2013: A year in the middle

cableWhile we’re still in October, I feel like I have a grasp on what 2013 will be known for in MMO history. I was puttering around on the MMO Timeline page (plug!) and realized that this year really didn’t offer a single high-profile launch that got me really excited.  In fact, the last title that had me slavering for its release was August 2012′s Guild Wars 2, and chances are the next game that will make me feel the same rush of celebratory joy is WildStar sometime next year.

So let’s take a quick look over the year.  Launch-wise there have been a number of MMOs, but most of them are of middling-to-low profile: Dragon’s Prophet, Wizardry Online, Marvel Heroes, Defiance, Neverwinter, MechWarrior Online, Age of Wushu, and DUST 514.  Neverwinter was fun for a while, as was Marvel Heroes, but none of those games really got me jittering with excitement when they released.

Arguably the two most well-received launches weren’t technically launches at all, but re-launches.  RuneScape upgraded to its third iteration and Final Fantasy XIV finished its overhaul to great acclaim.  (There’s also Darkfall, but… Darkfall.  That beta became a running joke after a while.)  I think that FFXIV will go down as 2013′s greatest accomplishment, which is not something I expected to be writing a year ago.

Two made the transition to free-to-play out of the few sub-only titles left: RIFT and TERA.  They’re still chugging and each received some nice community love when they went F2P, but RIFT’s latest server merges have some worried.

Only four MMOs (as of this writing) got canned this year: EQMac (next month), WAR (in December), Pirates of the Caribbean Online and Toontown Online (both in September).  Four in a year isn’t that bad at all, really.

Oddly enough, 2013 was a banner year for expansions.  By the end of the year, around 11 expansions for various MMOs will have been released, and that’s compared to 9 in 2012 and 6 in 2011.  It was really cool to see Star Trek Online get its first expansion ever, as well as a couple older titles (EverQuest and Final Fantasy XI) continue to expand instead of stagnate.

2014 might well be comparable to 2012 in terms of high-profile launches, but the real big question mark is the gang of crowdfunded MMOs that will start to be eligible for launch.

What do you think about MMOs in 2013 overall?

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7 thoughts on “2013: A year in the middle

  1. I think 2013 is the year that games without subscription finally realized that without the ball-and-chain of a sub, the draw to play isn’t just the game itself, but events, and events have been pumped up from all sides.

    GW2 has really cranked up its bi-weekly events, TSW seems to have an unending event chain with Guardians of Gaia chaining into the latest issue, than Blingzilla moving into The Whispering Tide into Cat God into the next issue. STO had the summer festival, followed by the Crystalline Catastrophe, which is moving into the next season. Events are the big non-sub draw now, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many.

  2. I’m,still waiting for the right game to make me a MMO player again. Despite trying them all, none are sticking anymore. FFXIV got the furthest (a whole month), but utterly bored me after that.

  3. 2013 is the first year since 2006 that I have not spent a dime on MMO subscriptions. That’s not to say that I haven’t spent money on games like Rift and TSW. But the ball-and-chain, as Ocho put it, is gone for me. And I have a hard time imagining it coming back. Thanks to F2P options, I’ve returned to several games I’d left behind—at least temporarily. I play games because I’m having fun, not because I feel the compulsion to get my money’s worth.

  4. I remember reading your top 10 on Massively at the beginning of the year and wondering if this was really all we were going to get in 2013, especially given the somewhat expected delays to TESO and Wildstar. In mid-January, I wrote that the relative lack of big launches made this a good opportunity for middle-of-the-pack titles to try and make a better impression. Depending on how you’re classifying FFXIV, they definitely knocked that one out of the park. It remains to be seen how the likes of LOTRO, Rift, and EQ2 are going to look back on 2013.
    http://playervsdeveloper.blogspot.com/2013/01/belated-predictions-for-2013.html

    I’d argue the tale remains to be told on the expansions – and “expansions” – of 2013. If you take out unpaid content additions that the producers are calling “expansions” to trick the press into giving them coverage – SWTOR’s producer stated that an “expansion” was anything that would convince a press site to re-review the game at a recent community event RE: Galactic Starfighter – thus far I’d suggest that the expansions haven’t been quite as big of a deal as most years.

  5. Meh…

    Nothing was really exciting from my long in the tooth mmo experience. I had great fun with the relatively free combat movement in Tera. If they could port that into Rift, I might re sub. I feel that any game that has ‘on the rails’ combat is doomed. If you want, create the illusion by an auto face option but let everyone choose. I don’t concider GuildWars 2 or NWN as free combat since significant portions of it is on rails.

    FFXIV remake is pretty decent after the launch issues which were the worst I can recall since my EQ days. It’s still just traditional mmo fare done well. It’s a bit of a bore to me with a nagging feeling of been there, done that.

    I wish something great would have come out and stopped me from spending so much time in WoT…

  6. I’m late to this, and I’m sorry. For me, 2013 was the year of “flashes in the pan.”

    When the year started, I’d picked up TSW in December. I only lasted until, I think, March before I’d quit. It was too difficult, buggy, and poorly documented to proceed without the support of a guild. I’m truly, deeply afraid of social interaction, so that wasn’t going to happen. I think the killing moment was when I was stuck on a quest for two weeks, unable to figure out how to proceed. It turned out the item I needed to interact with was bugged and invisible. I eventually stumbled over it by randomly clicking around the floor, but the damage was done.

    Next was Defiance, which I played in open beta and predicted would be a game I enjoyed for 60 hours. I was pretty much on target, but not for the reasons I expected. I got stuck on a 30-minute endurance boss fight, and couldn’t proceed. I’m not the greatest shooter player. I’m around 40, and was raised on turn-based strategy games rather than Nintendo platformers, so my reflexes have never been good. The problem is that in Defiance, you need to complete story missions to unlock more “filler” landscape missions. I was left with a map devoid of content, save the one boss fight I couldn’t beat. I uninstalled after maybe two months, and never looked back.

    Neverwinter I’d looked forward to for a while. I got a beta invite from trying it at PAX East ’11, and walked away nearly as impressed as I’d been after trying City of Heroes at GDC ’04. And it was indeed great fun for a while. After 2-3 months I reached the end of the content, and maximum level, and there was nothing left to do except log in every day to pray and craft. When my home internet went down for a week, I found I hadn’t missed Neverwinter in the interim. I uninstalled and haven’t looked back.

    It’s probably worth mentioning that both Defiance and NW, as F2P games, failed to monetize me. I bought an account, played for a while, and left without giving the company any more money. This is unusual for me; I have lifetime accounts in both LotRO and STO, but I’ve voluntarily spent hundreds of dollars in both. NW and Defiance just didn’t offer anything I wanted. When I left NW, I’d hadn’t even spent a single one of the 700k astral diamonds I’d accrued through preorder and play.

    I got the Rift expansion free with the Defiance preorder, but when I tried to dip my toes back in, I found the server all my characters were on had been closed, and all their skills had been redesigned. Left alone in the capital city with no other players to consult with, I laboriously tried to reconstruct my lowest level character. In the end she had only two skills I recognized. When I tried to transfer her to another server, her name – her identity – was taken. At that point I flipped the table and uninstalled again. Total time back in Rift: maybe three hours.

    At the moment, I’m only playing STO. I got back heavily into the LotRO over the summer, but the Helms Deep redesign being inflicted on my six year-old, 1300+ hour Lore-Master left me heartsick. Mentally I know I should try to finish east Rohan before she’s destroyed, but I just don’t have the heart. Why bother when I’ll be uninstalling in three weeks anyway?

    I’m looking forward to Star Citizen, though I’m becoming increasingly cautious about the cavalcade of promises coming out of Cloud Imperium. I’m looking forward to Pathfinder Online and Arche Age, despite their archaic pre-Trammel PVP models. I don’t expect I’ll last long in either, sadly, because of the PvP. I feel like I should play more Fallen Earth, because despite a setting a dislike (post-apocalypse has always been a huge turn-off for me), the systems remind me fondly of my personal MMG Golden Age back around the turn of the millennium.

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