2015 MMO Predictions – The Rise of Buy to Play Sandboxes
Another year has come to pass and we’ve made it into 2015. Last year was a mixed bag, starting off with a heaping helping of disappointment, developing into failed hope, and then ending on a note of greatness with games like Life is Feudal, The Repopulation, and Elite: Dangerous becoming available. None of them being Free-to-Play, too. In my 2014 predictions article, I talked about how I felt Elder Scrolls Online would fail, prayed to the Internet gods for the F2P Themepark market to crash and end a dark era in our history, and stated my high hopes for ArcheAge. And while I would like to say that I was right, I have to admit I was wrong on some things.
Elder Scrolls Online – Going Buy-To-Play?
Let’s start off on the main topic of last year’s article: Elder Scrolls Online (ESO). Last year I predicted it would fail. While I don’t think it’s exactly successful, it’s still there and still a pay-to-play. On the other hand, though, I can’t say I know anyone who is playing ESO and there is rarely any more than a hundred people viewing the game on Twitch (if that’s any indication on how well it is liked). So, while it may not have “failed” completely, I do feel it’s getting to a point where the publisher is probably strongly considering a change in payment model.
So my prediction for ESO this year is a change in payment model. I’m not exactly excited about this – a change in the model could result in the game going F2P with a stupid cash shop. Personally, I feel it would do much better as a buy-to-play with a cosmetic (and convenience) cash shop. Similar to Guild Wars 2. I’m hoping this change comes in 2015 so that I can come back and enjoy the Elder Scrolls setting once again. Or some major expansions with lots of new and changed features. As it is, I can’t bring myself to pay $15 a month to play the game.
There are some clues that a payment model change may be on the horizon, so I’m not just making a blind guess. With the removal of the 6-month subscription option for ESO, many are speculating that there will be some sort of massive change on the horizon. Others, however, claim this is just a change to make more income as the 6-month option offered a hefty discount over the other subscription plans. Only time (or a press release) will tell what this change means for ESO.
ArcheAge Server Mergers
Next up to bat is ArcheAge. In 2014, this was my star game. I put all my hope into this basket – got my friends together and encouraged them to buy the $150 Founders Pack right along with me, put together my old guild to take part in the game, and spent months planning for its release. And to be honest, I do feel that I got my $150 worth out of the game – about half a year and hundreds of hours of gameplay. However, just after four months of launch and the game already feels dead. I honestly don’t see much hope for the future when it comes to ArcheAge.
A combination of screw ups by Trion and XL Games has resulted in a lot of angry players,
Hopefully this will come soon enough to satisfy the ArcheAge community and provide a lively and fun experience before the populations shrinks to devastating numbers. On the other hand, a server merge means a lot of butt-hurt from the player-base due to the housing situation. So it almost seems like a lose-lose situation for Trion no matter what they do. Personally, while I’m not able to see how they’ll pull it off, I’m rooting for Trion to turn things around. I plan to keep a close eye on ArcheAge in 2015.
Towards the end of 2014, I did come across a handful of games that I feel will be the hope of the sandbox genre in 2015. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) none of them are Free-to-Play, all being Buy-To-Play. These are Life is Feudal, The Repopulation, and Elite: Dangerous. While the first is not yet an MMO, with that component of the game being 6-months to a year away, the second IS a full-fledged sandbox MMO, but is currently in alpha (soon to be beta) testing. And the last is a quasi-MMO. All three have huge amounts of potential, though, so they’ll be the games I’m banking on in 2015 and I feel they will be the reason this year will be great for MMOs and sandboxes alike.
Life is Feudal is a medieval sandbox, similar to Wurm Online. In fact, I feel that Life is Feudal will be the first game to really compete with Wurm in the full-fledged sandbox market (which is incredibly sparse). I still consider Wurm to be the greatest sandbox of all-time, but after playing the non-MMO beta version of Life is Feudal: Your Own, I have to say I think it will give Wurm Online a run for its money. So I predict Life is Feudal becoming even more popular (there are already thousands upon thousands of people playing on private servers) and developing into the only real competition that Wurm Online will have in this very niche market.
You may have heard of The Repopulation already, especially if you’re a Star Wars Galaxies (SWG) vet. For a while now, it’s been championed as the true new home of SWG fans, offering a lot of features and gameplay elements that made that game so great. At the end of 2015, I went ahead and bought into the testing of the game via Steam Early Access. I haven’t gotten far yet (I’ve had the game for less than two weeks), but it definitely shows promise and the resemblance to SWG in some ways are stunning. I predict this game will gain a lot more traction in 2015 thanks to its
As for Elite: Dangerous… That’s a very odd subject for me. On the one hand, I love the game and have spent many hours enjoying it. On the other hand, I feel that it was released earlier than it should have been and is missing some important features that would make all the difference. I don’t know if a release in very-late 2014 was a good thing or not, and only time will tell. As it stands, it’s still quite hard to enjoy the game with friends and gameplay becomes repetitive after a while. I think that 2015 will show us a slew of new features fixing many of the issues that I (And others) have with the game. (catch our full launch review)
Elite: Dangerous only has one real competitor, and that is Star Citizen. I fear that Star Citizen will become more and more playable in 2015, taking away droves of the Elite: Dangerous players if certain features (being able to easily and successfully play with friends would be great!) aren’t released soon enough. This may or may not be an issue, though, as Elite: Dangerous seems to be designed as a single player game first and a multiplayer game second, so it could very well be perfectly fine with minimum numbers of online players. Especially considering it has a full-fledged single-player option that takes place in the same galaxy as in online play. In the end, I’m hoping that what they say when it comes to the two games is true, “There is room for two amazing space sims.”
2014 was, for me, the year of failed games and lost hope. Maybe 2015 will prove to be the year of great buy-to-play sandbox MMOs. My predictions are: ESO will continue to lose its player-base until it’s forced to reconsider its payment model and will hopefully switch to the Buy-to-Play model. ArcheAge will continue to have a shrinking player-base and Trion will be forced to merge the many (over twenty all-together) servers. There will be a rise of Buy-to-Play sandbox MMOs this year, taking a lot of the spotlight from F2P and P2P games. I’m sure that, like last year, we will see more and more clamoring for sandbox games from MMO players, many of whom are getting tired of the repetitive, money-sucking F2P Themepark model that most games on the market have. And I’m sure we’ll see great things coming from EverQuest Next/Landmark, too. Here’s to hoping that 2015 will be a year of massive flux (for the good) within the MMO market!
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