Sharing predictions, and looking forwards

This is the time of year where everyone traditionally makes some predictions for the next year, so that we all can laugh at how wrong they were in 12 months time.

Here’s a few links to bloggers who are putting their necks on the line:

The big trend in 2009 was the rise and rise of social gaming via facebook games. They’re not strictly MMOs, although massive numbers of players are involved and they are online. But a lot of investor interest is focussed again on online gaming, so I’m sure this will have some kind of knock-on effect on more traditional styled MMOs. We’ll see more effort next year put into translating the fantastically successful social networking, gift giving, strategy/ resource focus and virtual goods buying mechanisms into other gaming areas. And we’ll probably see more of this type of approach in non-gaming sites as well.

Many of the new MMOs of 2009 seem to have disappointed fans and pundits with their subscription numbers. Champions Online in particular has seemed like a flash in the pan from where I have been sitting. I’m still intrigued that so many people were happy to line up to pay for a lifetime subscription though, and I think that’s a trend worth noting.  Aion has been fairly successful but again, the pattern of excitement at launch followed by a few months of disillusionment (with the grind, on this one) is repeated. People will simply have to revise their expectations for how new MMOs behave at launch — they won’t actually revise their predictions though.

Free Realms is one that I was predicting to possibly take a slice of the WoW market. I liked the game when I tried it, but the non-existent social side failed to hook me in. SOE have struggled with their free to play model here, and shifted to an ‘all pay after level 5′ model which isn’t the same thing at all. I hope they see more success with the game in 2010 and find their audience because it was nicely executed.

Darkfall launched to a finely targeted hardcore PvP audience and has flourished, despite criticism. But this largely on the basis of catering to their core audience (not a bad idea for any business, really) rather than aiming to be something that they are not.

Fallen Earth surprised a lot of players with its focussed old style crafting and scavenging post apocalyptic playstyle.  Again, it’s a game that is focussed squarely at a core audience and aims to make those players happy.

Another trend (this is another gimme) will be the rise of gaming on smartphones. I don’t think the iPhone will take over the world, and it might be that cross-platform games will be the biggest success of 2010. It may come down to the social networking in the end and not wanting to be restricted to playing with people who use the same model of phone, rather than the better graphics you could get by tailoring to a single hardware platform. There will be some big game that uses location based technology and maybe even augmented reality — it may look better in demos than in practice but it will get vast amounts of press attention.

And the last trend I wanted to highlight was the snap sales we have seen on Steam and other online digital vendors. The sales have been very successful, and the unpredictable nature of them and the huge discounts has gotten a lot of player attention, even though there is now a good chance that you will feel like an idiot if you buy any game at full price only to see it at deep discount for one day only a couple of weeks later. I think we’ll see MMOs trying to experiment with a similar model, and maybe even occasional sales on 3 or 6 month subscriptions to keep interest up (in sub games at least).

WoW

Much of the remaining Icecrown Citadel content will be dazzling.  Players will love the cut scenes the first time they see them and will generally agree that the raid encounters are as fun as anything Blizzard ever designed — at the same time as complaining that they’re too accessible. The hard modes will have a better difficulty ramp than TotGC (ie. more people will get past the first boss) to give midcore guilds something to aim at.

The Oculus will be blown up in one of the pre-Cataclysm events.

A few months down the line, it will be generally agreed that the  dungeon finder is more successful in the EU and Taiwan than in the US. No one will dare to comment on why this might be, except to bitch that the rest of the world is cheating by having a less individualist culture.

Cataclysm will launch in Q3 2010. All the people who quit WoW in the first six months of the year due to boredom at having nothing to do with their pimped out characters will return to create new worgen. The updated Azeroth will be widely lauded but everyone will complain again as soon as they get to Outland. They will mess up the tuning again and return to the harder dungeon instances of TBC, which will be nerfed again after lots of complaints. But people will never be sure whether the dungeons actually were harder or whether players had just forgotten how to handle hard content.

People will get bored with the new expansion quickly. The guild changes will be successful but too late to save the shattered social fabric of the game. WoW players will continue to devastate other new games, but now they’ve also failed to learn standard dungeon etiquette (ie. stay till the end of the run, work with the rest of the group, play nice with loot, etc etc) in favour of hopping in and out whenever they want to and complaining if an instance takes longer than 10 minutes.

There will be at least one major unexpected announcement before Cataclysm that will throw the hype machine into overdrive. Possibly solo instances or something that involves more solo content. Hopefully also they’ll sneak in some extra ideas which won’t garner so much attention but will make seasoned gamers happy (like cosmetic clothing).

Then there will be the expected announcements about underwater zones, dance studios, and lots of pictures of female worgen.

LOTRO

There will be another expansion in 2010 but it still won’t be Rohan. Turbine will start playing around with more methods to help players catch up more quickly. The game will chug along happily and although they will make tuning mistakes, the players who like it will mostly be pleased with any new additions. Zombie Columbus will continue to delight with every new design he gets involved with.

Other new games

Star Wars won’t release before Cataclysm, even if it means delaying until 2011.

Star Trek Online will meet with more success than Champions Online. It’s hard to call this one without having seen the beta but I was intrigued by the demo that I saw, there’s plenty of interest in the IP, and I think many players would like a space combat MMO that isn’t EVE. The longevity of the game will depend on social factors rather than solo content.

Final Fantasy XIV will do very well, surprising the pundits who forget how many fans the Final Fantasy franchise has, and that FF gets a shot in the arm with the release of FFXIII towards the beginning of 2010. Their separation of crafting and fighting classes will make a lot of crafting fans happy. If they are able to release before Cataclysm, they will have a huge influx of bored WoW players looking for something to do before their world resets.

Torchlight will release an MMO (or at least a beta) before the end of the year. Everyone will exclaim that it is fun, and then move on to Cataclysm.

Guild Wars 2 won’t release in 2010.

Neither will Diablo III.

CCP will announce their Vampire MMO which will go into beta in 2010.

Mass Effect 2 will be amazing. Voice acting is the new black?

Blizzard will still not announce anything about their next MMO because they actually threw away the current design this year and are starting again from scratch.

Neither will Jumpgate Evolution (it makes me sad to write this because I was looking forwards to that game, but we really haven’t heard much about it.)

Although there will be a lot of talk about free to play models, there will be a better understanding of how and where that model works. WAR may try to convert from subscription to F2P, but it won’t help (again, makes me sad to write that). AAA developers will continue to push the payment model of subscriptions plus virtual goods plus anything else they can think of. However, extended trials will be more common, and maybe even WoW will offer the first 10 levels free as a Cataclysm enticement.

I think 2010 will be a better year for MMOs than the past one, we’re moving out of a recession for a start and lessons of the last year will also have been learned. The games I am mostly looking forwards to are the final fantasy ones, both single player and MMO. And if buzz from the STO beta is good, I’m also jonesing for a good space fighting game so I hope that one will fit. Because there isn’t much else in the pipeline.

Do you have any predictions? Anything you are particularly looking forwards to, gaming wise?

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22 thoughts on “Sharing predictions, and looking forwards

  1. I chuckled at the Torchlight MMO comment and at the dungeon finder.

    After reading that, why shall 2010 be a good year for MMO gaming?
    A late year Cataclysm as the most exciting event does not sound that exciting. Shattered social side of WoW… this could get fixed if they bring back the “World” to the Warcraft. Right now the game in WoW is the dungeons, and I wonder if I am the only one who morns the shifting focus.

    LOTRO: I think Skirmishes have been praised too much. They are boring and feel extremely repetitive in solo play, and compared to the dungeon finder for a “real dungeon” they simply cannot compete. The scaling is imperfect – 2 people is not really supported, it is 1,3,6 or 12 and if you don’t trivialize the level of the mobs you fight, you must fill up the numbers accordingly. Result? SOLO all the way, I have seen raids or 5/6 skirmishes waiting for 6/6 waiting for ages. I still think the idea has potential for the book quests, but they better do not think this replaces world or dungeon content.

    They should also learn a bit about instance design. Nobody plays the Dungeon of Dol Guldur, next to nobody the Warg Pens. But everyone farms the Sword Halls in easy mode over and over and over and over. I am almost at 100 Tokens in excess already and did not even go there since xmas.

    I hope the expansion realizes that a lot of the appeal of LOTRO is its amazing landscape/world that I cannot stop taking screenshots from. After the mega dungeon Moria and the two extreme forests (golden vs murky) I am in need of some green grass south of Eregion. ;)

    My prediction for 2010 is that you will return to your beautiful Captain Flynn avatar and everything will be good.

    My hope for 2010 is already early this year: Star Trek Online. But I don’t have much faith in Cryptic… :(
    But this is a MMO that I can sympathize with, that sounds interesting to me, I wish it will do well and… I still fear it will disappoint! :(

    • I can only agree to the “World” of Warcraft part. I was afraid that the LFG tool would make everybody just hang around in Dalaran while waiting for their instance to pop. I’m not sure if that is what actually happened, but it sure put things in perspective. It was the world that hooked me.

      Luckily I haven’t tried Alliance yet, so I am levelling my dwarf paladin when I’m not raiding. It’s a shame that the “world” is only there until you reach the cap.

      • Of course there are all those acheivments from old content. My wife has been going for ‘loremaster’ recently and has been having a ball taking her overgeared teddy through old instances and quests.

        Acheivements dont mean so much to me (Although some do, Tribute to Insane Skills frex) but I’ve just gone back and got the Doomguard and Infernal minions and enjoyed every minute of it.

  2. Just one small thing to add about the BC dungeon difficulty. I firmly believe that the only reason they were “harder” is because we all still had our pre-3.0 characters when we were running them. As soon as 3.0 came out they were an instant faceroll for groups in greens. I was at the point then where all of the heroics were easy for me to tank, purely because I had done my time and knew what to do. 3.0 was the day I stopped marking and found my charge button.

    • That was actually 2.4 and not 3.0. :)

      But yes, I ran all TBC normal with my level 70 DK and they are way easier than UK. Arkatraz, Shadow Lab and Shattered Halls is easier than UK! You take way less damage in there. Shattered Halls took something like 20 minutes with no character bigger than level 71…

  3. Wow, Spinks, this is a review tour de force!

    I’ll simply say that I am very much looking forward to Star Trek and Star Wars as I *hope* both games will emphasize the leveling experience and replayability as oppposed to endgame. We’ll see though, and I am continue to be skeptical about Star Trek until I can actually log into the game.

    Happy New Year.

  4. @Longasc I too, and a ton of other people who want to play as a couple want 2 player content. The devs are aware of this. Whether or not they do anything about it is another matter.

    @Spinks I love your predictions! I agree with almost 100% though I’m not sure FF XIV will release next year for sure.

  5. Interesting predictions, although I’ll take issue with one of them…

    … I’m pretty sure you’ll play Jumpgate Evolution in 2010. :)

    The game’s still in active development and is moving forward – even if we are quiet about it. All good things come to those who wait. ;)

    Have a great 2010!

  6. Pingback: 2010 MMORPG Progdictionations « The Ancient Gaming Noob

  7. I’ll be one of those who returns to WoW after playing the previous expansion for six months ;)

    And those Steam deals are indeed great. They’ve been spreading to other platforms. EA games, direct2drive, gog.com,…

    All great deals but if you bought Torchlight a month ago for €20 and now see it’s being sold for €5 you have to feel ripped of.

    In the end I think the publishers are shooting themselves in their foots. Who will pay €20 if in one month you can get the same product for €5?

    • The same people who buy new cars instead of used, or who buy hardbound books instead of waiting for the paperback. There are always early adopters and those who don’t care about the money.

      • Or people who thought it was good value at full price and wanted to play when it was first out and talk about it while it was part of the buzz.

        It’s kind of like people who go to the cinema to see films vs buying on DVD later.

        What I do wonder is how it’ll affect piracy. Will people be more tempted to pirate new games with the view to maybe buying them later when they are cheaper if they like them?

      • Or, for that matter, those who want to play while there is a critical mass of early players to riff off of. There are plenty of reasons to ignore the impulse to wait for a sale. There’s nothing wrong with that, either. ;)

  8. > I think we’ll see MMOs trying to experiment with a similar model,
    > and maybe even occasional sales on 3 or 6 month subscriptions to
    > keep interest up (in sub games at least).

    WoW had the $4 ($5?) bargain during thanks giving.

    > The Oculus will be blown up in one of the pre-Cataclysm events.

    Noooo… now I want my drake. :)

    > A few months down the line, it will be generally agreed that the
    > dungeon finder is more successful in the EU and Taiwan than in the
    > US. No one will dare to comment on why this might be, except to
    > bitch that the rest of the world is cheating by having a less
    > individualist culture.

    … what?

    > People will get bored with the new expansion quickly. The guild
    > changes will be successful but too late to save the shattered social
    > fabric of the game. WoW players will continue to devastate other new
    > games, but now they’ve also failed to learn standard dungeon
    > etiquette (ie. stay till the end of the run, work with the rest of
    > the group, play nice with loot, etc etc) in favour of hopping in and
    > out whenever they want to and complaining if an instance takes
    > longer than 10 minutes.

    I don’t think WoW makes a dick out of us. Yes, there are asholes in
    the world and the dungeon finder makes it easier for them to behave
    like an ashole without repression.

    Does that mean that we will start to behave bad just because we can?
    Of course not. I still smile if someone can use something from a
    heroic and it doesn’t matter if the person is from the same or a
    different realm. Although I lost the chance at a shard.

    Real life itself offers more than enough opportunities to be a dick.
    But do we do that? Of course not, why should we?

    • I think there is a non-zero chance that the US community actually is more unfriendly/ ruder than the EU/ Taiwan (this mostly from talking to friends about their experiences on XBOX live — it seems that the smack talk, homophobia etc may be more of a cultural thing, I dunno). If the nastier elements of the community take control of the dungeon finder, then other people will be less likely to use it out of fear of being bulled, smack talk, etc etc.

      Anyway, with predictions, I think it’s fun to throw a few off-the-wall ones in there. I don’t know if that will be the case, I just think it could happen. It’s down to the better US players (who I am sure are the majority) to put their feet down and stop it.

      I don’t think WoW makes dicks out of us, but the reason that gaming etiquette evolved the way it did was because it was hard to get a group and group content might take hours, so it needed everyone to work together to finish an instance. With the dungeon finder, that’s no longer the experience of players in WoW. So it will change how people who only play WoW treat groups.

      • And there are all the non-English battle groups. Would be interesting to compare them as well. They should have a much tighter “cultural group” then the “default” English.

        And I think multi-hours dungeons are a thing of the past anyway. Requiring multiple hours in one string of play time is way to hardcore for most WoW players. Therefore, every game which has such big dungeons, would not be the correct game for the WoW casual crowd.

        There might be a PvE-Darkfall, but that would probably get rid of these players before they could do any harm. :)

      • Oh definitely. I’d love to know how it’s going on the non-english language groups. They have a smaller pool of players so that’s got to have an effect also.

  9. Pingback: Weighing up last year’s predictions « Welcome to Spinksville!

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