As seen in the Mar/Apr 2012 Beckett Massive Online Gamer
How did we come up with the rankings?
Each game was given a score of 1 to 3 in three factors: 2012 readiness, hype/excitement, and earning potential. These three factors were summed up and the games with the highest scores rated the highest on our list. This is why you might see a game that’s coming out soon (high readiness) but not likely to be “big” (low potential) ahead of a “bigger” game that’s farther off. Ties were resolved by editor fiat.
1. Guild Wars 2
With The Old Republic having moved from “coming” to “launched,” Guild Wars 2 is, in most people’s minds, the most anticipated unreleased MMORPG. Some are even saying it will revolutionize the MMO industry. By now, you’re either drinking the Guild Wars 2 Kool-aid or you’re not, so there isn’t much we can tell you in this space that will change your views one way or the other.
Or is there? Consider this: Guild Wars 2 was announced on March 27, 2007, meaning that it will have had about five years from announcement to launch date. That’s an eternity in the MMO space, where three years, or occasionally four, is more the norm. (The Old Republic, by comparison, was announced 10/21/08 with a launch date of 12/20/11.) ArenaNet’s tight-lipped approach to publicizing the game – summed up in the statement, “We’ll show it when it’s ready” – has frustrated fans but also ensured that whatever previews are dished out are polished and pristine, rare treasures for rabid fans. Now that the game is so close, the years have melted away virtually unnoticed, but anxious gamers are more certain about GW2’s quality than about nearly any other MMO in history, thanks in part to its apparently comprehensive design cycle. What bits you see, albeit infrequently, are by-and-large finished products. That inspires confidence bordering on religious obsession.
Now, how will all this translate into the game’s post-launch fans? Will players who have grown used to Rift’s rapid-fire updates or The Old Republic’s barrage of publicity be content with an MMO that updates “when it’s ready”? We think ArenaNet will have to pick up the pace a little bit, at least, but even if updates are slow in coming, it seems that Guild Wars 2 will have plenty to keep players occupied for the better part of 2012.
2. The Secret World
Publisher: Funcom/Electronic Arts
Guild Wars 2’s primary AAA competition among games releasing in 2012 will probably be from The Secret World, Funcom’s “secret society” MMO, scheduled to launch in April. With its modern-day setting, promise of three-way PvP, storyline-based missions that could give The Old Republic a run for its money, and a classless and levelless character advancement system, TSW is the game of choice for players looking for something different from the typical swords-and-sorcery fantasy MMO.
If there’s any concern players have, it’s not with the game as it’s been revealed but with the developer. Many are still feeling the sting of Age of Conan’s lackluster launch after years of hype, and, to its credit, Funcom seems a little more restrained this time around. Maybe that’s due to the “mysterious” nature of the game or maybe it’s just the application of a lesson learned, but it’s seemingly got fans even hungrier for the company’s follow-up MMO effort.
Developer: Bluehole Studio
Publisher: En Masse Entertainment
Also set for a spring release in North America, The Exiled Realm of Arborea, a.k.a. TERA, has had a chilly reception in its native Korea that has some gamers concerned about its viability stateside. The lack of endgame, server merges, and other foreboding news doesn’t seem to bode well for its long-term success.
TERA does have a few innovative points in its favor, though. Action-based combat is touted as its primary selling point, and from what we’ve seen, it should be a properly visceral experience. Another boon is the political system, with players able to rise to the top of the ranks either through PvP – i.e., slaughtering one’s enemies – or more peaceable methods, through campaigning and politicizing to gain influence and renown. We’re still on the fence about some elements, such as the ability to send your opponents to jail, but, one way or the other, TERA will be one of the major stories of 2012.
Developer: Red 5 Studios
Publisher: Red 5 Studios
The Firefall was an asteroid that broke apart during a “near-miss” with Earth in 2177, showering the planet with its deadly debris. On the bright side, the asteroid was composed of a new mineral, crystite, which solved the world’s energy problems – while it lasted. A distant interstellar colony was founded to provide more crystite for Earth. Naturally, various factions are striving to control that priceless resource.
Led by Mark Kern, former World of Warcraft team leader, Red 5 Studios’ futuristic shooter will feature vast, open-world battles involving potentially hundreds of players, spread across multiple battleframes (classes) – and did we mention they’ll have jetpacks? What more do you need to know? How about that it’ll be free-to-play and launching early in 2012? If you’re a fan of the MMOFPS style, you owe it to yourself to check this one out.
5. EverQuest Next
Developer: Sony Online Entertainment
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
The next chapter in the venerable MMO franchise will take place in an alternate Norrath, familiar to EverQuest fans but also sporting many notable differences. While still early in development, SOE is taking note of the shifting nature of MMO gaming and the needs of current-day fans. “What will they [MMO players] want four years from now?” Creative Director Rich Waters said in 2009. “Current MMOs are still designed traditionally with a pen-and-paper feel behind them – lots of stats and numbers, experience-based levels, and a focus on auto-attack dice roll combat. Will that work for next-gen MMOs, or do we try something different?”
If Waters’ “four years” can be tacked onto this 2009 statement, it might mean we’ll see EQN in 2013. Whenever it arrives, it will utilize SOE’s state-of-the-art Forge Light graphic engine, which should at least make it one of the most visually stunning games to come along in years.
6. PlanetSide 2
Developer: Sony Online Entertainment
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
While EverQuest Next is in SOE’s long-term plans for a renaissance after a difficult 2011, PlanetSide 2 could provide a short-term boost. The sequel takes place in roughly the same time frame as the original with several elements meant to appeal to an RPG-centric crowd, such as classes (including support roles for those of us without that vital “twitch factor” to play FPSs) and an intricate skill system that allows players to specialize in one field or acquire a broad spectrum of abilities.
Gameplay will revolve around territory battles on huge persistent maps, with each of the game’s three factions striving to acquire resources to build bigger and better engines of death than the other two. If you like class-based shooters like Team Fortress 2 but wish they was more RPG-like, then PlanetSide 2 might just be right for you.
7. Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium Online
Developer: Vigil Games
First things first: The recent “announcement” of a March 31, 2013 launch date is false. That said, we wouldn’t be surprised if the game was out around Q1/Q2 2013, but that’s not official.
Whenever it does manifest itself, WH40K will have the chance to “make good” on all of the failings, real and perceived, of its fantasy MMO counterpart, which was one of the most hyped and most disappointing MMO launches in recent history. Players can expect intense firefights as well as up close, brutal hand-to-hand combat, loads of PvP (and PvE), and even vehicular mayhem. Once Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World launch, this will probably be the “next big thing” on people’s schedule. Can Vigil and THQ live up to the hype?
8. DUST 514
Developer: CCP Games
Publisher: CCP Games
A shooter with ties to CCP’s well-established EVE universe, DUST 514 ranks highly on our list in no small part due to the ties it will have with the MMORPG, and we’re most interested to see how that aspect of it plays out. Gameplay is said to be similar to other well-known shooters using the Unreal 3 engine, but with the added ability to influence the EVE universe by acting as mercenaries for EVE pilots or taking over planets on their own has intrigued fans.
The one big sticking point: DUST 514 will be a PlayStation 3 and Vita exclusive, leaving EVE’s core audience of PC gamers in the… well, dust. Recent staffing cuts at CCP and a relative lack of solid information also have players a little on edge about the completeness level of the game, which is scheduled for a spring 2012 release. But if CCP can pull it off, it could herald a new era in MMO gaming.
Developer: Carbine Studios
Ever since the light-hearted trailer for WildStar was shown at GamesCom in August, gamers have been clamoring for more info about the heretofore unknown MMO. What we know is that it’s set on an unexplored planet with lots of ancient (and really cool) technology laying around that PCs will undoubtedly meddle with, leading to all sorts of zany adventures. Oh, and there are bunnygirls with psychic powers. Win!
The action-based combat and graphics remind us somewhat of Free Realms, though the game is confirmed to be “for adults.” A unique twist is the Path System, which Carbine says will operate independently of classes and provide players with the opportunity to grow their characters in vastly different ways. At the very least, no one can accuse WildStar of being “more of the same”; we’re really looking forward to this new take on the MMO genre.
Developer: Trion Worlds
Publisher: Trion Worlds
Defiance is the name of Trion’s joint effort with SyFy, an MMO shooter that will develop as the TV program develops. In the near future, aliens are invading the planet Earth, attempting to terraform it to their own liking, and it’s up to our intrepid horticulturist-heroes to trim the alien weeds – preferably with automatic weapons and flamethrowers.
Similar to Firefall and PlanetSide 2, Defiance is set in a futuristic, open, persistent world, where players will cooperate on missions without the need for traditional MMO “groups.” Unlike those games, Defiance looks to have stronger PvE content, with alien “boss” monsters for teams of players to take down. Exactly how the show will interact with the game is still a mystery, but if Trion/SyFy can pull it off, it could open up a whole new era of interactive gaming.
Developer: Cryptic Studios
Is the world ready for two simultaneously operating Dungeons & Dragons-based MMOs? We’ll find out soon enough, when Cryptic/Atari’s F2P Neverwinter comes to PCs. Currently slated for a late 2012 release, the game will be based around the fabled northern city of the Forgotten Realms, a location that’s well known to Atari, thanks to its Neverwinter Nights single-player PC games.
D&D geeks should know that the game will be based on the 4th Edition rules set, which is fittingly MMO-like, and Cryptic has promised a strong storyline, centering around the city’s battle with a lich queen and her army of undead abominations. Five iconic classes will be offered, and, as in Star Trek Online, five-person parties will be the norm, with NPCs filling in any blank spots. As long as we get to play as a dragonborn, we’ll be happy.
Developer: Ankama Studio
Publisher: Square Enix/Ankama Studio
In a world populated by Guild Wars 2, PlanetSide 2, and EverQuest Next, Wakfu might be the sneakiest successful sequel in the works for 2012. Its predecessor, Dofus, attracted 11+ million players worldwide, and while much of its success was in Ankama’s native France, it attracted a significant cult following stateside. The sequel, launching in February, looks to build on that success while maintaining the original’s eccentric charm.
At its heart, Wakfu is a complex tactical RPG along the lines of Final Fantasy Tactics with anime-style characters and Pokémon-like, “cute” enemies. Toss in spinoff games like Islands of Wakfu, a trippy action game and Gobbowl, a rugby-style game, and you’ve got a whole family of games that are a magnificent blend of weirdness and hardcore gameplay, sure to appeal to – well, someone really weird.
13. World of Darkness
Developer: CCP Games
Publisher: CCP Games
Recent staff cuts at CCP may have dimmed the hopes of World of Darkness fans, but the game’s only in torpor and not completely dead. CCP ensures fans that the game is still coming along, albeit at a slower pace. Unfortunately, this makes 2014 a more likely launch date than 2013. (2012 was never really a possibility.)
Whenever it does launch, it should do a great job of catering to fans of the pen-and-paper RPG, with intense political struggles being just as important, if not more so, than overt combat actions. Eyebrows were raised at the notion of powerful vampire lords being able to mark other players for permadeath, but maybe the industry needs something like that to shake it out of its collective rut. It’s just a shame that we’ll probably have to wait three years or more to find out if this is it.
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Permadeath, crafting, and colonial America: If that’s not a recipe for fun, we don’t know what is! Paradox is known for producing games so hardcore they make EVE Online look like Pac-Man, and Salem, due out in Q2 2012, looks to run along those same lines.
At the heart of the game is its crafting system. As you’re a new colonist in New England, you’ll have to make pretty much everything – or steal it from other players at musketpoint. Make no mistake, the game can be cutthroat and vicious, but cooperation will also be key. Just as in the real frontier, nobody can be totally self-sufficient, and you’ll need to rely on other players to provide you with needed resources. Expect a robust economy, intricate player interactions, and the occasional burning at the stake if you set foot into Salem.
15. End of Nations
Developer: Petroglyph Games
Publisher: Trion Worlds
With the promise of thousands of units spread out over massive, persistent worlds, End of Nations looks to break new ground in the MMO field by bringing RTS action to the RPG crowd. With advancement, crafting, missions, guilds, and other MMORPG staples, the game should attract a varied crowd, and making it free-to-play ensures that many gamers will at least give it a look-see.
Players can customize their armies the way they customize their RPG characters, going heavy on ground or air forces, for instance, or going for a balanced mix of units. As players level their commanders, more units become available, and different battlefields call for different tactics. EoN’s been pushed back a few times to make sure it’s “ready,” but we should finally see the results of Trion’s and Petroglyph’s labors in the early parts of 2012.
16. MechWarrior Online
Developer: Piranha Games/Smith & Tinker
Publisher: Infinite Game Publishing
Who wouldn’t like to pilot a walking, 20-ton death machine armed to the teeth with rail guns and rocket launchers? Yeah, we don’t know either. Think of MechWarrior Online as World of Tanks with legs.
Like World of Tanks, various ’mechs will fill various roles: light ’mechs for scouting, heavy ’mechs for dishing out the pain, and those in between to suit a hybrid play style, all based on popular ’mech designs. The dev team promises lots of customization options for ’mechs – we’re holding out for a pink paint job with Hello Kitty stickers – and battles will revolve around the conflicts between the Great Houses of the game’s lore. Commanders can even call in air strikes to deal with troublesome opponents. Look for this F2P title around the middle of next year.
This sandbox game from Korea has been getting significant attention from Westerners craving something different; its position on our list largely represents XLGames’ lack of news regarding a potential North American release.
If it ever makes it to the States, players will experience an open-ended character creation system, stunning graphics, intricate crafting, airships, naval battles(!), and much more. The biggest question facing gamers who previously looked forward to big-name Asian imports only to be disappointed by the grind or general lack of “Western-ization” (hello, Aion and Allods) is whether XLGames will be able to swallow its national pride and make something more palatable to a large American audience. If the company can pull it off, it could be one of the most innovative titles we’ve seen in years.
18. Tribes Universe
Developer: Hi-Rez Studios
Publisher: Hi-Rez Studios
Hi-Rez is concentrating its efforts on Tribes: Ascend, so there hasn’t been much said about its massively multiplayer counterpart, Tribes Universe, to date. While TA should mimic the old games with instanced maps and a limited number of players, TU will take place on vast persistent worlds with potentially hundreds of players participating in firefights across the wide-open terrain. Toss in three factions, territory control, and ground and air vehicles, and you’ve got a game that’s worthy of carrying on the Tribes legacy. Skill advancement will be more about broadening a character’s available abilities and less about adding raw power, which should allow players to jump right into the action. Global Agenda was a nice start for the company, and we hope that Tribes Universe will carry on in the series’ proud tradition.
19. Lineage Eternal: Twilight Resistance
The recent video preview from Korea’s G-Star show gave players a tantalizing look into this title, destined to hit North American shores someday (in typical NCSoft fashion, they’re not revealing anything about dates). Gorgeous graphics, hordes of enemies ripe for the slaughter, and several innovative gameplay elements could be enough to overcome gamers’ resistance to its isometric, Diablo-esque viewpoint.
Chief among the game’s compelling features is the usage of the mouse to “drag” lines or circles across the screen, which unleash special attacks. Drag a line to have your mage create a wall of fire or your warrior to perform a thrusting attack; drag a circle to spin your warrior around in a circle, annihilating all nearby foes (and imagine how well this model would work on a smartphone or tablet). If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, go online and check it out. It’ll be worth the 15 minutes.
20. Marvel Heroes
Developer: Gazillion Entertainment
Publisher: Gazillion Entertainment
Finally a go after a false start from Cryptic, Marvel Heroes is the “adult” counterpart to Gazillion’s Super Hero Squad Online. Unlike other comics MMOs on the market, players will instead take on the roles of Marvel’s iconic heroes and villains, such as Wolverine, Captain America, and Deadpool. With a storyline from famed comics writer Brian Michael Bendis, including some ubiquitous alternate realities, it should be a fantastic thrill ride.
That being said, superhero MMOs have had a difficult road (or flight path) to success. After the recent lukewarm receptions for Champions Online and DC Universe Online, it’ll be hard for Marvel Heroes to win players’ trust. Being free-to-play and being the first officially licensed Marvel MMO will help, but the lack of customization options – a staple of the genre, going all the way back to City of Heroes – could go over like an adamantium balloon.
More to Come
The rumor mill is always swirling with regards to several other MMO games in development. Our policy was not to include any game on this list that hasn’t been officially announced, so the following titles didn’t make the cut. But don’t be surprised if they’re on next year’s list – or even already launched by the time the calendar hits 2013.
Curt Schilling’s company will release the single-player Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning in February while still working on the MMO release set in the same world.
The makers of Wizard101 have been crafting their next title for at least a year, but even a magic wand in the face can’t make them spill their secrets.
Speaking of young wizards, the hot rumor regarding Turbine’s – which is owned by Warner Brothers – work-in-progress is a Harry Potter MMO. Newsus revealius!
Then there’s this potential behemoth. We likely won’t hear anything about it until BlizzCon 2012. If we do, it could be the announcement of the year.