Monday, January 12, 2009

Relmstein's 2009 Predictions

With everyone making grandiose predictions for 2009 I realized I'm a bit behind the curve since I didn't even bother to make any for 2008. I remember I did say this year would be all about PvP with Wrath of the Lich King, Warhammer, and Age of Conan coming out. But I must say I had no idea that Age of Conan would launch without a basic PvP system and people would only play Warhammer's scenarios. I thought for sure that Wintergrasp would be a pale imitation of a Warhammer keep siege, but I must say I'm having fun except for all the lag. As you can tell if I had made predictions for this year I would probably have been wrong on most of them, with maybe one or two exceptions. Still with so many bloggers putting the reputation of their intuition on the line this year how can I stay out of the fun.

1. No Micro-transaction based game will catch on this year
I get tired about people claiming that micro-transactions are the wave of the future. I just don't see this payment system becoming more widespread when a decent amount of western gamers see the subscription model as having better value. Micro-transactions will continue to enjoy some success in youth oriented games where players don't have access to credit cards. However, I feel that a large amount of gamers leave these games behind as they gain a steady source income and credit cards of their own.

2. At least one non-western MMO will become big in America.
A lot of MMOs last year were subjected to massive advertising campaigns and had problems with being over hyped by their fan base. This created a lot of unrealistic expectations with players and actually hurt the game in the long run. While initial box sales are important, the financial success of MMOs have always depended on establishing a reputation with gamers. I think this year a small foreign game can catch the market by surprise by circumventing the hype machine and allowing players to form their own opinions. EVE Online managed to do this quite well and other games can follow in its footsteps.

3. People will grow tired of Wrath of the Lich King in the summer
Blizzard really did put in a great amount of effort with Wrath of the Lich King and produced their best expansion yet. However, since the development time frame hasn't improved I see this expansion following the same pattern of decline as the Burning Crusade. The initial surge in subscription numbers should stop three months after release and the numbers should start to decrease after six months. Games released after the summer of this year should see a boost in their initial sales. Though we won't see anything like Age of Conan's surprising box sales until a year after Wrath of the Lich King.

4. Blizzard will announce their new MMO this year.
Someone will either spill the beans or kidnap a Blizzard employee to find out the truth. I still have my fingers crossed for a Starcraft MMO, but a new franchise is also very likely. I don't think Blizzard wants to cannibalize the subscription base for World of Warcraft so they are dragging their feet on announcing the new MMO. However, news from last Blizzcon made it clear that several lead developers (Jeff Kaplan) were spending most of their time on the new MMO. This hints that too much work is being done on the game to keep it quiet much longer.

5. The Old Republic will become over hyped
I'm disappointed in how many empty promises have already been made about the game. Bioware might actually mean what they say, but we heard a lot of this stuff before. I think the last three games that came out promised that player actions would really matter and that the game would have an epic storyline. Instead we've gotten mostly static worlds with recycled plot lines. If Bioware just promised to make a game better then Star Wars Galaxies and keep George Lucas away from the project I would be satisfied. Instead I fear the game will be overhyped and suffer the consequences.

6. Warhammer will become the 2nd biggest MMO in the west.
I really don't think Warhammer is dead though it needs some major changes before it becomes the PvP game that was promised to us. In the last patch a lot of things have already been fixed, but no one really cares because of Wrath of the Lich King. If Warhammer just keeps improving itself though it can take advantage of Blizzard's slow development cycle. I wouldn't be surprised if Warhammer surges in the summer this year especially if no new releases make a splash in the market.

7. Champions Online will consume the subscription base for City of Heroes
A large part of the attraction of MMOs is the constant introduction of new content. Unfortunately, for NCSoft this means that Champions Online will have a huge advantage over City of Heroes when it releases this year. Champions Online will have similar gameplay, but will also be filled with new zones, stories, and costumes. While I know the current City of Heroes fanbase is very dedicated I think they will start to desert NCSoft pretty quickly. Of course the future of Cryptic is cryptic because of Atari buying them out so there could be some surprises.

8. The Star Trek film will increase interest in the MMO
The trailer for the movie looked very good and J.J. Abrams is skilled at making great entertainment. This is basically free advertisement for Crytpic and if I were them I would have something to release in conjunction with the movie. I guarantee the web traffic on the games site increases drastically after the movie's release. It might be two years until the game is release, but it's never too early to start building a community around a MMO.

9. SOE will slash games from its all-access pass
SOE will finally have to make a decision to remove some of the older games from its all-access pass. Quite frankly I'm not that impressed with SOE's upcoming lineup of games and think most of them will have to be put on the all-access pass to turn a profit. This will cause the revenue to become a little too spread out and some games will have to be removed from life support. I have a feeling Planetside is the one most in danger.

10. If SOE has a hit, it will be Free Realms
While I'm not a big believer in micro-transaction games I do believe they serve a niche. There are a lot of low income gamers and young gamers dependent on store bought game cards who can't use subscriptions. Most of them are forced to play games like DOMO, Rappelz, and Maple Story. These games are heavily influenced by anime and eastern game design, which doesn't necessarily have universal appeal. There might be decent demand for a micro-transaction game which uses western art and game design. Free Realms could disprove my number one prediction.


Elementalistly said...

Warhammer will become the 2nd biggest MMO in the west. already is...(besides Guild it depends on if you wish to use it as an MMO or, how about 2nd largest subscriber based MMO)
So, this prediction was already true last order...
1. Disagree
2. Disagree
3. Agree (but I still do not think WoW will go below 10 mill ...yet)
4. Disagree
5. Depends on what you call "hype" It is a Bioware title, and ALL Bioware titles get hyped up, and always succeed, so none of their titles are ever OVER hyped..
6. Already answered..
7. Finally agree. CoH is old no surprise there.
8. Only of Star Trek geeks...but, hard to say..JJ has a way of making action out of boredom. Star Trek has always been a boring type of now we will finally have some Popcorn MAYBE!
9. Yea...wish it would be Vanguard and MxO
10. Probably. The Agency does look good, and has that "free" thing like Guild Wars..

Guess we will have to wait and see how these go!

Good luck mate!

Green Armadillo said...

I don't have a link handy, but I think Blizzard confirmed that the mystery fourth project is a new IP at Blizzcon last year.

It will be interesting to see what the longterm effects of the (short) length of Wrath are on WoW and the broader MMORPG market. If you'd told me in February of 2007 that Blizzard was going to manage a mere four content patches over the nearly two years between TBC and Wrath, I would have predicted dire things for the game which would have proven incorrect.

Trevel said...

Bioware games HAVE been overhyped. They've been hyped at a perfect 10 (or even an 11) and pulled off a 9.5 -- so, overhyped, but quality, quality, quality...

... as opposed to games overhyped at 9 that end up being a 3, which is a very different scenario.