2009 predictions: BINGO! (not exactly)

Can you believe I had trouble finding my 2009 predictions post. I know, how hard is it to find a post titled “2009 Predictions” on my own blog, but um, it took a lot longer than I care to admit. I blame not tagging it with the “Site Update” tag, now fixed. Personal stupidity in the clear, we move on…

Actually not really, we just move on to a different form of stupidity, that being my 2009 predictions. They are… not exactly as on-target as I would have liked them to be. To the fail list!

WoW: All players will burn through WotLK faster than they did TBC, increasing the churn rate. WoW will launch in new areas of the world and count those players towards its own overall sub number (despite more than half of those not being full-paid subs), which counters the effects of the above and WoW retains its 11 million ’subs’. The new raid content will be beaten the day it is released live by top guilds, but it will be considered tuned ‘correctly’ despite the churn. More daily grinds in 09.

I think the burn/churn part was/is correct, as WotLK shipped with a very limited and easy endgame, and updates have been traditionally slow to come. By the looks of things everyone is waiting for Cataclysm to really shake things up, although the now-fixed LFG is allowing the antisocial crowd to see some ‘new’ instances. The biggest thing I missed is WoW being banned in China, which has actually cut 6 million or so gamers out, rather then the predicted “new territory” opening to keep numbers stable. 2009 being a ‘failed’ year in terms of AAA titles also helped maintain WoW sub numbers IMO. “More daily grinds in 09″ is a great line by me though, good job self.

WAR: Mythic steals CCP’s stackless I/O tech and Fortress sieges without lag become a reality. The Choppa and Slayer classes are added, and the game overall is ‘fixed’, with balance becoming the never-ending debate. Keeps gain the functionality they have in DAoC, along with some new features. WAR continues as the #2 sub MMO in the US/EU.

Oops. So not only is WAR not the current #2 MMO, it’s actually one step away from the grave, and EA is very NCSoft-like in killing underperforming titles (AC2, Sims Online). The big thing of course is that WAR is, by all accounts, still not ‘fixed’. That requires a third+ faction, and with it’s budget/staff cut, I wonder if that will ever happen. More than anything I’m disappointed in myself for not spotting this design error sooner, or perhaps believing that Mythic would be able to pull off a set two-sided conflict. I still hope Mythic can turn WAR around, as I’d love to play it as a casual PvP game to jump into and enjoy for a few hours a week. The game overall is not nearly as bad as some make it out to be, but when your entire endgame is marred by such a huge blunder, it’s impossible to ignore.

LoTRO: Replaces EQ2 as the ‘other’ fantasy PvE game in town, and continues to improve monthly. The overall effects of MoM are seen as a huge long-term positive for the game, and take its focus in that direction, with more legendary items and complex classes. The bread and butter book quests continue to be the best PvE in MMOs.

A bit off here as well. While LotRO is currently bigger (in terms of subs) than EQ2, it’s not enjoyed as successful a year as it did in 2008. The pace and quality of updates has slowed, MoM had/has some issues (and I’m not sure it’s long-term additions are positive), and currently LotRO has nothing that screams “come back!” to me, which back then I was almost positive would happen.

SOE and EQ2: Not much will change for EQ2, as 2009 will being ‘more of the same’, which will be embraced by the core players. Thanks to Station Access it will remain a nice option, yet it will concede more players as the engine continues to get more dated. FreeRealms will launch, and no one above the age of ten will notice. It certainly won’t be the MMO jesus SOE is praying it will be, but rather will become another free-to-play cartoon. The Agency will flop, as MMO players will reject the FPS-lite gameplay.

I think I got the EQ2 part right (anyone playing care to confirm?), and certainly FR is not the barn burner some predicted (when is the last time they released one of those enlightening ‘120 billion characters created’ PR pieces?). The Agency is still MIA, and news (at least in the sources I check) has been non-existent about it. Is anyone still looking forward to this game?

AoC: Closed before we see 2010.

Yup, wrong again. The most surprising part about AoC is not that it’s still alive, but that it’s still alive despite not being fixed (again, at least according to the sites I visit). I think the general down year that was 2009 actually saved AoC, as those playing it really did not have anything major to pull them away.

EVE: Continues to grow, with avatars in stations bringing in many new players. Most leave once they fly out to low-sec and get podded. EVE continues to be the one MMO that defies all of the ‘WoW or bust’ logic, and gives hope to anyone looking for a different and yet successful MMO.

If you want easy prediction points, predict EVE will continue to grow. Still waiting on those avatars though. If we attribute the business models behind Fallen Earth and DarkFall to EVE, the last part of that prediction also works.

Free-to-play MMOs: They continue to be pumped out at dime-a-dozen rates, each a bit more anime than the last. Without a AAA representative, they remain in the same spot as they have been in 2008, an MMO afterthought or ‘niche’. The few gems in the crowd have difficulty finding an audience due to the overall perception of free-to-play games.

While the perception may be slowly shifting, F2P is still without a AAA representative, and instead has become the ‘fall back’ plan for failed sub games, most notably DDO. I think I got the ‘gems in the crowd’ part right, as we still see piles of F2P games released and sifting through them is a difficult and time-consuming process. Oddly enough the successful niche titles of 2009 (Fallen Earth and DarkFall) have gone with the subscription model, although W101 is a hit F2P game.

RMT: Again as in 2008, RMT is kept to buying ponies or cute dresses, though all games in the MMO graveyard (Station Access) gain some form of RMT. At least one major MMO will make a legitimate push into full-on RMT, giving us the NGE of 2009.

The pet store in WoW was not even close to NGE, but it did ruffle some feathers, and overall more games added RMT-like ‘features’. This is still an area the genre is trying to figure out, as we have seen titles offer too much (FR) and get burned, while others (DDO) seem to be offering ‘just enough’ to satisfy. Certainly one of the trickier balancing acts in the business today.

So overall I was a lot more wrong than right, and things did not play out like I expected them to. It’s been somewhat of a strange year in the MMO genre. On the one hand, unless you are currently enjoying FE or DF, you can easily view 2009 as a down year for the genre in terms of new games. Older titles got some nice updates and continued to do what they do, yet nothing earth-shattering really happened in those games either.

The difficult part for me is separating my opinion of the year with what overall happened. For me personally 2009 was a great year, but that’s solely based on DarkFall delivering far beyond my expectations and being a consistent source of entertainment for basically the whole year. That I don’t see this greatly changing in 2010 is also something to really look forward to. I’m also very happy to see Fallen Earth doing well and bringing some new ideas and formulas to the MMO table; it’s always good to see someone rewarded for NOT cloning EQ1. If either title inspires more creativity to actually be released, then 2009 was a good year.

I should have my fail-tastic 2010 predictions up tomorrow.

6 Responses to 2009 predictions: BINGO! (not exactly)

  1. Bhagpuss says:

    I thought 2009 was a much better year than the current MMO blogosphere seems to believe. I had zero interest in any of the big titles (Aion, CO) that people seemed to find such a let-down, so their relative disappointment didn’t affect me.

    I was disappointed by just how poorly implemented Alganon, a game I was looking forward to, turned out to be. It’s also somewhat disappointing that the other game I expected to be playing, LinkRealms, hasn’t even reached open beta and all news on it has dried up.

    On the other hand, the excellent Earth Eternal is in Open Beta (there’s one really good F2P game for you) and Fallen Earth, which I wasn’t even planning on playing, has turned out to be good enough to get sub money out of me. And there was the Dawntide beta, a game that I’m sure will one day get the Syncaine seal of approval since it’s a pure sandbox with open-world PvP (although I’ve yet even to meet another player, let alone fight one).

    I think 2010 is going to see the first real AAA F2P MMO for the US/EU markets. If Allods launched as a sub game, a lot of the current beta-testers would be forking over their $9.99 with a big smile. I think it might actually be a tad too “challenging” for the audience WoW currently attracts, but oldtime WoW players and EQ/EQ2 veterans are going to feel very much at home.

    Speaking of EQ2, it does indeed carry on as “more of the same”, thank god. If there’s one thing MMOs don’t need to do it’s change for the sake of changing. Both the EQ franchises have solid core playerbases now that just need to be nourished and fed with more of what they like. Mrs Bhagpuss and I will be resubbing for the expansion in February.

    Overall, 2009 was a good MMO year. I played WoW for the first time ever, found it much, much better than I’d been led to believe, and am still enjoying it, in spurts. I also played FFXI for the first time and loved that even more, but had to leave it unexplored for reasons that weren’t any fault of the game. The WAR unlimited trial is a great idea which I hope to see widely copied.

    2010 looks to be so full of MMO goodness I can’t quite imagine how it can all be tasted, let alone digested.

  2. slux says:

    Good post, but the abbreviation I missed was “FR”, what game does that stand for?

  3. Wyrm says:

    Syncaine, thanks for another year of great blogging.
    Been following your blog for long now and it’s one of the few, if not the only one, that offers a perspective free of fairies and glitter. A blog about gaming instead of gaming entertainment.
    I wish that 2010 bring you and your loved ones all you need to be happy and that you keep owning ‘bearz in and out of game.

    Thank you Sir for your great work here.

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