was tired of having to vote for inferior choices and pin this ribbon on games we all knew damn well weren’t the best, year after year. This has become a huge problem because modern AAA MMOs are just not taking housing gameplay seriously. But SWG Legends most definitely did take it seriously this year; not only did it finish out the Bespin apartments system it began last year (yes, non-instanced high-rise apartments in Cloud City), but it also added a brand-new farming and ranching system with the associated farm and ranch buildings – all new reasons to have and use housing in the game, if you needed more beyond vendors and storage and crafting. And all of this is being done in a free-to-play rogue server run by volunteers! For shame, AAA MMOs.”

The Elder Scrolls Online has once again inexplicably taken the reader vote.

Biggest Disappointment: SWTOR’s Legacy of the Sith (2022), Way Too Many Underperforming MMOs (2021), Torchlight III & the MMO Downshift (2020), The Cancellation of Peria Chronicles and the Decline of Guild Wars 2 (2019), Industry Employment Scandals (2018), The Sad Death of Marvel Heroes (2017), EverQuest Next & No Man’s Sky (2016), World of Warcraft (2015), WildStar & ArcheAge (2014), DUST 514 (2013), City of Heroes’ Sunset (2012), Star Wars Galaxies’ Sunset (2011), Aion (2009)

Community Poll: Diablo Immortal (2022), Blizzard/WoW and New World’s Launch (2021), The MMO Downshift/Lack of New MMOs (2020), The Decline of Guild Wars 2 (2019), Blizzard’s Diablo Immortal Mess (2018), The Sad Death of Marvel Heroes (2017), EverQuest Next (2016), EverQuest Next’s Silence (2015), WildStar & ArcheAge (2014), Final Fantasy XIV (2010), Aion (2009)

A lot of folks were disappointed in SWTOR’s meager Legacy of the Sith expansion; we’d been hoping for a renaissance, and we didn’t get it. For the readers, Diablo Immortal’s monetization just barely edged out SWTOR (Diablo Immortal had already won worst business model from us).

Biggest Blunder: Blizzard’s China Exit (2022), Blizzard & WoW’s Clownshow (2021), SSG’s LOTRO Fiascos (2020), Blizzard’s Bliztchung Fiasco (2019), Blizzard’s Diablo Immortal Bungle (2018), CCP’s VR Pullout & EVE Layoffs (2017), The VR Obsession (2016), Star Citizen Melodrama (2015), Dev Hubris – Multiple Games (2014), Elder Scrolls Online’s & WildStar’s Sub Models (2013)

Community Poll: The Crypto Clownshow (2022), Blizzard & WoW’s Clownshow (2021), SSG’s LOTRO Fiascos (2020), Blizzard’s Bliztchung Fiasco (2019), Blizzard’s Diablo Immortal Bungle (2018), The Death of Marvel Heroes (2017), EverQuest Next’s Cancellation (2016), Everything ArcheAge (2015), WildStar’s Endgame & ArcheAge’s Launch (2014)

For worst blunder, our writers chose the collapse of the Blizzard-NetEase partnership that shoved Blizzard out of China and is leading to the closure of all but one of its online games in the region. Our readers chose the crypto invasion, which of course took best story from us instead (and is a tad hard to read as a “blunder”).

Biggest Surprise: TERA’s Sunset (2022), The Revival of Fallen Earth (2021), The Microsoft/Bethsoft buyout (2020), The Revival of City of Heroes (2019), The Buyouts of Trion and CCP (2018)

Community Poll: Blizzard’s China Exit (2022), The Revival of Fallen Earth (2021), The Microsoft/Bethsoft buyout (2020), The Revival of City of Heroes (2019), The Buyouts of Trion and CCP (2018)

Alas, this year’s best surprise wasn’t a happy one: We pinned the award on the sudden sunset of TERA for western PC players. Our readers, on the other hand, chose Blizzard’s exit from China, which we’d selected for our biggest blunder, as it wasn’t really a total surprise (since Activision-Blizzard had telegraphed it at the earnings call and we’d had rumors about conflicts with NetEase all year).

You’re probably noticing a trend here: We choose our winners for the narrative categories (surprise, trend, blunder, story, disappointment, stormiest) together to ensure that no one story or concept wins more than one (because this would be pointless). We try to take the crop of biggest stories that get a lot of nominations along the way and then divide them among the awards so each one gets some attention. Our readers do not have the benefit of knowing that the thing they thought should win in one category has already taken a higher-ranking or more relevant award, which usually results in some comment carping.

Best PvP: Albion Online (2022), Albion Online (2021), Nothing (2017), EVE Online & Black Desert (2016), Darkfall (2009)

Community Poll: Albion Online (2022), Albion Online (2021), Nothing (2017), Guild Wars 2 (2016), Star Trek Online (2010), Runes of Magic (2009).

Here’s another example of an award whose posted nominations don’t tell the whole story. As noted earlier, Albion had actually taken our award for best indie by a landslide until we realized it needed to be disqualified as it’s not an indie anymore. Those nominations reinforced this game as the clear winner for best PvP, even though many of the people who voted for it for best indie didn’t actually nominate anything for best PvP (this is very common in the niche awards; many writers will skip the PvP and housing and crafting awards if that’s not their field of expertise). In any case, our readers agreed on the PvP crown for the second year in a row.

Best Classic MMO: Lord of the Rings Online (2022), Lord of the Rings Online (2021)

Community Poll: Lord of the Rings Online (2022), Lord of the Rings Online (2021)

Our award for best classic MMO is back for a second year, and LOTRO took it once again from both writers and readers – it’s much-beloved. As I type this, LOTRO hasn’t just scored a plurality with the readers but a majority with 65% of the vote. Indeed!

Best MMO Rogue Server: City of Heroes Homecoming (2022), City of Heroes Homecoming (2021)

Community Poll: City of Heroes Homecoming (2022), City of Heroes Homecoming (2021)

This award is for a player-run server or emulator that doesn’t attempt to compete with a live game but also isn’t formally sanctioned, and once again, City of Heroes Homecoming scored a blue ribbon from our writers and readers. I do notice that City of Heroes Rebirth has scored a whopping 442 votes as I type this, which is a shockingly high number for such a tiny server – about 21 times the number of people logged into it right now as I’m tallying. I assume it’s not the Rebirth folks responsible for this brigading, so don’t judge them harshly. The dank underbelly of the CoH emu community is unfortunately rife with petty drama and envy.

Best New MMO Class: Guild Wars 2’s Mechanist (2022), Black Desert’s Corsair (2021)

Community Poll: Guild Wars 2’s Mechanist (2022), Final Fantasy XIV’s Reaper/Sage (2021)

This award actually had a ton of contenders in 2022 as the MMO industry went all-in adding new classes, thanks in no small part to the release of GW2 End of Dragons and Lost Ark. Ultimately, our writers and readers sided with robots. As one does.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Final Fantasy XIV (2022), EVE Online (2021)

For the second year in a row, we’ve designated a lifetime achievement award to an MMO that’s made great contributions to the genre but hasn’t necessarily been recognized in the specific year. Final Fantasy XIV was an easy pick this year; without an expansion, it didn’t have a singular moment to score any awards, but it held its own in the face of new challengers and major content from its biggest rivals, and it remains one of the true gems of the MMORPG genre.

We do have a few awards we’ve given out in the past but didn’t this year; we might bring them back in the future, so here they are for posterity:

Best Crafting (historical)
Best Event (historical)
Best Music (historical)
Final Fantasy XIV (2020), Multiple (2019); Community Poll: Final Fantasy XIV (2020)
Best Character Customization (historical)
Black Desert (2020); Community Poll: Black Desert (2020)

And here are all of Larry’s graphics for posterity too!

So that’s a wrap on our awards for 2022; for those of you who missed other special content over the holidays, we’ve rounded up all our Golden Yachtie awards, our weirdest story series, our end-year feature columns, our monthly news recaps, our staff roundtables, and our favorite top tens and streams and screenshots right down below. Make sure you check out at least the biggest stories list, biggest surprises list, healthiest MMOs list, best updates list, the uncertain futures list (forthcoming), our predictions for next year, the big crowdfunding news, all the MMOs we’re watching in 2022, and the best-value MMOs!

2022 GOLDEN YACHTIE AWARDS
2022 WEIRDEST STORIES SERIES
2022 RECAP LISTICLES & ROUNDUPS
END-OF-2022 READER OPINIONS
END-OF-2022 STAFF ROUNDTABLES
END-OF-2022 COLUMN EDITORIALS
COMPLETE 2022 MONTH-IN-REVIEW SERIES
COMPLETE 2022 AWARDS SERIES
Are video games doomed? What do MMORPGs look like from space? Did free-to-play ruin everything? Will people ever stop talking about Star Wars Galaxies? Join Massively Overpowered Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce and mascot Mo every month as they answer your letters to the editor right here in Ask Mo.
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