2009 Prognostications from the Prognosticator
Jan 03, 2009 20:58:14

The peer pressure has grown too great, therefore, this year, I will do a predictions list along with all the other bloggers. Here it is:

RMT: I'll get this one out of the way right away. RMT will continue to be introduced by online game publishers. The vocal minority will cry foul for a variety of (mostly) unfounded reasons. Meanwhile, the silent majority will pony up the cash. As a result, we'll have much less insight into how the game companies are doing financially because we won't be able to rely on NPD numbers and voodoo-subscription-math to get an idea regarding the health of a game. This will contribute to surprises in both the negative and positive category.

NCsoft will abandon North America and Europe. Aion will have dismal western-world subscription numbers. Lineage will plod onward but the subscriptions will quietly slide into the sub-40K range. No new titles will be announced this year. No experienced developers will enter employment at NCsoft. No new publishing deals will be made in the west. Any effort to maintain a community team will be abandoned. In an extreme version of this sad story, ArenaNet will go independent or be sold off to UbiSoft along with the CityOf franchise.

Flying Labs will close its doors. SOE will scoop up and maintain PotBS with a skeleton crew of 5 people.

Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment and Space Time Studios will fail to launch their titles (Star Gate Worlds and Blackstar) and will close doors.

Eve Online will not launch ambulation in 2009. The game will maintain its subscriber numbers but will begin to lose all but the most dedicated players as the carebear audience begins to grow tired of the lack of real developments and the high rate of ganking and ISK-based exploits and cons. In 2009 CCP will begin to truly understand the population limitations caused by embracing an audience solely made of up of the hardest of the hard core.

Wold of Darkness will remain in the dark in 2009 and the internet community will start to get nervous. CCP will fail to respond in any effective way.

Age of Conan will NOT be closed in 2009. Why not? Because Funcom isn't NCsoft. They keep Anarchy Online alive, they'll keep Conan alive for many years to come, after all, it wasn't the most successful new MMO in 2008, but it probably was the most worthwhile one. Conan will run a path similar to EQ2. In mid-2010, many of us will find ourselves playing it and saying it is "one of the best" fantasy MMOs available.

Netdevil, one of the last remaining established independent MMO developers, will be purchased by a publisher.

Lego Universe will not launch in 2009.

Jumpgate Evolution will launch in 2009 and will quickly become recognized as the number one space faring MMO, topping Eve's numbers almost immediately.

EverQuest will enjoy a small boost in popularity around its 10th anniversary and then will sit by the fire and tell stories about the old days. A full round of server merges will occur by the end of 2009.

Warhammer Online will file in next to LotRO and EQii. They'll have private meetings where they sit around and make fun of World of Warcraft.

Mythic Entertainment will start to tease us with talk of a new project. They won't give any specifics, but EA CEO John Riccitiello will make wild claims about the project. EA's PR team will suffer massive panic attacks.

Blizzard will do nothing of note and announce even less on the MMO front, but will offer an exclusive in-game pet to BlizzCon attendees.

Darkfall will become the fantasy version of EVE Online. It'll start weak, but slowly climb as it finds its audience.

Bioware will not release The Old Republic in 2009, but we'll still be really excited about it at the end of the year. Bioware will continuously use Blizzard's line, "When it's ready" without promising a date. At least one additional title from Bioware will be announced and we'll all start singing that Andy Samberg song.

Carbine, Red 5 and 38 Studios will come clean and announce their products. 2012 release dates will be kicked around. The internet community will react with a healthy dose of skepticism and will go back to maxing yet another character in WoW.

Free Realms and the Agency will launch in 2009. Free Realms will enjoy massive success and the term "WoW Killer" will be tossed around freely. The Agency will get rushed out prior to the holidays and might be a bit content-light.

VirginWorlds will start to move into video content, but the Collective will stay the same size due to an even balance of retiring podcasts and new podcasts. (Self fulfilling prophecy? Perhaps.)

And that's that. I'll review this in 12 months to see how it all shook out.

- Brent

Submitted by Brent on Jan 03, 2009 20:58:14 CST (comments: 24)


'megaton' by JamesTaylor
Submitted on 2009-01-03 23:09:28 CST
Some ballsy predictions there. Not playing it safe, I like it.

Some things that jump out at me and my own take:

- NCsoft: Think you're too quick to doom'n'gloom on NCsoft. Aion will be more successful than L2 was in NA and hype of Guild Wars 2 will start to build up again.

- EVE: I think we'll see ambulation in 2009.

- AoC: Numbers will just keep dropping, I think it will be shut down unless they can get the 360 version out quicker. With their head honcho leaving, the man behind AO I believe, I wouldn't bank on them keeping that kind of optimism with AoC.

- WAR: Expansion will be announced, released in 2010. Game will stay solid, the likes of LOTRO and EQ2.

- Blizzard: Will announce next expansion. Announce their next-gen MMO pretty please? (doubt it)

- Darkfall will fail horribly. I still don't believe it will even launch in NA. Will resort to RMT/free2play realllllly quick because of lack of subs, like RF Online and Archlord.

- Free Realms will not be a WoW killer, because it lacks the broad demographic that WoW can hold, but it will be the most successful thing SOE has launched in a long time. The Agency will give deja vu to Tabula Rasa launch, but won't be canned. SOE holds onto their properties.

- I will get my feet wet in the podcast scene. Hope to be adopted by the collective!


'My name is Beau Turkey....' by Beauturkey
Submitted on 2009-01-04 02:35:13 CST
....and I fully agree with this list.

'Cept for Free Realms. It wont be a WoW killer, it will just be some kind of thing on it's own: a North American Asian Market Style MMO.

Which will make millions. Hell, I am ready to spend real cash on stuff.

Screw the sub model.

Great read man!


'Hey, I never said that' by Brent
Submitted on 2009-01-04 05:36:57 CST
Please note that I did not say that Free Realms is going to be a WoW killer - I said:
"the term 'WoW Killer' will be tossed around freely."

Big difference.

'Here, let me find the quote...' by Beauturkey
Submitted on 2009-01-04 13:50:31 CST
..."as Brent, from Virginworlds, I have a responsibility to tell you how I truly feel about new MMO's. The future looks semi-bright, unless your Blizzard. SoE will be releasing the only WoW-killer ever possibly made, Free Realms.
Not only will it be a WoW-Killer, but it will re-shape all of humanity. After all, I am Brent, and you all know what I say is truthful and not made up."

-"MMOGagazine, Dec. '08


You owe me 5 bucks.


'good one' by Brent
Submitted on 2009-01-04 18:28:04 CST
Beau, you got me laughing there. I can only wish I had both the balls and privilege to pontificate all Bartle-like in that way.

'Well, in all seriousnessosity...' by Beauturkey
Submitted on 2009-01-04 18:31:26 CST
..I loved the list. Especially the EVE online one.

I think I really got to know a lot of the "hardcore" fans when an article talked about how many of them sneered at Ambualationalation (walking avatars in space stations!) because they didn't like the dev time being taken away from PVP.

If it were up to some of them, they would be flying white boxes shooting math formulas.

And also, I never said that YOU said that..I said that the ones that would be throwing around "WoW-killer" would be saying that.

It just so happens you are one of them, according to my legitimate source.


'seriousnessosity' by JamesTaylor
Submitted on 2009-01-04 19:28:52 CST
Adding that one to my vocab. Thanks b-turk.

'great job Brent' by Token
Submitted on 2009-01-04 19:36:05 CST
I loved those predictions. I really hope JumpGate shows CCP what a fun space game looks like. 08 was the first year that I haven't re subbed EVE at all, partly because there was no tournament and partly because it's now totally clear that they have no interest in non-hardcore players.

'o/ :)' by FarSpace
Submitted on 2009-01-04 23:30:57 CST
About NCSoft prediction, I was getting worried since I love GW & CoH but then you said this and I felt better :) "In an extreme version of this sad story, ArenaNet will go independent or be sold off to UbiSoft along with the CityOf franchise."

Nicely done Brent, & may VirginWorlds always have a great future.

'Interesting list' by QforQ
Submitted on 2009-01-05 00:28:11 CST
I sure hope CME and Flying Labs don't go under. Flying Labs is made up of a lot of great people (I know, I'm mixing in my personal feelings!) and I'd hate to see them go under. I hope they can stay afloat and look forward to seeing what their next game will be.

CME has me worried, especially with the whole not paying their employees-thing...but I sure hope Stargate Worlds comes out. Lots of people I know are excited about the game and I think it has some pretty cool sounding features in it!

My hope for the MMO genre is that they become more action based and less point-click-wait (Rinse and Repeat) games like they are now. I think Age of Conan, in terms of combat systems, was a nice step in the right direction. I'd like to see the line between action/FPS/single-player experience type games and MMOs blurred more and more. I hope The Agency does well in that area :)

Good luck to you in the New Year Brent! Keep up the good work, I'm still listening to the podcasts! :)

'BewareTheWallOfText' by StErroneous
Submitted on 2009-01-05 01:20:44 CST
@Beau: I'm really looking forward to Ambulation/Walking in Stations for the sheer fun immersion factor of it (I got a chance to trial it at Fanfest, lots of possibilities). Like you, I don't understand the automatic anti-WIS position some players take.

Except... they often framed this dislike in the context of "It's taking time away from the core of the game."

Now, last year a substantial proportion of CCP's resources were working on The Other Game (World of Darkness Online) - the Fanfest keynote speech included a graph that seemed to indicate 45% EVEO, 45% WoDO, and the remainder on two small projects that nobody was admitting to. There was a growing opinion amongst the forum noisemakers, last year, that many important game issues were being "parked" whilst CCP loaned EVE's core devstaff to the WoD project. And that WiS was taking still more of EVE-dev time to essentially prototype something for the WoD game - avatar social environments.

Lots of other noisemakers argued against them saying, essentially, "Oh, don't be silly, you're just imagining it."

And then, at Fanfest, at the keynote speech, Hilmar stands up in front of several hundred of the CCP's most dedicated players, and said something to the effect of "Yes, there were lots and lots of people working on WoD, but we've thought better of it, we've brought them all back, and they're now almost all working on EVE. We're sorry. We're now laser-focused on EVE, it's our bread and butter."

If we take Hilmar at his word, there are now roughly 300 of CCP's 400 staff back on EVE, working to get the March expansion out, which could be the biggest badest bestest thing they've done to the game to date.

So, to summarise: the WiS-haters may have had a point last year. This year, I don't believe they do.

@Token: "I haven't re subbed EVE at all, [...] partly because it's now totally clear that they have no interest in non-hardcore players."

I don't think that's entirely fair. Of the content CCP did release in 2008, there was Factional Warfare - a very low-speedbump way of becoming involved in PvP. A substantial upgrade in Concord response in highsecurity, and a promise of further insurance/wardec changes Sometime Soon. And the Orca, a high-sec combo mining command ship/minifreighter/mission salvage platform that everyone and their slaver hounds have been pining over for literally years.

So, of the content releases last year, I don't think the "non-hardcore" players came off badly. Whatever a non-hardcore player is in the context of EVE. ^^

@Brent: CCP have already admitted to reprioritising their devwork back to EVE and with Tech 3 exploration and ships forming the core of the March expansion, there's going to be enormous fun for industrialist, combat pilot, and mission-runners alike. There's not going to be a shortage of content if March delivers as expected, even if they dead-stop for the remainder of the year.

"ISK-based exploits" if you're aware of ISK-related exploits, please petition them.

"The game will maintain its subscriber numbers but will begin to lose all but the most dedicated players as the carebear audience [...]"

I'm not sure how it can maintain subscriber numbers, but lose all but the most dedicated carebears. Most players are empire carebears (I am one myself). If we're going to throw our hands up in despair at the lack of WiS, despite it being talked about for two years now, surely we'd have given up a long time ago?

"In 2009 CCP will begin to truly understand the population limitations caused by embracing an audience solely made of up of the hardest of the hard core."

They seem aware of the issues and prepared to tune the game - somewhat - to compensate. There is, of course, a limit to how far they can go without breaking the soul of the game. The population stats in the economic reports demonstrate just how risk-averse many of EVE's players are. The need to square the circle, or at least provide a variety of viable geometries throughout the game environment, seems to be something they truely understand.

'@ StErroneous ' by Token
Submitted on 2009-01-05 02:47:01 CST
Thanks for the great reply! It's my understanding that Factional Warfare didn't really address casual player concerns, you still lose your ship and get owned by people with more skill points. Then have to spend hours flying around putting your setup back together all the time with the nagging feeling that your chosen setup maybe completely bad anyway.

Reporting an exploit doesn't do anything. I reported getting screwed over by player abuse of an in-game system and the GM just laughed at me.

For all other fanboy defenses of EVE I only have to point to No Punctuation because he really covered it all.

'@Token' by StErroneous
Submitted on 2009-01-05 07:11:09 CST
The key features of Factional Warfare is that the ships one can use for it are incredibly cheap - a tech 1 frigate will do fine - and that it\'s not played alone. One on one, yes, a non-specialised combat pilot will get nuked by the guy in the interceptor, but combat in EVE isn\'t about 1v1 battles. It\'s about fleets. Signing up for FW lets you into fleets with experienced FCs playing Factional Warfare who can put any player to some use.

So, FW will let a newish player fly around with a bunch of other guys in the same militia and blow up those high-skillpoint players. Sure, the tech 1 frigates will get blown up plenty, but they\'re the cheapest things in the game - run a couple of L2 missions, buy a few T1 frigates and fittings, and have them ready to hop into fresh set whenever they get popped.

The lesson "fly what can be replaced, expect it to blow up" isn't hardcore, it's the key to EVE.

Getting to do small gang fleet combat in a tackler with minimal investment, no corporate politics, and the ability to step away back into Empire life whenever you want if you decide it\'s not for you: that\'s about as casual as EVE can get.

Reporting exploits does get taken seriously - consider the recent POSgate economic meltdown due to player abuse of a POS item consumption bug. Remember that in EVE scams, theft, mislabelling of contracts etc aren't exploits - they're "working as intended." An ISK exploit, by which I assume Brent meant ISK duping in some way, would be a catastrophe.

Zero Punctuation\'s EVE review made me laugh, and most players I spoke to agreed with many of his points. :) EVE University's diplomat suggested he rereview the game after joining the uni (a large neutral benevolent teaching organisation open to all pilots in the game) anonymously. Having people there that can be trusted to help and not scam you really does change the game enormously.

'Comments' by Sinaea
Submitted on 2009-01-05 07:55:29 CST
PotBS was a title that I had been really looking forward to prior to its launch. Now, even with all the changes I've heard about, I haven't gone back to take a look and see what's new. Too little, too late.

My husband is really excited about SGW and has been waiting for a long time for it. I was selected for closed beta testing in October last year--I say selected because I never was able to actually play. I wasn't the only one who was unable to get the client to launch properly, and I got no help resolving technical issues. That, combined with recent news articles, makes your prediction a scary likelihood.

Who's doing video content? I hope it's more videos from Darren holding the camera out at arm's length!

'@ StErroneous ' by Token
Submitted on 2009-01-05 08:03:23 CST
The things you mention about FW are all very good points. I played EVE when it first released so I have no problem understanding all that you said, but theres a huge difference between me knowing what you're talking about and being able to get my best mate Sam to sign up and fly around with me in FW. The UI is horribly complex and deeply flawed, theres a month of learning skills, massive amounts of traveling, even as a basic tackler, you need to learn about modules, using the market and I'll have to tell them not to go near escrows or couriers because they are 90% scams. Then there's flying the ship in a fight.... If JumpGate lets me and my friends just jump into a ship and fight, it's going to be the winner.

On the exploits issue, they know how important an exploit that large is so I'm not going to congratulate them on failing to detect a major scam going on under their nose for years on their one server! despite hiring a Mr fancy pants economics expert who's previous job was probably at Chrysler.

'@Token' by StErroneous
Submitted on 2009-01-05 09:44:14 CST
Learning about basic modules, fittings, systems. Wasn't that part of the fun? I think there's a difference between "casual" and "just passing through, just want to have some fun with ma buddy" :)

Should your mate decide to play, make sure he joins EVE University. Lectures on tackling, setups, mining, ewar, fleet combat ops, and so on. Plus they're nice people. :)

Lots of fun podcasts too.

The tutorial has changed several times, the combat UI is a lot more useful and the Contract system replacement is a much more transparent than it used to be.

Jumpgate looks like a fun implementation of X-Wing / TIE Fighter online - drop in and shoot things. Sounds great. I doubt it'll give me the sense of achievement that I get from EVE (and Battlefield 2 will still be cheaper), but I might give JGE a spin just to show willing.

'I agree' by Shawn
Submitted on 2009-01-05 19:46:14 CST
I agree with most of these 100%. I'm glad you pointed out that Funcom isn't NCsoft, because that's an important angle.

I also agree with your assessment of Darkfall being the fantasy version of EVE, yet I think it will have a strong start and taper down over time. I hope this game succeeds for one reason: I will slap the first person who calls it Darkfail.

'another note' by Brent
Submitted on 2009-01-05 20:07:29 CST
One thing that I want to point out, though I think it should be obvious - negative predictions do not indicate that I'm trying to be mean or believe that what I'm predicting "is justified and the way is should be" but rather, it is a prediction of what I think could happen. More specifically: I'm not bagging on CCP, I'm just saying stuff... and trying to define 'hardcore' in the sense of EVE Online is rather challenging isn't it. More like: EVE Player/hardcore and EVE Guru/super hard core, right?

'@brent' by StErroneous
Submitted on 2009-01-05 20:46:33 CST
I grok that, Sir Brent. :)

I was away for the weekend, so had a wall-of-text built up that needed to be unleashed. You were the only blogger I noticed making an EVE prediction, so got cogitated at. ;)

'Nothing to get excited about again...' by scytale2
Submitted on 2009-01-06 11:21:55 CST
I found myself distinctly underwhelmed and doubt will be playing much MMO in 2009.

Agree Conan will metamorphose into something better - caterpillar to butterfly. But will WAR not? They are starting to get a little more radical...

Once again you ignore AO's new graphics upgrade...

No STO? Not even some more nice graphics to look at?

Don't confuse "hardcore" with "boring". EVE is the latter. Vanguard is the former. Very different products. EVE is for those who love to tinker, but dislike getting out of their shed - not "hardcore" at all.

The NCSoft comment is more of a "wish" than a prediction.

Re- VW - does the word "retiring" equate to "weeding out the chaff"?

'@ Brentology...' by Beauturkey
Submitted on 2009-01-06 13:41:49 CST
..I, for one, know that you were not being "mean."

But let's be honest.

Just like movie star gossip, or talking bad about whichever co-worker is NOT in the room, we all do this. It's natural, it's ok. *hug*

Now, saying stuff like "I found myself distinctly underwhelmed and doubt will be playing much MMO in 2009." is more than that.

Players like Scy are so bored they just don't know what to do with the 3,000,000 quality games out there. They might look into a game and get bored with it just from the screen-shots. Look what happened to GAX: all those people had to stop posting because their favorite podcast showed them how to get excited AND bored with something within the same evening.

I miss those guys, though. MOG that is, not their 17 year old audience! lol


'Video!' by shuttler
Submitted on 2009-01-06 16:25:06 CST
I love doing the Limited Edition Mini Blogs and love watching Beau's video blogs. Would be great to see more video at Virgin Worlds.

I wonder what the community think about video?

in the meantime I hope you all saw Beau's great video here

Comic news for you, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg have been cast as Thompson and Thompson in an adaptation of Tintin

'Too similar' by scytale2
Submitted on 2009-01-11 22:40:54 CST
Beau - the games on the market are too similar. I'm not a cynic and have never commented negatively on a game from the screenshots alone.

Part of our society nowadays is about who can come out with the newest clone, hype it as innovative, when it is not, and then collect the readies, if they get a good review. This is just a comment on what happens, when people are interested in profit above everything else.

When a market is new, it tends to be more exciting and varied, but when it matures, it becomes dull and colourless.

Remember that innovation costs and the guy most responsible for innovation - Mr Brad McQuaid - is still being slagged off as being commercially inept and naive. Perhaps he is/was but which other game brought you innovation - totally new crafting, diplomacy levelling, beautiful graphics (innovative at the time), player impact on world economics (in a fantasy genre), innovative "reactive" combat, a new "wear" system (later dropped for something the same as everyone else). This is just scratching the surface.

The other slated game, of course, was DDO, equally innovative to Vanguard.

LOTRO has all my ideas and innovations on file and chose to implement only a tiny few of them, keeping themselves firmly in the mainstream, which clearly is working for them (I am pleased to hear).

What we need now, though is a new MMO for us early-adopters, one that tackles a new angle or genre, not reliant on same old same old. I watch diligently for this, but it does not appear 2009 is our year...perhaps 2010 will be.

'You're right Scy....' by Beauturkey
Submitted on 2009-01-12 02:26:31 CST
..you don't sound cynical at all.

You just sound bored. That's cool, though. Blame it on the games.

If you are going to get way into something, say movies or a certain band or games, you have to know by now that at some point even the most beautiful sights will bore you.

We all have wonderful ideas. It's hard to make games, though.

And it hasn't been forEVER. It's been roughly ten years since the first real 3-D mmo. That's nothing. But, to someone that has played all of them (like myself) and that maybe has read about all the new ones and watched all the trailers, it might seem like it hasn't gone far.

I have, luckily, the ability to enjoy something slowly.


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