The 14 Most Anticipated MMOs of 2014 (and Beyond)
Gamers are either a notoriously impatient or refreshingly forward-thinking lot. As soon as the Next Big Thing comes out–regardless of how good or bad it is–they're already looking forward to the Nexter Biggerest Thing. The hype train is fueled by imagination, hope, and just a dash of smug satisfaction that you've hitched your wagon to a winner. And if it's not a winner? Well, there's always the next game to get excited about!
To qualify for this “most anticipated” list, a game had to be “generally unavailable;” that means no open (or even very easily accessible closed) alphas or betas. Games that have “buy-in” alphas or betas are allowed if they're not available to play yet (like EverQuest Next Landmark). After all, it's tough to “anticipate” a game you're already playing extensively. Finally, we're playing a little loose with the “MMO” moniker, to allow a few “open world but maybe not quite full MMO games” on the list.
Games were rated according to three parameters:
Readiness for a 2014 launch.
Highest scores were given to “no-doubter” games that are scheduled to be released in the early part of 2014. Games scheduled for a later launch or unspecified 2014 launch were docked a little bit – you know how those dates can slip! – while games that are definitely not going to launch until 2015 or later received the lowest score.
A combination of both marketing hype, generated by the developer/publisher, and general fan interest at the current stage of development. A game that seems underreported in the media or among fans will lose points here, while a game that “everybody's talking about” scores higher.
Regardless of how much you might like a niche game, it's still a niche game. Only a few titles have the chance to be a blockbuster, and only a few will only ever attract more than 100,000 or so players. Of course, every game on this list is something that some people want to throw money at, but this is the category where “mass-market juggernaut” dominates “innovative indie hit.”
1. The Elder Scrolls Online
It's been rumored, announced, pushed back, criticized, and praised so much that it seems like TESO has already been out for at least a year. The community got their first real hands-on time with the game during a November beta, and the game will launch for real on April 4. Copies will fly off the shelves, physical and digital, but will it satisfy the overwhelming expectations of millions of fans?
It doesn't have the best traction among core, “PC master race” gamers, but Destiny has enough big names behind it – Microsoft, Bungie, and even Paul friggin' McCartney – and a release date of Sept. 9, setting it up to be potentially the biggest MMO of 2014. If it is an MMO, that is. We think so, or it's at least close enough.
3. EverQuest Next Landmark
Landmark slides ahead of its sister game in large part due to its being more ready for a 2014 launch, but we'd be lying if we said we fully understood what it was all about and exactly how different it will be from EverQuest Next. Still, updating the Minecraft formula with better graphics and more robust gameplay might be all that's needed to make Landmark a hit.
4. EverQuest Next
And then there's the other giant, lurking beneath the surface. We think EQN has a higher ceiling than Landmark, due to its more traditional MMO nature, though it's still probably still a ways off from a proper release. Might we see an alpha or beta by the end of 2014? Let's hope so.
Players looking for something beyond the huge names in 2014 have flocked to WildStar, with its quirky humor, path system, and catchy gameplay. It might not have the numbers or mass-market name recognition, but a passionate fan base will keep it in the running for top new game of the year.
Where do you put a game that still doesn't have a title, has virtually no officially confirmed information, and is likely at least two years away from launch? When it's made by Blizzard – which means it could be gargantuan – we'll go with right here.
7. Star Citizen
When you raise over $30 million on Kickstarter, it means people are definitely jacked up about your game. The estimated launch date is Q1 2015, but we're likely to see enough gameplay tidbits throughout 2014 to keep interest high.
Sandbox fans are champing at the bit to get a taste of ArcheAge in North America. Trion's keeping their plans close to the vest for now, but as far along as the game has come overseas, you'd have to think that a 2014 NA release is in the works.
9. The Division
The Tom Clancy-inspired multiplayer survival/rebuilding game has elements of DayZ and modern shooters, and we can't wait to see what Ubisoft does with the formula. And if the recent trailer is any indication, it's going to be one of the prettiest and most graphically intricate games of the year.
Trion Worlds jumped into the voxel-based landscape with the announcement of Trove just last month and has already offered an unprecedented look into the game, especially so early after its revelation. EverQuest Next probably steals a little bit of its thunder, but its retro appeal – not to mention likely friendlier system requirements – should give it traction.
NCSoft's next big foreign import has a strong undercurrent of support from the Asian MMO crowd, and wows everyone with its sick martial-arts trailers, but the mass-market viability of such games is always a question. Still, the Aion/TERA-loving crowd should keep it in the conversation for a while.
12. LEGO Minifigures Online
Considering Funcom's last MMO was The Secret World, this seems like quite the departure, but it's part of the company's focus on less hardcore and more casual gaming. If they can avoid the pitfalls that LEGO Universe Online made – wedging “kill 10 rats” gameplay into what should be a fun game of wacky adventure and exploration – don't be surprised if kids and families make this game a hit.
13. Phantasy Star Online 2
The sequel to one of the first MMOs is only out in Japan right now, and there's no official North American release date, but we think we'll be hearing more news about it – if not a beta or launch – in 2014. Notably, it's available on PC, PlayStation Vita, and iOS/Android devices in Japan, which means it could be one of the most portable big-ticket MMOs ever.
14. The Repopulation
A sci-fi sandbox that openly compares itself to Star Wars: Galaxies and Ultima Online, The Repopulation should see limited beta access in 2014. The free-to-play MMO could be the game of choice for nostalgic players yearning for those freeform days of old.