It’s that special time when we close out the year that was and look ahead to the glittering promise of what lies ahead. For MMOGs, it has been a year of delays (DCUO, SW:TOR), minor releases (STO), the continuing domination of World of Warcraft, pay-to-play to free-to-play game conversions (LotRO, EverQuest II Extended, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Champions Online), and outright failures (APB). What lies ahead for the MMOG community? Wonder no more, friends, for the staffers here at Lewterslounge have made some bold predictions for 2011! Our keen gazes peered deeply into the murky depths of our crystal balls (or Magic 8 Balls) to see what will be. Will these predictions hold true? Only time will tell.
PREDICTIONS FOR 2011
Now that we’ve gotten last year’s predictions out of the way, it is time to see what predictions the staff at Lewterslounge will make for 2011. Will they predict that Blizzard’s next MMOG will be a variant of Hello Kitty called Hello Doggy? Will WoW continue to dominate the market? (Well, actually, that one is a given. We all know that WoW will continue as Blizzard’s license to print money.) How will the slew of new MMOGS coming out fare?
Mem is one of the newer faces on our World of Warcraft team and has a “casually hardcore” focus, which means that he won’t rub your face in it too hard when he pwns you.
- World of Warcraft will add no less than three major content patches, introducing new bosses, new gear, and new in-game mods by the end of 2011.
- Diablo III will just miss being released in 2011, instead being released in January of 2012. Thanks to Blizzard's previous track record in this department no one will be surprised at having to wait a full year.
- Even being free-to-play and browser-based will not be enough to attract attention or enthusiasm to Star Trek: Infinite Space, and it will fail spectacularly in its first month of life.
- DC Universe Online will attract a modest yet loyal fan base that won't wow anyone with numbers, but will be enough to keep the game trucking along in what could potentially be a very long life.
- Ninety percent of new games released in 2011 will follow the new free-to-play trend in order to muster a solid fan base. Games that are not free to play will be crushed by powerhouses like World of Warcraft and be forced to go free-to-play or face being obliterated from existence.
A six year Lewterslounge veteran, Messiah is considered one of the grand old men at the site. He has covered WoW extensively and definitely lets you know what his true opinion is!
- WoW will continue to rule the MMOG space throughout 2011, even though by halfway through the year, players will once again be complaining it is way too easy. It is, of course, way too easy, but that is part of its appeal to the masses. It literally has something for everyone, but not that much for the serious gamer with any amount of intelligence and skill. This, of course shows up when you try to PUG a group and get hunters who don’t know what a trap is. By mid 2011, the serious intelligent players will once again become frustrated and leave the game between raid releases. Of course since this only represents 5% of the gamers playing WoW, no one will take notice.
- Star Wars: The Old Republic will be released this year and will fly off the shelves as fans rush in to pick it up. It will survive in a serious way for less than six months and then fade away as people realize it isn't fun when everyone can be a Jedi, and that the little bit for everyone that WoW has is better than pretty much everything else out there.
- Blizzard may release Diablo III this coming year, which, while technically not an MMORPG, is still is very close to one. It will outsell every other MMOG released by any other company this coming year and maintain more market share for longer than any other game coming out.
Being the staff writer for Lord of the Rings Online and a fanatic to the game, Gunky limited his predictions to his beloved LotRO.
- When the bloom falls off the Cataclysm rose and it begins to seem old (probably around March or April), a large number of WoW players will head over to LotRO. They will complain on public chat channels that LotRO isn't WoW, fuelling non-stop arguments that go nowhere, and then probably go back to WoW.
- Turbine will reinstate lifetime subscriptions for about 2 months due to popular demand, but will drop them again in favor of the microtransactions which earn more money long-term.
- The expansion of PvMP and the inclusion of monster-play in the F2P package will result in even more heated debate on Turbine forums, with both sides arguing that the other side is overpowered. In other words, it will be no different than now, but on a larger scale.
- Chunks of new content released in smaller parcels will keep long-time players interested in the game, but chunks of old content that would benefit greatly from a revamp will continue to be passed over in favor of flashy new stuff. Carn Dum, Urugarth, and Barad Gularan will not see any significant improvements, but new dungeons will be added to North Downs, Evendim, Mirkwood, and Enedwaith.
Stow is our jack-of-all-trades reviewer and writer. He has a passion for FPS (and who doesn’t?) and is an addict to RTS games. Family and friends have been trying to intervene, unsuccessfully, for years.
- Ragnarok Online 2 will take the world by storm, recapturing former players with the music, graphics, simple gameplay, and personality of the first game. Gravity has finally gotten its crap together and is going to retake the audience that once gave Chaos and Loki 25,000+ active players at any given time.
- DoTA 2 will fail. The same game with a few social upgrades is not worth the price of admission to players who have lived their lives on the Warcraft 3 engine, and also enjoy all of the other custom maps in-between games. The players who accepted that moved on to Heroes of Newerth, which is evolving into its own game somewhat.
- The WoW movie will release to a blockbuster weekend because tickets come with a free in-game mount, and then instantly die off... until the Blu-Ray release offers another one.
- There will not be a single non-MMO RTS released in 2011 and I will cry myself to sleep every night knowing that the genre is dead.
- Facebook games are a scourge upon this world, but there comes another important realization--Facebook is the PC Market now. And as such, so many games and so many applications will be developed specifically around it. A recent Square Enix newsletter about upcoming games listed one console game and three Facebook games. In a way, Facebook is the new iPhone market in that it's a rush to see who is the next Mafia Wars or Farmville. I wouldn't doubt if a major developer tried to take over the market with a AAA MMOG designed around the Facebook experience.
- The death of the subscription-based model is around the corner. Microtransactions have finally won the battle, powered by Turbine's success and the launch of Blizzard's bullshit cash shop. This is a major defeat for those of us who want to always be on a level playing field and cannot be influenced by someone with more cash to throw at his character. F2P with Cash Shop is the future, and every game is slowly starting to add to it.
The behind the scenes lackey and occasional writer at Lewterslounge main site, Jeffprime has been gaming since the late 1970s (yes, I’m old) with Space Invaders and all other types of games from consoles to pen-and-paper rpgs to miniature games. Fun fact: he has a degree in medieval history which explains why he trades his services for a cot next to the Lewterslounge furnace in the basement.
- New games and older games will increasingly go free-to-play (microtransaction) or a hybrid F2P/sub model. The primary reason for this is that older games will be desperate for players and newer games will have nothing original or innovative to offer to draw people away from their game of choice, be it WoW, DDO, LOTRO, or EQ2.
- Facebook will continue to shake up the online gaming industry. I have personally seen the power that is da Facebook when watching my two sisters harvest freaking carrots in Farmville for hours on end. Zynga, a four year old company that makes Facebook games, is worth $5.4 Billion, which is more than EA.
- Co-op games will continue to rise in prominence. Today's players are more into playing with their friends or by themselves than with grouping or joining large guilds. Games like Left 4 Dead and Borderlands will continue to gain traction.
- Diablo III will not be released and a great gnashing of teeth will be felt among the Nerd Force.
- 2011 will be the year that the hardcore gamer is truly laid to rest for determining a game's design and success. The Casual Gamer, also known as 99.8% of the populace, will be crowned king. Hardcores will become increasingly strident on internet forums, constantly bitching about the state of online gaming today, and reminiscing over 8 hour corpse runs and how awesome it was back in the day. The Silent Majority (Casual Gamers) will not see the forum posts as they will be busy picking up their kids from soccer practice and hopefully sneaking in an hour or so of killing orcs after they put the little hellions to bed.
Sardu is our hard-working editor of all things WoW and whatever else we can slip on his plate when he’s not looking. He is also our soft-spoken visionary and color commentator, which doesn’t translate as well as you think when he’s battling Stow online.
- Apart from a brief teaser for their next MMOG at BlizzCon 2011, Blizzard Entertainment will mostly focus on promoting the final raid bosses in Cataclysm and StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm. A release window for Diablo III will also be announced, though it won’t be given a specific date.
- The first details for Blizzard’s next MMOG will, however, be conveniently “leaked” the same week that ArenaNet announces the release date for Guild Wars 2.
- Fallen Earth will continue to build up a critical mass of dedicated fans, closing out the year with numerous comparisons being made to EVE Online’s steady growth over time versus the sparkle and fade launches seen throughout the industry over the last few years.
- The first details and gameplay footage for the Trion Worlds - SyFy joint MMOG project will be revealed this summer. The game will involve giant eels/snakes/alligators/doom bees that cause a shift in the earth’s crust, and players will take on the role of a retired Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine officer with an estranged husband/wife who just happens to be the only scientist in the country that can calculate the exact locations for nuclear warheads to be placed to stop the devastation caused by earthquakes and the rampaging eels/snakes/alligators/doom bees at the same time. Doing it any other way will naturally lead to the end of all life on the plant.
- There will be more announcements that triple-A MMOG releases have slipped into 2012 than there are actual releases before the close of 2011.
Saia is the newest member of our WoW team, which means that he’s responsible for getting the donuts for staff meetings. He’s also our unofficial European bureau chief. We don’t know what happened to our last European bureau chief. According to Saia, “He just went away.”
- Microtransactions in World of Warcraft for pets and other items will become more prevalent in 2011.
- Blizzard will announce the next WoW expansion at BlizzCon 11 in August.
- Diablo III will also get a release date at BlizzCon.
- Blizzard will finally announce their new IP (aka - Titan) as a futuristic FPS.
A man whose playing experience dates back to the dawn of MMOGs, Medawky has been covering a variety of free-to-play games for Lewterslounge, but is currently filling in on the WoW team. He loves grinding so much that he doesn’t drive his car to work, he pushes it!
- Star Wars: The Old Republic will do better than most expect, largely due to the single-player feel of the game. Most new school MMOG players don't give a damn about grouping and they will flourish here.
- Turbine will announce a new MMOG, which will launch as a microtransaction game out of the gate.
- Blizzard will unveil their new "subscription-free" MMOG at Blizzcon 11. BlizzCon tickets will be $175.00 each.
- With the exception of DC Universe Online, all SOE titles will employ some sort of microtransaction model, either the entire game or one existing on separate server model such as EverQuest II Extended.
Xerin is another of Lewterslounge old guard, being a five year plus veteran. David covers WoW in-between spinning off viciously insightful IMs. He has the ability to type text messages with his mind!
- I predict, with a lot of certainty, that no MMOG will overtake World of Warcraft in 2011, much less get anywhere near close.
- Star Wars: The Old Republic will either be delayed another year or, if it launches, do extremely well at launch and fade quickly into obscurity unless it has a free-to-play component built in, which is now a requirement for any MMOG to launch successfully.
- Any MMOG without a free-to-play subscription will now fail at a much faster rate than before.
- Deathwing will arrive to Cataclysm sometime later in 2011 and be a difficult enough boss, but cause a series of Onyxia like jokes throughout the community culminating with some kind of viral video involving more dots and someone freaking out when Deathwing's tailsmack sends them back in time spawning Chuck Norris like jokes.
Lewterslounge resident news jockey, Martuk has not officially been offline in more than two years. Currently, the staff has a betting pool going that he’s either hardwired into his computer or is a disembodied energy being existing in the Matrix. Frankly, we’re not sure and are kind of afraid to find out.
- I predict that despite not being entirely original, Rift will have moderate success after its launch. It won't do superhuman WoW-type numbers, but it will solidify at a decent populace that should sustain the game for some time to come.
- Trion Worlds will then reveal more details about their SyFy Channel MMOG, which is set to run alongside a television show. There will be a lot of hype and we'll begin to get the first clues of why it won't work.
- Star Wars: The Old Republic will launch sometime before Christmas (likely November). SWTOR will break one million boxes sold and thrive well until the 30 free days are up and barring a free-to-play hybrid option at launch, that reception will soon give way to the harsh reality that few games can sustain millions of subscribers and it will suffer the inevitable population dip.
- The Secret World will be postponed until sometime in 2012 to take advantage of the "we're all going to die" (again) fade with the Mayan calendar.
- TERA will launch and despite its fun group play and some creative ideas it will be shadowed by the fact that it's an Eastern-inspired MMOG. This will hinder it a bit in the Western market, but it will still do okay. It just won't be shattering any sales records.
- Star Trek Online will announce a free-to-play option sometime after April.
- The hybrid model will further solidify itself in MMOGs becoming the dominant form over basic subscriptions and the better alternative to the simple free-to-play options.
Shayalyn is our Premium Member program manager, forum peacemaker, and resident den mother. She is the beating heart behind Lewterslounge stony countenance. She is also a 12th degree black belt in Grammar and Writing and has been known to make seasoned writers quake in terror.
- Rift will launch early in Q2 2011 and gamers and reviewers alike will unanimously declare it polished and fun—all in all, a fantastic title. But its linear gameplay, relatively small world and lack of group content will lead to a fall-off in subscriptions bolstered only by the game’s first major update a few months after launch. By the end of 2011, Rift will have converted to some sort of subscription-free payment model that will finally bring the success the game deserves.
- TERA will, unfortunately, be another Aion—stunningly beautiful, with fun gameplay initially, but too grindy in the long run to sustain a sizeable Western audience. Asian gold sellers will plague the title, as well.
- Subscription-based MMOGs will continue to lose steam as free-to-plays overtake them. Those MMOGs daring to launch as pay-to-plays in 2011 will face a difficult struggle to retain subscribers.
- This is a stretch, but EA will announce a new link in the massive Sims franchise that is online, free-to-play, and heavily microtransaction-based. The game will also allow players to create and sell custom content via an online store system. It will be nothing at all like the failed The Sims Online and similar to The Sims 3 with a quest and achievement system. The game won’t even approach the light of day until 2012, or possibly even 2013, but EA will rev up the hype machine nonetheless. You heard it here first!
There you have it, fellow gamers; some bold and not-so-bold predictions for the upcoming year. Has the staff at Lewterslounge successfully pulled back the mysterious veil of the future or are we totally insane? The only thing that can be said with certainty, except for the continuing dominance of WoW, is that time will tell!