Usually when we think of MMOs, we concentrate on the games — but lately I’ve been thinking of the studios and which of them are trying to lead the industry forward. Time for a studio report card, looking at Western studios!
Even though World of Warcraft is still a (slightly diminished) raging phenomenon, Blizzard’s made it pretty clear that it’s not very interested in trying to do that much else with MMOs. This year we saw the official end of Titan, Blizzard’s MMO follow-up to WoW, and then at this past week’s BlizzCon, Blizzard barely gave lip service to its current MMO: “Yeah so it’s World of Warcraft’s 10th anniversary and there’s some expansion coming out this week… NOW LOOK AT OUR PIXAR SHOOTER! WOO!”
Count me among those sorely disappointed that Overwatch wasn’t a superhero MMO. The second they said “team-based shooter” I passed so hard on this that six kidney stones came out.
Turbine’s definitely been struggling, starting with several bouts of layoffs that have left the studio leaner than before. How much leaner? How many people did they hire between layoff rounds? No idea, but it is disconcerting how much WB seems keen on whittling Turbine down.
Turbine’s been coasting on three aging MMOs — the most recent of which was launched in 2007 — and one superhero MOBA. I’ve really wanted to see what Turbine could do with a modern engine and updated ideas for an MMO, but it simply may not have the personnel and finances to do that any more. I kind of miss it being a daring indie studio.
Even though Cryptic’s a favorite whipping boy of many, it’s actually been doing fairly well. Champions is by far its smallest and most neglected title, although it did get an update fairly recently. Star Trek Online and Neverwinter have fared a lot better with regular updates and (in the case of the former) an expansion. I like to think of these as solid B-list MMOs that have a good free-to-play model and an easy pick-up-and-put-down attitude.
Interestingly enough, Cryptic has a “top secret” project in development, according to its official site. It’s a safe wager that it is MMO-related, and I’m pretty excited to see what this might be. It has sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero genres covered — what else could it be?
Sony Online Entertainment
Even though SOE axed several titles in the past couple of years — as part of a trim-down effort — the studio is absolutely on fire for MMOs. While everyone else seems to be edging away from them, SOE launched PlanetSide 2 a year or so ago and is making Landmark, EverQuest Next, and H1Z1. Plus Dragon’s Prophet but HAHAHAHA I don’t count that.
I don’t currently play any SOE titles, but I expect this to change when EQN comes out. And I look forward to that, because this is a community I’d really like to be a part of.
Funcom’s taken a lot of blows in the past few years — layoffs, merging studios/teams, the raid by police. And its stable of games (AO, AoC, TSW) aren’t massive money-makers, but I guess they’re doing well enough to keep from closing. Funcom’s latest effort is LEGO Minifigures Online, a kiddie title that probably doesn’t have much appeal to its old fan base, but it might be the revenue generator that it needs to keep the whole ship afloat. No word as to any future projects, so I’m not holding my breath.
Anet is 100% all about the Guild Wars 2 — even Guild Wars 1 has been placed on life support. And that’s fine, as GW2 is doing well and nobody is expecting this studio to develop other titles. Expansions, yes, but not titles. Probably the next game we’ll ever see out of them is Guild Wars 3, if anything.
“Didn’t Mythic tank?” Yes, yes it did. But its demise had some interesting results, apart from the sad closure of Warhammer Online. First, ex-Mythic employees split off to form Broadsword and handle UO and DAoC, and while I don’t expect new MMOs from that team, I wouldn’t mind being surprised with a small retro-design love letter. Second, we have a spiritual DAoC sequel with Camelot Unchained and Mark Jacobs.
Your feelings on Trion are probably influenced on whether or not you’ve been screwed by them lately. I’m not playing ArcheAge at the moment, so I’m more inclined to be favorable to the studio. I like RIFT and the expansion is pretty awesome.
Trion’s definitely making a play for MMO domination by creating a broad platform of games. It’s got its newish Glyph platform, RIFT, ArcheAge, Defiance, and Trove. Defiance is its most underperforming title, but Trove might be a sleeper hit considering the good press I’ve seen on it lately. I don’t know of any future projects, but I’m sure Trion’s considering them and I’ll be on board for where the company goes next.
Gazillion’s currently happy being the flagbearer of online Marvel games, with Marvel Heroes and Super Hero Squad Online. It does have a “top secret” game listed on its front page as well, so maybe there’s something cooking. Marvel Heroes is doing surprisingly well, and I’ve been saying that this is the underreported success story in the industry. It’s going to be benefiting from the dozen or so Marvel movies coming out in the next half-decade, that’s for sure.
KingsIsle has its 101 franchise — Wizard101 and Pirate101 — which has been one of the most successful kid-oriented MMO efforts. Although lately it seems as though the studio’s gotten a lot quieter and less ambitious. Chances are if we’re going to see any future MMOs from them, they’re going to be other 101-style games. Ninja101? Space101?
CCP was on the cusp of becoming a respectable multi-MMO studio, but then it jettisoned World of Darkness and pledged undying loyalty to the EVE universe. Still, EVE continues to progress, EVE Valkyrie is in the making, and DUST514 is… there. We don’t talk about DUST514. It’s not considered polite in civilized company.
Valkyrie is more of an experiment than a genuine push for a new MMO, but maybe this is indicative of how CCP wants to expand its porfolio going forward — games that hang off of EVE instead of stand-alone games. EVE Online 2? Don’t see that ever happening.
RuneScape might be ignored by “serious” gamers, but it shouldn’t be dismissed. It’s still a powerhouse of a game, both in expansion and in player numbers, and Jagex recently announced that it’ll be incorporating a Hearthstone-like card game to go with it.
Jagex failed to come through with Stellar Dawn, but it is going to be pushing out Transformers Universe at some point. I’m not overly thrilled about how that game looks, but it is a strong IP and could help shore up Jagex’s reputation as a multi-game studio.