Tobold's Blog
Sunday, January 04, 2009
Open Sunday Thread

It's the first open Sunday thread of the year. The floor is yours to discuss what you want, for example what you played over the holidays, or what you think 2009 will bring. Propose subjects for the blog, ask questions, and tell us what you think!
I think 2009 will bring on a new dark age for MMORPGs. Some MMORPG developers who are already on shaky ground will have real problems and may end of filing for bankruptcy when they can't secure more funding. I doubt we will see another Turbine or CCP -- independent companies that create and administer games largely on their own. MMORPGs will become the domain of big publishers with deep pockets and plenty of lawyers. Patent trolls will come to MMORPGs in force -- we've already seen a few in the last year. I think we'll start to see large numbers of people getting burned out on WoW as people play through the expansion and run out of things to do. I think WAR will continue to slide. SG:W will never get released. Nobody will be willing to take risks and try something really new. It's going to suck.
2009 is going to be such a bummer year for MMO players. Nothing big on the horizon, unless you count super hero titles. Nor is there any certainty that 2010 will be much better. On a side note, it's looking like SOE will be opening a new EQ server in March. That actually interest me more than anything else, and it's a ten year old game!
Darkfall should be out soon. While it won't be everyone's cup of tea it will find its niche if it can deliver on the promises of being UO 2.0.

Aion has sleeper hit potential. It's already huge in southeast Asia and looks like it may have a lot of appeal to the burned-out ex-WoW crowd that's not really happy with EQ2 or LOTRO or WAR.

EvE and LOTRO will continue to grow by remaining loyal to their roots while broadening their horizons. Second Life is planning a big grid upgrade too if I recall correctly. All three will remain fresh to people looking for something different who care less for 'new' and more for 'new to me' as they are very actively supported by their devs.

I think this will be the year WoW finally hits its peak and starts sliding backward, though with millions of subs it won't exactly be called a failure either. I sat out this xpac but the reaction I'm hearing, by and large, is "It's OK". People are tired of WoW, but won't settle for 2nd best. It won't lose subs to other MMOs though, it'll lose them to people playing Diablo III and Starcraft II.

I also think this will be the year big publishers (other than Blizzard) start to 'get it' and upcominig MMO announcements in 2009 will not be the "It's like Wow, only..." that have done nothing but flop over the last few years, and more along the lines of "Our game is about x, y, and z and it just happens to be an MMO". We won't see lots of new, good, big MMOs in 2009 (other than perhaps Aion, which is a big 'if') but the ones that are announced will be framed in way that they can stand on their own, rather than trying to steal WoW's thunder.
A bit of a break from all the "me too" WOW wannabes this year might not be a bad thing. It will give developers time to think about their games and, when something new does come out, it may actually contain some genuine innovation.
I'd be very surprised if SW:TOR or Star Trek or DC Universe or any of the other big named MMOs actually release this year. My feeling is that 2009 is going to be rather dull on the MMO front with the biggest news being AoC releases an expansion.

I actually did some predictions for 2009 on my blog:
Tobold, I was curious - do you roleplay in your MMOs? Have you ever done it? I was wondering what your thoughts were on it.

It seems like roleplaying in MMOs is dying out yet it should be integral to the genre! The games are called Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games after all! I roleplayed when I played Everquest and it was a fantastic experience and I still occasionally do a little now. It's one of the reasons I actually liked AoC because I played on a RP server and people their took it seriously.

It seems that with the advent of Teamspeak and Ventrilo etc, roleplaying is becoming rarer and rarer. A lot of games just flat out don't encourage it either - unless I'm mistaken, WoW doesn't event have a place to write your character's biography! Plus now people seem more concerned about 'being the best' on raids (i.e. highest DPS) than actually playing a character role.

What does everyone think?
Predictions: AoC:HA on Xbox will be canceled. Aion will be realeased in EU in the summertime and be a sleeper hit with the Guild Wars -fans. WAR will suffer further losses both financially and within the subscriber base. LOTRO will still be going steady with its loyal fanbase and a new expansion for WoW will be confirmed by Blizz at E3 and everybody goes crazy. 12 mil. subscribers by summer? Never say never.
2009: A third expansion for WoW called : "World of Warcraft: Islands" with one new hero class ( Sun Priest), two new races ( Cleg Wolves - Horde and Goblins - Alliance). Of this I am almost certain....but then again, I could be dead wrong : )
My suggestion for a topic: What will happen on the MMO market in 2009? How about Guild Wars 2, how about Diablo 3 (not really a MMO, but I would include it nevertheless). I do not know much about Aion or give a damn about Darkfall, so I fear 2009 will become a boring year for MMOs indeed. Just more WoW... not really "wow"... I am bored to hell with this game and instead focus on single player offline games lately. You can get good games for less than 10 EUR, and many are rather new releases.

I also agree with Gordon, even the slightest hint of roleplaying is gone from todays MMOs. We have become dps and stat display obsessed freaks.
System requirements going up too quickly: (Assuming someone has enough experience to have a useful opinion on system requirements).

It seems with computer games in general that computers that can run anything else quite well will have lots of difficulty running modern day computer games without a lot of expensive upgrades. (See hundreds/thousandsof dollars/Euros/etc. to play Age of Conan.)

I've also heard the suggestion that the increased helps to significantly increase development times and costs for computer games, which of course leaves less time for gameplay testing, makes it harder for smaller companies to compete, reduces the willingness to try out new ideas, etc.

This is something that seems worth a blog post, or at least hearing thoughts/ideas/information on.
Predictions: WoW will finish the year with about the same population it started, as more people burn out but eventually come back as no Next Big Thing arrives. The next raid dungeon will be harder and people will switch from complaining how easy everything is to how hard everything is (randomness/stacking/can't bring friends who play badly etc.)

LOTRO and EVE, like an above poster said, will keep on keeping on. WAR will bleed a little more then stabilize as it has the best overall suite of PVP activities.

Darkfall will sell a few hundred thousand boxes at launch. I suspect that there are a lot of major issues hiding in there that will cause the population to drop quickly afterwards, but I could be wrong. Aion will sell several thousand boxes on the strength of its impressive art and otherwise solid design and the number of people looking for something new. It too will fade a bit as it contains a bit too much grind and some endgame balancing choices that will make Blizzard look like geniuses. Stargate:Worlds will be an also-ran mess of a game. The big KOTOR/Star Trek/GMG/Blizzard MMOs that have the potential to shake up the market will all be a couple years away.

The patent troll lawsuit will go nowhere fast. Blizzard will step in to stand with NCSoft.

Starcraft II will come out to stellar reviews, and I will buy it, play it for a day, remember that I hate RTS games, and put it on the shelf.
Would the online community approve of smaller games that are well polished at launch? If the developers could concentrate on new content quickly rather than spending six months applying rushed patches, would the community approve of a game that is only 1/3 or 1/2 the size of vanilla WoW?
i wrote a huge comment and it's GONE! DAMN YOU COOKIES

i refuse to retype it, just know that it would have CHANGED YOUR LIVES and FINALLY MADE YOU HAPPY.

but it's gone.
I think I'd play a smaller well polished game. Though instead of better it needs to be different. It would definitely fill in the gaps of gaming burnout. A lot of time is to be filled there.
AoC for the XBOX will be cancelled.

AoC expansion will have its feature list massively trimmed, and will be rushed to release to try and make some quick cash.

City of Heroes will fall below 100,000 subscribers for the first time in 5+ years.

WoW population will be stagnant or slide, as people finally realize nothing new has been added in years. But the lack of real alternatives will prevent a max exodus.

WAR will have a huge rally, as they redesign the RvR lakes to give each side a more "emotional" reason to feel certain zones are "theirs." They will also dramatically reduce the amount of Crowd Control which saves RvR/PvP combat.

2009 will be the year of the niche game. There are a lot of smaller MMOs coming out in 2009. They are either MUD-like or web games. Instead of millions, they will have tens of thousands of customers. These are the games where real innovation will be found. In 2010 Big MMO publishers will eventually notice this, and raid those companies for people to make their next big budget MMO that is actually something new rather than a WoW-clone.

Muckbeast - Game Design and Virtual Worlds
I have absolutely no idea what 2009 will bring. It scares me.

WoW's future seems so secure right now, even if it's (or rather it's idea of) core base of players is shifting right now, it could put it's future in jeopardy. In all seriousness I can't see it losing out too badly, though.

LOTRO will continue to appeal to a core base of users, which has been it's strength from day 1.

WAR's future is too damn clouded for me to predict. I'm playing it right now, but..I just don't know :(
For those of you that remember older MMOs and MUDs, here is a post from Dr. Richard Bartle that you should definitely check out:
Im curious on how the global recession will effect MMO subscriptions and even development this year. Are they considered a luxury item that will be chopped from household budgets or will they be seen as entertainment value over more expensive hobbies.
Erm, one sunday question. If you had to choose to play a free MMO for a month, with no other game to choose from, which free MMO would it be?

I'm interested in knowing what you think.
I recommend Atlantica Online. Been playing it so much recently that I have canceled my WAR account. It's crafting system is fun, the turn based squad combat is fresh, the quests aren't too grindy, the skill system is different enough to be interesting, and the bells and whistles are fun, too.

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