If you’re new to the site, my yearly predictions piece goes like this: Around the start of every new year, I make five predictions about video gaming for the coming year and – unlike everyone else out there who makes wild guesses about the future – I actually follow up on them a year later to see how I’ve done. In previous years, I’ve had a hit rate of about three out of five, which is pretty darned good, all things considering.
This year, though? Woof.
You can see my predictions for 2021 here, as well as the opinions of the other two primary members of the MMOBomb podcast, and … well, let’s just get through the unpleasant summary quickly, shall we?
Prediction #1: Among Us goes F2P on all platforms (Q and Mike disagree)
My prediction du jour the past few years has been betting that a pretty-successful game goes free-to-play in the coming year. It worked with Rocket League the year before, so I thought I’d go with Among Us – which is already F2P on mobile devices – for 2021.
I was half right; a major game did announce that it would go F2P in 2021, but it was PUBG:BG (really, that’s such a stupid name), which will flip the F2P switch in January 2022. Still, I’m very strict about the scoring, so this one gets a big fat zero, because while my heart was in the right place, I still missed the target – which is kind of how it goes when I play PUBG:BG.
Prediction #2: Hyper Scape won’t survive 2021 (Q and Mike disagree)
checks Is it still around? Yep, looks like, though the last update on the site was on April 6. Ubisoft’s high-tech battle royale is dead in all but name, but since you can still actually play it, that makes me 0-for-2.
Prediction #3: Launching this year: Path of Exile 2, Lost Ark, and Riot’s Project L
(Q agrees on PoE2 and Lost Ark, disagrees on Project L)
(Mike agrees on Lost Ark, disagrees on PoE 2 and Project L)
I regretted the PoE 2 prediction almost as soon as I made it. For as much as I’d talked with Grinding Gear Games’ Chris Wilson over the past couple of years, I should have known that the game wouldn’t be out in 2021, in any form, and we got confirmation on that point in April.
The other two I felt much better about. Even so, I missed Lost Ark’s window by about two months, and Project L is still a long ways off, according to a recent dev diary from Riot. I don’t think I’ll be repeating this category of prediction this year, because I just did a piece on games we can expect to see in 2022(-ish) and everything gets delayed anyway. Yes, that’s the reason, it’s totally not because I botched this one so badly.
Prediction #4: No major new game announcements from Daybreak Game Company (Q agrees, Mike disagrees)
For 2020, I said there would be no major announcements from ArenaNet, only for the company to announce the next Guild Wars 2 expansion (which is still not due out until early next year). Daybreak, on the other hand, seemed like it was still skating by on its previous titles and, despite its recent-at-the-time acquisition by Enad Global 7, didn’t feel to me like a company that was going to make waves in 2021 and I was correct, at least from an official standpoint.
Yes, there’s all that “Marvel MMO” news floating around, but a) that’s old news; and b) not an official announcement of anything, so I’m not counting it. Hey, I need one win, at least, and I’m grabbing this one.
Prediction #5: 2021 will have a surprise F2P hit that we’ve (almost) never heard of. (Q agrees, Mike disagrees)
My bar for this achievement was a peak at 100,000+ players on Steam, or some kind of equivalent for games not on Steam. At first, I thought Splitgate might have met that mark, but no, it peaked at 67,724 (and doesn’t look likely to recapture that glory). That said, it was available on other platforms, so it likely peaked at over 100,000 players overall…
However, I also said that I’d judge the correctness of this prediction “based on my personal opinions on the matter, albeit probably with some influence from the other folks at MMOBomb.” So, after consulting with the judges, they have agreed that Splitgate counts! Plus, we now cover non-F2P games and Valheim had nearly 500,000 players at its peak on Steam – two technicalities make a right, right?
That’s it for the look back! Now, it’s time for the look forward. Here are my bold predictions for 2022 in multiplayer – not just free-to-play – gaming!
New World goes free-to-play
Or maybe both? For a game that sold millions of copies right out of the gate, New World has had a rough go of it. I won’t rehash every exploit, bug, and questionable design decision here – every new MMORPG has at least some of those – but New World’s general reaction from the gaming world seems to be a collective “meh.”
It’s got a 69% overall positive rating on Steam, and while that might seem nice to some people, its 58% score over the past 30 days would seem to indicate that the game isn’t headed in the right direction. That can be confirmed by looking at its player count, which has been roughly cut in half during each of its two full months after launch. It’s still a top 10 game overall, but if it loses half its players again in January, well…
The closest comparison I can think of is to Star Wars: The Old Republic, which also had a) an outsized budget; b) metric tons of hype; c) a good launch; and d) a precipitous decline in its first year. That led to that game going F2P barely a year after launch, and while I don’t know if that’s the solution for a floundering big-budget MMORPG any more, I think Amazon will try it before it gives up entirely on the project. That might be a prediction for 2023.
A major game announcement from Daybreak Games
If I got the opposite of this right in 2021, I’m bound to get it right again in 2022, aren’t I? When Daybreak was acquired by Enad Global 7 in December 2020, one of the surprising things we found out was that the company was working on a game based in the Marvel Comics universe, which was re-iterated when we saw job listings for it.
Everyone forgot about that and then acted surprised when it came up again later in 2021, so we’ll see if everyone forgets again and is astounded to see the official reveal of the game – or at least a trailer or some other kind of media – in 2022. Daybreak hasn’t produced a new game since PlanetSide 2 in 2012 (unless you count this), so it’s due to make some news on that front.
Speaking of failed Daybreak projects, remember EverQuest Next? While the Marvel game is the one that people are thinking about now, I think EQN is far enough in the rear-view mirror for Daybreak to be thinking about – and maybe only thinking – about another sequel. The original game and EverQuest II aren’t getting any younger, and few MMORPG announcements could grab headlines like one based on one of the biggest names in the genre. I think it’s a small chance, but I’d be delighted to be surprised to hear about an EverQuest sequel in 2022.
Anthem shuts down
If you thought New World’s launch was rocky … remember this game? I honestly can’t remember the last time I thought about Anthem, which was supposed to be BioWare’s answer to Destiny 2: a sci-fi open-world co-op game where you’d pilot a fancy suit of armor and fly around shooting up aliens and other menaces to humanity like a futuristic Iron Man.
It was also one of the biggest flops of recent memory. Launching in February 2019, it was criticized for, well, just not being very fun. Maybe you can attribute that to the issues with the Frostbie engine, key personnel leaving BioWare over the past few years, or what has been called a less-than-great working environment at the studio. Regardless of the reasons, Anthem was an unmitigated failure – and this is one they can’t blame on the pandemic, since it launched nearly a year before that became an issue.
Active development on the game ceased in early 2021, and while it may be minimally expensive to keep the servers up and running, it has to be costing something. Maybe there was the hope that some spark of ingenuity would crop up during the year to reignite the game’s fortunes, but that doesn’t seem to have happened. So I think that Anthem’s swan song will come sometime this year, as whatever resources it’s consuming could be put to better use elsewhere.
Another major MMORPG company will be bought
In late 2020, Daybreak Games was purchased by Enad Global 7. Late last year, it was Perfect World that was scooped up by Embracer Group. It might take until December, but I think the trend will continue in 2022, as a major MMORPG developer gets bought out another company – probably someone you’ve never heard of.
The question is, who gets bought and who buys them? It could be an independent company, like Perfect World was, or it could be a transfer of ownership, as was the case (sort of) with Daybreak. And what exactly counts as “major”? I suppose that will also have to go to the judging panel, if and when it happens.
While I won’t count this as part of the official prediction, I’ll toss out a guess that says that Wargaming could be on one side of the ledger or the other. World of Tanks is still a juggernaut – though one that’s got is share of detractors – but its other titles haven’t proven nearly as successful. Could that mean it’s looking to expand its operations? Or could an even bigger dog (like Tencent) inquire about its acquisition price? Only time will tell.
Bobby Kotick will still be CEO of Activision on December 31, 2022
Finally, it wouldn’t be a proper predictions list if I didn’t say something related to the biggest story of 2021: the ongoing mess at Activision Blizzard King. You know the primary details by now, so I won’t rehash them, but suffice it to say that CEO Bobby Kotick has never been under as much fire as he’s been over the past few months.
From overseeing the company that allowed rampant harassment to persist for years to allegedly participating in some heinous deeds himself, Kotick personifies the issues with the company, which has been burying its head in the sand and resorting to every measure possible to ensure that its overpaid executives keep their positions and massive compensation packages – even if Kotick has made the oh-so-magnanimous gesture of reducing his pay for a limited time. How limited? Well, I guess that’s up to the CEO to determine. Who’s the CEO? Oh yeah…
Walkouts and looming unionization may threaten his prosperity, but I don’t think the overall rancor will be enough to push the obstinate Kotick from his perch. He’s displayed zero genuine sympathy for the plight of his workers, instead instructing his subordinates to hinder their efforts to organize against him, and, despite some well-sounding pleasantries, doesn’t sound like he has any intention of surrendering anytime soon. He won’t resign; he’ll have to be forced out, and that might be prohibitively expensive.
You never know what new and shocking revelation will come about Activision or its CEO on any given day, so it’s entirely possible that another exposé will crop up and force the board of directors to take action against a man who they’ve publicly pledged to support. Even if it does, I’d paint Kotick’s odds of surviving at about 50/50. I’d love to be wrong, but rich people gonna rich.