Years ago, I did the first version of this yearly column in a one-off format in the middle of the year just because I thought of it and it seemed amusing to me at the time. That is one of the two modes I work in, so it’s not entirely surprising. But now here we are years later, and I always look forward to writing this one even though every year it prompts the same people who insist that a certain game is in no danger of shutting down, thereby missing the point altogether.
So, as I say every year (and this gives me a convenient segue into doing so, hooray), this is not a list of games with impending shutdowns. Far from it. If a game is living on borrowed time, that’s a pretty certain future, albeit a sad one. No, this is about games for which there is in fact some big question mark about the game’s 2023 prospects and what’s going to happen, and that’s interesting to think about. Something I am going to dive into… right from the first entry.
1. Final Fantasy XIV
So this is almost certainly going to by the first time since the relaunch that we’re going to be waiting more than two years for an expansion. That’s not a foregone conclusion yet, but looking at the Fan Festival schedules, I’d say that’s definitely what it looks like. And that’s not in and of itself a terrible thing for the game, but let’s also remember that Final Fantasy XVI comes out this year, and no matter what, that game is going to wind up being a referendum on Naoki Yoshida within Square-Enix – someone who has been granted ever-greater amounts of power and control based on a rockstar reputation.
Does that mean any of the above will be bad? No. It’s just uncertain. And it means that this year Final Fantasy XIV has a big question mark hanging over its head, so it’s going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out.
2. Elite: Dangerous
The luster on this one feels like it faded fast. I still look at this game with admiration for doing everything Star Citizen promises to do one year when they don’t devote thousands of hours to bedsheets, but Elite: Dangerous has been stumbling a lot lately, and each time it feels like the question is raised anew of whether or not the game can keep itself together and pull out of the hole it’s dug for itself. It keeps digging further. Maybe this year it digs up?
That’s not how digging works. Never mind.
3. EVE Online
My view of EVE Online has diminished over the years because I no longer get to talk with Brendan on a regular basis; he’s busy out there being a titan of design and friend to man and beast alike. He’s cool. But it means that I no longer have a counterbalance as often to my initial impression of this game, and this past year CCP seemed to just roll a natural one on every single thing that it did.
Now… on the one hand, EVE is such a singular entry in the MMO space that it seems weird to discuss it as if it could actually decay. On the other hand, lots of games looked like indisputable absolute bulwarks incapable of falling apart until they actually did. I don’t think that’s an inevitable consequence in 2023? But it’s starting to feel plausible.
4. World of Warcraft
Speaking of things that seemed like unassailable institutions right up until they didn’t, here’s World of Warcraft, a game that now appears to be on the part of its character arc where it insists to the townspeople that really, this time there actually is a wolf/the studio is listening to player feedback, but no one pays attention after the last several times. Shocking that a game that’s spent 13 years coasting downhill is finally realizing what that means, really.
Honestly, Blizzard is pretty transparently a mess and a half at this point, and it’s likely to get a lot worse before it gets better. You don’t need me to tell you that; you’ve figured it out by now, it’s not subtle. But that means that once again, I do not feel confident predicting what the heck happens this year. It’d be nice if it were something good, though.
5. New World
Look, I’m sorry, but when your business model is basically “we’re going to keep this money pit going because we’re not going to can another game yet,” you are not a great proposition for value. New World went through an intensely troubled development in which it basically seemed to keep changing from being what was initially promised into being something steadily different, and now here we are with the game having seen a slight resurgence that… also doesn’t seem to have lasted. How long until Amazon decides it’s not worth it? Will it last until Blue Protocol? I don’t know.
6. The Elder Scrolls Online
Why aren’t people over the moon about this title? It’s not that people don’t play The Elder Scrolls Online; it’s that out of the big five it’s the game that most seems to be there because it’s just solid all around. It lacks that passion and enthusiasm that gets people fired up, and that means that it kind of needs to get that spark again this year. That charge. That flash of excitement. That “wow, this is expansion-of-the-year material” verve going! It remains to be seen whether the roadmap reshuffle planned for 2023 will have the right effect.
7. Star Wars: The Old Republic
Did the team behind Legacy of the Sith not… actually know what it was releasing? I was actually buzzed for it, and then it just came out without significant content like a limp collapse completely failing to get any interest again. I don’t know what happens next for this game, and worse yet, I get the vague sense that not even the team behind the game knows what happens next. Losing the game’s long-time creative director didn’t inspire much confidence, either.
8. Fractured Online
Look, I don’t care if you think Fractured Online looks boring or disagree with the game’s basic design principles: The team deserves better than it’s gotten from Gamigo, which basically tossed the game out to see if it would be a hit with no promotion and then appears to have immediately lost interest. I don’t know what happens next for the game or the team, but both deserve better than what they’ve been saddled with from what amounts to predictable corporate shenanigans.
9. Ashes of Creation
Ashes of Creation is kind of like New Star Citizen on some level – a crowdfunded game that seems to have a development pipeline dedicated to validating Zeno’s paradox, forever getting more done but somehow never substantively getting any closer to release. I feel like we’re starting to reach the point where people expect to either have some material improvement shown to the game so far or interest is going to waver, and I think it’s also an open question which will happen.
10. Guild Wars 2
Wow, weird how many of the Big Five are on here, huh? But I feel like Guild Wars 2 has an interesting road ahead of it this year. It had a very good expansion last year that delivered a lot of things players had long wanted, and then it brought back a lot of archived content that frankly hurt the game by its absence since it meant that the game seemed oddly hollow in places, plus we know the studio is working on another distant expansion. So… what now? Where do we go from here? Bringing in Season 1 was nice, but it feels like it forestalled actually answered “what happens for the future,” and that answer is going to determine the character of 2023 for the game.
11. Mortal Online 2
I kind of want this one to do all right. On the one hand, box price plus subscription is probably good for a niche title that knows it’s a niche title and wants to select against the people who are going to be turned off by that. On the other hand, it’s a niche PvP gankbox title, and those basically inevitably have some serious churn problems. So it’s complicated dot jpeg.