MMOBomb's Free-to-Play Predictions For 2017 -- And Readers' Predictions From 2016
I copped out last year. I admit it. When I did my sort-of-annual tradition of making end-of-year predictions for the F2P gaming space, I only looked back on the predictions I'd made for 2015 and didn't make any for 2016. Instead, I decided to leave it to the the MMOBomb readers to leave their predictions in the comments.
But just because I wimped out doesn't mean I'll let you guys off the hook. Just as I do with my own predictions, I decided to revisit the comments section from last year's article and see how some of you fared with your predictions.
1. Overwatch will be huge, as it is already, like many others have said. It will set the standard for the more current Arena Shooters.
2. Hi-Rez’s Paladins will try too hard to emulate Overwatch, and while the addition of cards is unique and interesting, it will ultimately fail, leaving Hi-Rez to focus more highly on Smite or Global Agenda 2 (if that’s still in development anyway).
I think 2016 proved that there's still plenty of room for multiple “hero shooters” in gaming. Overwatch certainly did huge business, but Paladins came on strong as well, posting some impressive numbers and, for many people, replacing Overwatch as their hero shooter of choice.
Hi-Rez is still focusing on Smite, and Smite: Tactics, as well as something else. As for Global Agenda 2, well … I think there's a better chance we'll see EverQuest Next.
1) Competitive arena-shooters will take off lightning fast and Overwatch will be one of the most popular games of all time.
2) The MOBA scene will take a crash dive
3) WoW goes free-to-play from dwindling subscriptions after the movie flops big time.
4) Most free-to-play games will include a shop ONLY FOR COSMETICS, finally toppling the free-to-play vs p2w debate.
5) Many companies will have scandals for lesser known games causing them to be bought out or bankrupted.
6) New restrictions and ratings will come about or be revised due to a certain religion.
7) E-sports gains tremendous popularity becoming a multi-million (billion?) dollar business.
8) New technology comes out that takes gaming to a whole new level that no one ever thought possible.
I think Apoth got a little too hyped up in his predictions, but taken to a lesser extreme, he didn't fare so badly. “Competive arena-shooters” did take off, and Overwatch is big, but I would stop short of calling it one of the most popular games of all time. MOBAs are still chugging along, and maybe stagnating a bit, but not taking a “crash dive.” E-sports are also still growing, and VR is a significant new tech, though we've yet to see its full impact. And #6 could apply to the Chinese lockbox laws, though they have nothing to do to religion.
Then there are the other predictions. We'll probably never end the F2P/P2W debate, there weren't any huge scandals, and World of Warcraft certainly didn't go free-to-play. Now, if he would have put Eve Online on his list, I'd give him partial credit.
1. Firefall shuts down, or will be sold.
2. Still no chance for EQN.
3. Multiple less popular MOBAs shut down.
4. Multiple hack and slash MMO’s shutting down, while new ones take their places.
5. Dungeons and Dragons Online having financial problems, but LOTRO still making enough money for Turbine to keep both games running.
6. With the appearance of new arena shooters, multiple MMOFPS games having financial problems due to player base loss or shutting down.
7. Almost every less known old generation sandbox MMORPG converting to F2P or B2P model from subscription.
8. Multiple new, unsuccessful zombie and card games come out.
9. No new top grade sandbox game will come out, and the increase of the lesser ones will slow down.
10. Multiple old anime style MMOs are replaced by newcomers.
#1 was pretty darn close, though Red 5 was actually sold to a Chinese textile company. #2: Yep. #3/#4/#6/#10: I don't think so? It's tough to keep track of them all, but I didn't remember a major wave of shutdowns or new releases in any particular genre. #5: They're still making enough, but Turbine has nothing to do with them anymore. #7: Eve isn't “less known” but it is an “old generation sandbox MMORPG,” so maybe this counts? #8: There were a good number of card games, but I feel like zombies/survival games are slowing down a little bit. #9: I'd tend to agree.
I predict. I will remain happy in my free-to-play titles for 3rd year in row now. Tera. Never a dull moment. Armorrd warfare, FUN based in skill. Not wallet.
How did that work for you, Derpina? Still happy with TERA?
All right, this year I won't shirk my prediction responsibilities. Here are my real, totally-sure-to-come-true predictions for F2P gaming in 2017.
The “Big Two” sub games won't go free-to-play (or even buy-to-play).
With Eve Online trying free-to-play this year, that leaves just two big-name AAA MMOs that still rely on the subscription model: World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.
Warlords of Draenor's chilly reception ramped up talk of WoW potentially going F2P, but Legion has been well received. That should stave off the F2P talk for at least another expansion cycle. As for Final Fantasy XIV, it's also still going strong, a year and a half after its first expansion released. Another one is on the way in 2017, and all signs point to it being just as big of a success.
This is probably the easiest prediction to make, but I get at least one softball, right? Neither World of Warcraft of Final Fantasy XIV will even sniff at F2P/B2P in 2017, not even to the extend of adding to their free trials, and certainly not doing anything like what Eve Online did.
The Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online will operate throughout the year.
LotRO and DDO are no longer being made by Turbine! It's a new company that we've never heard of! And they're published by Daybreak Game Company! Panic!
Last week's news seemingly came out of nowhere, and for a pair of aging MMOs, it could be seen as the death knell. But I think that you wouldn't have two companies stepping up to create and publish the games if they thought they'd be shutting them down in six months.
This is different from Daybreak's in-development games like EverQuest Next or H1Z1, both of which entered 2016 as being on the F2P gaming horizon and ended 2016 in very different states. LotRO and DDO are active games and bring in revenue, with development planned for both. Slipping into “maintenance mode” could be a possibility somewhere down the line, even in the latter part of 2017, but I'd even bet against that. In any case, I'm pretty certain you'll be able to log into both on December 31.
New games: Daybreak will do a hero shooter, Hi-Rez a battle royale game, Turtle Rock a dungeon grinder.
Speaking of Daybreak, what exactly is it working on? It's probably a game named Mythwarden, and the company was hiring earlier this year for a new free-to-play FPS. I'll go out on a limb and say it'll be a hero shooter, along the same lines as Paladins or Overwatch, perhaps with an EverQuest flair. Because that's one trend Daybreak hasn't jumped all over yet.
What about the other recently announced but-still-unnamed F2P games from major developers? Hi-Rez Studios' new title will almost certainly have an e-sports angle, and since they've already got a MOBA, a hero shooter, and a card(-ish) game, I'll go with a battle royale-type game, in the vein of H1Z1: King of the Kill or The Culling. That genre is still fairly small and lacking in quality, finished titles, so there's room for an ambitious company like Hi-Rez to make its mark.
That leaves Turtle Rock Studios' dark fantasy, co-op FPS. Since they're specifically not calling it an e-sports-focused title, I'll go with “dungeon grinder,” instanced PvE combat in the vein of Warframe. It's hard to imagine any PvP title not being geared for e-sports, and this would seem to fit reasonably well with the developer's previous titles.
Perfect World Entertainment will gobble up at least one more prominent game.
2016 was a pretty good year for Perfect World Entertainment. It launched Neverwinter on PlayStation 4 and Star Trek Online on PS4 and Xbox One. PWE the publisher also had a good year, picking up Gigantic and obtaining the rights to the new Turtle Rock game, as well. The company is definitely in “acquisitions mode” and I look to that to continue in 2017.
As for what it could be … well, like Gigantic, it could be a game that has potential, but is struggling in some way. Or, as with the recent LotRO/DDO switch, an aging game that just needs someone else to shepherd it into its elder years. If NCSoft tires of WildStar, would it ship the game off to Perfect World? Or Trion with ArcheAge? Whatever it is, I think PWE will make a big, splashy acquisition at some point in 2017.
The sales totals for the next four quarters of NCSoft's games (Q4 2016 to Q3 2017) will be in this order: Lineage, Blade & Soul, Lineage II, Aion, Guild Wars 2, WildStar.
Lineage will be #1. WildStar will be #6, assuming it survives the year. Given its momentum, it's hard to imagine Blade & Soul dropping below #2.
So that leaves us with the other three games, all of which were pretty close to each other in Q3 2016: Lineage II brought in 20.5 billion Korean won, Aion 16.1 bKRW, and Guild Wars 2 15.3 bKRW. That was also the order in Q2, and I don't see any reason why things would change in 2017. L2 and Aion have been very consistent over the past year and a half or so, while the only thing that bumped GW2 was the expansion launch last year.
If the next GW2 expansion can come out by Q3, it would certainly provide a much-needed boost, but I don't think ArenaNet can get one out less than two years after Heart of Thorns' launch. Even if it does, it might not be enough to push it further up the list, with the way the game's financials have looked lately.
Like last year, if you want to leave your own predictions for 2017 in the comments, feel free to do so! I'd suggest you lean toward quantifiable, verifiable topics like I did above, instead of “MOBAs will be less popular” or “F2P games will be more pay-to-win.” And accept that I'll grade and poke fun at your predictions – and mine – in roughly 365 days.
About the Author
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.
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