With the start of 2014 there has been much speculation on the future from both fans and newcomers alike on the world of massively multiplayer online role playing games. There are a number of major releases with different gameplay styles and business models that look to shape the direction for the genre in the years to come.
One of the most talked about games in recent news has been The Elder Scrolls Online, which comes off the huge success of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. While the five games that have come before ESO have been completely single player experiences, many have wanted to explore the series’ vast fantasy world with friends. Bethesda and ZeniMax Online have answered those calls, but have been met with a lot of controversy.
The biggest topics of discussion has come from the business side of things, as the games’ budget has reached a monumental $200 million. The company recently made news when they announced the pricing of the game, which is set to be released April 4 for $60 with a $14.99 monthly subscription fee — sticking to Blizzard’s World of Warcraft business model that has not brought major success to many other MMORPGs.
Since the release of this information, publications like Forbes have predicted ESO to be the biggest flop of 2014. The game has been going into beta weekends for testing, but nobody at this point is allowed to talk publicly about what they have seen.
ZeniMax promises the game will have the largest scale player versus player combat of any MMO and will provide ultimate freedom, letting players go wherever they please.
There is a lot of pressure and the stakes are high for the game, but if ZeniMax can provide the Elder Scrolls experience on a bigger scale and with a promising stream of new content ESO will definitely be worth the steep admission.
On the positive side of the hype train, there is the new sci-fi and western game known as Wildstar coming in mid 2014 from Carbine Studios and NC Soft.
The team creating the game is looking to reinvent the wheel by adding a complex combat style that the genre has never seen before. With a focus on fast action, Wildstar promises to stay fresh while delivering a quirky sense of humor to immerse players within their world. The game is a new concept, giving developers the opportunity to do whatever they want in terms of style and story.
The business model for the game has people excited, too, as their are two options for online play once players buy the game: pay a subscription like ESO and WoW or use what is called a play-to-pay feature. With the latter option, players can acquire enough in-game currency to pay the monthly fee without dipping into their own pockets at all.
Long before MMOs grew into what they are today, Everquest was the king of them all. It has been a long time since the game was in its prime, but two promising sequels are set to launch this year with Everquest Next and Everquest Next: Landmark.
Next looks to throw things off the rails by being a complete sandbox game, letting the player make choices on what they’d like to do in the game. For example, rather than issuing a handful of standard classes to choose from there are instead 40 professions to mix and match to the players liking. Actions have consequences that permanently affect the world and all of the environments are said to be fully destructible.
Landmark is a separate free-to-play experience set within the world of Next that allows players to craft anything they’d like — even their own game. Some of these creations could even make it into the full game itself, with the system functioning similarly to Minecraft.
Finally, the juggernaut of the genre cannot be ignored. 10 years after its initial release, World of Warcraft is still going strong and remains the most popular MMO even with a small decline in players. 2014 will hold the release of the rumored to be final expansion for the game, Warlords of Draenor. The storyline is rumored to possibly have a final boss with series antagonist Garrosh Hellscream, who will be seeking revenge against the continent of Azeroth.
Alongside plot advancements, all of the original character models are going to receive a major visual upgrade which will include more detail and better animations.
There will also be the new world of Draenor to explore and a raise in level cap from 90 to 100. Players will also be able to create and customize fortress strongholds to revisit after tackling all of the new quests that explore heroes from the past and present.
One of the more controversial changes that is likely to bring in new players is one free immediate upgrade of any character to level 90 so people can experience the higher level content. While some may say it cheapens the fun of getting their yourself, it certainly makes the game seem less daunting.