Now that we’ve covered the free-to-play gaming news you totally saw coming, it’s time to take a look at the surprises from 2018. We’ve got upcoming games, dying games, a dead game that wouldn’t stay dead and companies and games that might be on the brink of death – or even worse, the dreaded “maintenance mode.”

Remember, you can check out our not-as-shocking-and-actually-totally-predictable F2P news of the last year over here. For now, prepare to be amazed and agog at the stupendously unpredictable chaos that was 2018!

(Then again, if you lived through 2018 and you remember all of this, is it really surprising to see it on a list?)

5. That Marvel Heroes Revival Attempt

When Marvel Heroes shut down in late 2017, it left a lot of gamers without a place to call home. One in particular resolved to do something about it, launching a fundraiser on IndieGogo with the goal of raising nearly half a million dollars to acquire the rights to the game and negotiate with Disney and Marvel.

Sound too good to be true? It probably was. Following our investigation and exposé of the fundraiser’s ties to an alleged “diploma mill,” things came to a screeching halt – with some of the screeching coming from the man behind it all. The IndieGogo page and the studio that was supposedly going to spring up from nothingness to re-create the game swiftly vanished, and even the “educational, non-profit” institute that was behind it all has also disappeared. Nothing to see here, move along …

4. Games We Were Sure Would Be F2P, Weren’t: Artifact, Bless, PlanetSide Arena

Maybe we do overdo it when we think certain games are going to be free-to-play. It’s not absolutely required any more, since high-quality games can do just fine with an up-front price. It’s the “high-quality” part of some games that choose not to go F2P that leave us scratching our heads.

The top game in this category for 2018 was clearly Bless Online. It failed in multiple regions before coming to the West – as a paid game. That didn’t last long, as has been well-documented. Then there was Valve’s Dota 2 card game, Artifact. Valve is trying to work some old-school physical-CCG economy magic there, and the results have been mixed. Would it have been easier to go with a traditional F2P model? Probably.

Then there’s the game we heard about just a few weeks ago, PlanetSide Arena. Will people accustomed to playing a F2P open-world FPS line up to spend money on a session-based shooter using the same engine? Like Bless, will it go F2P in short order? We’d be a little surprised if it didn’t, sometime in 2019.

3. Blizzard Cuts Heroes of the Storm Staff, Cancels Esports

It’s not too surprising to see a game’s resources get pared back. It happens all the time with older, less successful, games from smaller companies. Heroes of the Storm isn’t too old, having launched in just June 2015, and Blizzard certainly isn’t small, so that made the sudden decision to shuffle off some of its staff and cancel its esports plans a shock to many fans.

Blizzard promises to keep up active development on HotS, but it’s clear that things will be a little slower, at the very least. Meanwhile, the cancellation of the Heroes Global Championship and collegiate Heroes of the Dorm tournament left a lot of players and casters without a paying gig. It’s rumored that Activision could be taking a heavier hand in Blizzard’s development – and its profit margins – but even if the changes were warranted, the abrupt way in which the news was delivered left us a little stunned.

2. Daybreak Isn’t Really Owned By Columbus Nova

For three years, we assumed that Sony Online Entertainment had been purchased by investment group Columbus Nova, whereupon it was rebranded as Daybreak Game Company. As it turns out, that was all just a mistake! Instead, it was a Columbus Nova executive, Jason Epstein, who had purchased SOE/Daybreak, and Columbus Nova itself had never, ever, ever had anything to do with it. Oh, and a top executive left the company the day after the news broke, and there were layoffs later in the week, but that was nothing unusual, really.

Needless to say, the rewriting of history – much of which Daybreak wrote itself – didn’t go over well with, well, anybody. The unintentional announcement occurred just weeks after Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, chief of Columbus Nova’s parent company, Renova – no, wait, CN had nothing to do with Renova, either, we suddenly heard – faced sanctions from the U.S. government. The whole thing was one of the most absurd messes we’ve heard in a long time, and, depending on how certain investigations regarding the highest levels of government in this country go, might still get messier.

1. Gamigo Acquires Trion, Massive Layoffs Ensue

While the notion that Trion Worlds wasn’t in the best of shape wasn’t a huge revelation, the fact that the company was sold – and to whom – rates as a big deal. When the deal to transfer Trion’s games to Gamigo was announced, it came with less-than-stellar guarantees that Trion’s games would continue, with Atlas Reactor being left out of the conversation entirely. Even the creator of ArcheAge, XLGames’ Jake Song, said he was “shocked” to learn of the transaction.

Now, a month later, things seem to have stabilized a bit, and nothing’s on the chopping block – for now. At the very least, we’d assume that whatever content Trion was working on for its games prior to its being sold will be completed and see the light of day. After that, however? Your guess is as good as mine. 2019 could see some major shutdowns of long-running titles, though it’s less likely we’ll be as “shocked” by that as Jake Song was.

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