2014 MMO Predictions – Console MMO Wars and Happy MOBA Players
By Jonar Isip (Ministryl)
Now that the long Sailor Jerry’s fog has lifted from my brain and liver, and I’ve regained 80% of my brain capacity (I’m sure the other 20% is permanently gone), my thoughts are free to turn toward the days ahead. I think that I’m qualified to make wild predictions of the future. I mean, back in 2010, shortly before World of Warcraft: Cataclysm was released, I told my friend that they’ll make an expansion that will have BOTH an unarmed class and a race of pandas.
“No freaking way,” said my friend who, incidentally, was 400 pounds and single, “that’s about as impossible as me getting fit and having a girlfriend.” Then, Mists of Pandaria happened.
Needless to say, my friend is now a world class body builder with a wife and 8 children. I practically changed his life.
Okay, none of that is true… except his dramatic weight loss and the girlfriend. More importantly, my prediction was also true and even more important is that it came to pass. Just ask my buddy, Matt. He’ll tell ya!
All of this is to say that I am capable of making predictions that have a chance of becoming true. Then again, you can do that too, so… Bah! Whatever! On to the list!
Increased Console Gamer Presence in the MMO Space
The current generation consoles, Playstation 4 and Xbox One (sorry Wii U), are essentially PCs under their dark, boxy, plastic cases. The implications of this are evident – the similar architecture means that the gates are practically wide open for MMOs, traditionally a PC staple, to port themselves over to these new systems. Sure, there have been games that were sold to both the PC and console markets before, with Final Fantasy XI among one of the first, but it’s never been easier to move between systems.
It would be madness for them to ignore the consoles, even if it has a fraction of the previous generation’s install base. Then again, Sony and Microsoft could put the whole idea on ice by closing off their systems to PC developers.
Note to Sony and Microsoft: Please don’t do that. I want my predictions to come true!
The MMO Subscription Model and Free to Play Microtransactions Will Merge Into a Gooey Morass of Sweet Financial Exploitation
MMORPGs, in particular, are expensive projects that take a long time to become profitable. The traditional subscription model was, previously, good enough to help keep the lights on, but lately it seems like these games are having a hard time doing that. We’ve seen a lot of games over the past few years ditch their sub models in favor of the free to play cash shop. Some games, like Guild Wars 2, were built up with F2P in mind.
But I think the subscription model is still viable, with a little help. World of Warcraft already has a cash shop for vanity items, like mounts. It wouldn’t be surprising if Blizzard applied the full weight of their Bag o’ Intellectual Property and fill the shop with tons more items, especially as the game’s subs continue to dwindle. The re-released Final Fantasy XIV is primed to follow suit. They are not beyond mixing their properties, as evidenced by the recent Lightning Returns: FFXIII Super Marketing Cross-Synergy Extravaganza Event that they held late last year. They could easily put up a cash shop for players who don’t have the time to pick up event items through quests.
Of course, anybody who would mix subs and cash shops would have to do so delicately, so that it doesn’t feel too gross. But I also think that, in 2014, people are growing accustomed to these attempts at their wallets. Or maybe they’re just jaded to it.
If this prediction were to come to pass, I’m actually not sure if I would be happy that I was right, or sad that we’re suckers for vanity pets.
More MOBAs That Appeal to the Casual Player
I suck at MOBAs. Part of the reason why could be the lack of talent (of which, I’m sure, is what makes up a huge percentage of my suckitude), but part of it is has to do with the genre’s steep learning curve. Games like DOTA 2 ask so much of a beginning player from the outset. It also demands the best out of everyone in the team – one screw up from a single player and it’s usually lights out for the whole team.
The better teammates end up frustrated because a half hour of effort is gone thanks to a bad teammate, and the bad teammate feels discouraged because he or she had frustrated the entire team. It’s put a damper to the otherwise steady growth of the genre.
But with the increasing popularity of MOBAs comes a push for games that cater to the more casual crowd. Prime World already offers a side activity for non-combatant players, allowing them to be useful to their teammates if they’re not quick with the mouse. The upcoming Heroes of the Storm gets rid of individual levels in favor of team levels. This lets new players ride along their teammates’ momentum while slightly mitigating the problems with having an unskilled team member. Game mechanics like these will help stretch the MOBA genre’s dark tentacles beyond its hardcore heart.
2014 could be the year where the rank beginner can easily find a safe environment to learn the game. Frankly, there’s nothing good about the idiot that demeans you for your lack of skill, expressing a strong need to focus on your penis size, and saying mean things about your mother. It’s like punching a 10-month-old baby girl with a gauntlet full of horse shoes just because she couldn’t say the word “cat.” People who get off on stuff like that are awful people. And the angry kids in the MOBA community are just that awful.
Huh, now I have a bonus prediction for 2014: perhaps, this year will give rise to a kinder gaming community? That would be nice. But, this is the Internet. This is probably more wishful thinking than a prediction.