We are at the end of another year. A time to look back and a time to look ahead. When the subject is what I am doing in EVE Online my year doesn't coincide with the calendar. But for everything else I pretty much stick to the calendar of this ball of dirt we call home. Since this is the time for bloggers to make predictions about things that won't come true, I'll do my part and come up with some prognostications for the upcoming year.
The Subscription Model Is Not Dead Yet - I predict that both Wildstar and Elder Scrolls Online will remain subscription games throughout 2014. However, the possibility exists that sometime in November or December that ESO could announce a change to a free-to-play model will occur sometime in the first half of 2015. If I had the courage of my convictions I'd make it a prediction, but I'll chicken out this time. Well, at least about the announcement.
PLEX-Type Systems Mixed Reception - I think that the news about companies attempting to duplicate CCP's success with PLEX will be mixed in 2014. I expect Jagex to come out and state that, despite some over-hyped news in 2013, that bonds have not had the desired results and that new systems are needed to deal with Runescape's bot and illicit RMT problem. On the other hand, after a rocky start, Carbine will announce some success with its C.R.E.D.D. system. The financial figures will speak for themselves and another AAA MMO in development will announce going to a sub plus PLEX system sometime in the last quarter of 2014.
For EVE Online players, I'll predict that the Jita price for PLEX will make 1 billion ISK worth $26.50. That is 660 million ISK for a PLEX using in-game currency.
World of Warcraft Does Well, But... - Yes, when making a post about predictions about MMORPGs I do have to include World of Warcraft. I think that WoW will experience a year that all other game companies would envy. I think that we will see the new Warlords of Draenor expansion sell 2.4 million copies in the first week and the number of subscribers hit between 9 and 10 million. Of course, these numbers will have critics exclaiming that WoW is dying and on its last legs.
The expansion will foster controversy with the new offerings in WoW's cash shop. I don't know what the nature of the controversy will involve, but I expect a backlash from some of the veteran players stating that WoW has gone pay-to-win.
Also, I do expect WoW to suffer another major hacking attack in 2014. Of course, given WoW's history, the brave prediction is to predict such a security breach would not occur.
Guild Wars 2 Expansion - ArenaNet was pretty firm in 2013 about not needing an expansion for Guild Wars 2. I think they will stay true to that and not publish an expansion in 2014. However, I do expect ArenaNet to announce this summer an expansion in the first half of 2015 to coincide with the end of 2014's Living Story.
CCP - I expect that 2014 will prove a bad year for the Icelandic game company. The number of subscriptions for its flagship game EVE Online will decline for the first time in the game's history (assuming that the number of accounts did not decline in 2013). CCP will continue to resist pressure to release a "Jesus feature" in 2014, waiting until 2015.
DUST 514 will continue to limp along throughout 2014. However, the game will not break the 7,000 concurrent user mark unless CCP stages some sort of marketing event at one of the trade shows like E3. With a less than expected rush to play, I expect no conversion announcement from the PS3 to the PS4 and layoffs in the Shanghai office at the end of 2014.
The one bright spot is EVE: Valkyrie. CCP will have the game ready to ship at the time that the Oculus Rift is ready to ship to the public. The game will receive high marks from players, but the good news is offset by the low penetration of the Oculus Rift into the gaming market. Also, don't expect the Oculus Rift to release before the fourth quarter.
Star Citizen - I'm not sure the game actually qualifies as an MMORPG, but I have three predictions. The first is that the game will reach the $65 million mark in funds gathered in 2014 I would name a higher number but I also predict a major story about the RMT scene surrounding the game will make its rounds amongst the mainstream gaming press and that will depress the donation numbers. Finally, I predict that during 2014 that Chris Roberts will announce a launch date in the second half of 2015.
Biggest Surprise - I think EverQuest Next Landmark will break out as the big surprise game of 2014. I know that Landmark is developed by SOE, but given that no one even conceived of the possibility of the game until August 2013 I would rate a successful year a surprise. Given the popularity of Minecraft, Landmark will emerge as the building game with the best graphics. I think that could make Landmark a very popular game indeed.
I will make more predictions tomorrow as part of the final Digital Dozen roundup for 2013. I should add that I hope I am wrong about the negative predictions I made in this post. I just have the feeling that the gaming industry will not see calm seas in 2014.