Last week I finished what I called my outdoor “Winter Survival Prep” cleanup at my house — I raked the leaves, put the grill away, wound up the hose, and basically prepped the outside of the house for the winter months. Even with some unseasonably warm weather lately, I can feel winter coming — Michiganders tend to be very sensitive about winter’s approach, and you’ll never hear a state’s residents complain more about it — and I’m already feeling that bearish desire to hunker down in my cave and wait it out until spring.
No matter what the weather will be like for me or wherever you live, one thing is for certain: It’s going to be a cold, desolate few months in terms of new MMOs. In fact, major MMO releases this year have already trickled to a complete stop (Vindictus and LEGO Universe are the last semi-big hurrahs of 2010) and there isn’t even the hint of big-name release dates until spring 2011 at the earliest.
It doesn’t mean that studios have given up on MMOs, of course; on the contrary, there are just craptons of MMOs in development, many of which we should be seeing next year. But we have definitely hit an ultra-quiet lull in terms of new titles, and that can create a cabin fever effect on gamers who wouldn’t mind tasting something new now and then — or at least having the option. I’m starting to see this sentiment pop up across the blogosphere as people look at this winter, shrug, and say, “Well, I guess we’re in for more of the same for a good long while to come!”
I would’ve loved to have seen at least one of my anticipated titles released for the holiday season, but thems the breaks. Instead, I’m pacing myself with a double-tour-of-duty of LOTRO and Guild Wars, which is, to be honest, more than enough gaming material for the duration of the season. However, it’s not just about the amount of content, but variety too — I like sampling newness now and then, and I find it helps keep my interest in my mainstays without endangering them with burnout.
So with that in mind, here are a few suggestions I’ll throw out if you’re looking at this winter and feeling a MMOalaise coming on:
1. Head back to WoW for Cataclysm — don’t worry, I won’t mock you.
I wouldn’t put it past Blizzard for planning it thus, but Cataclysm is really coming out at a perfect time. It’s not just that the WoW crowd is restless and needs something fresh, but there’s virtually no new competition. Not to mention that it’ll land right at the beginning of the holiday season.
So, yeah, if it’s what you crave, then Cataclysm should at least provide a couple months of — if not new, then newly recycled — content. Head on back, level up a new character to see all the changes to the world, and then see what there is to see come this spring.
2. Take advantage of the F2P insanity going on.
If nothing else, MMOs in 2010 became defined by just how much they offered for no money down. Right now, there are just buttloads of free, freemium and F2P hybrids out there that you can sample guilt-free:
- Champions (coming soon)
- Allods Online
- Runes of Magic
- Anarchy Online
- And a whole lot more…
If you had the mind to do so, you could probably start right now and experience a different MMO every week for free for the duration of winter and not have to worry about spending anything. Just a whole lot of buffet nom-nomming.
3. Take a different path in your main game
I’m an achievement-type player, so I usually play toward whatever achievement I wish to accomplish. Even if you’ve been in your game for a long time, the stretch of winter before us may be a great opportunity to do something you’ve never done before by setting a goal — doing crafting, hitting the level cap, trying all of the classes, going for a big reward.
4. Roll the dice and land in a beta
Some people, like myself, may be allergic to betas these days, but boredom and desperation can whittle that down. New MMOs may not be coming out soon, but there are a lot of betas for them, and if you cover the field, I bet you can at least get into one or two of them.
Pro tip: follow major MMO news sites (like, um, the one I work for? Massively Hammerotaku Gamer-something?) and MMO company twitter feeds for on-the-spur-of-the-moment contests for beta codes.