We stand on the cusp of a new year. As is the tradition around this time, it seems like a good idea to turn our collective gaze backwards before looking forwards. Today, we’re going to look at a few of the trends that defined the MMO genre in 2013 – and which will continue to define it as 2014 kicks into full swing.
MOBAs And The Rise Of Competitive eSports
You’ve gotta hand it to Riot Games, they know how to market – and transform – a brand. Though MOBAs were undeniably popular back in the early days of Dota, Riot’s taken them well beyond anything fans at the time would have thought possible. This year, League of Legends LCS became bigger than ever – so big, in fact, that the United States Government has officially recognized competitive gamers as professional athletes. Thousands of spectators now tune in to watch professional League of Legends matches (even people who’ve never played the game in their life), and professional League players are now able to make a very healthy living from their careers.
The Freemium Craze
I may be wrong, but I feel as though 2013 saw the release of more free-to-play titles than any year so far. Truth be told, with the way we’re going, ‘freemium’ may well become the de-facto business model of MMORPGs. Already, we’ve seen several big names in the industry – including Star Wars: The Old Republic and RIFT – drop the traditional subscription model. At the moment, it seems as though F2P is king.
I’m not entirely certain how I feel about that – after all, for every developer who understands micro-transactions, there’s at least ten who pepper their crapware with paywalls and overpriced gear. That said, we’ve been seeing a lot more quality in this year’s free-to-play titles than in previous years, so…who knows? Either way, this is probably a change we’re going to have to learn to live with – although 2014 will see the release of quite a few subscription-based titles, likely as not the shift to freemium is a permanent one.
Twitch’s Business Boom
Popular streaming site Twitch.TV is now bigger and better than ever before. This is likely due in large part to its role in the immense popularity of MOBAs such as League of Legends: Twitch is the chosen platform of almost every well-known professional League player. Not only that, it’s one of the primary means by which competitive matches are streamed to the masses. Factor in the recent agreement between Sony and Twitch for the PS4 Playroom (which has had admittedly mixed results), and it’s been a damned good year for the site.
Mass Death In The MMO Market
Not all the news this year has been good. A number of great MMORPGs were forced to shut down their servers. Among the fallen – which included studios and games both great and small – were Warhammer Online, Dragon Ball Online, and Toontown. Bit of a downer, true, but…these things happen, right? The best we can do is move on and hope whatever game we next settle on doesn’t close up shop anytime soon.
MMOs Come To Consoles
In another piece of mine, I explained that all the good MMORPGs are generally found on PC. This might not actually be the case for much longer. This year, I noticed a huge shift in the development field. Although consoles don’t really have much in the way of decent MMOs quite yet (Final Fantasy XIV aside), we’re going to be seeing an influx of games hitting the PS4 and Xbox One as 2014 rolls around. Among these incredibly promising titles are EverQuest Next, The Elder Scrolls Online, and Destiny. Not a bad selection, that – though still nowhere near the variety available for PC gamers.
It’s been a hell of a year. We’ve seen League of Legends transform into one of the most-played games in the world, free-to-play has taken the throne as one of the top business models in the MMO industry, several high-profile games have closed their doors (and servers) for good, and through it all, World of Warcraft has still somehow managed to retain its crown. Will that change this year? Will 2014 finally see the game that unseats Wow?
Perhaps. Only time will tell, right?