Last yearÂ went so well I figured I’d give it another shot. Â Here’s what I think will happen in online games in 2009.
- This will not be a big year for MMO launches. In 2008 we had a WoW expansion pack, two games with a ton of buzz, and one pirate game that wasn’t quite as big as those other two. This year will includeÂ Champions OnlineÂ andÂ Free Realms, but none of the huge releases of previous years. Star Trek Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic have no announced dates yet, but they won’t be in 2009. *
- Champions Online, the first next-gen console MMO will launch this year. It will ignite a new interest in MMOs on console despite having more than a few console-related issues. I absolutely loved City of Heroes, so I’m likely to play this one a lot.
- This will be a big year for announcing MMOs. We will likely see big announcements from Carbine, Red 5, 38 Studios, and Trion. We might even see that Fallout OnlineÂ announcementÂ from ZenimaxÂ everyone is expecting. None of these games will launch in 2009.
- Somebody will buy Turbine. Â I bet it’s a big media company of some sort, and not a game publisher.Â
- Just as the “hey everybody, let’s make an MMO” gravy train ended a few years ago, the “I know! MMOs for kids!” trend is also about to end. Â A bunch of kids MMOs will come out in 2009 and none of them will approach Club Penguin’s numbers. It will be much harder to get this kind of game funded as a result.
- The console manufacturers are going to start talking about the next generation of consoles in a very preliminary way. Nobody will get dev kits in 2009, but some details will start to come out about what’s going to be in the new consoles. Â (Answer: More cores – probably around 20, and big hard drives. Digital distribution of non-game media will be a big part of the next gen game consoles.)
- The economy will bottom out and start to rebound. We aren’t quite at the bottom yet, but the low point will come in 2009.
- Not much is going to happen on the Augmented Reality front in 2009. We might see a few simple apps using smart phone camera and screens, but that will be about it, at least publically.
- Microsoft will start making another MMO. They will cancel this MMO in 2010 when they discover it takes 5 years and tens of millions to make an MMO these days.
- One of the XNA community games will hit the big time. It will be a top-ten downloadable for a while. Its name will be said at the following GDC at least a billion times.
- A whole lot of web startups are going to fail in 2009. There have been a couple this fall, with quite a few more will go down in flames next year. Â I’m not talking about the “90%” of companies that always fail; I’m talking about companies you might have actually heard of. Everybody had enough runway to get through the holidays… the real test comes in the spring when they can’t fund their next round.
- The fallout from Sony OnlineÂ movingÂ under the rest of Sony’s gaming businesses will hit in 2009. This probably means significant management changes and cancelled projects. I suspect that eitherÂ DC UniverseÂ orÂ The AgencyÂ will get the axe. It could just as easily be some unannounced project we’ve never heard of, though.Â
- Warhammer Online will merge some servers together. Â They are already offering free transfers. This will make some people at FLSÂ laugh out loud (see the second from the last paragraph). The reason will be the same as the reason PotBS merged servers: it’s hard to predict exactly how many subscribers you will have Server merges are not the beginning of the end, it’s just a matter of starting with too many servers. FWIW, the hundreds of unofficial WAR forums are full of people asking for merges.
* Obviously Star Trek Online thinks it will ship in 2009. They set their game in 2409, after all. Â I think the game is going to slip into 2010.