2008 Predictions

Here’s my Nostradamus impersonation for the coming year, in no particular order:

  • The Lich King cools more than just the temperature. Blizzard’s 800 lb. Gorilla is too big and too successful to take chances with, and the Wrath of the Lich King with it’s “more of the same” feature list will begin to wear thin and cause a more noticeable decline in active subscribers. I do suspect Blizzard can get the expansion out in ’08 though probably not until Q4. Late Q3 at the absolute earliest.
  • The year of WAAAAUGH! Warhammer: Age of Reckoning will be huge and will likely be the single title that gets the most attention and press coverage the whole year. However… at the end of the day, I predict many will play WAR and have a resounding sensation that “it’s just another fantasy MMO” with only RvR and a few other updates of Dark Age of Camelot features setting it apart. WAR will be big, WAR will be popular — especially among the fans of MMO-style PvP — but WAR will also be “been there, done that” to many.
  • Age of Conan doesn’t do well as hoped on the PC. The hardcore Conan fans might stick around, but AoC’s M rating won’t get the “mature” crowd it’s fighting for, but will get the tweenagers focused on the Mortal Kombat-esque over-the-top violence and the nudity. AoC’s general chat will rate right up there with WoW and Guild Wars as among the worst in the industry as a result of it’s not-so-M-rated player base.
  • Age of Conan does well on the 360. Comparatively speaking, the 360 offers players a more inexpensive and stable platform to get into the genre. Or for the PC vets who give it a shot, it offers an alternative platform and a way to play an MMO while sitting on the couch in front of your wide screen HDTV. Support for the existing controller, USB keyboards (and mice?) and built-in VOIP will finally usher in the genesis of console MMO’s where Final Fantasy XI failed to do so.
  • Tabula Rasa comes of age. TR certainly shocked most of us by making such as rapid shift from “meh” even in very very late beta to “wow this is fun! When did this happen?” right after launch. I still get the feeling TR released a tad early, and within the first half of ’08 Destination Games will patch, and more importantly, expand upon their existing content and not only make us realize where TR is going but also realize we want to be there for it!
  • Vanguard gets a second chance. I continue to be of the opinion that the MMO public is extremely fickle, unforgiving, and unwilling to give second chances. However the 180 many former Tabula Rasa bashers have done make me wonder if 2008 won’t also provide Vanguard the opportunity to shine once we see what the post-Sigil and post-McQuaid team have in store for us.
  • The Agency does well and shows not only what can be done with a pseudo-MMO FPS, but also demonstrates to Western gamers that RMT is, in fact, a viable alternative to the monthly subscription model. It won’t convert in droves, especially since Agency isn’t a true persistent world game, but RMT outside an Asian grindfest might just open some eyes. On its own merit, the Agency will shine as a fun online shooter with class and character that sets it apart from it’s run-of-the-mill deathmatch peers.
  • Turbine announces the first retail expansion to Lord of the Rings Online. The expansion won’t be released in 2008 but Turbine will make the announcement that it’s coming, including it’s title and initial feature list. (Had to get an easy one in this list somewhere!)
  • Huxley changes its business model. I suspect Huxley is going to be written off the lists of many shooter fans, or those hoping for a true MMOFPS after seeing the recent beta video footage of Huxley. Why it took this long, I don’t know. Webzen said months ago Huxley was not persistent, utilizing a huge city as its lobby while the actual battle zones are instanced. The game does look fun and intense, and something that would go over well for both PC and console gamers but… a subscription for something that isn’t actually “massively multiplayer?” I predict Webzen will look at the failure of Fury and the rapid post-launch implosion of Auran and re-think the subscription plan. However, I don’t think RMT is the way to go for Huxley either… I’m rather torn at the moment on how the whole Huxley thing is going to pan out.
  • Perpetual LLC (or whatever their name is this week) loses the rights to Star Trek however no other studio announces a Star Trek MMO either. I mentioned somewhere months ago that just like WoW, Star Trek is too big a property to take many chances with. “WoW in Space” is likely the way it would be handled — levels and gear-based, very easy, very… normal in a “kill ten tribbles” kind of way. I do think a Star Trek MMO is inevitable; the property needs attention with the only project in the works being a cinematic re-imagining of the original series’ origins. Space travel, exploration, and yes, combat is a necessity. Hopefully not the circle-jerk space combat that Jumpgate: Evolution will likely bring though. My vision for Star Trek capital ships is they are traveling guild halls. The guild leader can set the course for travel, and members can be away teams to planets, stations and other capital ships. Players can also work their rank/faction/whatever to pilot a smaller shuttle and small combat ships as well. Having the galaxy class ships as guild halls easily explains away the roster as people transfer in and out of the guild. It also provides the ability to engage in faction PvP (Federation vs. whomever) as well as interstellar GvG (not Federation vs. Federation obviously) and forming alliances with other ships ala Guild Wars. This small innovation could be a huge seller if finally guilds matter in a game for something other than a chat room. One catch: if mankind no longer has money in the Star Trek universe, yet MMO players are singularly fixated on becoming wealthy, not to mention those traveling guild halls will need upkeep and upgraded shields, weapons, vendors, etc. I don’t see the Federation or any other faction just handing out gear and upgrades for free in-game. I’m hardly a Trek lore guru, but it seems like some “lucky” studio gets to apply some creative licensing or just break canon for the sake of game play just like Turbine has to do with LOTRO.
  • I will be one of the early inductees in the Guild Wars 2 beta! Ok, this is more of a hopeful dream than a prediction, but at least it’s out there now for Google to cache and maybe someone from ArenaNet will just happen to read it, take pity upon me, and make my dream come true! (Hey while you’re at it, I’ll take a creative job on the GW2 team… 😀 )

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