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For those who might remember me, I predicted the rapid demise of Age of Conan back in June 2008, looking purely at the game mechanics and the nature of the game itself. This was at the same time review magazines were throwing around scores of 9/10 for AOC, but it was obvious the game would die from playing the game, which is how I make my predictions
I am a long time MMO player starting off in Ultima Online days, through L2, AO, EVE, EQ1 (but not 2) WoW, WAR and LOTRO.
Looking at the incentive structure of the current top MMOs by subscription numbers, these are my predictions for January-April 2009:
1. WoW: currently has the largest number of subs although this has already dropped down to around 9 million from a high of 11.x million. Around 6 million of the remaining 9 million subs is from the China/East Asia region, and these are likely to drop off the fastest as EU and US subs drop off. The reason for the drop will be a lack of elite PVE content and the migration of top-end guilds to one of the competitors, which the masses will then follow. The nature of the mmo market is such that a game can very rapidly drop in popularity as gamers are a fickle bunch. The demise of WoW is here, and it will be surprisingly swift (2-3 months with 500k subs lost in EU/US each month, much faster in china)
2. WAR: currently the 2nd largest mmo in subs, although a very high quality mmo its fortress endgame is currently broken (although its city sieges are not) making the #1 priority for Mythic to fix endgame fortress sieges. The success of this game depends on how fast and how well they can fix this part of the RVR endgame. although the PVE instances and the rest of the RVR experience are all top notch. WAR is the likely destination of all the current top mmo guilds and players from WoW and other games
3. EVE: not often mentioned but this mmo has carved out its niche and is holding steady, doing what it does in a large sandbox space environment that appeals to the hardcore sandbox PVP crowd (in space)
4. LOTRO: another niche PVE game, this one has been ticking along nicely with its new xpac but one can't help but feel it should have done better given the franchise
a) Darkfall will be a disappointment, the budget is low and the game is very far from finished, and is nowhere near the level of polish of WoW/WAR/LOTRO
b) Aion will appeal to some of the old L2ers, but will likely not touch the mainstream (but will be a good mmo game for those who love the asian-styled grind mmos)