If there’s one constant in MMOland — nay, video game world — is that summer, for reasons beyond my ken, is a game release dead zone. Spring, fall, Christmas — those are the expected launch windows. And yet, 2012 is bucking this trend in a huge way. It’s quickly becoming the summer of the MMO, and I’m certainly not complaining.
I’ve always thought that summers would be ideal time for MMO releases, as school and college students have copious amounts of free time, as well as many of us working schlubs who take time off for vacations. I mean, that’s why Hollywood focuses on the May-June-July corridor for the big budget blockbusters, right? Maybe the MMO industry is just wising up, maybe it’s a coincidence as all of these projects converge, or maybe the end of the world really is coming and we might as well have a few months to play Guild Wars 2 before it happens.
After the sparse desert of 2009-2011, we seem to be drinking deep of new releases, expansions, and F2P conversions. This winter’s already been busy, what with SWTOR, STO’s F2P and EQ’s F2P. Coming up an a cavalcade of awesomeness: Aion’s F2P is hitting next month, TERA and Diablo III are arriving in May, June’s playing host to DDO’s first expansion and The Secret World, and MechWarrior Online and Vanguard’s F2P will happen sometime in the summer. On top of all of that is my strong hunch that ArenaNet’s also targeting June for GW2 — just a guess, but the way the beta is going, I think it could happen — and this could be the most fun (and hectic) summer gaming season ever.
Speaking of Vanguard, I’m actually pretty excited about it going F2P. It’s been on life support for many years now, and not just a few people predicted that SOE would pull its plug (as the company is doing with EQOA). Instead, it seems as though SOE is investing some faith — and money — in the game, taking the effort to create a F2P version and beefing up its dev team.
Vanguard was a huge topic of discussion leading up to its 2007 release, and I for one kept a close eye on it. The saga (no pun intended) of its development, of Brad McQuaid’s audacious claims, of the crash and burn, of its limping into SOE’s library, and of its critically lambasted launch left this game bruised, battered, and with a reputation that would ensure it could never run for public office. And yet, strange things happen when an MMO endures — they often get better. The events of the past fade a bit and people start seeing the game for what it is, not the hoopla surrounding it. As a result, it’s garnered an admittedly small but very positive fan base that love this game.
It’s that game I want to see, the game that had really interesting ideas — some misguided, some inspired — but I never wanted to see it so bad as to pony up a subscription. I remember back in 2007 being fascinated with the idea of a necromancer building his pet from parts (if this actually went in or not — or was a dream of mine — I can’t say) and the wildness of the world. But then LOTRO came along, and that was the game focus of that year for me.
So Vanguard at least gets a try for me, and since I know my summer dance card is filling up quickly, I’m going to take it out for a quick test drive. The game’s got a 14 day trial, and I can’t be the only one who heard yesterday’s news and am downloading it. Several bloggers I respect love this game, so that gives me hope there’s something here worth checking out.