It’s time, once again, to be amazed and astounded by my precocious acts of prestidigitation, my prescient predictions, my prattling on about probable outcomes … however you put it, it’s free-to-play prediction time again here at MMOBomb!
Before we get to that, as usual, we need to look back at what was said last year about 2018 and how accurate my – and your – predictions were for the then-coming year. To do that, first take a look at last year’s predictions article. Got that? Did you give us that click? Thanks! Now, here are the results:
It’s the year of the battle royale (True)
I’d say this one was spot-on. Everyone tried to glom onto the success of Fortnite: Battle Royale in 2018, with mixed results. Skyforge, Battlerite, and Paladins adapted their existing games for battle royale modes, while plenty of totally new contenders stepped into the ring (of Elysium). Some were desperate hail marys, while others were inspired by jokes, but there’s no doubt that 2018 was a big year for battle royales – in quantity, if not in quality.
Something happens to WildStar and Carbine Studios (True)
LawBreakers will go free-to-play (True)
It did! And then, welp.
Valve won’t launch Artifact in 2018 (False)
Color me off on this one, both in terms of the game launching and of it being free-to-play.
Games we’ll play in 2018: Cryptic’s Magic MMO, Daybreak’s new shooter, the Splash Damage/Wargaming collaboration (False)
Only one of these games, PlanetSide Arena, even got an official announcement in 2018. We’ve heard absolutely nothing about the Magic MMO, and Splash Damage did make some news, but not of the good kind. More on them later.
Add all that up, and I’d say that I was correct on 3/5 of my guesses. Hey, that’s above average, so I did good, right? Only one reader, Puddingbear, attempted to produce specific guesses, which we’ll grade as well:
LawBreakers will be shut down, that game is trash.
Correct! Well, on the first part, at least. The second part is subjective.
Ironsight will have a huge impact on the COD player base.
RuneScape mobile will reach one million players.
According to Jagex, “there have been over one million pre-orders/pre-registrations for the game on iOS and Android, with another million already enjoying the game via a beta and soft launch over the summer.” I’d say this one was spot-on.
So congratulations, Puddingbear, you earn a 2/3 score, which is technically better than my 3/5. Don’t get a big head about it though. Everyone else, remember to give us your predictions in the comments below, so we can grade you for next year!
All right, that’s enough of a look back. How about looking forward to see what 2019 will bring to free-to-play gaming…
Loot boxes in the U.S. will get regulated – by the government or the games industry itself
All throughout 2018, the news kept trickling in. Loot boxes were banned here, investigated there … but for the most part, the United States stood on the sidelines as other countries made their moves. Some harsh words were offered, but very little happened in the way of actual legal action. For their part, the ESA stood by its long-held public stance that loot boxes were not gambling and thus shouldn’t be regulated in any manner.
In November, the games industry got what should be a major wake-up call, as the FTC vowed to investigate loot boxes, at the behest of Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire. While simply asking the FTC to exercise “additional oversight” is several steps removed from actually drafting legislation, it’s the first step in what could lead to a major shift in how a lot of game developers, free-to-play and otherwise, do business.
While the situation evokes memories of when the games industry created the ESRB to dodge legislation related to selling inappropriate games to minors, I don’t think the two are as comparable as one might think. In the grand scheme of things, I’d guess that restricting sales of M-rated games didn’t have that much of an effect on companies’ bottom lines. It was a freedom that the companies were willing to give up because it offered good PR returns at a minimal cost.
Loot boxes are another case entirely. They provide enormous revenue for game companies, and they won’t let them go without a fight. EA is already fighting Belgium, and I’d wager that there’s a lot going on behind the scenes in the halls of government in the U.S. to cut off at the knees any initiatives to restrict loot boxes before they can become law. These things take time, so it might still be a while before anything substantial happens.
Even so, I think that it’s going to happen, and I’ll say that, one way or another, in 2019, we’ll see some actual reassessment of the legality of loot boxes in the U.S. If game companies are willing to budge just an inch or two, they might be able to come up with an ESRB-like compromise that avoids the heavy hand of the law taking away all of their fun (and revenue). I don’t think that’s a guarantee, though; instead, it’s entirely possible that we’ll see the government forcing a non-compliant industry into submission regarding exactly what loot boxes can contain, how they can be sold, and who they can be sold to. It should make for an interesting year, in any case.
Shutting down in 2019: Bless Online and at least one former Trion Worlds game
Here’s where I’m likely to get 100% hate or 100% love, depending on whether you like the games/companies in question. Bless has shut down before, in other regions, and its quickie B2P-to-F2P conversion smacks of no small amount of desperation. I don’t think it survives 2019.
As for Trion, I mean, gamigo, we thought Atlas Reactor might be on the chopping block when it was mysteriously omitted from the list of game gamigo acquired in the sale late last year. It’s certainly a candidate for shuttering, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Defiance – following its less-than-stellar reboot as Defiance 2050 – is also shown the door in 2019.
Daybreak Game Company experiences major upheaval
This is probably less specific than it could be, and I’ll be really flexible with how I “score” it next year. But there’s a lot that could happen, and it’s anyone’s guess as to what form it will take.
Will there be a firmly established link between Daybreak, Columbus Nova, Renova, and Viktor Vekselberg that sheds new light on all those companies and people coming from the Robert Mueller’s report regarding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election — a topic I never thought I’d be writing about on a gaming website — which is likely to be wrapped up sometime in the early part of the year? If so, could it have a devastating effect on Daybreak?
Focusing just on the games and not political intrigue, will PlanetSide Arena succeed? Will the H1Z1 Pro League re-form (or pay its teams, as was promised by the end of last year)? Will the EverQuest franchises continue to limp along or will something happen to them? One way or another, I think it’s going to be an eventful year at Daybreak, one way or another.
Fortnite: Save the World won’t go free-to-play
Hey, remember the “other” Fortnite? The PvE-focused Save the World launched into early access in 2017 and was shortly followed by some other version of the game which seemed like it was just a goofy side project. We’ve forgotten what it was called and are sure it never amounted to anything.
Anyway, with as well as Fortnite: Battle Royale has done, and with additional focus on the Epic Games Store, I’m of the opinion that StW will languish for another year or so, at least, without seeing a full free-to-play release, as was initially promised. I wouldn’t even be shocked to see the game mode discontinued entirely, which would totally count toward my score at the end of the year. You can’t be free-to-play if you don’t exist!
By the end of the year, everybody will know who Leyou Technologies is
All right, that’s enough of the bad news; now for something good. Astute readers of MMOBomb will have heard of Leyou Technologies, a Chinese chicken supplier that recently branched out into holdings in the gaming industry. They already control a chunk of Warframe developer Digital Extremes, but it’s easy to forget about its other notable investments.
Notably, one of its subsidiaries owns Splash Damage, which is still working on something even after Dirty Bomb went into maintenance mode. And don’t sleep on the newly formed Athlon Games, which is working on a “free-to-play massively multiplayer online video game based on The Lord of the Rings.” That could be a really big deal, even if it runs parallel to The Lord of the Rings Online. I don’t think either game will be playable, but they’ll be announced and the hype machine will begin. In any case, I think 2019 is the year Leyou makes an impact that we won’t soon forget.
Remember to log your predictions for 2019 in the comments below, and I’ll grade them – along with mine – at the end of the year. The more specific, the better!