Monday, December 29, 2014

Predictions For 2015

The end of the year is upon us.  Time to once again fulfill the requirement to look back at the year past and fearlessly gaze into the future.  That's right, time to see just how badly I did on my predictions for 2014 and make a fool of myself looking ahead to 2015.

First, how did I do in 2014?

The Subscription Model Is Not Dead Yet - I predicted that both Wildstar and Elder Scrolls Online would remain subscription games until the end of 2014.  I was correct on both points.  I didn't make the prediction that ESO would make an announcement would go free-to-play in the first half of 2015, which proved that discretion is the better part of valor.  I'll come back to this in my predictions for 2015.

PLEX-Type Systems Mixed Reception - With as much as I write about RMT, my predictions were spot on, right?  Yeah, right.  All my predictions were wrong.  I predicted that Jagex would announce that bonds would not have the desired effect on RMT within Runescape in 2014.  Wrong!  And that's a good thing.

What about Wildstar's C.R.E.D.D.?  I predicted that Carbine would trumpet some success concerning their PLEX-like object.  That didn't happen, at least to my knowledge.  I also predicted that a MMO in development would would announce it was developing their own version of a subscription plus PLEX model in the last quarter of 2014.  I was close, but World of Warcraft doesn't count.

Finally, what about my prediction for EVE of a final PLEX price of 660 million ISK?  Ha!  On Saturday, the average price sold in Jita was 782 million ISK.  Unless the prices drops through the floor, I'll count that prediction as a fail.

World of Warcraft Does Well, But... - Okay, I got most of my WoW predictions wrong.  I predicted that WoW would get back up to the 9 to 10 million subscription mark based on 2.4 million copies of Warlords of Draenor sold in the first week of release.  Instead, players flocked back to Azeroth and the expansion sold 3.3 million copies the first day and the number of subscriptions exceeded 10 million for the first time in three years.

I did, however, get the major hacking attack in 2014 prediction correct.  I'm not even referring to the major DDoS attack that occurred at the launch of Warlords of Draenor.  A trojan was released at the beginning of January that allowed hackers to bypass the WoW authenticator.  But as far as I know, Blizzard did pretty well the rest of the year, aside from the DDoS attacks that plagued the entire MMORPG industry.

Guild Wars 2 Expansion - I got my prediction correct about ArenaNet not publishing an expansion in 2014.  However, I failed on the announcement for an expansion for 2015.

CCP - Unfortunately, reality was worse for the Icelandic game company than I predicted, and I did not predict a good year.  While CCP is a private company and no longer releases subscription numbers, I am going to consider my prediction of a subscription loss in EVE Online in 2014 as coming true.  I also predicted that CCP would not release a "Jesus feature" in 2014, and I do not consider Thera to qualify as such.

I predicted that DUST 514 would not close in 2014, and at Fanfest that appeared seriously in doubt.  I was correct again with the prediction that DUST would not break the 7,000 PCU mark, and the game never came close.  I also predicted that CCP would not announce that they planned to migrate the game to the PS4.  Correct again.  I also predicted layoffs in the Shanghai office.  Unfortunately, I got that prediction correct, although just about every CCP office outside Newcastle suffered layoffs in 2014.

Finally, my predictions about Valkyrie didn't come true, but not because of CCP.  The Oculus Rift was not released to the general public in 2014.  I still think that CCP will have Valkyrie ready for release when Oculus Rift is ready for release.

Star Citizen - I made three predictions about Star Citizen in 2014, all of which turned out wrong.  The first was that Star Citizen would reach the $65 million mark in funds raised from players.  That amount was surpassed, with the total as of Sunday at $68.3 million.  No major RMT scandal interrupted the cash flow, although stories about Star Citizen's grey market did emerge throughout the year.  I also predicted that CIG would announce a release date for the full game for the second half of 2015.  Instead, 2016 was announced.

Biggest Surprise - My final prediction concerned Landmark.  I really thought the game would emerge as the surprise hit of 2014.  Although the game, from what I saw from tweeted screenshots from the devs, is beautiful and players in the beta can produce amazing things, the game never took off with the general public.  Then again, I expected the game to launch in 2014.  Instead, the last patch of the year introduced PvE, turning the game from a strictly building game like Minecraft into a more MMORPG sandbox builder.  Perhaps in 2015 Landmark will get some well deserved recognition.

I counted 22 predictions in the above, and I only got ten correct.  Nostradamus I am not.  But that won't stop me from making some predictions for 2015.  Here goes.

World of Warcraft RMT - One of the biggest stories of 2015 is whether Blizzard carries through with plans to introduce a PLEX-type instrument to the game.  I predict that WoW will see PLEX introduced in either Q2 or Q3, and that the price of illicit WoW gold will decline by 25% by the end of the year.  As a way to measure the progress, I will track gold prices for the Horde on the Earthen Ring realm.  For those unfamiliar with gaming podcasts, that is the home of the Alea Iacta Est guild associated with The Instance podcast.  If AIE sounds familar, their EVE offshoot, AIEU, is a member of the Brave Collective.

Currently, the low price for 30 thousand gold pieces on Earthen Ring found on Player Auctions is $17.38, with the median price offered at $21.71.  I'm predicting that will decrease to $13.04 and $16.28 respectively.

Guild Wars 2 Expansion Plans - One would think that after three years, Guild Wars 2 deserves an expansion.  However, don't expect one in 2015.  However, I don't see how ArenaNet avoids announcing an expansion for the first half of 2016 sometime during the upcoming year.

Elder Scrolls Online Goes B2P - I am predicting that Zenimax will announce that ESO will go buy-to-play in 2015.  With the game launching on consoles sometime during 2015, I think that Zenimax will want to have the same pricing structure for both PC and console gamers.  I don't think that console gamers will accept the subscription model, so I think the PC game will change.  I'd suspect the change will occur during Q2.

Wildstar Remains A Subscription Game - Perhaps the craziest prediction in this post, but I don't see Wildstar going either free-to-play or buy-to-play in 2015.  That would require NCSoft to cough up money for the conversion to begin.  While the Aion conversion to F2P went well, NCSoft is the company that cancelled Tabula Rasa after 16 months.  Then again, I don't think Wildstar will close its doors due to the news that Giant Interactive plans to publish the game in China in late 2015 or early 2016.  I get the feeling that converting the game for the Chinese market will take precedence over doing a F2P conversion for the West.  The Western market will probably see the F2P conversion sometime in 2016, so an announcement to F2P is possible sometime in 2015.

CCP Stops The Bleeding - I won't predict that CCP will have a banner year, but after 2013-2014, next year will look rather good.  On the financial side, players will get their hands on CCP's 2014 financial report and discover that the company did better in the second half of the year than the first.  Then, our enterprising players will get their hands on the mid-year report and see that CCP made a profit for the first half of 2015.  I also predict that CCP will remain a privately-held company.  No IPO in 2015.

Next, EVE Online will basically finish 2015 with the same activity levels as 2014.  I predict that the average concurrent user mark for the week of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday in 2015 (23-29 November) will slightly exceed the ACU for this Thanksgiving week.  That number, as recorded on EVE-Offline.net, was 25,734.  I expect the number to fall between 26,000 and 27,000.

EVE may also receive a "Jesus feature" in 2015, depending on the definition of the term.  No, not player-built stargates.  Look for a shake-up of the incursion system, with Sansha's Nation either partially or totally replaced by Sleepers.

On the planetary side of New Eden, DUST will not sunset in 2015.  However, expect CCP to announce that Project Legion will launch a beta version with active DUST players receiving invites either in Q4 2015 or Q1 2016.

The only prediction I'll make on Valkyrie is that if Oculus Rift is ready for mass sales in 2015 that CCP will have a game to ship along with the VR headset.  Expect a Metacritic score of 85, plus or minus 3.

One last prediction for CCP.  No layoffs.

2015 Will Have Better New Games Than 2014 - At the beginning of 2014, 2015 looked like a quiet year for MMORPG releases.  Then ESO, Wildstar, and ArcheAge launched.  Now those small little games may outshine this year's big money AAA games.  Let me give five games that I believe may break out in 2015.  For prediction purposes, these games will all at least hit open beta, if not launch, in 2015.  Also for prediction purposes, these are all games that will get good reviews.

Landmark - My pick for surprise game of 2014, I really think once this SOE F2P game hits open beta that word of mouth will make the game fairly popular.  The game is currently available on Steam Early Access.

Shroud of the Avatar - Okay, I'm more of a science fiction guy, but I'm interested in this Richard Garriott effort.  But will the game reflect the Ultima Online Richard Garriott or the Tabula Rasa Richard Garriott?  I'm predicting the UO version.  While I probably won't have time to play, the game is available on Steam Early Access.

The Repopulation - Another science fiction sandbox game?  The game is available on Steam Early Access and I seriously considered purchasing the game the minute I laid eyes on it.  The game is just finishing alpha and I hope it officially launches in 2015, which makes that a prediction made with my heart, not my head.  I think that the game will fill a bit of a niche and receive some nice reviews.

Skyforge - After Wildstar, I'm not so sure about theme park sci-fi MMORPGs.  But I am going to keep my eye on this game.  I'll make the prediction the game gets a better Metacritic score than Wildstar.  The game currently is not on Steam.

H1Z1 - I'm not sure the zombie survival game qualifies as an MMORPG, but I'll predict that when the game finally emerges that critics will compare it favorably to DayZ.  While I don't play first person shooters, this is a game I'll follow with interest.  Also, I hear SOE plans to make the game available on Steam Early Access in January.

That's my list of predictions for 2015.  I'm sure someone will point out how crazy I am.  Then again, seeing how I did in 2014, my predictions are pretty much wild guesses.

6 comments:

  1. I think the comments from SOE and Smed is that H1Z1 wants to definitely be an MMO. (He has since recanted on his "spiritual successor to SWG" comment though.)


    With CCP releasing revenue numbers (and DUST/WoD revenue being tiny/zero), I think one can make pretty accurate estimates of subscriptions.

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  2. Subs, or commentary about subs, should be in the annual report. If it's not, it means they declined. Which we all know they did.
    I'm not sure its too much of a prediction to say the second half of 2014 will be better than the first half, or that the first half of 2015 will show a profit. As long as they aren't writing off non-performing assets they are a fairly profitable company. Especially after the job cuts from mid-year.

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  4. Oh, H1Z1 is certainly and MMO - I should know.

    The smaller environment for now (only 64sqkm) means there will probably be quite a few servers to keep the player density to a realistic rate at EA launch on the 15th, but we plan to expand the map pretty significantly, so there's a few thousand or more people on the same server.

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  5. I'd say that yea, it probably could be classed as an RPG too, although the character progression is currently gear and social based - EVE if there were no SP and it had a barter economy.


    We're still very early in development, but have a fairly big list of things to investigate later, so something like an actual character progression system isn't impossible, although I wouldn't expect to find any "go get me 10 bear hides" quests.

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