With 2012 looming on the horizon, the team at ZAM is thinking about the past, present, and future of MMORPGs. Up today is ZAM Network Editor-in-Chief Chris "Pwyff" Tom!
We’re heralding the New Year with a personal examination of the MMORPG industry from the viewpoint of each member of the ZAM Network News and Editorial team. Writing today is ZAM Network Editor-in-Chief Chris "Pwyff" Tom. Happy Holidays!
Be sure to check out the rest of ZAM's End-of-the-Year Introspective Series! Get to know the team at ZAM!
- Staff Writer Paul "LockeColeMA" Cleveland lost many weeks to RIFT and Glitch, and he's excited about the future of Star Wars: The Old Republic.
- Staff Writer Mike "Krelumian" Schaffnit spent most of his 2011 embroiled in World of Warcraft and Dragon Nest, but he's hoping Guild Wars 2 will deliver for next year.
- Staff Writer Patrick "BakersMan" Do had a lot of fun with DC Universe Online, and is looking forward to TERA and MechWarrior Online.
If I were charged with the task of summing up 2011 MMORPG industry in one word, I suspect that my choices would ultimately boil down to one of two: free-to-play and anticipation. I realize that the first word is actually three words strung together, and that I could have easily changed my opening to say "summing up the 2011 MMORPG industry in two words - with one being hyphenated," but that would have been complicated.
The topic of MMORPGs going free-to-play, or even speculation on MMORPGs that will be going free-to-play, is a hot topic, and since Patrick already touched on the subject, I'll try to find a different angle. For the record, I'm all for the F2P movement and what it brings to the table - faster development cycles, more social breadth via aesthetic purchases, and a much larger community - but the model also promotes a less committed society of players, which makes me a little sad. Call me old (at the age of 23), but there's a certain degree of comfort in knowing that you are paying the same amount, per month, as everyone else. And as long as you pay this set fee, you can take solace in the fact that you will remain a part of the community. While that same option is there for F2P MMORPGs, the community is fragmented by microtransaction barriers that litter the landscape, denying access to the common peon.
Regardless, the F2P ideology has changed the industry irrevocably, and no amount of complaining can match up to the incredible numbers being posted by recent converts, like DC Universe Online or Age of Conan, so I'll stop right now.
I used a second word, anticipation, to describe the industry, and that's one that I think is really important. Last year, I remember saying that 2011 would be a huge year for MMORPGs, but given the large number of delays and pushed deadlines, it looks like 2012 is going to be the big year instead. The Secret World, Diablo III, Guild Wars 2, TERA, Firefall, PlanetSide 2, DUST 514, and MechWarrior Online are just a few of the titles slated for next year, and there's not one that I'm not looking forward to in some way or another.
I suspect that much of the industry is feeling the same way as they uneasily eye each other going into 2012. I wonder if there are enough players to accommodate for the volume of quality projects entering the spotlight, but regardless of who emerges victorious, next year has all the signs of being a huge step up in the overall quality of MMORPGs. This brings me to my second half of the article...