The start of a new year is always heralded by resolutions and predictions and, while I am no good at resolutions… I’m old and I am unlikely to change… I am certainly willing to throw my hat in the ring when it comes to predictions. I’m no good at those either, but since they don’t require me to lose weight or be a better person I’m game.
2019 banner provided by my daughter, who basically used her favorite EVE Online screen shot this year.
For those who are keen to see my past attempts… or are bored and looking for something to do today… my record of new year’s predictions are here, complete with results:
I will add in my usual disclaimer up front.
My predicting something is not the same as my wanting something to happen. Well, at least when it is bad. I don’t want studios to fold, games to shut down, or Derek Smart to be right about Star Citizen. It is more a matter of looking at the world and making a guess at how things will look on December 1st, the cut off date for all of my predictions. Inevitably there will be some good and some bad that happens, and some of it will be visible in advance even to me.
Also, I tend to go a bit over the top simply because that is more fun than “not much will change really.”
The usual prediction rules apply. Each prediction is worth ten points unless otherwise noted, with partial credit available. Predictions should be written in a style that will make scoring easy and obvious eleven months down the road, but won’t be because about three predictions in I will forget that and veer off into vague, hand waving trends that are pretty much impossible to pin down. All I can promise is that I will grade myself poorly on poorly written predictions.
So off we go.
1 – Early Classic Date
WoW Classic will launch on May 28, 2019. As is the standard for this sort of guess at a date, I knock off 2 points for every week I am off. That is about as concrete and clearly defined as a prediction can possibly be. The early date will be to coincide with the end of the six month subscriptions that Blizz sold back in the fall as Battle for Azeroth isn’t holding people otherwise.
2 – Classic Rush
The WoW Classic launch will be 2004 all over again. There confluence of nostalgia and the end of the Battle for Azeroth expansion will conspire to cause WoW Classic to overflow quickly. There won’t be enough servers leading to long queues to get on to the servers available. This will lead to new servers being spun up and the classic server split routine from back in the day. Blizzard will publicly compare the day one WoW Classic crowds to how things went at the WoW launch in 2004.
3 – Classic Plans
By the time BlizzCon roles around… we’ll get to BlizzCon itself in a bit… there will be a panel, or at least a mention in the keynote, about WoW Classic and moving on from vanilla into some of the early expansions. How to do an expansion like The Burning Crusade without necessarily progressing the vanilla servers will be a key point of contention, with transfers and boosts straight to level 60 being discussed.
4 – Classic Acceleration
By September 1, 2019 the WoW Classic rush will be over. As we have seen time and again, the initial pile-on to play on a nostalgia server peaks pretty quickly as players, familiar with the old game and reliving their experience, move much more quickly through the game than back in the day. This will lead to complaints about dead servers and calls for server merges or free transfers. This will be even worse if Blizz goes full purist mode and doesn’t use the sharding tech that allows more people to use a single zone/server.
5 – Next WoW Live Expansion
The early launch of WoW Classic to cover the Battle for Azeroth collapse will mess with the Blizzard’s timing the way that Warlords of Draenor did. Look for Blizz to cover their sagging Q2 2019 earnings by announcing the next expansion in August, just after Activision releases their quarterly earnings report.
6 – The Long BlizzCon
There will be a BlizzCon 2019 on November 8 and 9. The main stage will be taken over by new titles as Blizzard announces no fewer that five projects. Three of them will be mobile titles and an actual PC Diablo franchise game will be another. However, a Diablo II remaster will go missing yet again.
7 – Full Steam Ahead
Expect Steam to stay strong despite Epic, Discord, and Amazon trying to undermine it with better deals for developers. Steam can and will play that game while carrying on as the one stop shop for all games PC. Devs won’t get as big of a cut on Steam, but the installed base and success stories will keep any but the biggest studios from cutting ties.
8 – All Things PlanetSlide
PlanetSide Arena will launch… or go into early access or whatever… as planned at the end of January. It will sell some boxes and make Daybreak some quick money. But it isn’t going to steal back the Battle Royale market for the company. Before spring turns to summer it will be showing peak numbers on Steam down near the H1Z1 end of the spectrum, lagging far behind PUBG and nowhere close to whatever Fortnite will report on its own.
9 – Sayonara Norrath
I am going to go with the Prophecy of May and say that this will be a fateful anniversary year for EverQuest titles. The 15th anniversary for EverQuest II and the 20th anniversary for EverQuest will see both titles celebrated, given special new content, and then put in what will be effectively maintenance mode.
10 – NantGo Away, I’m No Good For You
The NantG Mobile joint venture between Daybreak and NantWorks will deliver on none of its promises. They’ll keep H1Z1 alive, but there won’t be any new Z1 Battle Royale (unless they just straight up rename H1Z1), there won’t be any new esports league, there won’t be an esports venue next to the LA Times, and there won’t be any mobile version of Z1 Battle Royale, and there won’t be any hint, word, or anything about any EverQuest game, mobile or otherwise.
11 – Something Has Gotta Daybreak
All of this is going to add up to hard times at Daybreak. By December 1, 2019 it won’t be the company it was on January 1, if it exists at all. It will either be acquired wholesale by another company or be parted out, with somebody like Gamigo taking the the three traditional MMORPGs (EverQuest, EverQuest II, and DC Universe Online) while the rest either tried to stand alone with the what I will call “the children of PlanetSide” or being folded into the NantWorks joint venture. I’ll be writing a farewell history of the studio before the year is out.
12 – Standing Alone Games
Standing Stone Games will feel the impact of Daybreak’s misfortune as well as the sting of losing a key LOTRO developer. They will carry through the first half of 2019 on momentum, but the latter half will leave people wondering what is up as they scramble to fill the void that Daybreak’s collapse will leave on their marketing/publishing front. The company will soldier on, but you won’t be getting anything like a 64-bit client from them.
13 – Non-Shippers
The following titles won’t ship in 2019, defining “ship” as being available for sale with having to hide their unfinished state behind terms like “early access,” “beta,” “alpha,” or anything that falls into that realm. 2 Points per title on this one.
- Squadron 42 (forget Star Citizen overall, that one is just a gimme)
- Camelot Unchained (beta would be a step forward)
- Atlas (ARK all over again)
- Torchlight Frontiers (beta will be enough for the hype to turn to whines)
- Crowfall (a relative babe in crowdfunding years)
14 – CCP Anomalous
The ISK problem in New Eden will be one of CCPs targets for 2019, so expect null sec anomalies and the rats that infest them to change to try and slow down the titan and super gravy train while not stomping too hard on the line members in the VNIs. Mining, however, will remain unchanged. Ore doesn’t bring ISK into the economy and should be self regulating based on price. It isn’t, but it should be.
15 – High Sec Changes
The War Dec changes will lead CCP to change up how suicide ganking works as well. Right now it is too by the numbers, a solved problem for most cases. CCP doesn’t want high sec to be safe, but right now the gankers kill with impunity and need a shake up.
16 – Low Sec Attention Span
CCP has to do something radical for low sec in general and faction warfare specifically. My guess is that low sec will continued to be screwed in general, but that CCP will decide they need to greatly restrict, if not outright ban, the deployment of Upwell structures in FW space.
17 – CSM XIV
CCP will change up the election process yet again, trying to get the candidate list out further before the actual elections, but it will be for naught. Eight of ten seats will still go to null sec alliances.
18 – POS Bash
Player Owned Starbases, already left with little relevance in the game, will see their end come June, when CCP finally pulls them from the game, symbolically burning the source code on the summer solstice. And so will go the POS, long a staple of the game.
19 – Key FOB
The POS announcement will come earlier as part of CCP introducing a new Upwell structure, the player forward operating base. The FOB will be something akin to a corp/alliance sized mobile depot that will allow players to repair, refit, and resupply. It will lack tethering or defenses and, give how cheap a Raitaru is, will barely get used.
20 – 3DS Exit
Nintendo, after paring down the platform releases to almost nothing, will announce the end of their long running handheld line. They will cease manufacture, blow out the last units, and throw themselves fully onto the Switch. It will be the end of the Pokemon era. Pokemon will just be another game, not something that made a platform worthwhile.
21 – MADE Pirates
Pirates of the Burning Seas will end up being the first MMORPG to make it into The Museum of Digital Art and Entertainment. The unique state of its current ownership will create a situation where the game will actually be preserved, mostly because it won’t survive on its own. And that will be it. The games people ache to see enshrined, SWG or CoH, will never get there. The only possible entrants will be games so small and unknown that few will notice. So The Saga of Ryzom will be a possibility. The MADE should work on preserving MUDs. That is something they could make happen.
22 – Shlock Boxes
No wide spread change to the legal status of lockboxes or the selling of power or pay to win. Some small jurisdictions might try to put something in place, as happened in 2018, but nothing will go in that will change the bottom line. There simply isn’t a political power block against this sort of thing that could make any difference for politicians. At best it will be used as a political football to try and divert attention away from other things. For example, the NRA doesn’t care about video games… until there is yet another mass shooting, at which point they need something to blame. More of that.
23 – A Prime New World
Amazon’s survival sandbox whatever MMORPG New World won’t be ready in 2019, but the company will announce special benefits for Prime members when the game does launch. I hope it will be something more than expedited delivery from the in-game version of Whole Foods.
24 – Behindcraft
While Microsoft and Mojang haven’t given up on Minecraft – Java Edition, which is the Mac, PC, and Linux version of Minecraft that lacks a cash shop, it has clearly slowed down development. The rest of Minecraft has pandas and new cats and stuff while Java is getting development snapshots still. This trend will continue as the Java code base won’t release the panda update until March and that will be the only update to be released for Java in 2019.
25 – Avatar’s Shroud
Shroud of the Avatar will see further constrictions, if not an outright closure, in 2019. Like most early access games, it used up the goodwill of all but the most dedicated fans as it was being built out and now nobody is left interested in buying a copy.
26 – Guild Wars 2 Continues
The pattern seems to be an expansion every could of years. That is about as deep as my insight into the game really goes at this point. But given that, I expect they will announce an expansion this year set for launch in 2020.
27 – Cattle Royale
As we saw the final rounds of the MOBA shake out with Blizz cutting back on Heroes of the Storm, the culling of the Battle Royale pretenders will commence in earnest. Anybody for whom Battle Royale is just a mode tacked on to an already solid franchise, as with CS:GO, won’t have much to worry about, but anybody all-in on that alone… that isn’t Fortnite or PUBG… will be dead or dying by the end of the year. This will be most unfortunate for the late comers that show up this year. Also, how they hell am I even going to score this one. See what I mean?
Bonus Wild-Ass Prediction: Sony buys back some, if not all, of Daybreak from Jason Epstein at the bankruptcy sale at discount prices. If Daybreak is headed for a fall, who has the most to lose? At this point, aside from Daybreak itself, Sony makes a tidy sum on the PlayStation 4 from DC Universe Online and, for the moment, H1Z1. Maybe they also make a bit from PlanetSide 2, but I’d be surprised at that. 20 bonus points if it comes to pass.
Double Bonus Wild-Ass Prediction: Daybreak announces a new EverQuest title, sells pre-orders, never makes it to early access, and shuts everything down without any refunds. I want 40 bonus points if that happens.
So there it is, my guesses for 2019. That is 270 points possible, with some extra credit bonus predictions. Looking at them as a whole, I can see I’ve probably been too pessimistic along some lines… Daybreak can’t possibly fall that far… and too optimistic along others… like CCP has ever shown itself to be able to jungle that many balls at once… but I am going to let them stand as it.
You can tell how limited my range of games is by how few studios I feel I know enough about to even venture a guess. Me even dipping into GW2 was a stretch, and I can’t even begin to tell you where SWTOR sits. And then there are all the crowdfunded, kickstarted, early access games. I just pulled five from that gaggle for the “won’t ship” list, but I could have as easily picked five others.
Anyway, that is what I am calling for 2019. We shall see how the year plays out. Look for a recap some time in December… or tell me what you think I missed right now.