It is the new year, a time when people assess what happened in the past twelve months and try to predict what will come in the next.
The past is a open book. We can quibble about the why and how, but the results are immutable: World or Warcraft went from huge to somewhat more huge, Vanguard stank on ice, and most of 2007’s most anticipated MMOs became 2008’s most anticipated MMOs.
The future though, that is virgin territory. Nobody really knows what is going to happen, and the truly wise keep their own council. Smarter and more knowledgeable people than myself are trying to foresee what is to come in 2008.
And even they shy from being too precise, seeming to channel more of Nostradamus than Jeane Dixon with predictions like “a game company will close down,” “another big name MMO will fail,” “some more former Blizzard employees will be mentioned in a press release about a new game studio,” and “Two countries will go to war, but only one shall be victorious.”
In that sort of environment, lukewarm predictions that follow the status quo, all the average player can be expected to make, are worth nothing.
The only resort for the silly and ignorant like myself is over the top!
With that in mind, here are my predictions for 2008:
1. Age of Conan
Funcom‘s Age of Conan will release on the promised March date, but their plan to make a more “adult” MMORPG will backfire horribly. They will go too far and Conan will actually spend several months as a major campaign issue in the 2008 US presidential election, only to be overshadowed in October by scientific evidence that Barak Obama is actually black.
Even in permissive European countries that sell children’a cough syrup laced with codeine over the counter, the public and governmental reactions to the graphic depictions of sex and violence in the game will make the team in Oslo really wish they had stopped after the /teabag emote.
Angry protesters will flock to their headquarters and the news will carry images of people holding up “/snuff funcom” signs. The more graphic commands, all taken straight from the game, will be too much for the news to display.
Later, after the company has been liquidated out from underneath them, the Funcom team will reminisce about how the Anarchy Online launch really wasn’t all that bad.
2. The Agency
The Agency, SOE’s spy-action MMO will disappoint all when it turns out to be an elaborate tie-in for the upcoming “Get Smart” movie. The game will be flat and lifeless and the NPC interactions will consist primarily of catch phrases from the movie. The missions will be entirely made up of scenes from the movie. This might have been okay, but the movie itself will bomb at the box office, with even Roger Ebert giving it a thumbs down.
A movie will show up on YouTube that purportedly shows John Smedley cutting off the tip of the little finger of his left hand before his superiors at Sony as atonement for this error. While the authenticity of the video is never verified (it is pulled from YouTube within 24 hours) the fact that nobody ever seems to see Smed’s left hand after that point leads to much commentary.
BioWare will stay quiet for most of the year before finally admitting that they are not, in fact, working on an MMO and were just yanking out collective chains. A representative from LucasArts will confirm this and call us all “suckers.”
This will only spur greater excitement and speculation as to what kind of MMO BioWare is making.
4. Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising
After months of quiet, this game will appear in the news again after the rights, name, code, and all assets related to Gods & Heroes are purchased by Electronic Arts and placed under the EA-Mythic banner. Targeted for release in 2010, it is seen by some as a ploy by EA to beef up their MMO portfolio, but Marc Jacobs says that the essence of the game is sound and that it will be a solid, polished title by release, worthy of the EA-Mythic name.
5. Pirates of the Burning Sea
While launching slowly for the most part in the United States, Pirates of the Burning Sea will find a surprise and ardent following in Europe. Specifically in Britain, France, and Spain where the game will whip up a wave of nostalgic nationalism. The rate of subscription in these three countries will astound all observers and will drive demand locally for higher end PCs capable of running the game. The rivalries unleashed by the game will become so intense that by the end of the year two countries will go to war, but only one shall be victorious.
6. Star Trek Online
The ghost of Gene Roddenberry, propelled from its final resting point in space by the centrifugal force of the constant spinning brought on by Perpetual‘s actions, will possess Daron Stinnett and teach him the true message of Star Trek. Daron’s ability to faithfully articulate this vision will allow Perpetual to come back from the brink via a raft of new funding. Star Trek Online will become the darling investment of Wall Street.
The game produced, which will hit the shelves in 2010, will be a beautiful and deep simulation of life both in and out of Starfleet Command in the 25th Century. It will be hailed by critics and Star Trek fans alike. It will immediately attract a very strong following.
Unfortunately, that following will be too small to sustain the game, as life in the 25th century is only interesting to critics and Star Trek fans. The rest of us will ooh and ahh, then go back to playing something less beautiful but less boring.
7. Tabula Rasa
General British will end up getting ganked in Tabula Rasa before the end of 2008, as Lord British was in Ultima Online in 1997.
In a twist of fate common to bad fiction and end of year predictions, an investigation will show the following similarities between the two events that will stir up conspiracy theories and mystical pronouncements for years following the actions:
- The names on the accounts of both gankers contained the same number of letters
- Both gankers were born in ’78
- Both gankers were Southerners
- Both gankers were banned from the games before they could answer questions
- Both victims were ganked on a Friday
- Both victims were ganked from behind
- Both victims had the same last name (British)
- Both victims had, as some point, been warned about going to Dallas
- Both victims were ganked in the presence of a “Blackthorn,” Lord Blackthorn in UO and Colonel Blackthorn in TR
- Lord British was ganked in a castle and the attacker hid in a fortified campsite, while General British was ganked in a fortified campsite and the attacker hid in a cave in a mountain that, when viewed from the right direction and angle, looks like a castle
For years following the events, versions of this list, often with unverified additions, will be printed on T-shirts, mouse pads, posters, trading cards, and wall plaques.
The Return of Aradune! Brad McQuaid, having canvassed enough rest homes, bus stations, turnip trucking companies, and Ron Paul rallies, will reappear on the scene before mid-2008 and wrest the still struggling Vanguard from SOE.
Wrest might actually be too strong a word. SOE head John Smedley will protest publicly while quickly and quietly hanging the milestone that is Vanguard back around McQuaid’s neck.
The vision will be proclaimed again! Dozens will flock to the McQuaid banner and the subscriber base will double!
Then nothing will happen for two years and the whole thing will fall back in SOE’s lap again for a tiny fraction of the price for which they sold it.
9. Warhammer Online
Scared straight by the Conan debacle, Warhammer Online will slip further into 2008, and will only ship after the US presidential elections and the short war in Western Europe. While getting decent but not extravagant reviews, it will get a significant subscriber boost from players leaving other MMOs. This timing will allow Marc Jacobs to declare success immediately.
In order to keep interest up during the long delay before release, EA-Mythic will announce the “Mythic Ticket” subscription plan that will allow players access to all EA-Mythic online games, including Warhammer Online, Ultima Online, Dark Age of Camelot, and Gods & Heroes for a single monthly fee of $19.95.
10. World of Warcraft
The failure to ship the promised expansion, the Wrath of the Lich King, in 2008 will finally take the shine off of the land of Azeroth. While Asian numbers will remain healthy based on the strong PvP following and the late release of the Burning Crusade, a precipitous fall in subscriptions in the US and Europe and the consequent decline in revenue will put the fear of Wall Street into the corporate masters at Vivendi. Star Craft II will soften the blow some, but it will be released so late in the year that it won’t be able to make up for the droves of departing subscribers.
The team at Vivendi’s HQ will not swallow Rob Pardo‘s line about polish. They will want action and they will want it ASAP.
Michael Morhaime will be sacrificed to satisfy the financial markets and Vivendi will hire a top notch executive search team to find a replacement. The search will end when a proprietary computer algorithm reveals a single true match for the position.
The three former Blizzard execs will be the subject of an early 2009 press release about the formation of a new game studio.
[Addendum - The year has passed and my predictions have been scored here.]