In a follow up to my post from May 2012, I wanted to point out the three MMOs that you probably really didn't need to pay any attention to.
First up there was Dominus which actually had shuttered its doors prior to me even posting it's name in my 2012 post. This was clearly a game that didn't need any attention paid to it.
The next was Salem which closed its doors in June of 2013 before ever getting to a launch phase. Amazing ideas wrapped up in a pretty terrible game. Please look the other way.
Lastly there was The Otherlands based on Tad Williams' novels of the same name. This is still kicking around in Closed Beta and still has all the premise that it had last year. However, Wildstar has pretty much come along to promise almost all the same features in a much more promising package. I still am interested in The Otherlands, but doubt it will swing many heads it's direction when (and if) it ever launches.
Basically I suck at picking niche games that will make it big (though I still maintain I was an early adopter and fan of Minecraft before it exploded). Instead I should probably focus my time on games that have broken out of that initial phase of skepticism and have begun proving themselves on the market. So I present to you faithful reader the two games you should probably get up to speed on if you are not already.
Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone
If you have followed the gaming media over the past couple of weeks it would have been hard to miss the news coming out of BlizzCon 2013. Not only was another World of Warcraft expansion announced, but Blizzard also put on display two of it's more niche titles: Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone.
Hearthstone is a digital card game that has exploded exponentially since it's initial announcement. The BlizzCon tournament was streamed to more than 100,000 peak concurrent watchers. The game is only in early beta and is taking the digital card game scene by storm. It absolutely puts to shame the focus on digital card games such as Solforge and Hex that were the Kickstarter darlings of this genre. Hearthstone is poised to dominate and dominate quickly. The Blizzard polish is present and the "easy to play, hard to master" mantra is on target.
Heroes of the Storm (HotS) is Blizzard's take on the MOBA genre. They went back into the hopper with Blizzard DotA and out comes HotS which at first glance looks to be an amazing overhaul of a genre that has been, in my opinion, completely stale and unwilling to change. League of Legends took a tiny step forward out of the hardcore insanity of what the original Defense of the Ancients was while DOTA2 from Valve copied it wholesale. HotS is a giant leap from both.
The immediate draw to HotS is that it destroys the "learning wall" that is present in other MOBA games. The game looks immediately approachable and understandable for the casual gamer. Matches are on smaller maps with clear goals. Different maps offer different ways to victory with some pretty neat graphical displays such as a ghost ship firing it's cannons to down one of the two sides defenses.
However, just as with Hearthstone, there is a very clear "easy to play, hard to master" vibe going on. The Heroes all seemed simple enough to play without deep concerns about certain Heroes serving no purpose in a casual game. At the same time there appears to be higher-level tactical decisions to be made. Items and shops are gone in favor of decision trees after leveling up.
The presentation of the game also looks to be friendly and has the classic Blizzard polish. The game is not even in a true beta form and it is being displayed and shoutcast live at BlizzCon. This is classic Blizzard. This is why their games are amazing and leaders in their respective genres. I've often said that World of Warcraft has spoiled me. I have not played a game outside Minecraft, let alone an MMO, since World of Warcraft that can grab me within minutes. I suspect both Hearthstone and HotS will be immediately familiar once my fingers set down on WASD.