Archive for January, 2012
Raph Koster linked to this article in Paste Magazine (wtf is Paste Magazine?) and it’s a brilliant read on the death of virtual worlds in general and of Star Wars Galaxies in particular.
And so it ends. A world disappears and we lose the possibilities it afforded. There’s the danger of letting yourself get too close to a virtual world: It’ll break your heart when it closes. You’ll have to come up with your own story why: balance sheets, bad business decisions, failures of marketing or design. We know this story, though: when top-down business and bottom-up social spaces stop aligning, business interests win out every time. They shut down our record stores and our coffee shops and our bars and our clubs.
But we bounce back. We adapt. We find other places—maybe, if we’ve been burned enough, we make our own places. But even when we can’t make our own places, we keep making places our own.
Indeed. Whole thing is here.
My favourite post of the year. The Christmas/Holiday season crazies (and a lot of SWTOR playing) have delayed this post a bit – so let’s get right to it, what I think we’ll see in 2012:
World of Warcraft has a disappointing year that sets the mark for the way forward, Blizzard doesn’t care when they redeem themselves in that fall by announcing Titan in the fall and making a boat load of cash off Diablo 3′s release. Mists of Pandaria will release late Spring/Early summer and it will be the first expansion to not break sales records (that’s not to say it won’t sell by a long shot, but the hype will be muted). The perception shift on WoW will be complete and for most people “the game they go back to” will no longer be a viable home. Subscriptions will continue a 1-2 million year over year decline in line with what was seen this past year.
Star Wars The Old Republic continues at a strong clip. Bioware will break the SOE mould and instead of a4 patch / 1 expansion a year model will continually deliver high quality content for the price of the monthly fee. Despite this solid evidence/leaks/well sourced rumours of a 2013 expansion will close out 2012. People’s fears that content of Bioware quality will not keep coming will be put to bed when Bioware releases two solid / high content / high quality patches before the six month mark. This does end up masking the complications of delivering Bioware’s level of quality (because the truth is they already have those first two patches virtually in the can and in QA now) and towards the end of 2012 its possible content releases will slow paving the way for the above mentioned expansion in 2013.
Star Wars The Old Republic will face a crisis within 6 months due to their tight lipped community approach. I’m not sure how it will play out but there will be a big blow up caused by lack of communication. It likely will be something silly that just grows and grows within the community (see the handling of the early game access as a microcosm for what this will look like).
Everquest Next is announced. It is (at least on paper – all we’ll see this year) a theme park MMO with a fresh approach of mixing in strong sandbox/virtual world elements. EQ:N won’t release until 2013 or even beyond.
Planetside 2 ships. Underwhelms the mass market but is a money maker for SOE anyway. The biggest barrier to financial success for Planetside in my mind was the business model – the F2P/Sub hybrid that SOE is really iterating and nailing right now will be a perfect fit for Planetside Next and the game will carve out a solid niche.
Guild Wars 2 does not ship in 2013.
Some interesting new players enter the scene. Firefall will be the biggest commercial success following a Riot Games/League of Legends rapid build to mainstream success.
Electronic Arts does something with the Ultima IP, involves massively multiplayer. I don’t want to guess too much on this one. If I did have to guess I imagine Richard Garriott will NOT be involved at least not in the initial running. After the first announcement goes out EA will realize getting Richard involved in someway will help revitalize and bring attention to the new project. He might end up involved in some token manner (likely involving the Lord British character who he owns the rights to). There was an interview a few weeks ago saying Bioware will be turning their attention to a well loved IP, I believe this is Ultima and this is my predication for what that means.
Lord of the Rings Online has a bad year. I have no idea how this plays out but I get the sense that the game has turned the corner and the benefit of the F2P switch is starting to run dry for the game. I don’t think the last expansion did overly well.
CCP / DUST – I suspect DUST will not ship this year, particularly after early betas receive overly negative feedback. I have no basis for this, but call it a hunch.
Rift suffers the most from SWTOR. Many MMO vets who burned out on WoW after Cataclysm found a haven in Rift. Even those who have resisted SWTOR in the short term will find the sheer amount of their friends in TOR a strong enough pull to walk away from Rift. Trion needs to announce an expansion for Rift by June or the game’s long term outlook could be called in to question. Don’t rule out a business model change.
Speaking of business model changes – SWTOR becomes a proving ground for the AAA subscription approach. The problem is TOR has also raised the expectation for what a AAA subscription MMO is. Companies will be more tempted by the Sub model again (counter to the fleeing to F2P we’ve seen in 2011) but the up front cost is a more daunting barrier to entry than ever. Expect this to mean a slow 2012 for product reveals as publishers and the money men figure out what the fuck this all means.
Final Fantasy XIV this is a toughy. FFXIV 2.0 is set to release in the fall of 2012. I suspect this date might get missed completely and 2.0 might not happen until 2013. I suspect the decision to start charging for the game this week will kill the game outright in North America. The key question is whether enough JP players stick around to pay the upkeep while we wait for 2.0. If 2.0 does release I don’t expect it to win hearts and minds in North America. It’ll take the PS3 version, which won’t hit until early 2013, to give the game another shot in North America. This will be a dark year for S-E in the MMO market.
Overall 2012 will be a brighter year for MMOs as TOR brings some fresh air in to the room. There will be less closures, less F2P conversions and just less activity on the business end and a lot more gaming. SWTOR and WoW: MoP will exist together and the MMO sub business will be bigger than it has ever been.
We’ll see next December how I did…