What a year it’s been! There’s been a couple of major launches with both RIFT and Star Wars: The Old Republic attracting a lot of attention and enjoying success. There’s been a whole series of subscription MMOs switching to a free-to-play model and doing really well with it. And regrettably there’s also been a few shutdowns, with both Lego Universe and Star Wars: Galaxies switching off their servers.
I’m told that it’s traditional to spend today reflecting on the year just gone and make resolutions and predictions for the future. I’m not going to bore you with my own version of the Year In Review – there’s some great month-by month roundups over at MMO Melting Pot. I’ve donned my Soothsaying Hat though (it’s very impressive) to bring some forecasts for the future, though I’m not confident they’ll all hit in 2012.
The last year has been a little strange for me. I’ve been playing World of Warcraft for nearly seven years now and I keep on expecting for a game to replace it. So far none have provided more than a few week’s diversion, but now that I find myself playing Warcraft only to raid I think the switch can’t be far off. I’m currently playing both SWTOR and Warcraft, with the former grabbing the most of my gaming hours. I’m not sure how this will evolve in 2012, but I’m expecting one of them to lose out to Guild Wars 2.
Last year was my first full year of blogging (I started back in March 2010) and it’s been a huge amount of fun. I’ve drifted from writing purely about Mages in World of Warcraft to just general Warcraft, then to Warcraft and Rift, and now to pretty much any MMO that looks interesting and pokes me into writing something. It’s been a strange journey, although I’m still a fan of the “stand at the back and shoot with magic/force/phasers” type. Fingers crossed it’ll continue for some time yet!
I’ve also relaunched my Youtube channel, recording guides about the games I’m currently playing. At the moment it’s been deluged with SWTOR updates, but I’m hoping to broaden focus to a range of MMOs in order to give some of the lesser known and free-to-play ones some love.
I’m no longer just writing for myself either. A while back I became a staff writer over at Wildstar Source, part of the ZAM network of sites. I’m enjoying the focus that it brings, as well as having a full-time editor go over my work. I’m hoping that my writing in general will improve from it.
The Resolution of Gaz
I have one resolution for 2012, and it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. I’ve been trained as a software engineer, yet I haven’t written a line of code in about four years. My aim is to change that and fulfil an ambition of mine at the same time.
I’m going to make a game and release it in 2012.
I’m tired of being the critic, sitting on the wall and casting down my opinions. I want to get my hands dirty and try it for myself. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I’ve first started programming, yet I fell into the business software route instead of the games route. While writing about games has been incredibly satisfying, I’m craving something more. I’d also like to start developing for Android in order to start testing some of my MMO mobile gaming theories.
The MMO Industry Future
I didn’t make a set of predictions last year so I’m a little nervous about making bold and brash statements about what will definitely happen in 2012. I’m not going to get all vague though – I just think that sometimes a year is a little tight. As a result, some of my predictions might take a little longer to arrive, but I think they’ll all happen.
Star Wars: The Old Republic will do brilliantly for the first three months since launch (although I have a feeling that it’ll also be great news for PC retailers). It’s at that point that the focus on story comes back to haunt BioWare. One of two things will happen: they’ll have a content pipeline set up to provide new story every month or players will leave for other games.
The other possibility is that they fix space combat. Players rediscover their love for PVP dogfighting and subscribe to the game purely to shoot other players out of the sky. Razer makes a joystick that becomes instantly popular. SWTOR becomes more successful than we could have possibly imagined. MMO pundits are left scratching their heads and trying to work out what just happened.
Trion, NCSoft and possibly others like Steam and Amazon AWS will look at the Red Door model and how it can work for indie game development. The model changes so that instead of betting the (server) farm one a single game doing well, there’s a collection of smaller ones that grow or shrink as player demand dictates. We’ll see an explosion of game worlds running off the back of cheap common server farms, all linked together with a common authentication, payments and social API framework.
Mists of Pandaria will launch in late Summer. After becoming the most played beta in gaming history, it receives a lacklustre reception purely because the dedicated fans have played through most of the content already. I also have a hunch that this will be the last Warcraft expansion sold through retail channels. Titan will be announced at Blizzcon 2012 and our minds will be blown.
Guild Wars 2 will sneak up on us while we’re distracted, showing us their views on how they want to evolve the MMO genre. They’ll capture the attention of almost every jaded MMO veteran, challenge every genre convention and try to cram in as much fun as possible. It’ll be the game that MMO bloggers point to as pushing the genre forward for most of 2012.
Wildstar will remind us why having a game world with soul and charm is so vital. It’ll continue to make us laugh throughout next year as more news emerges, before becoming a hotly anticipated beta in the second half of 2012. My gut feeling is that we’ll be waiting until 2013 for the game to launch, but expect to see it at all the major expos throughout the year.
Storybricks launches their first beta in late Spring. After a bit of head scratching the concept finally clicks in the minds of the playerbase. From a slow start the game finishes 2012 becoming the Minecraft of the MMO genre.
Finally there’s The Secret World. This game won’t launch – you’ll come home one evening to find that someone’s installed it on your PC while you were out. There’ll be an envelope on your desk from a mysterious benefactor with your account details inside. You don’t know how, you don’t know who, all you know is that you must play. Six months later you wake up, wondering if it was all a dream or if you really did play an MMO that intensely.