The year 2015 was definitely an active one as far as MMO news stories go. We think that a nice retrospect is in order as we relive the news stories that made the most impact in our gaming world. You’re welcome to mix these stories in to a super-hip vignette with hot, current music if you like.
The strange story of Sony Online Entertainment’s acquisition by Columbus Nova and reformation as Daybreak Games was just the tip of a rapidly approaching iceberg that sent shockwaves through the MMO community. As the house that started many people’s love of MMO gaming, the news was a complete surprise…seconded only by the news that longtime CEO John Smedley would step down a few months later. Further, this story continues to develop, as questions about the health of current projects Landmark and EverQuest Next are called to question…and met with long spans of radio silence.
Expansions to MMO’s were probably some of the largest stories to come out of 2015, and not many were as large or as exciting as the reveal of Heart of Thorns, the first-ever “proper” expansion pack to Guild Wars 2. Heart of Thorns changed the paradigm of the game completely, adding new Specializations to existing classes, a new area, new gear, adjustments to Fractals and the addition of a Raid. Tied with the news of the game going free-to-play, Guild Wars 2 saw its most active year ever, and arguably drew huge amounts of fresh interest to the title.
Final Fantasy XIV was another big expansion launch this year, with Heavensward arriving to early access on June 19th and full release on the 23rd. The game added the previously-locked area of Ishgard to the game, along with a variety of other locales. The expansion also increased the level cap to 60, added new skills for every job, three new jobs, flying mounts and larger maps, several new dungeons and Primal battles, and the continuation of your character’s journey as they lick their wounds after the events of Before the Fall. It was, basically, more of Final Fantasy XIV, bigger and better than ever before.
Regardless of these two expansions releases, however, it’s hard to deny that the biggest expansion news of 2015 wasn’t an actual expansion’s release, but an expansion’s announcement. World of Warcraft: Legion and its sweeping adjustments announced at BlizzCon 2015 put the unstoppable force of modern MMO’ing back front and center in the conversations once more, and suddenly made many forget previous news of slipping subscription numbers. Excitement for what’s to come for WoW still rides high even after the announcement, and reminded all of the MMO universe that the king is still not dead.
Competitive videogaming, as obtuse as it sounds on paper to many, is a boom industry, and several stories out this year only affirmed the trend. In specific, research by Superdata displayed a detailed breakdown of the growth of the eSports scene, not just in advertising revenue and exposure, but also in viewership across the globe. Even better, there doesn’t appear to be a downward trend for this growth, as more and more companies look to get in to the scene to draw attention to their titles. So now we can all tell our mothers that playing videogames can amount to something.
While forecasts from multiple sources projected it, a bigger indicator of eSports’ growth was the League of Legends World Championships being picked up for broadcast by the BBC, allowing the four day-long event to reach an immense global audience. While not broadcast television, the interest of an international television brand gave eSports a shot of legitimacy…as if housing the event in question in one of sports’ biggest venues in Wembley wasn’t validating enough.
The joining of Nexon and NCSoft was always a tenuous one at best, but 2015 saw the niceties of the combination of Korea’s largest MMO publishers completely dissolve as Nexon sold its shares of NCSoft. It even ended with a deliciously corporate reasoning: “no significant synergies”. The entire affair had the makings of a television drama back in 2012 when the two companies combined to try to remain dominant, and three years of tug-of-war finally ended. Perhaps the enemy of my enemy isn’t always my friend.
Coincidentally, NC Soft West made moves this year to strengthen its hold on the MMO market by making WildStar a free-to-play title and announcing a western release of kung-fu action-MMO Blade & Soul. Combined with a new mobile games studio opened in California and a re-energized focus on existing titles like Lineage II and Aion, NC Soft has shown that, despite the opinions of some, it’s willing to knuckle down and offer its IP’s a chance to grow. Whether the moves will ultimately bear fruit won’t be known until the first quarter, but the expansion of its business meant new things for players as well as renewed interest in the studio’s titles.
Crowdfunded games were also a large part of 2015’s news. One of the bigger titles to come out of Kickstarter was Crowfall, the PvP-centric MMO from ArtCraft. The title generated intense buzz to the point that the game made over $100,000 of it’s $800,000 funding goal within a single hour, and would go on to raise a total of $1,766,204 over the course of its campaign. The game’s release of its Hunger Dome mode and continued development has whetted the appetite of backers and certainly perked up many PvP gamers’ ears as the self-described “thronewar simulator” presses on.
1 million backers. Ambition in development to the disbelief of many. And now, $100 million in funding. Star Citizen continues to be a domineering gorilla in not just MMO news, but also in crowdfunding news. With the recent release of its Alpha 2.0, things look good for those million backers as we move in to 2016. It’s unsure what new things will come out of this game going forward, both in terms of tech as well as talk, but Star Citizen will likely continue to be a huge news maker.
Of course, a list of top mmo stories can be subjective, so feel free to remark on what you felt were the big stories of 2015. And, of course, we’re looking forward to reporting in for 2016…though admittedly some stories are just more fun to report than others.Related: Crowfall, Everquest Next, Final Fantasy XIV, Guild Wars 2, Landmark, League of Legends, News, Star Citizen, Wildstar, World of Warcraft