There are some obvious topics, the ones any loyal reader of Massively would expect to see, but others represent a dramatic shift in the subjects and games readers most enjoyed reading and responding to.
So what were the most popular stories and categories of 2011? Onward!Star Wars: the Old Republic
This multipage article was a real piece of work. No, really, it was a team effort, and it shows. We invited readers to enjoy our take on the different previews, classes, lore and gameplay elements of TOR. It was a mound of words to organize, but we think it paid off. The fact that it was so popular seems to verify that theory.
DUST 514's integration with EVE Online
We have a feeling that it wasn't only fans of EVE Online who checked out this article. The subject just reeked of nerdy coolness, and we're sure it drew the eye of many non-gaming tech-lovers as well. While beta sign-ups and teaser images are just now being released, this earlier article surely helped kickstart the hype train.
Blizzard's new MMO Titan announced
We'd bet that Blizzard could send out a press release about what its developers had for lunch and it would still be a very popular news piece. In this case, everyone was excited to hear about the new MMO that the studio is working on. The next question is, of course: Will it be anything like World of Warcraft? Will Blizzard be able to recreate the success of WoW with this new title? Time will tell.
There's no doubt that drama makes for good reading, especially in this article. It's always interesting to see how the players of EVE Online have found ways to shock us (and each other). Whether it's due to the players willingness to stage mass riots, destroy each other in spectacular ways, or rip each off through schemes that seem like something from a movie, EVE Online always provides us with good topics and excellent discussion.
Star Wars Galaxies
After the announcement that SWG was shutting down, it was inevitable that Sony Online Entertainment's John Smedley would have to answer some questions about how and why the decision was made. He sat down with us and answered queries ranging from who was responsible for the decision to what would be done with the source code. The comments were typical, but some players seemed to be OK with the closing, as though it were a release of geek pressure.
Choose My Adventure is always popular, but it surprised us to see that this particular batch of choices drew so much attention. More than likely, the Wizard101 players came out with the force of a hurricane, swamping the votes and forcing the writer to play the wonderful spell-based MMO. The follow-up articles were not as popular as the original, but the response was still some of the best we have seen from the column.
RIFT releases 18-minute endgame video
Before SWTOR sucked all of the hype out of the universe, RIFT was the game to be excited about. This video showed not only endgame content but also "on-demand rifting." It drew a lot of comments and spurred some pretty heated discussion about similarities to World of Warcraft, design elements, and even the value of raiding.
Our EVE Online columnist Brendan Drain is no stranger to in-depth writing. He takes his columns very seriously, and it shows. This piece examined the infamous pricing issues that eventually caused some players to riot or quit the game altogether and might even have led to future staff reductions at CCP. This article examined one of the most chilly cash-shop receptions in history.
It's fun to look back on news articles that discuss possible future developments and to compare them to now. In the case of the leaked trademark that was brought to light by MMO Champion, this Mists of Pandaria prediction was right on the money. Of course, the announcement set off comment debates about which faction the Pandas would call home. The words "jumped the shark" were used more than once.
If you thought you knew what metagaming was, you might want to reevaluate what you know. Everbloom, a Night Elf druid, leveled all the way to 85 using only exploration and gathering experience. While we shudder at how quickly the feat would drive us insane, it's a very admirable success. Our readers seemed a bit perplexed but eventually mellowed on the idea. Sort of.
Next we'll take a look at the most popular categories on Massively. Once again we were surprised by what we found. It should be no surprise that SWTOR is the most popular category, followed by EVE Online. Betawatch, our weekly recap of games that are in different states of testing, was third on this list. It would seem that our readers are always eager for a new game to try! RIFT came up next -- not bad when you consider that SWTOR has dominated the minds of Massively readers so much this year.
Free-to-play was next in line. Many gamers claim that 2011 was the year of free-to-play, with plenty of games making the switch to a free-to-play or related payment model and many other free-to-play games stepping into the limelight. It will be interesting to see whether the category stays strong in 2012. Guild Wars 2 was next, and despite the game's very closed beta status, it is one of the strongest categories.
Livestream was next, and you know we're pleased about that. Streaming video games takes quite a bit of technical wrangling, but we managed to get our new livestream dream team off the ground with more weekly streams and games than ever. It's nice to see it getting a solid reception! The sci-fi category pulled up next, followed by Lord of The Rings Online. The middle-aged MMO set in the imaginings of J.R.R. Tolkien still manages to grab gamers' attention... and money. DC Universe Online pulled up the rear. It would seem that the title still draws a lot of attention thanks to its simple, fun gameplay, beautiful art, and PlayStation 3 access.
So there you have it -- Massively's most popular stories and topics, by the numbers. What surprised you?