With a new year about to dawn, it’s time to look ahead to the MMORPG offerings of tomorrow. 2012 saw many high-profile launches, and next year – while a little light on huge, earth-shattering titles – still has a bevy of great games to offer, some of which gamers have been looking forward to for years.
Our “13 for 2013″ list combines 2013 readiness, overall hype for a game, and our belief in its earning potential to provide a comprehensive ranking from one to 13. To qualify, a game has to be promised for a North American release. Also, we’re only covering true open-world MMOs here – we’ll cover the semi-MMO-type, lobby-based games, like Hawken and World of Warplanes later.
Love the concept or hate it, there’s no doubt that TESO is the most hotly anticipated upcoming MMO release. ZeniMax Online still holds to a 2013 release, but, as little as we’ve learned about the game at this juncture, we’d put odds of that at about 50/50.
Whenever it launches, it will have legions of fans interested in its premise. The question is, how many of those fans of the single-player RPG will be converted into MMO players? Even at its height, Star Wars: The Old Republic only boasted about two million active players. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim sold upwards of 10 million copies.
To its credit, ZeniMax doesn’t seem to be taking quite the same cookie-cutter MMO approach as BioWare did with its big title. Class flexibility, dynamic events, and three-faction PvP all sound like good ideas, but will they be enough to overcome lofty expectations? Hell hath no fury like a genre gamer scorned.
Technically still in beta, we’ll go out on a limb and assume Firefall will “launch” in 2013. It’s already garnering quite a bit of acclaim from both the competitive e-sports and the PvE crowd for its innovative mechanics wrapped up in an FPS shell.
Gazillion’s superhero smashup is garnering more attention than you’d think. With its focus on established Marvel characters, as opposed to the ability to create your own, as in previous superhero MMOs, it will probably appeal more to the mass-market crowd than to hardcore gamers, but there’s no denying the (cosmic) power of the Marvel license.
Going back to the granddaddy of all RPGs, Neverwinter updates the Dungeons & Dragons experience for MMO players and offers all the tools that fans of Perfect World’s games have come to expect. We’re especially looking forward to the dungeon creator, which by itself should keep players coming back for years.
5. EverQuest Next
SOE President John Smedley has made some bold claims regarding this title, promising sandbox-style gameplay with the sheen of a AAA MMO. It probably won’t be out until 2014 at the earliest – it might be #1 or #2 on our list otherwise – but it deserves a high spot on any “most-anticipated” list. We can’t wait to see what’s in store.
Trion’s MMOFPS based on the SyFy series is an ambitious mesh of TV and gaming that pushes the envelope and blurs the line between the two media. Known for its frequent updates to Rift, Trion should be able to update the game to account for changes in the show, but it’ll be a challenge unlike any that has ever faced a game developer.
7. DUST 514
CCP’s ground-combat complement to EVE Online isn’t just following in PlanetSide 2‘s shadow. Being a free-to-play title on PlayStation 3 is bold enough, but getting the two games to interact, across platforms, will be a monumental achievement – if they can pull it off.
7.5 Blade & Soul
Little embarrassing here… we missed this one on our first go-around, forgetting that it had been announced for a North American release at an unspecified date. The NCSoft offering has done well in its native Korea so far, with its high-flying martial arts action, but will it fare better than Aion on these shores?
The sequel to the venerable title will make its way to North American shores in early 2013 and seems to be a bit of a throwback to a bygone era of MMOs. It looks phenomenal, and will surely inspire nostalgia in long-time MMOers, but can it compete with modern offerings?
With a big IP behind it, Transformers Universe certainly carries the weight of expectation and pushes the boundaries of what you can do with a browser-based MMO. We’ve yet to see actual, you know, transforming, in any of the videos, but we’re sure Jagex is just holding off on that to make a big impression… right?
WildStar continues to intrigue us with its charming art style and unusual approach to progression, development, and exploration. The team promises a “metric boatload” of new stuff to announce in the new year, and we’ll keep a close eye on it.
ArcheAge just slips into our list, having recently been guaranteed a North American release. The sandbox MMO features loads of character customization, beautiful design, and even naval combat. But can it break through the stigma of other Korean games that foundered on American shores?
We haven’t heard much recently about Bigpoint’s MMO set in George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy world, but the few visuals we’ve been lucky enough to preview look good enough to make us want to jump in and start treacherously backstabbing people right now.
Paradox Interactive’s crafting-permadeath-colonial America MMO – yes, that’s what it is – continues to intrigue us. It likely won’t be a huge hit, but it scratches a perfectly unique itch that’s sure to excite a very passionate type of gamer.