Predictions for MMOs/ Gaming in 2011

It is that time when we look ahead and try to predict what the year ahead may bring. Arbitrary and I have put our heads together to see what we can come up with…

In general, it’s going to be another huge year for both social gaming and mobile gaming. There will be more massive hits along the lines of Angry Birds, and both iPhones and Android will continue to be strong platforms. We’ll see the trend for Android to increase in popularity continue as more and more models come onto the market.

The debate as to what does or doesn’t constitute an MMO will continue. Facebook will continue as the platform of choice for social games, particularly on handsets, since it actually is handset agnostic.

The iPad will not really live up to the potential that the industry had hoped. Already we’re seeing that magazine subscriptions on the iPad are below predictions. There will be popular games, yes, but they will never come close to the popularity of the phone-based versions. So iPad owners had best get used to continuing to receive iPhone conversions.

I predict something big with Zynga this year. They’re huge, but they’ve not had much success in breaking away from Facebook. The desire to do so is still there … maybe they’ll even try to take over FB or merge the companies in some way. Whatever it is, it’ll be crazy.

E-sports will be a big trend this year in some form or other, as publishers try to find more ways to draw in the ‘core audience’ into more social, F2P type games. Expect at least one hugely successful multiplayer game, possibly on a console or on Facebook, with this kind of worldwide e-sports competitive ethos at its core.

One of the other big trends this year was for breakout indie games. This is nothing new, but Minecraft in particular has been a stunning hit. In addition, the various Steam indie bundles, more attention from PC journalists and blogs, and ‘pay what you want’ weekend offers have gotten more people to try them out than ever before. This trend continues, and we’ll see at least one successful indie MMO launch this year.

Interactive/ internet TV is going to be another big trend this year. Look for gaming on Google TV in particular (one area where Zynga may have their eye). And this is a platform that favours simple social games.

This year also marks the release of the Nintendo 3DS, the 3D version of the DS. Whilst it will sell well enough to be marked as a success, they will signally fail to persuade most users to upgrade. However nice the graphics, there’s unlikely to be a killer game that really uses the 3D. (If it played films, however …) This won’t be a good year for handhelds, losing more ground to the ubiquitous smartphones.

WoW/ Blizzard

This year Blizzard plays it safe with WoW. There won’t be any big features analogous to the dungeon finder. Patches will be more of the raid instance, dailies, extra minigames type of content.

Whilst some players will get bored quickly of Cataclysm, the strategy to draw in more casual players will work, by and large.

The balance of ranged vs melee is going to continue to be a big feature of this expansion.

The leaked expansion plans date the next expansion for 2010. I predict this is correct and we’ll hear more about the next expansion and about Blizzard’s plans to offer more frequent, smaller expansions. Wrath will soon be perceived as the golden age of WoW in much the same way that TBC was by the old guard for most of Wrath.

The big change for the next expansion will be a crafting revamp.

Blizzcon will be held in Europe.

Blizzard will announce their next game, currently codenamed Titan. It will, as expected, be a different genre from WoW. (Please take a moment to imagine what the WoW community might be like if Blizzard’s next game is a FPS. Heck, imagine what the Blizzard community for a FPS MMO might be like? Scared yet? This is why they will come back with a more player friendly version of realID.)

Other games

Guild Wars 2 will not release in 2011.

Neither will World of Darkness (Vampire).

Neither will The Secret World

The walking in stations expansion for EVE will release and will generate a flurry of ‘look at this amazing character creator’ posts. It will not substantially expand the player base, though and will largely be seen by existing players as watering down the current game.

Star Wars: the Old Republic will release and will fail to either gain a million subscribers or to be a game people want to play for 10 years (both predictions made by EA). It may even fail completely within 6 months. (I will still play it.)

Mark Jacobs will announce a new project, DaoC 2.

There will be more discussion about the F2P model as it applies to MMOs, focussing more on practical details of ‘what works’. People will pick their games at least as much based on payment models as anything else, to the point of having preferences for very specific flavours of F2P.

There will also be extended discussions in the blogosphere about how trustworthy various publishers are viewed as being. This is partly connected with games that failed in 2010 (do you trust this game to still be going in 6 months before you invest too much time into it?) but also with the way the F2P model has been implemented by companies such as SOE.

LOTRO will release their Isengard expansion which will be comparable in size to Mirkwood. ie. a couple of levelling zones, new instances, and a raid. They will increasingly be spread thin trying to keep both the lifetime endgame player base happy and the new F2P players who are more interested in lower level revamps.

2011 is a big year for RPGs. In fact, it will probably also be the biggest year ever for computer games in general.

Diablo III will release, will be a massive success. It will contain various features borrowed from WoW, and so the cycle comes full circle.

Dragon Age II will release, will be a massive success.

Mass Effect III will release, will be a massive success.

The Witcher II will release, will be a massive success (but possibly not on the scale of the previous three games, which is a shame.)

And not a RPG, but yes, Portal II will release, will be a massive success.

Whatever Infinity Ward does for EA will release, will be a massive success.

There will be at least one film tie in game that is actually good, and will be a massive success.

Microsoft attempt to clean up the Xbox Live community in some way, possibly involving an element of realID.

Gaming news: Zombies in Black Ops, FFXIV released, MSoft wants Second Life, Recettear and Minecraft huge hits, Skaven in WAR

So, yesterday was Eurogamer which bore a surprising resemblance to a bunch of gaming zombies wandering around a huge exhibition hall, half of which was full of demos of Assassin’s Creed II.  Arb and I will talk more about our Eurogamer thoughts next week.

  • Things I saw which caught my eye were:
    PS3 Move. I saw a few demos with the Move and … they looked fun. I don’t think my living room is large enough or tidy enough to justify a purchase but it did look cool.
  • Dragon Age 2. Now with less blood spatters but still with some so you know which game you are playing. We cheered when there was a closeup on the blood spatter.
  • Indie Arcade. Didn’t have time to look at all the games, so focussed on a bizarre passive aggressive game which kept telling you to stand away from the computer and not press buttons. Also a fun explory/ platformy game where I amused the guy standing next to me by falling off a cliff and exclaiming, “Oh! I guess that’s not how you use the stairs.”
  • Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Absolutely adorable, and looked pretty fun too.
  • Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. Reminded me of Uncharted 2, mostly down to the graphics, gameplay and camera angle.

In a press release about SWTOR, Bioware revealed more information about the smuggler. It’s sounding increasingly as though the smuggler IS Han Solo rather than just being inspired by him, and one of the latest reveals is that there is a wookie companion.

Also in gaming news this week was another spat between Bobby Kotick and whoever. I’m getting bored of following these arguments but they seem to get a lot of gaming press. I imagine it will be EA’s turn next week.

Gaming post of the week is Unsubject’s admiration of DCUO’s courageous and brave brave marketing decisions. The game is due to be released in November and we still know virtually nothing about the gameplay – it doesn’t bolster confidence.

Zombies in Black Ops

Activision revealed that Call of Duty: Black Ops will feature a multiplayer zombie mode. Apparently it will involve “brand new zombie experiences”. Your guess is as good as mine.

I don’t pretend to understand where it makes sense for a franchise that has always been fairly solidly based on well researched real world settings to go all zombie on us but zombies are cool, right? (Maybe the new zombie experience is that you actually get to play a zombie!) The game is due to launch on 9th Nov.

Another shooter which is drifting away from being too realistic is Medal of Honor, from which it was confirmed that references to the Taliban were dropped this week. Instead they have been renamed as “Opposing force.” Personally I think they should have just reskinned them as zombies.

Final Fantasy 14 launches on PC

September 30th marked the launch day for FF14.

Feedback I have heard so far has been positive, but keen to point out that the game harkens back to an older style of MMO than recent WoW fans (for example) may be comfortable with.

Microsoft interested in Second Life

The Escapist reported this week on a rumour that Microsoft has a bid in for Linden Labs, noting that LL laid off a lot of staff recently and is known to be in some trouble.

They think that Second Life would fit in great as a virtual world for xbox players. I’m not sure about that one myself, but it’ll be interesting to see what comes of it if the rumour is true.

Minecraft and Recettear show good sales

You may notice on the right hand margin of this page that I’ve included both Recettear and Minecraft under the current list of games we’re playing. (Arb is playing Minecraft, I haven’t gotten around to it yet, but I will!).

We think they’re both ace, and so do lots of other people.

RPS reports that Recettear has sold over 26k copies, which is pretty darned good for a little indie PC game relying mostly on word of mouth, a near zero marketing budget, and digital downloads.

However, Minecraft makes that look paltry by apparently taking in $350k profit per day.

These trends all bode well for the indie market. With every awesome game that gets successful, players will be more and more willing to try another one if the word of mouth is good. Both of these games are excellent value for money –- obviously there’s no guarantee either will be up your street but both have demos and it won’t be hard to google a review online.

Skaven in Warhammer Online

Werit writes about (Bioware) Mythic’s announcements of their plans for WAR. Plans which include playable Skaven … sort of. Players will be able to control Skaven, but not in a way that replaces their main character.

I’m a little unclear on the details but it sounds as though players will be able to assume a Skaven role in PvP but there won’t be any supporting PvE for the rat people. Werit compares this to monster play in LOTRO which, to be fair, is enjoyed by a lot of people.