As 2018 draws to a close — and happy Christmas Eve, y’all — I felt like it was a good time to look over the MMO Timeline and evaluate the year as it pertained to MMO gaming.
I’ll say that, by and large, it was a fairly disappointing year. I was hoping to hear more new game announcements (at least we got Torchlight Frontiers and Atlas as nice surprises) and that more of these in-development indie MMOs would have launched already. But 2018 ended up being a year more defined by its downward marks than its upticks, which makes me yearn all that much more for a better 2019.
That said, there were bright spots and a lot of fun gaming to be had, so let’s give it a look as a whole!
When MapleStory 2 ends up as the most high-profile full MMO release you get, you know it’s not been the most exciting of years. That game actually became a nice little sleeper hit, but other than that, it was a sad crop.
We had piddly indie titles that nobody really looked at (Stash, Wild West Online, Darkfall: New Dawn, Boundless), a few eastern imports that underwhelmed (Bless, Closers, SoulWorker), and several high-selling but rocky online multiplayer titles (Sea of Thieves, The Crew 2, Fallout 76). Atlas kind of came out of nowhere to have a sort-of launch, but it’s far too early to judge that one. Defiance 2050 tried to rope in players by rebooting the game, but that ended up being a non-starter that’s resulted in two games being run in parallel that barely anyone plays.
And a special note for Shroud of the Avatar, which “officially” launched for like the third time and demonstrated how early access fatigue can make such a day a non-event. If you were already playing, you were playing, but it brought virtually no new people to the game.
With dull launches, it was up to MMO expansions once again to pick up the slack of hype and excitement. They performed that role… adequately in 2018. Most definitely the biggest release was Battle for Azeroth, which dominated headlines and interest in August and September before slipping south quickly.
The second most-anticipated expansion launch was Elder Scrolls Online’s Summerset, which again was good-not-great. Didn’t hurt the brand but wasn’t nearly as thrilling for players as Morrowind, let’s just say.
EverQuest II: Chaos Descending got a lot of player kudos for being a pleasantly strong pack, and there was plenty of hype for EVE’s Onslaught and Path of Exile’s Betrayal going into the final months of the year. Star Trek Online’s Victory is Life got Deep Space Nine fans excited as well.
WildStar’s demise, while not unforeseen, still hurt like a mother when it happened in November. By far, this was the biggest MMO to close its doors this year, but not the only one.
We witnessed the end of Devilian, Jade Dynasty, Swordsman Online, and the sad saga of H1Z1 Just Survive. Jagex closed down RuneScape Classic due to far too many unfixable issues, and while Pirates of the Burning Sea looked ready to close its doors, it got sort of a reprieve when the community took it over.
What was the best part of 2018, at least to me, was seeing how MMOs developed in some other significant ways. Black Desert earned some respect by bringing out a “remastered” graphics and music update, and I was excited to see RuneScape release an orchestral album as well.
We saw Ultima Online roll out a free-to-play option, sort of, which was interesting. But by far the most fascinating development was the move toward progression servers with both RIFT and LOTRO. Had a lot of great times on both.
In any case, I’m definitely looking forward to next year with the hopes that we’ll see some stronger releases and better surprises than what we had in 2018.