A new year brings with it new hopes and new possibilities – not to mention, a bunch of new games to play!
There’s a lot to wonder about in 2013 for MMO players, from how new games will fare to how the older ones will keep up. Here are our top six questions for the new year. What are your answers? And do you have some of your own to add?
The 2013 rumor mill for Titan has already gotten underway and likely won’t stop until we get something firm from Blizzard. Smart money’s on that being somewhere around BlizzCon, but things have a way of becoming known that isn’t through entirely official channels.
Remember when Blizzard trademarked “Mists of Pandaria,” several months before the expansion’s official announcement at BlizzCon 2011? We’re betting something similar will find its way into gamers’ hands before this year’s BlizzCon – assuming there will be one, of course.
Which game will fold?
The last couple years have seen a number of venerable, high-profile games bite the dust. City of Heroes was the best-known casualty of 2012, with Star Wars: Galaxies expiring just before the end of 2011.
In truth, many MMOs close up shop every year; 2012 also saw the last days of Glitch, Black Prophecy, and Earthrise (which is scheduled to return), among others. But it’s those long-standing, “thought they’d be around forever” games that seem to get the most publicity.
I’d rather not speculate on who’s going to take the arrow to the knee this year, but I’d think it would be an older game – at least five years old or so – with a still-significant fan base that’s seeing more infrequent updates than before, an increasingly disgruntled player base, and less media coverage. If that’s your game, watch out.
How will Guild Wars 2 do?
ArenaNet’s premier title came out of the gates strong in 2012, but there’s some question as to whether it can keep that momentum going in 2013. The game’s monthly updates have been generally well-received, but can the company keep up that pace, especially if an expansion is looming?
Despite being a generally solid game, GW2 still has its issues, from world vs. world balance to camera issues to the ubiquitous bugs that plague every new game. Then there are quality-of-life improvements like PvP spectator modes, group finders, and guesting… it would be enough of a list to keep a dev team busy even if there was no new content planned.
Every MMO experiences some drop-off after launch, and Guild Wars 2 likely is no exception. Given the game’s high profile and lofty promises, players might even be more miffed than usual when the game doesn’t match up to their perfect expectations. Can ArenaNet fulfill those players’ needs and also expand their player base in 2013?
Now that the initial hype train has been exhausted, I think GW2 will hold pretty much steady in 2013, and new players will replace those who leave at a fairly equal clip. I know it doesn’t make for compelling copy, but that’s what the vast majority of MMOs do every year, and it sure beats the hyperbolic “GW2 FAIL!!” and “OMG BEST GAME EVAR!!!” comments that are more commonly found on the Internet.
Who will go F2P?
There aren’t many options left for this question. Only a few high-profile MMOs with a monthly fee are left, and I don’t think World of Warcraft or EVE Online will bite the bullet this year.
That leaves Rift and TERA as the best options. Both are new-ish games, both of which have had their shares of ups and downs and neither of which seem likely to release an expansion this year, so they’ll need to do something to shake things up a bit and generate interest.
Can Final Fantasy XIV make a comeback?
What Square Enix is doing is unprecedented. The company launched an MMO, admitted it was a failure, kept it going as a free title for a while, re-instituted a sub fee, then took it completely offline. Oh, and it’s preparing to re-launch it this year. Got all that?
A Realm Reborn will release approximately three years after the game’s first launch, and while it should fix many of the issues players initially had with the game and win back a solid portion of its fans, it seems unlikely to garner much support from new players, i.e., ones who didn’t try FFXIV in its first go-around.
Final Fantasy XI is the most profitable FF game ever, though it never reached the lofty heights most would associate with a “big” MMO these days. For all the investment Square Enix has put into FFXIV, and all the losses it has absorbed, will modest success be enough?
What about The Elder Scrolls Online?
Finally, we come to the 800-pound gorilla in the room. The Elder Scrolls Online is probably the only AAA MMO scheduled to come out in 2013, and it’s going to be huge – but whether that’s a huge success or a huge flop is still anyone’s guess.
We’ve only gotten very small, tantalizing sneak peeks at the game, and virtually nobody, apart from a few press folks, has any hands-on with the game. Once The Elder Scrolls Online beta starts, we’ll have a better view, but that’s probably months away. Wise and patient players will reserve judgment – whether for good or for ill – until at least that long.
Now maybe the real question should be, “Will we see any wise and patient MMO players in 2013?”