Remember, these are our own individual opinions and may not align with yours, so be ready for that. Also be sure to take a look back at the previous year's predictions and see how close or far from reality we were!
On top of all that, MMOs will continue to be largely ignored by the non-MMO press, save for the very few games that cost many millions to make. And, as I pointed out, millions of happy gamers will just continue to game in one of the most successful gaming genres in the world.
We will likely lose a few of the lesser-known MMOs as well, but it's to be expected.
I am also predicting that The Elder Scrolls Online will probably go the same way SWTOR did: pay-to-play and then free-to-Play based on the current state of MMOs today. More MMOs will probably adopt the single-server style of game, since it is a superior way of housing communities.
This will be the year when cracks start showing in RIFT's foundation; while Storm Legion was a success, it will turn out that Trion took on a few too many projects. Defiance will launch, the show will be acceptable, the game will be pretty fun, but neither will exactly capture the world's interest. DUST 514 will also launch, and EVE Online will be faced with a lot of DUST players who want to make use of the integration but aren't really into the sort of game that EVE provides. WildStar will be in beta by mid-year, and impressions will be strong but not overwhelming, leading to the game's becoming a quiet but strong performer and prompting a lot of "most underrated" votes. Star Wars: The Old Republic will trim up its free-to-play model, launch a couple of new systems after Rise of the Hutt Cartel, and will end out the year with a steady stream of content and a broader leveling path.
The Elder Scrolls Online will undergo some pretty major feature shrinkage as launch looms nearer. Final Fantasy XIV's relaunch will take place; fans will be largely pleased, most of the world won't care, and at least one or two promised features will have to be patched in a few months later. At least one Kickstarter project will shrivel up and die, while another will launch and be met with outrage, and by the time another launches with all features intact, no one will notice any longer. Champions Online will receive an influx of players from City of Heroes expats. Marvel Heroes will launch to lukewarm reception. Asheron's Call 2 will receive rave reviews and lots of speculation, but it turns out that Turbine just wanted to bring it back from the dead and it's not indicative of a new project. At least one more game will shut down, two or three more exciting projects will be announced, and a lot of people will continue to insist that MMOs were ruined by World of Warcraft. The rest of us will have cause to be happy.
Kickstarter will continue to be the last bastion of "games industry veterans" long-since divorced from any established studio. Nobody will attempt to put hot bars on the cash shop; several people will try to put hobby horses (or their equivalent) on the cash shop at exorbitant prices.
Wildstar, Defiance, and Neverwinter will excite a few folks and bore the majority, while Marvel Heroes, Transformers Universe, and DUST 514 will be spectacular piles of flaming fail. CCP will attempt to stop the bleeding by announcing a PC version of DUST, followed shortly by a heartfelt we're-sorry-for-straying-from-internet-spaceships mea culpa from the CEO. Darkfall: Unholy Wars will launch... in November.
Guild Wars 2 will announce an expansion, as will Star Trek Online. EverQuest Next will finally be revealed and will prove to be highly divisive among the gaming population. We'll get a smash hit mobile MMO (most likely on tablets) that will blow the existing crop out of the water. World of Warcraft will not reveal a new expansion after months of hinting at it. PlanetSide will be canceled, as will Warhammer Online. Final Fantasy XIV will still suck, new version or no. Turbine will announce the development of Asheron's Call 3. And oh yeah, City of Heroes will come back and Project Copernicus will be snapped up by a different studio and finished. Because WHY NOT.
Titan will probably have an actual game title sometime near the end of the year. EQ Next will go into beta, also probably at the end of the year. ArcheAge will launch, but nobody except Jef will care. EVE will have PvP-free high-security space. DUST will fail spectacularly. More MOBAs will launch, all claiming to be revolutionary, but again, pretty much no one will notice and everyone will go back to Dota 2 or League of Legends. TESO will launch, but it will do nothing original and it'll sell millions of copies, then bleed subs like crazy shortly afterwards. PlanetSide 2 will sell like crazy, and everyone else making an MMO shooter will wonder what they did wrong. Neverwinter will have an incredibly buggy launch and terrible gameplay balance. No idea on WildStar; I'll just assume that it does OK.
In 2013, I think we'll continue to see more MMOs embrace the free-to-play or no subscription fee model. I also think we'll see more titles taking some interesting chances in terms of setting and game mechanics. I'm still waiting for a game that strips everything out of the MMO except for PvE raiding. Picture a League of Legends gallery of characters and matchmaking system, but the gameplay is cooperative dungeon crawling and strategic boss battles. Someone make it happen!
The obvious predictions: Guild Wars 2 will release or at least announce an expansion. The Secret World, RIFT, and PlanetSide 2 will achieve a LotRO-like comfort plateau with dedicated fans but fail to made a dent in those players always looking for the next best thing. The first wave of popularized Kickstarter games will begin releasing, and they won't be as great as we hoped a year ago when we first backed them.
The not-so-obvious predictions: Not one of the already-announced games will do exceptionally well in 2013. In other words, there will be no new Guild Wars 2s in 2013. MMO gamers will be happy with playing multiple smaller games, and studios will take note. Just as indie console and single-player games enjoyed a popularity explosion in 2010-2012, indie MMOs will dominate as server technology gets more advanced and less expensive, allowing studios to run a virtual world on less hardware and staff. We'll especially see this come through on tablets and other mobile devices.
And finally, TESO's progression will be a direct reenactment of what we saw with SWTOR. Fans will go nuts for it, early reviewers in mainstream media will wonder what the fuss is about and call it something embarrassing like "A Skyrim World of Warcraft," and launch will be overhyped. This will lead to the inevitable backlash and nitpicking by die-hard Elder Scrolls fans, and the first three months after launch will ultimately be plagued by the same problems that BioWare faced.
What do you get when you throw the Massively writers' opinions together in one big pot to stew? You get The Think Tank, a column dedicated to ruminating on the MMO genre. We range from hardcore PvPers to sandbox lovers to the carest of the carebears, so expect some disagreement! Join Senior Editor Shawn Schuster and the team for a new edition right here every other Thursday.