We’re well into February now and it seems like every day more and more MMO publishers are willing to come out and declare their intention to launch in “late 2013″. If you had asked me six weeks ago what the hot MMO titles this year would be I’m not sure I’d have much to say in response, but now I feel like we’ve actually got a pretty good sense of what’s to come.
So let me put my enthusiast’s pride on the line and make totally scientific predictions on the fate of 2013’s hottest MMO titles!
Why we care: It’s a big Intellectual Property making a break into the modern MMO market and with an early-ish launch NWN could be a bellwether of things to come. Strong, old school ties to the gaming community. Early buzz about The Foundry, a distribution system for player-generated content.
Prediction: Possibly profitable — I’m not sure how much they’ve spent on development — but ultimately not more successful than Turbine’s Dungeons & Dragons Online. The disappointing character creator videos and unpleasant beta access scheme (“double secret headstart access!”) do not inspire confidence.
Why we care: The second in-house MMO from Trion Worlds, Defiance will be both a game and a television show on the SyFy network. Synergy! It’s happening right now!
Prediction: I want this to be a runaway hit because Trion Worlds are my bros, but I just don’t see it happening. The show is gonna have to be real good to carry its part of the hype machine and I feel like the game’s “action MMO” design was scooped by Planetside 2 months ago. I give the show 6 months, the game 10.
Why we care: Because everyone says we should! This is the game that’s riding the hype wave right now. Wildstar is being called a “sandpark” (ugh, really? are we making “sandpark” happen?) with different “paths” for Settlers, Explorers, Soldiers, and Scientists. The animation is unique and highly stylized.
Prediction: This will be the second-most popular MMO of 2013, and I think a lot of people will give it the ol’ six months. Wildstar will be a big fat win for NCSoft (and Carbine), but less so than Guild Wars 2. Assuming it’s free-to-play, I’d say 750k active accounts right after launch is quite possible (500k if subscription).
Why we care: One of the first names in MMOs gets a fresh start. EQNext was apparently already scrapped once and rebuilt from the ground up, and it’s now being billed as “the largest sandbox style MMO ever designed”. Bold words.
Prediction: I would play the hell out of something that’s basically EQII with a modern interface, but the fact is that I’m weird. Also, SOE just never seem to handle their games very well. I think EQNext will kill Everquest classic within six months of launch, but never really break out of the Everquest audience.
Why we care: Created by Jake Song of Lineage fame, this Korean-style MMO has got a surprising amount of traction with North American audiences. Slated to be distributed here by Trion Worlds, ArcheAge is in the rapidly expanding but currently under-staffed “themepark sandbox hybrid” market.
Prediction: Superduper niche, but profitable if free-to-play. Serious, open world PvP is a tough sell in the casual market.
The Elder Scrolls Online
Why we care: Because just about everyone with a computer has played an Elder Scrolls game at some point. This is an IP with a built-in base of extremely loyal fans, branching into MMO territory for the first time. And really, who hasn’t looked up from Skyrim and thought that it would be so cool to have friends in the game with you?
Prediction: If you haven’t guessed yet, this is going to be the most popular MMO of 2013.. at least for a while. It’s part of a huge franchise, and it has 20 years worth of lore to build upon. The problem is that the game has yet to explain its own existence — what special stuff is TESO bringing to the table? Without that, I predict a SWTOR-like rise and fall within six months.