I went back and forth on whether to bother with New Year's resolutions and predictions this year. I play a bunch of different games, and I'm not going to change what game I'm playing just to comply with a post from late December - thus I usually end up with a handful of very specific goals that I know I will get done in the next few months and a bunch of vague/qualitative hand-waving for the remainder of the year. Likewise, it's hard to predict much of anything with any accuracy in MMO's since we don't really have the data we'd need to do so.
Instead, this year, here are some things that I'm curious about.
Will Marvel Heroes Pay Off?
I made a late-year-decision to pre-purchase $130-worth of upcoming characters for this game. So far, so good, but the year is young. My shortest-term goal is to get Cyclops to level 60 to start the synergy exp gravy train rolling. My mid-range goal is to have at least 10 characters to level 25 for the first tier stat synergy bonuses (currently 2 for Cyclops and Deadpool), and the long-term is to have at least 10 characters to level 50 for the upper tier stat bonuses (currently just Cyclops). If at least five of the Advance Pack characters make this roster then it's pretty safe to say that the purchase paid off for me.
Will TESO/Wildstar/EQ Next/Camelot Unchained customers revolt?
TESO and Wildstar have announced second quarter release dates, presumably with non-refundable pre-NDA-drop pre-purchase offers to follow. Western console players have not historically tolerated subscription business models, so it's hard to see how TESO does not have a business model re-launch this year. Wildstar at least has the sci-fi sub-genre going for it, but is it far enough outside the box to beat the non-subscription trend that has now claimed every AAA MMO since World of Warcraft? Or, will both products (intentionally or otherwise) charge early adopters $60 for their game box and upwards of $100 for pre-paid 6-12 month subscriptions, only to go F2P within the first year?
Meanwhile, SOE is hard at work pre-selling alpha access to Everquest Next Landmark - which sounds like an odd cross between the real Everquest Next and a paid public test server for EQN player studio content. Camelot Unchained won't launch this year, but paid alpha testing for potentially thousands of Kickstarter backers (mostly in the $200+ range, plus a smaller number who get earlier internal testing access) is supposed to begin this fall.
Thus, by the end of the year, there are scenarios where large numbers of players are dissatisfied with their pre-purchases. Will customers actually change their behavior in the future? Are we as a demographic just willing to accept this as the cost of being present for the launch of each online game? Are these games even catering to the traditional MMO demographic found on forums and blogs, or are they attempting/succeeding in broadening the market somehow?
Will a major title's F2P re-launch go under in 2014?
I strongly debated making this heading title "LOTRO" due to uncertainty about its license option years, my longstanding questions about whether revenue from Turbine's version of "free to play" is inherently front-loaded, and the curious decision NOT to develop an expansion pack for 2014. In fairness, longterm subscribers are correctly noting that with required annual expansions and diminishing restrictions on non-subscribers, it can feel like they're paying more for no good reason.
Bottom line here is that the closing of City of Heroes can be written off as the wrath of NCSoft, but another high profile F2P relaunch going down could have an effect on customer confidence. If not LOTRO, then perhaps Aion, Tera, or one of the Funcom titles? Or perhaps it just isn't possible to affect gamers' consumer confidence - see above discussion.
Any Late Year Surprises?
In 2013, the big expectations were for end-of-year TESO and Wildstar news, leaving the beginning of the year pretty quiet and the end of year similarly quiet once both titles punted to 2014. All these moves mean a relatively crowded schedule for the 2nd-3rd quarters (TESO, Wildstar, EQN:L, WoW's Warlords expansion)... and what precisely for the back end of the year? Syp's annual list notwithstanding, I don't see a ton of waves here. I know better than to suggest a Titan reveal will happen this year, but this could be a good platform for someone with something up their sleeves - SOE? Turbine? - to make some waves.
What are you curious about in 2014?