Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Is 2007 a bad year for MMORPGs?

I'm starting to get a bit depressed by all the bad MMORPG news recently. And although it isn't December yet, I'm looking back at what 2007 has brought us, and I don't see much good news. Here is the list:

World of Warcraft : The Burning Crusade was a huge sales hit, but US and European subscription numbers peaked shortly after its release. I think nobody disagrees when I state that the Wrath of the Lich King announcement has a lot less enthusiastic reception. WoW will continue to be the best and most popular game around, but many people had hoped the expansions would bring more than they do.

Lord of the Rings Online: The best game that came out in 2007. Great low-level game, but getting a bit less great in the middle and higher levels. Fortunately Turbine is adding content at a very good rate, with book 10 adding mid-level content, and book 11 later this year even adding player housing. Some controversy about managers lying about subscriber numbers, and then leaving the company. But these problems are more due to being overshadowed by WoW than to inherent flaws of LotRO.

Vanguard: Wins this year's prize as the best bad example. Strangely Vanguard ended up being probably the most influential MMORPG of 2007, because the catastrophic January launch resulted in many other companies being wary of premature releases later in the year. Whenever you read a dev mentioning the need to "polish" a game more before release, he is talking about Vanguard.

Age of Conan: Delayed into 2008, needing "polish".

Pirates of the Burning Sea: Delayed into 2008. In a curious reversal of old prejudices industry rumors have it that FLS wanted to release before christmas, and it was SOE who prefered a delay into 2008 for reasons of both distribution and "polish".

Tabula Rasa: Delayed into later this year. And the dropping of the NDA revealed everybody saying "nice game, but not worth a monthly fee".

Auto Assault: Cancelled in 2007.

Warhammer Online Age of Reckoning: Delayed into 2008. Beta suspended for 2 months. WAR by far has the best marketing, information, and hype machine going in 2007, leading everybody to believe that WAR will be the next big thing. But apparently right now the game isn't quite as much fun yet as WoW was in beta, and the official release date of Q1 2008 will most likely be delayed again, as the game still needs "polish".

Gods & Heroes: First delayed, then cancelled. For financial reasons, the state of the game in beta wasn't that bad.

Did I miss anything? A failed game, lots of delays, some cancelling, and the only games that sold well were those that played it safe, which is sending the wrong message to the guys in suits. I sure hope 2008 will be a better year for MMORPGs!
All very good points. I wonder how EQ2:RoK will effect the 2007 review. it would be interesting to see an update of this at the end of the year to see if anything has changed.

wasn't the dramatic dark'n'light from 2007? it's still alive but went from subscription to some free thingy.
You missed Guild Wars expansion Eye of the North. Although I dont play GW anymore, I think it is worth a mention since it should like all its predessors have great quality and content.

It also has a huge fanbase and I think subrciption numbers are also high.

Still its gonna be WAR and hopefully some better WoW expansion next year.
The year is not over yet! You never know. Somebody might be able to get their 'polishing' done in time for Xmas. It would be a shame if platform games took over the Xmas season.

I have a feeling that the first game to get their 'polishing' done will have a leg up on their competition so long as they are 'polished' enough.

I totally agree with you about Vanguard. Very bad timing for them. I think MMORPG players have been stung enough times with unfinished games being released that they just won't put up with it anymore. There are too many good games out there to bide your time with while waiting for your favorite upcoming game too be polished.

My personal policy is to wait 12 months, post-release, before I will try out a game. It takes a lot of willpower, but it leaves you with a game that has been 'polished' and with enough content to not wait for more to be patched in.

Don't forget Spellborn. Pushed back according to a German site into Q1 2008 for EU, no set release for US yet.

It's beena a depressing year for sure. LotRO's been the only good game, and even that didn't keep me interested as for me it got too group oriented PvE-wise later in the game.

January 7th (PotBS pre-order date) seems so far away.
Not sure if I buy this. Wasn't 2006 a great MMO years because the WoW craze was in full swing. Take WoW out of the picture and you may just get a comparable picture as 2007. Difference is that more are trying and failing maybe, and that there is a massive reference on the market.

WoW has seen a decline but is still substantial.

LotRO was a sensible success. But if we measure a year as successful if a game with an impact of WoW had through the 2006 year had we may be up for most years being bad MMO years.

If WAR turns out to be a LotRO scale success, how is that going to rank? 2007 isn't over yet too, and if we will accept Hellgate London as a contribution to the MMO landscape (and Roper certainly turned the direction of the game heavily in the multiplayer direction given the recent hype of that genre) is yet to be seen.

As for WoW, it's an aging classic, with folks leaving and some returning. It will be curious to see if in hindsight TBC with all its hiccups and upsets will still be a kind of hallmark for how an MMO expansion can be. Or if it will be seen as the thing that started to kill off WoW from the inside.

Depending which one it is, I think in a year or two we may have a very different perspective on how bad an MMO year 2007 really was.
If we label every upcoming year bad for the genre, that does not quadruple the market for paid subscription gaming, than prepare for many bad years to come. If it's bad that crappy games get axed before they see launch?

The market grow substantially, but not for WoW clones. Dozens of free or micropayment based web games could increase their userbase by very high percentages. Habbo Hotel and Club Penguin probable being the posterchilds, but there are many others with millions of users.

When i started with EQ in 2000 it took me 5 years of playing, before getting bored and worn out. That was with a crappy game, compared to what WoW offers now. So we can expect the average WoW player to stick a little longer than 3 years it is for now.

I think 2007 is an important lesson for the genre. At this point you just can not offer a more mass appealing product than WoW, you theoretically could, but no one will throw this much money into a possible fire. We saw and see games released this year, that spawned from the WoW legacy, many struggled in the management department with Vanguard being the worst case scenario but from the recent events (WAR beta freeze, Perpetual's axe for Gods, high execs leaving Turbine) you see a trend here. Management seems still to struggle with the scale of those projects. If they want to really conquer the market, those basics have to be spot on. Important design people switching left and right can not lead to a quality product.
Ryzom's death / rebirth/ pending death again all happened in 2007.
You did not mention any expansions or major updates except for WoW and LoTRO.

EQ2 had the Echoes of Faydwer expansion this year as I recall.

City of Heroes/Villains had their issue 9 and 10 updates which were quite good and issue 11 will be released before the end of the year (or so is the plan at least...)

For older games EQ had 1 or 2 ecpansions I believe, Anarchy Online had at least the Lost Eden expansion, Ultima Online their UI refresh.

Dungeon Runners was released on the light end of MMOG space and a couple of Asian MMOGs were also released here in the West (Sword of the New World, Voyage Century Online, 9 Dragons and a couple more I think). Lineage 2 had at least one more chronicle.

And Raph Koster at least announced what Areae was up to ;)

And I disagree with the "everyone" part on Tabula Rasa, rather a mixed bag there.

Also for the lighter end of the MMOG space: while it was released last year I believe it was this year that Sherwood Dungeon passed more than 1 million unique users per month.

I do not think there has been a lack of new stuff and updates this year - whether one consider them interesting or not depends on a person's preferences. Not everything need to be big new fantasy-style titles.
... yup, I'd say a mix year for MMORPRs - and of course in your summary you forget about the fuss & bother about eve online, and developers cheating - not a good reflection on the MMO community on the whole
A relatively bad year for MMO releases, but I would say a good year for expansions and updates to already exisitng games.

We also have the mmog's coming into the picture, Hellgate London and Fury. Both excellent games and both should do well in the market they are aiming for ...

2008 might not be as bad as this year for new releases however i got a feeling that people are going to be more dissapointed with what is coming out compared to what is being touted by the pr departments ....
My guess is that this was the yr everyone that made games had the question on their mind of, "how will this compare to WoW?" And as we can see most of them decided that their games wasnt good enough and required a nice round of "polish".

Or perhaps they've all seen how successful launch of MMO can be. Where a relatively bug free launch of WoW vs. something say, like SWG. And everyone in the industry want to make sure their game is good enough for launch.

All these are good thing, if the videogame industry really is using wow to set higher standards for themselves. Its a bad thing if all they want to do is to see how they can de-throne WoW. Something like that just wont happen over night, or at least planed.

So i'm hoping that all these delay games are due to internal standards, rather than a "let's make it closer to WoW" kinda of mentality. But then again, i think the MMO populace is in some sort of virtual world limbo... I get a feeling from the blog sphere that everyone agrees that WoW is a great game... but BLizzard just isnt wowing us anymore. The next good thing can just be huge, because ppl want a change. And perhaps, everygaming company is focus too much on becoming the next big thing...
Trying to beat the LOTRO drum here. Mid-level and high level content has been improved already and more is upcoming. Not denying more is welcome over time, but at level cap there's no reason for me so far to be bored.

I went to the Urugarth instance in LOTRO last weekend. This is an instance for a standard fellowship (6 people) of around level 48-50. I was completely blown away by the graphics and sheer sense of space of the instance. At one point I stood on top of a suspension bridge over a deep chasm. Threatening skies above me, rivers of poisonous water and jagged rocks around me and everywhere I looked was a sprawling fortress. It's difficult to describe, but it was the best vista I ever saw in an MMORPG. Truly amazing, it blew everything away graphically and atmosphere wise that I've previously experienced in MMORPGs.

With regard to the required grouping for LOTRO. It's easy to solo your way to level 40. There are plenty of quests that would enable you to do so. In the 40-50 bracket you can solo, but grouping would speed up things.

Frankly though. I was complaining about how you had to find groups at one point. Then a friend of mine pointed out that's a bit the point of MMORPGs and it makes for better communities. I actually had to concede there and agree with him. Over the past couple of weeks I made some great new friends and we now play regularly. It isn't very hard in LOTRO so far to make new friends, most people are friendly and willing to group/help out, if you put in some effort yourself. The end result has been a pretty nice community feel overall so far for me.

- Sveral
2005, 2006 and now 2007... They ALL sucked for MMORPG games. Ever since WoW was released, the whole genre has become a one trick pony. Everything since has failed to really shine, with the only game coming close being LotRO, or as I like to think of it, World of Ringcraft.
i just went back to wow for a month to see how it was doing, catch up with old raiders and such, the game is not as fun as it used to be at all, everything revolves around Arena, daily quests (netherwing) - or - raid but there is only a handful of raiding guilds, not like the old days when 500 people would be on at 7 pm server time raiding, now its like 100 people karazhan, and 25 in scc and 25 in tempest keep, the rest are in arena. Sad to see WoW really falling apart :(
Agree with the article. There was nothing 'mixed' about this year in MMORPGs. 2007 will be looked upon as a grim year, remember we still have yet to see the Tabula Rasa train wreck to cap it off.
2007's been a crappy year for MMORPGs, 2008 is looking promising. Aion, Age of Conan, etc. Square Enix is also working on an Untitled Next-Gen MMORPG that will be sure to get a lot of attention. There was some rumors in the March EGM 2007 Rumor Mill saying the game would take place in a Final Fantasy world, however SquareEnix has stated the game will not be a FFXI sequel.
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