Reviewing My 2011 MMO Predictions

Time to see how right I was back when I wrote the following predictions about how things would turn MMO-wise in 2011.

  • F2P titles continue to enter the market and other existing MMOs are likely to join them. Warhammer Online is a distinct possibility, as are titles in the position of Vanguard and Fallen Earth: these games haven’t been around long enough or been successful to build up a critical mass of paying players and need to find new ways of generating revenue while also getting players to try the game. The alternative is to keep firing people to cut ongoing development costs.

Correct. Lots of MMOs headed to free-to-play (F2P) models of some description or announced their intent to. Lum put together a bit of a list, and Aion made a F2P conversion announcement (for its Europe version) the other day too.

Of the titles I mentioned, Fallen Earth went F2P, Warhammer Online released a F2P aspect and Vanguard remains subscription-based but with no developers assigned to work on it.

  • RIFT will show that a highly polished, well-thought-out WoW clone will attract an audience, but not as many as they’d want. Blizzard will release an expansion with dynamic dimensional tears as a content feature.

Half right, I think. RIFT had a strong launch, but it is arguable that retained large numbers of players. World of Warcraft hasn’t yet released an expansion with dynamic dimensional tears, but perhaps such things go hand-in-hand with pandas.

  • While F2P titles are on the rise, new subscription-based titles are going to see a lot of pressure to prove that they are worth $15 a month. The majority won’t be, but won’t want to drop that dollar sub amount either.

Correct. You can see this in the way a lot of titles went F2P in a hybrid model – you can play for free and pay to unlock game content / options, or you can play a subscription fee, or some kind of other option. Subscription payments are still preferred by game studios as a dependable source of revenue.

As for games proving they are worth $15 a month, the number of conversions to F2P shows that most feel (correctly) that they can’t compete on value grounds.

  • There will be plenty of time for more awesome-but-completely-unrelated-to-gameplay [Star Wars: The Old Republic] trailers to come out.

Correct. Another of the Blur Studios-developed trailers came out for E3 2011:

… plus gameplay / character class trailers, but they are less interesting.

SWOR got three lengthy Blur Studios trailers where most games would be lucky to get one approaching that level of quality. It just shows the money being spent on SWOR if possibly U$1m plus is being spent just on cinematic trailers.

  • Star Wars: The Old Republic won’t launch in 2011. It’s a big, complex game from a studio who has never released a MMO before, so although BioWare probably expects to launch this year, the results from beta testing will hold things up until 2012 while things are fixed.

Wrong, but not by much. Let’s put it this way: I was 50 / 52th’s correct. EA waited until pretty much the absolute last minute (in game retail terms) to launch SWOR. There would have been some huge pressure to get it out in 2011 so that first quarter 2012’s profits start looking good again.

  • DC Universe Online isn’t the return to form that SOE would like it to be for the PC and PS3 players will find themselves with a game they can’t trade in at GameStop.

Correct. Game content was delivered late, server population numbers plunged and the lead developer was replaced on the path to moving DCUO to a F2P title. I don’t want to say that DCUO holds the record for shortest path from subscription-based launch to F2P, but it was short (roughly 9 months). Having made the move to F2P, DCUO could possibly be the first big console MMO success story of this generation, but it wouldn’t be via SOE’s preferred path.

  • The number of major MMO releases in 2011 (assuming they go ahead as planned) is going to help keep all of them fighting for every dollar of subscription revenue. At least Guild Wars 2 has a revenue model that takes this into account.
The Life Rift from RIFT.

RIFT seemed to do a lot right, but the key word I've heard used to describe it is "bland".

The major western MMOs that launched in 2011 were:

  • DC Universe Online (now F2P)
  • RIFT (still subscription based)
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic (just released)

Other titles like World of Tanks started out launching as F2P. Guild Wars 2 dropped their launch date to 2012.

Competition for subscription dollars remains very tight and the reason why a number of titles are going hybrid F2P, so I’m going to call this correct.

  • Look to RealID to expand further, especially with the launch of Diablo 3. It probably won’t require you to show your real name, but it is going to become a greater core of Blizzard Activision’s online games strategy.

Wrong if I meant “within 2011”, but otherwise unproven since Diablo 3 didn’t launch this year. There was more development around RealID, but it didn’t appear to be as pushy as the original World of Warcraft implementation.

  • Expect the status quo: along with numerous MMO launches, there will also be closures and retrenchments re-focusing of workers and WoW will still be the number 1 MMO come 1 January 2012.

Correct. World of Warcraft is still #1 at over 11 million players worldwide, despite losing the odd million or so over 2011.

And yes, there were numerous MMO launches and retrenchments (under various terms) in 2011. Taking some of note: Sony Online Entertainment (cancelling work on The Agency and other titles), NCsoft cut Western operations jobs and moved some of those positions back to South Korea, NetDevil laid people off to the point you wonder who still works there while Faxion Online launched in May, cut the dev team in July and closed in August.

Keeping Score

I count 9 predictions and 6 correct guesses predictions. Not bad.

Up shortly, I’ll make my predictions for 2012. I’m not going to count “more people will be laid off” as a prediction for next year, since that’s almost a given under current industry practises and conditions.

2 thoughts on “Reviewing My 2011 MMO Predictions

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