Many bloggers spend late December and early January making predictions for the new year. It's a time-honored tradition that creates filler topics for next year's holiday season about how badly our predictions fared. (If we were good at this sort of thing, we'd be placing our bets on MMO company stocks instead of posting them.) A few of us have even moved beyond predictions - a nefarious character known to Wordpress only as Wilhelm2451 issued a series of demands to MMO studios earlier this month.
Personally, I haven't done predictions in the past, saving my comically inaccurate guesses for Blizzcon. This year, though, a few things I've read and heard in OTHER peoples' predictions have convinced me to write a few of my own.
Surprise new MMO announcement
MMO Reporter's prediction episode had a category for announcements of new MMO's, but the round table somehow missed a big possibility: the rumored Turbine Harry Potter MMO.
Now that the MMO studio is owned by the movie studio responsible for releasing the final film this year, I don't see any way that this project - if it exists - stays un-announced. Even if J.K. Rowling eventually decides to break down and write more books, I doubt that the hype on this series will ever get back to where it will be as the final film of the original series hits theaters. Announcing this project - which some conspiracy theorists suggest is why WB decided they wanted to own Turbine in the first place - would naturally benefit from the film's advertising campaign. Announcing it in 2012 or beyond will have a feeling that it's old news.
Incidentally, with respect to Turbine's accomplishments, I'm not sure that this particular IP is well suited to "kill 10 death-eater" quests. If I were choosing a current MMO to copy paste Harry Potter into, I'd go with Eve. Restrictions on the use of magic, especially where muggles can see, could mirror Eve's high/low security divide nicely, and it's not like there's a shortage of potential factions for players at Hogwarts.
Free to play switchovers and shutdowns
Syp asks which MMO will go free to play and which will shut down this year. In the comments, STO is the leading contender for the former, and Vanguard has a decent number of votes for the latter.
STO is an obvious candidate for F2P because the backend is already built for Champions. On top of that, so many people EXPECT the game to go F2P that it's current state of NOT being F2P may actually be harming it, as people wait for the switch to happen. If I had to bet money on this question, I guess it's hard to argue with that logic.
Then again, STO is widely regarded as more successful than CO, which means it has more to lose if existing subscribers find a way to play for less on the cash shop model. If Cryptic makes the popular weekly "episodes" into DDO-style cash shop purchases, this could very easily happen. I don't see a good way for this particular game to go F2P right now, though that hasn't stopped others from making the same jump.
As to Vanguard shutting down, I'm even more puzzled by that assertion. It costs comparatively little to keep a single server running, and it isn't a licensed IP that costs Sony additional money (like Matrix Online, the major SOE game to be axed so far). I could see the game going without any updates, and sadly I can't see the game going free to play this year (unfortunate, because I'd be interested in trying it, but not for its current price in the same tier with WoW, EQ2, Rift, et al), but I predict that Vanguard will survive 2011.
WoW going forward
My tongue in cheek public quest reaction aside, Tobold's unambitious WoW expansion predictions deserve attention based on his track record.
I don't think that public quests as implemented in Warhammer and Rift (and rumored for EQ2) are a direction Blizzard wants to go in. Players complain about how no one spends time in the open world anymore, but players complain even more when something like Wintergrasp actually happens in the open world, bringing enough players into one location to crash the servers. Everything that Blizzard has done since 2008 suggests that they're NOT looking to invite this kind of strain on their hardware.
Though PQ's can make the outside world more populated, the real selling point to the system is to offer the same group play experience typically found in dungeons, but without the logistical hassles or time commitment of traditional group play. If queue times are manageable, the dungeon finder accomplishes these goals
As to the second half of 2012, that's another conservative bet that will probably pay off, though I wouldn't be shocked to see it come out earlier, perhaps as soon as May 2012 (which I guess is almost "second half") if they do stick to their plan of releasing only two content patches for Cataclysm. There's not much point in going to the effort of making heroic dungeons more difficult if they're going to be trivial for a year or more between patch 4.1 and the next expansion.
Either way, I predict an expansion announcement at Blizzcon 2011 (they basically confirmed that they will hold one every year, major announcements or not), with no more than five additional levels (why go to so much trouble to reduce the talent trees only to add more points?). Just to make extra sure I'm wrong, I'll predict that Nozdormu and the Infinite Dragonflight will be the major villians of the expansion. There will be minor changes to Outland and Northrend to indicate that characters are now actually traveling to the past to prevent the Infinite Flight from altering the campaigns against Illidan and Arthas (nowhere near on the scale of the Cataclysm revamps).
Cheating horribly to improve my accuracy rating
DCUO will release as scheduled on January 11th, 2011. In other news, at least one thing that I've written in this post on January 14th will actually have occurred in 2011. :)