People may scoff, but I suspect that AoC’s conversion to Freemium is going to continue to give this late-bloomer the shot in the arm it needed. AoC’s a gem these days, and even if it’s not the PvP haven it was billed as at launch, it’s a solid PvE game now with gorgeous visuals and engrossing combat. I’m betting it’ll be doing well for a while.
Maybe you laugh but Aion, while it wasn’t the barn-burner many expected, is still one of the top games right now in the market. I think it will get pushed down a lot when the next crop comes out, especially TERA which I feel will take its market. But that said it’s a fine game with a lot of great things going for it. The team continues to make Aion more “western-friendly”, and I’m willing to bet it will be hanging tough in the top ten for another year or two.
8.) Lord of the Rings Online
LotRO is one of those games that just seems to always be improving itself. It has a devout following, and a strong developer pushing the content behind it. It had a slow period when converting to Freemium, but since then the team’s been pushing out the goods and this year’s Rise of Isengard seems like an expansion that could reinvigorate interest in the game. I expect however that LotRO’s real time in the sun is over. There’s just too much “new” coming out. Expect some Hobbit-capitalizing when Jackson’s movie comes out though. Just saying.
7.) EVE Online
EVE’s not going anywhere anytime soon. If anything, it’ll be around long after many on this list have fallen to something newer. CCP does an excellent job maintaining their game and DUST’s release should bring even more people into their universe. Just don’t expect EVE to ever become top-dog without some radical game changes that would likely drive off their loyal and devout following.
The Exiled Realm of Arborea is going to do pretty well when it launches next year. With fantastic combat and gorgeous visuals, as well as an intriguing (if risky) political system, it’s bound to be one of the more anticipated games on this list. But I suspect that when the dust settles, people will find it lacking in terms of other game features. The combat, PvP, and politics will make it a very popular game with a core audience, but for others it may be too “samey”. I do expect it to wipe the floor with any other eastern game come west though.
5.) The Secret World
It’s got a unique setting, a unique class and skill system, and three-faction PvP as well as ARG gameplay and mysteries that entire communities must solve. This is the kind of game that a lot of people have been wanting. It does things in a way that other games have been a little too scared to try. I do worry that it will be a little too niche, but something tells me that it will be hugely successful regardless so long as Funcom can make sure it’s ready to go at day one.
There are reports that Rift is currently the second most successful MMO in the west right now. Nothing has officially come out as of this writing, but I’d believe it. Trion’s flagship title didn’t do too much with its mechanics to stand out, but polish and technological advancements in server tech and dynamic events, along with a strong sense of listening to their player base has made Rift one of the best and most fully featured games on the market. It has a long road ahead of it, but if the first six months are any indicator Trion’s baby isn’t going anywhere soon.
3.) World of Warcraft
Shocker time. I’m not anti-WoW. I lived in Azeroth for a while like most people. But I do think that Blizzard’s domination in the western MMO market is coming to an end soon. I may be wrong, but I think that at least for 2012 we’ll see the number 1 and 2 spot on this List knock WoW down a few pegs. That could change with the next expansion, but I’m starting to think that WoW’s manhandling of the competition is at an end as serious players are starting to push the envelope more than Blizzard can with an older and established game.
2.) Star Wars: The Old Republic
This could be a toss-up, the top two spots. I mean, here at MMORPG.com there’s no denying that GW2 is the reigning champion of pre-release hype. For all we know the familiar combat and systems of TOR, combined with BioWare’s story-telling and the Star Wars IP could create a perfect storm in the MMO market and these two games could be swapped. But I’m going with my gut when I say that ArenaNet’s game is going to be king in 2012.
1.) Guild Wars 2
ArenaNet is doing everything right before release. From its slow but steady stream of press, to every feature and innovation they announce, Guild Wars 2 has people absolutely salivating. I worry that we’ll be disappointed only because the game doesn’t cure cancer and bring peace to the Middle East. The true test for Guild Wars 2 will be whether its subscription-free business model is sustainable and just how jeered or revered its cash shop will be. If all the shows and hands-on impressions are to be believed though, NCsoft and ArenaNet could finally have the game that beat WoW on their hands.
One thing’s for sure. 2012 will be an interesting year.
Forsaken World is a nice-looking new free MMORPG from Perfect World. 5 Races, 7 classes, and a wealth of character customization options ensure your avatar will stand out from the pack. FW gives you plenty to do on top of the usual questing and monster slaying, with many different jobs like botany and mining. Forsaken World shows a lot of promise. Don’t let it pass you by in the rush of games on the market. Play Now:Forsaken World
The magnificent world of Hyboria is now free for all players to adventure in. It’s a dangerous world but one completely worth it, offering some of the best graphics an MMORPG has seen, both free-tp-play and retail. The real-time combat system is something unique and a major strength in Age of Conan: Unchained and the grinding is kept to a minimum when compared to other similar games. A great free-to-play MMORPG with a ton of content. Play Now:Age of Conan: Unchained
Since DC Universe Online has gone free-to-play, the number of players and revenue increased drastically, once again proving that the F2P model is a great choice nowadays. It’s great to fight with iconic DC characters and the action is fast and spectacular. A nice choice for some occasional superhero brawling, you should definitely give this one a go. Play Now:DC Universe Online
7. Perfect World
Perfect World was one of the first free-to-play MMORPGs that actually offered a vast and compelling experience that rivaled some of the best subscription-based MMORPGs, and it’s still quite enjoyable today. A massive world and tons of content make it a near limitless journey, though the endgame grind may wear on some gamers. There’s also a rather harsh death penalty that harkens back to older, more core MMO’s, so do be warned. Play Now:Perfect World
Dragon Nest is an action RPG published by Nexon where some of the greatest visuals ever seen in a free MMORPG go hand in hand with charming anime characters and exciting real time combat. There’s a lot to be amazed at in this game, an all-round polished offering that any self-respected fan should try. Play Now:Dragon Nest
5. Allods Online
It’s easy to make the comparison to World of Warcraft when looking at Allods Online. The graphical style is eerily similar, though the art direction is actually quite original, and melds fantasy and sci-fi elements like few other MMO’s on the market. Allods features two distinct races in conflict with each other, and this conflict spills over into the game’s PvP mode. Humorous writing and scenarios are another hallmark of this charming little game. Don’t be put off by the WoW look, and give this one a shot. Play Now:Allods Online
Vindictus was probably the most hyped free MMORPG ever when it released last year. The combination of stunning graphics and an action-based battle system that still retained the RPG elements we all know and love had gamers giddy with excitement. While the hype surrounding Vindictus has now died down somewhat, it still remains an enjoyable and unique game, with some thrilling combat. And those graphics… (drool). Play Now: Vindictus
3. Dungeons and Dragons Online
DDO seemed to have everything going for it upon its initial release, but never seemed to find an audience. It had great graphics, a unique play style, and the pedigree of one of the best MMO developers behind it in Turbine. Despite its failure as a pay-to-play game, don’t be fooled into thinking that was due to the quality of the game. Though it suffers from some of the repetition that other instance-based games suffer from, it’s still an incredibly challenging and enjoyable experience. Play Now:Dungeons and Dragons Online
2. The Lord of the Rings Online
LoTRO went free-to-play last year, and surely stands as one of the best free-to-play games on the market. A massive world, challenging combat, haunting music, and beautiful graphics await all those who wish to enter the enchanted realm of Middle-Earth. Player-owned houses and mounts, a unique monster-play PvP system, epic raids and gear, legendary crafted gear, and much more exists in Turbine’s masterpiece. Play Now:The Lord of the Rings Online
Runes of Magic was dismissed by some people as a World of Warcraft clone upon its release, but others viewed this as a great compliment. While there was a definite comparison to be made in terms of graphical and gameplay style, the overall quality that exists in every aspect of this game was also comparable to WoW, and cause for celebration. RoM’s most unique feature is its dual class system, which allows you to choose two different classes for your character and enjoy the skills of both. This adds a great deal of flexibility to the game, as each class combo comes with unique skills, though it also makes each individual class overly common in the game world. Runes of Magic has enjoyed numerous major updates which introduced a lot of new content to the game – Frogster has done and continues to do a great job. If you’re looking for a free MMORPG that rivals the best games in the genre, RoM is it. Play Now: Runes of Magic
Remember that we are featuring only the most recent free to play MMORPGs so we are not including big free mmorpg classics such as Maplestory, Ragnarok Online, RuneScape, and others. We wanted to include all the relevant MMORPG games but we can only choose 10.
With these and other great free games on the market, 2012 promises to be an amazing year for MMORPG lovers. So grab your weapon of choice and maybe an energy drink or two and get prepared for thrills to last a lifetime.