Massively Overthinking: The biggest 2022 MMO trainwrecks (almost) nobody noticed

    
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As we wrap up our end-of-the-year and turn-of-the-calendar content until next December, there’s one more recurring Massively Overthinking I like to do – and that’s this one that makes sure we don’t leave any dank stones unturned.

See, as we’re debating our awards like “biggest blunder” and “stormiest future,” we put together one hell of a list of scandals and shenanigans the MMO studios tried to get away with all year. But there’s only so many awards. Most of those smaller dust-ups don’t get a mention.

So let’s do it now. For this week’s Massively Overthinking, let’s call out shady stuff that almost escaped everyone’s notice and didn’t manage to win any awards for blundering and disappointment. What were the biggest 2022 MMO trainwrecks that (almost) nobody noticed?

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): I’m still going with Niantic’s failures, particularly all the data manipulation used throughout 2022 (like with Community Day and the player recruitment scandal). The same year the company had major layoffs and shuttered multiple high-profile games, it also announced an NBA game and a Marvel game, not to mention its own “original” (i.e., Poor Man’s Pokemon) game. Clearly some bigwigs really haven’t been paying attention to how bad things have been going yet trusted the company with major brands. I have a feeling the Niantic trainwreck may have only started in 2022.

Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): I’m going to say the maintenance mod-ing of Red Dead Online as one that slipped through the cracks. It’s possible that not many noticed because there were so few players to begin with. I was struck by how un-fun RDO was after being completely enthralled with the single-player title. Despite using the same world and overall mechanics as Red Dead Redemption, the online version was just so bland and unfun. In hindsight, perhaps the lack of surprise is another reason that players read the headline and just thought “meh, saw that one coming.”

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): EVE Online really skated through one debacle after another in 2022, and none of them caught the broader MMO public’s eye individually or on the whole because of the game’s age and ensmallening size. I really only noticed how many fiascos the game had at the end of the year when going through every single article all at once. We had:

  • The time when Pearl Abyss (which owns CCP and EVE Online) told investors that it was researching “blockchain technology” for its games, including EVE Online. (It later backtracked to exclude BDO and then EVE from those plans.)
  • That time CCP’s Hilmar Petursson met with NFT tech hucksters at GDC and the EVE Online Twitter account retweeted it (and then deleted it after the ensuing uproar).
  • The time when Petursson had to come out with the “NFT stands for ‘Not for Tranquility’” statement clarifying that CCP had “no plans to add blockchain technology” for the global Tranquility server “for the foreseeable future,” which was such a weirdly specific way of phrasing it that it caused even more suspicion.
  • That time when EVE Online raised its subscription up to $20 (a 25% price hike) and raised the cost of PLEX packages by 20%, citing inflation. CCP devs privately blamed losses from the company’s pullout of Russia (which of course impacted every other western games company too, most of which did not raise their fees).
  • That time when past members of EVE’s CSM spilled many gallons of tea about CCP’s alleged mismanagement, poor consideration for the CSM itself, and “toxic” workplace.
  • Yes, we’re still going! Have you lost count yet?
  • The time when CCP sold Fanfest tickets to players under the promise of strict COVID precautions and then reneged, which led to a major outbreak as dozens of gamers contracted COVID during the ‘fest (we stopped counting around 80) – many of whom were then trapped on the island and unable to fly home and one of whom ended up in the hospital with COVID pneumococcal meningitis and sepsis (he’s apparently OK now). While downplaying the outbreak to journalists, CCP ferried food to attendees stuck in their hotels.
  • That time when CCP sunsetted basically all of its remaining online games except EVE Online: EVE Gunjack, EVE Valkyrie, and Sparc.
  • And who can forget the now-infamous “bargegate” situation, when CCP introduced an openly pay-to-win and economy-breaking barge pack for EVE newbies. The CSM immediately decried the move, which it had previously warned the studio about, and then a large group of current and former CSM openly declared the sale a serious breach of trust, followed by community members organizing a media blackout. Ten days after bargegate began, CCP capitulated – but not before raking in some dough and insisting that the packs were just a way of meeting new player demands.
  • Having learned nothing from these monetization schemes, CCP then tried some hand-waving with its “revitalized” multiple character training monetization proposal, which sparked another blaze of anger from players who pointed out it wasn’t a deal for multi-character players at all.

And that was just 2022!

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): The whole sad, sordid, and crappy saga of Destiny’s Sword. I’m pretty annoyed that this isn’t a bigger deal because it’s one of the biggest – and actual – crowdfunding rug pulls, especially since there were so many really good ideas tied to the project. I’m sure the devs working on the game did their best (as one of our readers was often reminding us), but that doesn’t really absolve the studio itself from fault, especially when their attempt to shift gears felt like they were trying to fly under the radar. Though I guess for the most part it worked.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): For someone who watches the LOTRO scene pretty closely, I thought it was really weird earlier this year when the game’s very public producer quietly left — or was let go — without acknowledgement by the studio until players and media pressed the issue. Considering that the producer got caught up in a rather nasty controversy early in the year concerning currency changes, it makes one wonder what really happened. In any case, SSG never did replace that role but said it’s expanding the team in other directions. Disappointing.

Sam Kash (@thesamkash): So I’ve got one that I was reminded about because of the MultiVersus copyright strikes against modders. Although the issue itself has been around for ages and isn’t isolated to this one game or even gaming itself. But these sort of crackdowns on players for basically being too excited about a game is ridiculous to me.

If players love your game enough to spend their own time talking about it, promoting it, sharing it, and then putting time into modding it, they should be encouraged. I like our games and our genre to keep growing in popularity.

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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