We’re here again at the arbitrary start of another year. I remember a time when New Years Day was a day of optimism, a day of resolutions about making yourself a better person. Now… now I am reminded of a Life in Hell comic where Bongo prays every night for tomorrow to be better than today despite the fact that his prayers are never answered.
2022 is what we get
So, yeah, welcome to the new year. It is an even numbered year which means national (but not presidential) elections in the US and some sort of Olympics… I think we get the cold kind this year, but they’re in China, so time to celebrate repressive regimes I guess. I’m sure the year will be just dandy.
I am going to go with predictions this year, after having taken a year off with questions for 2021. As I always point out, I have a history here, checkered and/or dubious and mostly wrong. But as my boilerplate for this post says every year, I’m fine being wrong if the discussion is interesting. Anyway, past events:
I was tempted to run with questions yet again, but I made a bold prediction back in 2021 and promised that I would include it in any New Year’s predictions post, so let’s get straight to that. You will probably be able to tell from the tenor of some of my predictions that I am not exactly in a happy, optimistic, “everything will be great” sort of mood. So be it, maybe the new year can step up and prove me wrong. I would be happy enough to let it do so.
1 – Activision-Blizzard will drop “Blizzard” from the Corporate Name
I made this call back in August, when things seemed really bad for Blizzard, and committed to making it a prediction, so here it is in the first spot. There was a possibility that they could have straighten up and fixed their issues, but I have such confidence in the indelible nature of corporate culture… every time somebody says “we’ve always done it this way” they might as well add “because this is who we are” to it… that I remain unsurprised by the company’s inability to clean house effectively. Even when they admit that there might be a problem, it is all they can do to keep from fighting that idea, pushing back on the state and, by proxy, all the complaints against the company. If you cannot candidly admit there is an issue then you cannot fix it.
And the problem has damaged their brand, damaged their income, and alienated them from a chunk of their once loyal fan base. Meanwhile, Activision, having finally figured out how to milk the Call of Duty cow year round, doesn’t really need to be dragged down with all those problems which, outside of Bobby Kotick’s connivance, seem to be focused just on Blizzard’s team.
The prestige of leading the Blizzard brand has already been downgraded over time. Morhaime was CEO, Brack was President, then it was Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra were “co-leaders” of the studio… until Oneal left because the company sill pays men more for the same jobs. I think Ybarra became Office Manager at that point.
All of that points to the Blizzard brand not being as big of a deal. The only counter to this slide in the brand is how Bobby Kotick has taken center stage of late in the company issues. It is possible that his bad behavior, and endorsement of the bad behavior of others, could draw enough heat directed solely at Blizzard so far.
Overall though the trend for Blizzard has been to be third of three when the quarterly reports come out, so even if the Blizzard name isn’t gone I’ll give myself a small partial credit win (2 points) if the company name is officially Activision Blizzard King by the end of 2022.
2 – No WoW Expansion in 2022
I am going to go out even further on a limb when it comes to Blizzard and suggest that the disruption they have been facing and the need to retool things a bit to look better when compared to FFXIV are going to slow down their development process even more than usual. As such I think we’ll be seeing the largest gap between expansions in the history of the game as the next expansion wanders out into 2023.
3 – The Arthas Hail Mary
Wrath of the Lich King Classic will be announced to great fanfare. This will be the big 2022 announcement for the WoW franchise, and it will be as stale as you expect. While I love the whole retro server scene, and WotLK as well, there is a reason that Daybreak doesn’t put out a press release every time an EverQuest progression server unlocks a new expansion. And it will be tainted by the same things that hurt Burning Crusade Classic, like a special deluxe package with a horrendous mount to single you out for ridicule. It will be more popular than whatever is going on with Shadowlands, an admittedly low hurdle, but it won’t launch until Q4 so we won’t see any financial impact during the 2022 calendar year. (Q4 financials won’t show up until February 2023.)
4 – Immortality is Overrated
Diablo: Immortal will finally ship in time for summer… after all, NetEase is the one doing the work here. It will get a lot of hype from the company because WoW Classic and Hearthstone updates can only carry so much water for them. It will be briefly popular, because we do in fact all have phones, combining as it will everything Blizzard promised (something like Diablo) and everything fans feared (cash shop from hell), but the Q3 2022 financials will only mention it in passing.
5 – Activision Will Settle with the State of California
The cost of fighting on multiple fronts… the company is being assailed in various ways by the government, its employees, customers, and shareholders… will wear the company down because none of it is good for business. Somebody on the board will eventually force the issue and make the company do something to make these problems go away… something besides denial, platitudes, and union busting tactics, which has been the Activision tack so far.
Riot, which played the same game for years, largely due to being able to turn a big profit for Tencent even as the fight went on, eventually settled and agreed to pay out $100 million, $80 of which went to compensate employees and contractors mistreated by the company. The state is tenacious and the price of fighting eventually becomes more of a burden and it will make sense to simply not be discriminatory jerks as a matter of policy going forward.
As a public company Activision, and with Blizzard development seemingly moribund in the face of the crisis, won’t be able to diddle as long as Riot. A year of this will be too long for stockholders. The company will have to pony up double what Riot did, so they will have to write a check for at least $200 million in penalties and compensation, agree to mandatory training for management (though everybody VP and above will just have their admins do the training for them, so no change there), and agree to let the state keep an eye on the for a few years.
6 – Bobby Kotick Will Remain in Charge at Activision
I feel I have to remind people now and then that these are predictions, not wishes, and this is one of those times. Bobby owns too much stock and is in too deep with the board, which has backed him all the way, to lose his seat. Any sense of irony is completely lost in the executive suite, so the fact that he knew about and endorsed what was going on that caused the company so many problems won’t disqualify him from continuing to collect a huge compensation package for running the company.
7 – Enad Global 7 will Announce Marvel Universe Online
Maybe they won’t call it exactly that, but there will be a new MMO from them based on the Marvel IP, which Daybreak had the rights to make before EG7 purchased them, that will look suspiciously like DC Universe Online to those who know where to check.
And it will be on the PC and consoles and it will be kind of a big deal when it ships. But I’m only saying they’ll announce it in 2022.
8 – H1Z1 Will Remain in Limbo
Of all the titles in the Daybreak portfolio, none must be as vexing for EG7 as H1Z1. It sold a ton of copies, it was huge for a season or two, and it was the type of brand that Daybreak always dreamed of creating. Then Daybreak screwed it up and has spent a few years now trying to catch that lightning in a bottle again. And with Fortnite and PUBG out there still making bank, there is always that hope for a comeback, yet the chances are so sketchy that the company can’t bring itself to actually invest in it. They simultaneously know it won’t happen and yet still believe it could. So they’ll keep talking about H1Z1 in 2022 yet do nothing new.
9 – LOTRO Old and New
There won’t be a console release for LOTRO, but there will be news. We will find out that, in order to support current generation consoles, the game needs to be re-written, a process that will end up with there being an old LOTRO, the current game, and a new LOTRO, for PC and consoles. This will put old LOTRO in semi-maintenance mode, with limited updates and no new expansions, while the team focuses on the new LOTRO.
10 – Nothing New in Norrath
And that won’t necessarily be a bad thing. Despite being the foundation of the company, EverQuest and its younger sibling will just continue on as before, with an expansion each in Q4. EG7 talks up the original IPs it owns, but it only sees potential in the popular IPs which it has licensed. EverQuest Next, EverQuest III, or EverQuest the small group RPG, those are all still dead until Amazon or Netflix wants to make a Norrath streaming series.
11 – Ji Ham Confirmed as CEO of Enad Global 7
His acting career pretty much demands it at this point. The search for a suitable candidate will come up dry and he will be the default choice. Things could be worse.
12 – CCP will Circle the Wagons to Defend Against Player Feedback
The last year has demonstrated that CCP will stick to its own pet theories when it comes to the game, ignoring player feedback by covering its collective ears and repeating over and over that everything is fine, that the players don’t understand, that the company can dictate the correct way to play, and blah blah blah “I can’t hear you!” Angry players should be ignored, where “angry” is defined as anybody who disagrees with the company line. Nice players agree wholeheartedly with everything the company says.
To further support their position 2022 I predict that we will see the company start cutting back on the data players have been using the assail the company. The Monthly Economic Report will cease to be published. The data feeds that EVE Offline uses to create its PCU charts will be turned off. The current online player count will disappear from the launcher. Dev blogs will be more message, less substance than we’ve been used to. Then CCP will be able to control the message without having their own data constantly contradicting them. How can you say “EVE is dying!” if you don’t have any data to back it up?
13 – New Eden Economic Times
To make it abundantly clear, scarcity is not the new reality, this is a temporary phase and it will end.
-CCP, December 2020 Economic Outlook
While taking measures to silence dissent, CCP Rattati will continue to lead the charge against the economy. The tenants of their economic outlook from 2020 remain unchanged. They were:
- Abundance breeds Complacency and Scarcity breeds War
- Predictable Inputs lead to Stagnant Outputs
- Autarky is Anathema to Free Trade
And while they appear to have had the opposite effect… scarcity ended a war for a starter… CCP will continue to fixate on the idea that if they just keep putting the screws to players and making them poor and miserable that we will all snap to and play the game the correctly sooner or later. The idea that the game should be fun, that players might not want to fret about losing ships they can no longer afford to replace, or that the economy is the critical aspect of the game will not enter the company’s philosophy in 2022. More of the same, the economic beatings will continue until subscriber numbers improve.
14 – New World on Consoles Announcement
One of the odd things to master in New World has been the UI, which is decidedly different that the WoW-centric UI conventions of the MMORPG genre. It isn’t bad, though it sometimes seems a bit awkward, but for the most part it just takes some getting used to.
And then I started playing Forza Horizon 4 and 5, which is a title designed to play on Windows PCs and XBox consoles, and some similarities clicked for me… the New World UI is setup to be playable on consoles (in a way that, say, LOTRO is completely not). They have minimized the keys used for many things, movement and positioning can all be done via the analog sticks, special combat moves map to buttons, the main attacks… I guess the shoulder controls. It all pretty much fits.
This is probably a blinding flash of the obvious for some of you, but to a non-console player it didn’t spark until I had another cross platform title in my face.
Add to this the fact that Amazon seems fine letting Steam host its front end and the XBox or PlayStation store aren’t likely to get in the way either.
The official stance is that there is no plan for consoles, but it sure feels like it was made to be on consoles, so that might just be Amazon playing coy after getting pestered for five years about when the PC launch was going to happen. As with above, the announcement only is being predicted, though I wouldn’t be completely surprised by a Q4 2022 ship date.
15 – New World Store Update
New World did very well on box sales in 2021, and I am sure they plan to repeat that on consoles as well, but the in-game store will still change in 2022 as the pressure to keep bringing in cash begins to mount. Those AWS servers don’t pay for themselves.
The store has been entirely focused on cosmetic gear, the one in-game store item that seems the least objectionable. It is kind of expensive to my mind, but some people seem to be buying the stuff. I see it around Windsward now and then. But it won’t be enough in the end. Every MMORPG with a cash shop goes down the same path in the end. So before the end of 2022 I predict that at least three of the following will be available in the cash shop:
- Premium Housing
- Fast Travel Tokens
- XP Boosters
- Faction Boosters
- Trade Skill Learning Boosters
- Learning Speed Boosters for Weapon Mastery
- Cosmetic Items with Stats
- A second character slot on your server
16 – Crypto Mania will Continue and yet Yield Nothing of Value
UbiSoft, EA, Pearl Abyss, and a host of smaller studios and studios started for the express purpose of jumping on the bandwagon, will continue to talk about crypto, blockchain, play to earn, and NFTs.
And it will all net out to nothing a year from now because, despite the bleating of the crypto bros and the sheep following them, there is really no upside for a studio like EA to hitch its titles up to somebody’s block chain and give up income when there is nothing crypto could do that they couldn’t already do… or haven’t already done… themselves.
And the downsides? Whoa Nelly, if you think lock boxes look like gambling, I am pretty sure when they become NFTs with the intent that they can be bought and sold for real world money that even the government will suddenly agree that it is gambling. Even skirting that, there are tax implications for “play to earn” if it gets too lucrative… and that will fall outside of the studios hands… that make the whole thing a nightmare.
The UbiSoft test case will fall flat because they will end up having to impose such restrictions to stay within the law and away from expensive entanglements as to end up not achieving any of its promise, and no studio with live games will see fit to follow suit.
17 – Metaversary Rhymes
Then there is the whole fairy tale metaverse aspect of crypto that people are on about.
The main item here are the crypto bros who think NFTs are the future and will act as transferable tickets for virtual goods so that you can buy a car in Need for Speed and drive it in Forza or Mario Kart. That ain’t gonna happen. Leaving aside the complexity of getting different studios with different motivations needing to get together on some sort of agreed upon standard for… well… literally anything anybody would want to move from game to game, no studio is going to buy into that.
Any game that makes money selling cars, using the example above, wants you to buy their cars. That is how they make money. If you can just bring all your Mario Kart stuff into Forza Horizon… again, leaving aside the huge elephant in the room issue of standards… Forza loses. So Forza isn’t going to join that venture.
And we’ve been to the internet, right? How long do you think it would take for somebody to mass produces knock-off cars for a buck that could be used in all those metaverse titles? This is a dead end as there is no upside for the development studios that would need to implement it.
So this will go absolutely nowhere in 2022, despite the myriad start ups jumping on board the bandwagon trying to milk a bit of that sweet venture capital by throwing around buzzwords.
18 – Non-Fungible Fiascos
Even with the above pair of predictions I know that some company’s won’t be able to help themselves and will stick their hands in the fire and get burned. I predict crypto/NFT/play to earn nonsense will at least get an official announcement and plan for the following titles (2 points per correct call):
- EVE Online
- Star Citizen
- Black Desert Online
- Final Fantasy XIV
- Wild Card: Some Gamigo Title
I am not saying that any one of them will be implemented… player push back will be huge… but the blue sky press releases will go out.
19 – Chapter and Metaverse
Meanwhile, there is the other metaverse story, where Mark Zuckerberg, who apparently missed out on Second Life, wants to create a VR world that he controls. He is so bent on it that he renamed the company Meta… and totally not because Facebook has a horrible reputation and he needed to distract from that.
In his metaverse there is none of this NFT movement nonsense, because you won’t ever leave his domain once you strap the VR headset onto your face and log in. In Zucktopia you will see what he wants you to see, which is generally the right wing propaganda that pays top dollar.
The problem is that you can’t goose-step around with your neo-fascist buddies if you don’t have legs, which means all torchlight rallies will be limited to less than a dozen people. Limitations of the platform I’m afraid.
And so this too will go nowhere in 2022. At best we’ll see some more creepy demos with uncanny-valley Mark Zuckerberg… and I leave you to decide if I mean his avatar or himself… talking up his dystopian future where all the bad parts of Facebook will be injected straight into your eyeballs via a VR mask strapped to your face like something reminiscent of Clockwork Orange.
20 – A Better Metaplace
The year started out with me poking at some of the vague statements that Raph Koster was making about his own multiverse plan, wondering at how his new company was going to address some of the more obvious issues, like who would be paying for all of it.
But that was me quibbling over details. Here at the dawn of 2022 I don’t know anybody else I would trust as much as Raph to speak of a future vision of virtual worlds. Most of the metaverse talk is castles in the sky, next to which Raph seems to be a guy with wood, nails, and a hammer, ready to build something real.
So, to try and turn this editorial into a prediction, I am going to say Raph Koster and Playable Worlds will deliver something tangible in 2022. Not a complete product, but enough to get past the vague teases that have gone before and cement the company as serious in a sea of pretenders.
21 – Non Starters
I have to have a couple of gimme predictions on the list, so lets run down the quick list of things that won’t ship in 2022 (2 points per correct guess):
- Crimson Desert
- Star Citizen
- Squadron 42
- Camelot Unchained
- Pnatheon: Rise of the whatever will get us a headline
Extra Credit Guesses
A bonus 10 points each if these come to pass
- CCP will go really overboard on defense and decide that electing the CSM is a bad idea, since that process tends to fill the seats with people who have independent ideas. Instead, taking a cue from Blizzard, they will let players apply to be on the CSM, picking the candidates that most suit the company needs.
- Meanwhile, the WoW Player Council will be a one-time production. After a year of shooting down ideas from the current council, Blizzard will thank members for their service, declare the whole thing a wonderful success, then not ask for applications for a new council as the team goes off to do whatever they were planning to do in the first place.
As I usually do, each prediction is worth 10 points if I get it correct, with partial credit available. I have already marked some of the predictions with “points per correct call” for multi-title guesses. With 21 predictions, that is 210 possible points. Extra credit predictions don’t count against my win percentage, which I assume will be very low, as it is most years.
Again, I want to remind some readers that these are predictions, not wishes. My wishes for would be sunshine and lollipops compared to what I have laid out above. This is just what I think could happen after having been through both 2020 and 2021, a pair of years that saw fit to try and beat any cheery optimism out of me.
Which isn’t to say I don’t want to hear any contrary positions. As I said at the top, discussion is an aspect of the whole thing and I expect to be right on 30% of these tops, so in disagreeing with any one of my predictions you are more likely to end up correct in the end.
Anyway, the coming twelve months will reveal the truth and I’ll be back in December to count up the score.