In 2007, you could have surprised absolutely nobody by predicting that 2008, last year, would be the biggest, best year ever for MMOs. Triple A titles abounded — Age of Conan and Warhammer Online were both just going to tear WoW a new one, but heck, even WoW was coming out with its second expansion. Pirates of the Burning Sea would take MMOs into a new direction, Chronicles of Spellborn would be an indie hit from Europe, and Flagship would be following up Hellgate: London with their MMO homage to Diablo II, Mythos.
Well… Wrath of the Lich King was a hit. AoC and WAR have retrenched and are slowly rebuilding their player bases after the WoWians returned to WoW, as everybody knew they would. Spellborn was delayed and delayed, PotBS didn’t get the numbers a RvR-focused game needs to thrive, and Flagship imploded suddenly and spectacularly and who knows what their creditors will do with the games…. 2008 looked sunny in 2007, but now we’ve learned to manage our expectations a bit.
2008 was the year of bet-your-company releases. In 2009, we get the MMOs that don’t have to have a million subscribers in order to be considered acceptable.
Chronicles of Spellborn, released last fall in just a few European countries, gets its worldwide release in the next couple of months. They just want to be a good alternative for people who want an unusual combat mechanic, intense PvP, great lore and a setting drenched with atmosphere.
EVE Online will soon release its first boxed expansion in years, Apocrypha, that will undoubtedly trade on its huge reputation as the one Western PvP-focused game where “impact PvP” isn’t just a buzzword, but where goings-on in the game world Really Do make the real world news. Even WoW doesn’t get THAT kind of coverage.
SOE’s Free Realms is due out in April. This family-focused MMO wants to compete in Wizard 101’s market — and Wizard 101 has just quietly signed up its millionth account since its launch last September. Family MMOs might be the next big thing, and this could be a surprise hit for SOE if they can market it correctly.
Cryptic hopes to double team the MMO world in June with both Champions Online and Star Trek Online. If the Star Trek movie does well and Cryptic can keep to its schedule, then STO could really take off. It looks like they are, in fact, bringing us the STO we want. Champions Online is the City of Heroes sequel that NCsoft hasn’t brought us, combined with the free-form and limitless customization possibilities offered by the Champions pen-and-paper game.
And all this is just in the first HALF of 2009. From this end of things, it seems after the deafening roar of the giants battling it out last year, the still, small voice of trumpets can be heard in the sudden silence afterward.
It COULD be the greatest year yet.