Today marks the midway point of 2012 – and what a year it’s been already!
We’ve picked out what we think are the top 10 MMO headlines for the first half of 2012, arranged in order by general importance and “wow factor” – which is not to be confused with “WoW factor.” We’re totally and completely sure you’ll agree, but if you don’t, let us know in the comments below!
Sorry, The Secret World fans, but we’re counting the launch as happening on July 3, which means it doesn’t make the cut. Maybe next time!
1. 38 Studios Disintegrates
Few stories grabbed the headlines in 2012 like the sad saga of 38 Studios. For a brief time, it seemed like there was a new disaster every day coming out of Curt Schilling‘s doomed game company, which was working on an MMO in the Amalur universe, codenamed Copernicus.
First it was a visit from the governor of Rhode Island… then rumors of missed paychecks… then a shocking release date announcement… then a flythrough trailer… then some screenshots… then, all of a sudden, *poof*… it was all gone.
We likely haven’t seen the end of this yet, nor do we know all the answers. Some lawsuits have already been initiated, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see more coming. And there’s a chance that Copernicus could still live on, if someone ponies up the $20 million or so it’ll take to buy the IP from the state of Rhode Island.
In the meantime, a lot of people are out of jobs and the state of Rhode Island is out about $100 million. Oh, and Schilling describes his own finances as “tapped out.” Somehow, this all seems like it’s going to get uglier before it gets prettier.
2. ArenaNet Announces Guild Wars 2 Release Date
The game was originally reported as launching in “late 2009,” and while that was so far off as to be laughable, once the game was confirmed for 2012, all sorts of dates seemed to pop up. There were the jerseys (6/28), GameStop’s overeager promotions (6/26), and more.
But, as we were told time and time again, no date is official unless it comes from ArenaNet – leading this writer, at least to check and double-check and verify that the 8/28 date was from a legitimate source. In some ways, I’m still not sure it’s real…
3. SWTOR’s Slide
Perhaps expectations were unrealistically high, maybe there wasn’t enough endgame, or maybe the parade of voiced cut scenes wasn’t enough to mask the gameplay shortcomings. Whatever the case, BioWare has seen a steady decline of players since Star Wars: The Old Republic‘s December 2011 launch.
After selling two million box copies of the game, sub numbers dropped to 1.7 million and then 1.3 million — even though the drops were denied. Patches either confused or frustrated players, fixing things that weren’t broken or not fixing things that were.
And then there were the layoffs and all that time spent running around in spaceports. Seriously, who thought that was a good idea?
With an estimated $300 million sunk into the game’s development BioWare’s not going to give up hope just yet. But the game needs to turn around its negative trend quickly or risk being labeled as one of, if not the, biggest flops in MMO history.
4. The Elder Scrolls Online Announced
Rarely has the announcement of an MMO based on a pre-existing properly been met with such disinterest – and, in some cases, outright loathing – from its built-in fan base.
But that was the case when Bethesda Softworks and ZeniMax Online Studios announced The Elder Scrolls Online. Cries of “WoW clone” popped up almost immediately, and they haven’t been helped by a questionable PR campaign that has unleashed lots of words but very little in the way of a direct look at the game.
With the game slated for a 2013 release, one would think we should start getting substantial looks at the game very soon. Until then, all we’ll have is a lot of guesswork – and, if the recent months are any indication, those guesses will be overwhelmingly on the negative side.
5. TERA’s Tribulations
If you want to divide a roomful of MMO gamers, just mention TERA.
Once it launched in May, the game was lauded for its action-based combat and rich graphics, but it also had its fair share of detractors, many of whom saw the game as too closely related to other shiny, but ultimately empty, Asian grinders.
Right now, the game appears to be holding fairly steady but probably doesn’t have much room to falter. And you know the jackals will be out in force if any sign of weakness – like a F2P switch – pops up. Rawr.
6. BlizzCon canceled
It was a shock to the collective systems of Blizzard fans everywhere when the company announced that its yearly BlizzCon shindig would not take place in 2012, as the company was concentrating its efforts on Diablo III and expansions for World of Warcraft and StarCraft II.
BlizzCon is expected to return in 2013, which should be just about the right time to announce the post-Mists of Pandaria expansion and maybe even Titan.
7. EVE Fans Burn Jita
Oh, you crazy EVE Online fans. This year’s dramatic moment was brought to you by the lovable rogues of Goonswarm, who plotted a firefight to end all firefights in the highly populated Jita system. Why would they do this? Because they could.
In the end, some 15,000 ships unleashed about 250,000 rounds dealing 45 million points of damage, according to CCP’s own accounting of the incident. Who says EVE is just about spreadsheets and cargo running?
8. Rift Revives
It wasn’t quite as steep a decline as SWTOR‘s, but Rift definitely bled fans after its March 2011 launch. Trion Worlds stayed mostly quiet in 2012 until E3, when a gameplay trailer showing off the new expansion, Storm Legion, and the new PvP zone – as it was thrashed by a giant… well, whatever that was – captivated fans old and new.
With Storm Legion coming later this year – and the many advances the game has made in its multitudinous updates – Rift may very well be “ascending” in the latter half of 2012 and beyond.
9. DDO Expands
Most MMOs don’t go six years without a full-fledged expansion. Then again, most MMOs don’t nearly die, go F2P, and then witness a revival like Dungeons & Dragons Online did.
Turbine finally released the game’s first full expansion, Menace of the Underdark, in June, taking players to the classic Forgotten Realms D&D setting and pitting them against some foes that are well-known to long-time D&D fans. It was a long wait for devoted players, but most of them would say it was well worth it.
10. Trion Defiantly Forges Ahead
Hey, you got TV show in my video game! You got video game in my TV show!
So far, we’ve only gotten glimpses of what Trion Worlds and SyFy are planning with Defiance, but it’s enough to intrigue us. If the two media companies can properly execute joint venture — and pull in a TV-watching audience — it could make the game one of the sleeper hits of 2013.