The New Space Race: Four MMOGs Taking Gamers into Outer Space in 2009
Sometimes I look to escape normal life with a fun massively multiplayer online game. Sometimes I look to escape the normal setting of MMOGs and take a jaunt into the great unknown. For gamers looking for something out of the ordinary, 2009 could be the biggest thing since the furry party hit Pittsburgh. The big trend in 2009? Outer space, where we're likely to see four "big name" space-themed games launch or enter beta by this time next year: Jumpgate Evolution, Star Trek Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Stargate Worlds. But which of these titles, if any, will be good? Which will be another galactic goose chase that ends like Tabula Rasa? To be honest, I think I can answer some of those those questions.
Ligthsabers and asphyxiation are an erotic combo that appeals to nerds everywhere.
Indeed, You Are Powerful
Star Wars is not the oldest IP to receive the MMOG treatment for 2009, but it is arguably the most powerful. Seven feature-length films, a couple of children's spinoffs, myriad comics, hundreds of official novels, action figures and even Robot Chicken episodes prove the Force exists all around us.
Hardcore Star Wars fans never argue over who shoots first in the Mos Eisley cantina, but there is quite a bit of debate about the worth of the existing Star Wars MMOG, Star Wars Galaxies. Little doubt remains that the game's popularity declined drastically after the release of the NGE update. Coincidences in timing or causal relationships don't matter at this point; the majority of Star Wars fans do not feel that they have a satisfactory MMOG for their beloved franchise.
BioWare, the force (tee hee) behind Star Wars: The Old Republic (SW:TOR or TOR), is famous for making quality games that deliver compelling plots. From Baldur's Gate to Knights of the Old Republic to Neverwinter Nights to Mass Effect, BioWare produces hits, so the potential for TOR is high.
Every Star Wars fan who plays MMOGs will certainly give TOR a look. Even MMOG gamers who are not huge Star Wars fans will be curious because they know the IP and the developer. Finally, there are gamers who don't normally play MMOGs but will try TOR because they love BioWare games.
All that's missing are the Star Wars fans who don't play games and the people who have never heard of BioWare or Star Wars...if the latter group even exists. Really, I think BioWare would have to try pretty hard not to have a large player base in the month surrounding launch. The bigger problem will be keeping those players after the free month of gameplay expires.
In the end, I think TOR is the sure bet among the upcoming space games and you should double down on this title the next time you're in Vegas. Unless BioWare drops the ball on a major project for the first time, The Old Republic will be a leading MMOG in the year 2010.
Cryptic hopes we will all be assimilated.
You Will be Assimilated (Won't You)?
Star Trek is the oldest IP coming to us in MMOG form in the near future. The franchise permeates American culture heavily, from parodies on skit shows to colloquialisms like "Set phasers to stun," and "Beam me up!" Star Trek fans can be as rabid as Star Wars fans, some of them learning to speak Klingon and forming a corps dedicated to "preserving Klingon culture here on earth."
After a brief false start with Perpetual Entertainment, Star Trek Online (STO) is now safely in the hands of Cryptic Studios. The shaky start won't deter many Trekkies, and non-Trekkies may not ever know it even happened. The appeal for STO certainly will extend to some of the same groups I mentioned earlier: Star Trek fans who play MMOGs, MMOG players who like Cryptic's other work (see City of Heroes or Champions Online), and gamers who don't normally play MMOGs but live and breathe Star Trek.
With a new Star Trek movie on the horizon, the time for a game based on the IP is perfect, and Cryptic would do well to make a near-simultaneous release their Prime Directive. Doing so will give the developer the best chance to pull in some of the more casual fans who would not normally pay much attention to the game.
Overall, I can't imagine that the mass appeal of Star Trek is as high as that of Star Wars. Those of us with limited time and a passion for both franchises may face a tough decision of choosing one over the other. If Cryptic can deliver engrossing gameplay to match the awesome character customization they made famous with City of Heroes, this title will be a huge success for its fan base and hundreds of others looking for something different.
Ralsu has more to say. Move on to page two.