Looking Back at 2015 – Highs and Lows and Things in Between

Here we are, the end of another year heading towards us, as unstoppable as an oncoming freight train, reminding us yet again of our own mortality.

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

And yet, before the express labeled “2016” strikes us head on, I am going to indulge in my usual end of the year “looking back” at what was wrought in 2015.  This is an ongoing tradition, and past posts may be found here:

2015 has been an interesting year, and while some of the news still falls into the usual Highs and Lows categories I traditionally use, there has been a couple things that have fallen in the middle for me, so I am going to inject a new heading where appropriate.  And, of course, these are Highs, Lows, and in between as I see them.  Not all highs are equally high, not all lows are equally low.  You may view them differently, the contents may have settled during shipment, and your mileage may vary.

Sony Online Entertainment/Daybreak Game Company

Highs:

  • Hey, they finally figured out nostalgia sells.  Special, subscriber-only servers for EverQuest and EverQuest II appear to be popular.
  • Expansions are back for EverQuest and EverQuest II.
  • EverQuest II server merges were probably past due.  They went off as well as could be expected.
  • Despite the occasional gaff (like that no raids for casuals thing and some odd poll interpretations) Holly “Windstalker” Longdale has done about all one could hope for with the EverQuest and EverQuest II franchise.
  • PlanetSide 2 finally hits a console platform, launching on PlayStation 4 at last.
  • They shed Dragon’s Prophet, which was probably more of a distraction for a company that really needs to focus.

Lows:

  • Layoffs.  Always expected after an acquisition, but never fun.
  • It is a good thing the EverQuest live franchises have Holly Longdale, because the remains of the community team seems to be of the “remove posts, lock threads, delete forums, ban people, and push everything possible onto Reddit” persuasion.  Sort of the anti-community team.
  • Nostalgia is popular for now, but how long will it last?  Rolling out the Ragefire and Lockjaw servers for EverQuest basically killed the Fippy Darkpaw and Vulak servers.  Maybe they were done, but it does bring up how these sorts of things should be handled, especially since we just got another special server in the form of Phinigel.
  • What does nostalgia cost?  The Stormhold and Deathtoll servers on EverQuest II were purported to have drawn off a lot of already subscribed players from the live servers.  Raiders couldn’t raid on some servers because their guild mates were off on these new servers.
  • Segmented player base.  One of the reasons that SOE merged EverQuest II Extended into EverQuest II and went full free to play was the folly of having essentially a free server, where all the new players would show up, killing off the live servers, which looked like they would stagnate and die under that scheme.  A couple years down the road, these special servers look to be testing that idea again.
  • Also, the Drunder server?  How is that working out?
  • Who in the hell thought they shouldn’t do expansions in the first place?  Another SOE-level mistake where they ended up at the right answer, but only after publicly committing to the wrong one.
  • PlanetSide 2 has been live for three years now and it still feels like a work in progress.  Getting on PlayStation is fine, but is that going to make it better?
  • H1Z1 seems to have sold a lot of early access slots.  Money money money.  But what is the upside of launching the game if it makes money in beta?  I expect it to spend a long, long time in this “released but not released” state.
  • EverQuest Next?  Hellooo?  Are you still out there somewhere?
  • Landmark?  Is that still a thing?
  • Still not used to calling them Daybreak.  SOE is still a more recognizable acronym than DGC.

Middling:

  • With the buyout the team in San Diego is no longer at the whim of the stumbling Sony colossus.  However, it is now under the thumb of Columbus Nova Prime, an investment group that will treat Daybreak as exactly that, an investment.  Independence is an illusion if you need to pay up every quarter.  Yes, Daybreak can make games for XBox now, but is that what was really holding them back from success?
  • The departure of John Smedley came under unfortunate circumstances, but satisfied some who were calling for fresh blood in Daybreak management.  I hated to see him go out under a cloud, though it was pretty much written, in my experience with mergers, that he would have to go sooner or later.  I am sure he got his golden parachute and, in California, non-compete clauses are unenforceable, so he can do what he wants.  Still, he facilitated EverQuest and helped it become a thing,  I am sorry to lose that part of him.  But he was also the PvP child in a company where PvE paid the bills.  PlanetSide was always his baby, so his focus at Daybreak appeared, from the outside, to be just that and H1Z1 and getting games on XBox, things that held little interest for me.  So I am left wondering if his departure will be better for the things that interest me, because Columbus Nova Prime could just hire some ex-Zynga exec who will throw all development into exploitative trash.

Turbine

Highs:

  • They live yet under the thumb of Warner corporate leadership.
  • Lord of the Rings Online has been getting some much needed maintenance level attention, including server upgrades, merges, and attention to long standing gripes from the player base.
  • The LOTRO team has also clearly backed off the “raiders and PvP players don’t matter” stance that reared up at one point during 2014.
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online seems upbeat from all I have read.
  • More resources are clearly being applied to the long running MMOs, DDO and LOTRO.
  • Server LOTRO merges were good.  The reality of the game population made this a necessity if Turbine wanted to keep an active player experience.
  • Hey, wow, we’re also getting server hardware upgrades.
  • Minis Tirith!

Lows:

  • Infinite Crisis was stillborn after sucking up so much dev time.  Money down the drain and development time that could have been spent elsewhere that can never be retrieved.
  • A bunch of internal issues aired by Aylwen back in March, confirming a lot of negative views of Turbine, including how screwed up the Infinite Crisis project was.
  • Turbines’s only new project: An exploitative second tier iOS knock-off to promote another studio’s game.
  • Another company decided that expansions aren’t worthwhile for their MMOs.
  • Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 plans appear to have come to naught and both feel like they are one major server issue away from being shut down.
  • Asheron’s Call looked to be at that fatal server issue earlier this year.  Somebody managed to fix it in their spare time, but the writing is clearly on the wall.
  • LOTRO is feeling its age these days.  The character models were never great, and more than eight years down the road they feel even more awkward.
  • 2017 and the end of the LOTRO licensing agreement for Turbine looms.
  • You have to ask if MMOs have a future with WB?

CCP

Highs:

  • A real attempt to change up how things work in null sec and shake up the status quo!
  • Running with Reavers has been a lot of fun over the last year and has very much helped keep me invested in New Eden.  There are actually people I fly with who know who I am.  Amazing, right?
  • Some cool new ships in EVE Online.
  • A return to expansions, with Citadel coming this spring.
  • I think CCP finally got it right with the ship SKINs thing.  I am seeing a lot of SKINs in fleet these days, especially when mixed in with the capital ships.
  • Let go of White Wolf, and even got a bit of cash for it, so is no longer holding back any World of Darkness MMO.
  • EVE Valkyrie looks good and appears to be a bright star in the VR market, getting bundled in with the Occulus Rift starter kit.  A big win for CCP there.
  • EVE Gunjack showed up out of nowhere and became CCPs first shipping VR app, to good reviews.
  • The community, or communities, or whatever, was still mostly happy, positive, and invested in the game.
  • EVE Vegas was fun!

Lows:

  • I’m not sure we ended up where CCP expected in null sec.  Mechanics that people predicted would be bad well in advance turned out to be as bad as predicted.  Some small changes have made things a bit better.  A lot of people decided the new system wasn’t worth the effort while the larger powers still do what they please.  The Imperium, the Russians, Provi Bloc, and -A- still abide, but there are cracks in even those once stable edifices.
  • Reavers is a lot of work for Asher and the other SIG leaders, so can only be deployed for short stretches.  But those deployments have spoiled me and now being with the main fleet seems like a chore at times.
  • I am just waiting for the exploit that gets command destroyers nerfed into oblivion.  Still, it is fun watching people used them to snatch ships off an undock and whisking them 100km away to their death.
  • To get back to big expansions we did have to get through… what was there, 15 or 18 of these mini expansions… few of which I can even remember two months after they’ve passed.  And I am still not sure if the small expansions are gone.  December’s was called the “December Update” at one point and then the “Operation Frostline” release elsewhere.  Anyway, they became a blur, which removed some of the special from them.
  • Need more SKINs.  Need better SKINs.  Need brighter SKINs!  Orange and Pink SKINs!  Need to fix T3 cruisers so they can have SKINs.  Need to fix the Manticore so it looks as good with a SKIN as a Purifier.  Need to figure out how to make SKINs look better on rusty surfaces for the sake of the Minmatar.
  • Well, I think the CSM is pretty much dead as an institution at this point.  I could never figure out what its role should have been, a problem I seemed to have shared with literally everybody, CCP included.  Another “nice” idea brought low by reality.
  • The Fountain War Kickstarter community war thing.  Whoa, Nelly.  CCP gave an official endorsement to this project, and presumably was set to get paid a cut.  And then it was badly launched, badly attacked, badly defended, and became an incredibly ugly internecine conflict as people got right down to “community is what I say it is, no more no less” level of attack.  Who needs Derek Smart when we have us?  No side came out of that still bubbling cringefest looking very good.
  • Also, that charity, shoot the titan event where the ISK for charity instead went to fund an EVE casino.  Okay, not really a CCP thing, but again we players not looking very good.
  • Speaking of good, did anything good come from CCP owning White Wolf for all those years?  Anything?
  • As cool as EVE Valkyrie looks, VR is still an expensive addon for expensive, top tier gaming PCs.  Being good is one thing, being the killer app, the thing that will get people to throw money at an expensive upgrade just to play it, that is a whole different level of good.  Not sure EVE Valkyrie is THAT good.
  • I didn’t meet as many in-game people as I should have/could have at EVE Vegas.  Being quiet doesn’t help, but that is just who I am in person.  Also, few of us look like our in-game avatar it seems.  Who knew?
  • DUST 514?  Helloooo?  Didn’t even get a keynote at EVE Vegas.

Blizzard

Highs:

  • Still makes money like no other.
  • World of Warcraft sails into 2015 with the Warlords of Draenor expansion and more than 10 million subscribers.
  • The WoW Token thing now gives people a way to buy in-game gold for real money or buy game time with in-game gold.
  • Flying in Draenor
  • WoW Legion expansion announced.
  • Overwatch got a launch date, Heroes of the Storm finally went live, Hearthstone got more cards, and the final chapter of StarCraft II shipped.
  • Diablo III seemed to still be selling pretty well and even got a couple major patch updates.  The 2015 game is really good compared to what was there at launch.
  • Word that Diablo II and StarCraft will be reworked for modern machines.

Lows:

  • The lion’s share of the loot still comes in from Azeroth
  • Warlords of Draenor Garrisons: All the negatives of housing about which Blizzard warned us for years, without any of the satisfaction that actual, decent player housing can bring.
  • Subscribers down 45% with more than a year to go until the next expansion.  How’s that flying working out?
  • WoW Legion expansion announcement was clearly earlier than they had planned, done in order to counter news earlier that week of WoW subs dropping to 5.6 million by the end of Q2.
  • WoW Legion appears to be on the same old development track as all past WoW expansions, so the Draenor dry spell will be as long as any past content drought.
  • Punting on even talking about subscription numbers anymore.
  • Diablo III, the game they keep telling us has sold more than 30 million boxes… no word, no plans, no expansion, no nothing.  Completely ignored at BlizzCon.
  • Also, Diablo III being always online, even for single player, is still dumb.
  • A high likelihood that Blizzard will charge too much for those reworked classics. Still, I’ll probably buy Diablo II yet again.  I think I own three copies already.
  • The realization, with the acquisition Candy Crush Saga barons King.com, that Blizz and King operate in very similar fashions; they steal somebody else’s idea, polish it up, and sell it as their own.  At least Blizz hasn’t tried to trademark “World of” or anything really egregious.

Middling:

  • I’ve started to suspect that Blizzard has a secondary motive for no longer quoting subscription numbers for WoW.  Seeing as it still brings in a mint, they can do more of their BS bundling and say things like, “WoW and Hearthstone made a billion dollars!” or some such.  That might mean WoW is less doomed, but it would also mean more meaningless metrics in the Blizzard part of the financials.

Other MMOs and Devs

Highs:

  • GuildWars 2 got the long anticipated expansion.  Expect to see a spike in revenue for the game in the 2015 results.
  • WildStar went F2P, which was good for fans of the game, because it really looked like it might just get shut down given its revenue collapse.
  • The Edler Scrolls Online went F2P as well, but at least had some console sales to bolster it as well.
  • Project: Gorgon sees Kickstarter success at last!
  • Star Citizen gets a little heat, which I think was good.  If your project can’t take some scrutiny or address its skeptics, then there is a problem.  The first two Derek Smart posts could have been played into a way to highlight progress being made.
  • Camelot Unchained and Shroud of the Avatar both making lots of progress.
  • World of Warships actually turned out to be pretty neat and more accessible than World of Tanks in my opinion.

Lows:

  • The team at ANet seemed bent on annoying their core base, giving away the GW2 base game with the expansion, then making it free altogether, taking a different focus on content, and even going after the raiding demographic.  Of all the GW2 bloggers I read, only Ravious wasn’t grumbling about something or another during 2015.
  • WildStar is still dead.  Preview of my 2016 predictions: WS won’t last the year.
  • TESO isn’t doing all that well, laying off support staff and such.  F2P cannot make your game better, only less expensive to try.
  • Star Citizen takes a public beating from Derek Smart, exacerbated by Chris Roberts and company reacting badly.  Throwing Smart out of the club then trying to hurl mud back was sinking to his level, something guaranteed to keep him in the fight while making the exec staff look petty.  So we’re into something like eight Derek Smart posts, that article at The Escapist, wild talk about lawsuits, and more coverage of the whole thing than there should have been had things been handled better.
  • Camelot Unchained and Shroud of the Avatar… and Star Citizen for that matter… are nowhere near making their Kickstarter launch estimates, to the point that I think Kickstarter should put a big red warning sign, “These estimates are clearly bullshit,” on any MMORPG campaign project.
  • World of Warships still didn’t do much for me in the end.  Played it for a week and moved on.  Still longer than I spent on World of Warplanes!
  • Need for Speed: World was given the EA treatment and shut down.

Non-MMO Gaming Things

Highs

  • Finally discovered Minecraft, which became the binge game for the second half of 2015 for me.
  • Nintendo gets another Wii U selling hit in Splatoon.
  • A revamped 3DS XL shows that everybody’s favorite Pokemon platform is still going strong.
  • A Nintendo commitment to put games on other platforms, specifically iOS and Android.
  • Sony still supporting my PlayStation 3.
  • Steam is still a good platform, and Steam sales keep me looking for things to add to my wishlist.
  • My iPad 2 is still rolling along, I still use it daily.  The iOS 9 update didn’t kill it completely.
  • I got my copy of Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls… only two years late.  Kickstarter.
  • Still really looking forward my copy of A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online.  I have heard nothing but great stuff about it.

Lows

  • I think my Minecraft enthusiasm is drive in large part by my MMO malaise.  I’m happy enough to let the ten rats live most days.
  • The Wii U is nearing the end of its lifecycle, isn’t it?  I know some analysts said that the Wii U/PS4/XBone generation would be the end of consoles, but when are they ever good at predicting anything besides the past?
  • 2016 is the last year for PlayStation 3 support.
  • No new mainline Pokemon RPG for the 3DS platform.  All we’re getting is a new Pokemon Mystery Dungeon (Pokemon as a Rouge-like) and the ability to play the original three Pokemon titles in time for the 20 year anniversary of the franchise.
  • Of course, I haven’t finished Alpha Sapphire yet, so I am not sure I need a new Pokemon game, right?
  • Also, a Pokemon download event at McDonald’s?  My Wii Fit wept.
  • The combo of Steam sales and so many unplayed, or underplayed, games in my library has effectively become a deterrent to my buying any new games.
  • The iOS 9 update initially did kill my iPad 2, or nearly so.  Fortunately I delayed that update long enough that 9.1 came out two weeks later, fixing the worst problems.  I think the end is nigh for support of my old slablet.
  • I’ve only heard great stuff about A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online because I haven’t got my copy yet because the project is late.  Maybe that red warning sign I mentioned previously should apply to all Kickstarter backed creative ventures.  The latest update say I should get the book in February at least, with direct sales coming to Amazon on March 8, 2016.

Blogging and the Internet

Highs

  • Hey, I made it through another year and am still blogging away, with 353 posts in so far for 2015.
  • I still quite enjoy having a record of my thoughts and activities over the last nine years.  Doing the month in review post and looking back a year and five years is a high point of every month.
  • Speaking of old, I think the average age of the MMOs I write about went up again this year.  I think the newest thing I write about is Minecraft, and that is four years old at this point.  Play in with the blog title I suppose, which I guess is good.
  • We still have something of a happy, healthy MMO blogging community in this little corner of the internet.  Just look at Blaugust.  We had such fun then, right?  And there was another NBI!
  • Massively Overpowered and Blizzard Watch and MMORPG.com and MMOGames even occasionally pay attention to blogs.
  • Somehow I managed to accrue 500 followers on Twitter.  I am halfway to being able to enter the community relations area at CCP.  I even got two retweets from CCP_Seagull this week.

Lows

  • My posting is down.  At the same point last year I was at 375 posts.
  • Traffic is still trending down.  After a peak in 2012, things have been down some every year.  The big drop in 2013 was largely attributable to changes made by Google, but since then things have just tapered off.  The audience is smaller, the games I write about are no longer what people are searching for, I write less, and all of that.  It looks like 2015 will ring in at about 65% of the traffic 2012 had.  Traffic doesn’t make me write, but it does make me think.
  • As I play less new games, I end up writing about fewer games over time.  Even this yearly post used to look at a couple more studios, like Trion.  Haven’t played anything from them in ages, so haven’t paid much attention to them, so I don’t have much to say.
  • My being stuck in something of an old school a rut is reflected by how many links I get from other blogs.  Bad enough being a generalist MMO blog, so game specific blogs often look past me, even if I am writing about their game, but now I don’t even play the cool new games like Ark, World of Warships, or Final Fantasy XIV.  My lacks of relevances, lets me shows you them.
  • NBI numbers were pretty low this time around, and blog mortality remains pretty high.
  • AOL dumping Massively and WoW Insider was a blow.  At least the archives haven’t been deleted yet; they’re hanging out under the Engadget banner for now.
  • Man I hate that new “Moments” tab in Twitter, since they put it where the “Notifications” tab used to be, so I click it on accident a lot.
  • I keep going to /r/eve and expecting to be better.

Media

Highs

  • A new Star Wars movie that is at least unequivocally better than the prequels.  Lots of debate as to where it ranks (which is a good sign) but I haven’t seen anybody say “I > VII” yet.
  • Mad Max was the most visceral on-screen event I have seen in ages.
  • SyFy is exploding with new SciFi shows.

Lows

  • Farewell Leonard Nimoy.

So that is what I have, sitting here in December, and looking back at 2015.  Not as bad as some of my lows might make it seem.  It wasn’t the best year evah, but good times were there to be had.  Memories were made, posts were posted.

Still, I am sure I have left some things out.  What did I forget from this past year?

And so we look forward towards 2016… erm… okay, I did that last week.  I guess I got these posted in the wrong order.  Anyway, I think we’re done here.  Bring on the new year!

Some others looking at aspects of 2015:

8 thoughts on “Looking Back at 2015 – Highs and Lows and Things in Between

  1. Easy Esky

    You mentioned Blizzard, but nothing about Legacy of the Void? It was a great way to end the series and tie up the story arcs. (*cough* looking at you HL3 – eleven years since HL2 and eight since ep2) Plus the forth coming release of expansion packs featuring Nova sound exciting.

    Like

  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Easy Esky – “Overwatch got a launch date, Heroes of the Storm finally went live, Hearthstone got more cards, and the final chapter of StarCraft II shipped.”

    I haven’t played it, so couldn’t speak to how good it was nor have I seen any sales figures. But I mentioned it indirectly.

    Like

  3. coppertopper

    Congrats on your blogging streak – still one of the goto blogs for me. I am still amazed at TESO’s malaise in the blogger community. Its a fantastic game with a great pvp game built in, and the core game gets better and better with every patch/expac (especially the most recent one).

    Like

  4. Pingback: 2015 – Looking back | A journey through the mind

  5. Fenjay

    You forgot a hugely important event in 2015: I started reading your blog! But seriously, I like your approach and wish I had started reading earlier. MMOs are my thing but I tended to drift between blogs when I drifted between games, but since yours covers a range, it overlaps with my interests while bringing in some games from outside my interest which nonetheless have a bearing on the industry as a whole.

    And speaking of, it’s interesting that your readership peaked in 2012. Both Eve and WoW have seen a downturn since around that time – 2013 for Eve, 2014 for WoW – and your traffic patterns make me wonder if at least the Western audience for MMOs has plateaued. I’m not ready to say the genre is in any trouble, but it doesn’t seem to be growing for the moment. I wonder if this is a common event in the entertainment world: do the audience numbers for sports, opera, stage, and other entertainment segments, especially niche ones, stay relatively stable as people come and go? It may just be that when it comes to MMOs we have better numbers.

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  6. Pingback: End of Year Gaming Review | Leo's Life

  7. Silverangel

    Epic post. Ditto farewell Leonard Nimoy. Thanks for linking my blog – I’ve been in despair that no one seems to care, so it means something to me. Cheers and best wishes for 2016, amigo.

    Like

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