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Jan022017

Pokemon, eSports, and More! Take a Look Back in Our 2016 MMO Review

By Jeff Francis
2016 mmo review

Another year is in the books for the virtual worlds of online games. This has been an interesting year, with both some good and some bad. As always, a number of things that had been predicted for 2016 failed to come true while others did. Some interesting trends emerged over the last year, and we saw a cultural phenomenon take place in front of our very eyes. Before we ring in the new year, let's take a look back in our 2016 mmo review.

Let's begin our 2016 mmo review with mobile games. It seems that this model of online gaming is still a license to print money, which is evident by the fact that a number of mobile game developers had the deep pockets to advertise during the Super Bowl. Of course, the biggest story of the past year (and a major point of interest for our mmo review 2016) is Pokemon Go. This game got people off of their butts and into the outside world, whether looking for Pokemon in malls or in the woods. Hordes of gamers began to get healthier by getting some exercise and a great deal of social interaction took place between players as they played. While Pokemon Go has cooled down a bit, the upcoming features (such as PvP and trading) will likely re-ignite the game in a big way. Plus, Pokemon Go showed how layering the real world with a virtual one can be done in an enjoyable way.

The next item in our 2016 mmo review is the resurgence of buy-to-play. For the last few years, free-to-play mmo games have had a stranglehold on the market, but it seems that developers are wising up to the fact that very few players are actually willing to spend money on a game if they can essentially play it for free. Players have also shown a greater likelihood of buying a game in order to play it, as long as there's no monthly subscription fee. Blizzard's Overwatch really got the ball rolling and has been a huge hit. Other game companies took notice, such as Atlas Reactor making the decision to switch from f2p to buy-to-play. It makes economic sense to get a sure return on a company's investment than hope to earn money solely through a cash shop. Plus, the troll factor is severely cut down by introducing a paywall. 2016 may have signaled the end of the free-to-play mmo dominance.

Virtual reality is the next trend in our 2016 mmo review. A lot of people believed that 2016 was going to be a banner year for virtual reality in online games. However, the market saturation and dominance has not come to pass. While a number of games are really pushing VR, the number of players embracing it remains relatively low. One reason could be the cost associated with a really good VR set, and the other is that VR is still pretty limited to hardcore sims. The truth is that VR is still a luxury feature, requiring a good deal of additional expense to implement, and most gamers (and game companies) are still not willing to pay the cost.

We now turn our 2016 mmo review to eSports. While traditional sportscasters laughed at eSports a few years ago, there is no denying that eSports continues to grow hotter every year, and the last year was no exception. There were more tournaments, prize money, and broadcasts of eSports in 2016 than in years previous. I was blown away that I came across a Call of Duty tournament broadcast on TBS, one of the most popular cable channels, some time back. Then we got the announcement that Riot Games had partnered with Major League Baseball Advanced Media for a League of Legends streaming app that will take viewing eSports to the next level. The truth is that eSports is becoming more entrenched and is here to stay, as was clearly evident during the last year.

Another interesting item in our 2016 mmo review is the continued success of porting mmo games to consoles. The number of games making a console version continued chugging along in 2016, such as Trove (Xbox One and PlayStation 4), Star Trek Online (Xbox One and PlayStation 4), and Neverwinter (PlayStation 4). Console companies have really opened the door to f2p online games, and console players have taken to the ported games like a mouse to cheese. Another tidbit in our 2016 mmo review is that both Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online will continue for the foreseeable future. Turbine had been plagued with a number of layoffs in 2016, and the company decided to focus on mobile games. Many players worried about the fate of both LotRO and DDO, but the company recently announced that the development teams for both games had gone to a new company, Standing Stone Games, and that the new company was taking ownership of both titles. Even better was that licensing agreements for the IP holders had been successfully concluded to keep both games up and running for quite some time.

Our final factoid in our 2016 mmo review is the resurgence of World of Warcraft. Every year, it seems that most people believe that the venerable mmo was drawing its last breath. However, the release of Legion has massively boosted the number of players. While hard data is really difficult to come by, we do know that the expansion sold 3.3 million copies by its launch date. Even better are the reports that WoW is holding on to a bunch of those players who came back to the game after picking up the expansion. The old girl is still kicking and shows that it's still a force to be reckoned with.

As you can see in our 2016 mmo review, the last year has been an interesting one with lots of twists and turns. There was some sad news (such as the cancellation of EverQuest Next) but in the end, 2016 has been a pretty good year for online gaming. More and more people are being exposed to the world of mmo games due to the continued popularity of mobile devices and consoles. Not to mention that eSports continues to skyrocket in popularity. Overall, it was a good year, and it'll be interesting to see what 2017 brings.

 

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