Many free-to-play games are coming and while some of them are already playable in betas, alphas or foreign servers, others are not, but we can already take a guess at the potential of most of them. And that is exactly what we are going to do here.
We picked ten games which we believe will be successful in some way. By that we don’t mean crushing-the-competition-and-running-for-a-decade kind of successful, but more in a it’s-somewhat-profitable kind of way. Some of these may actually turn up quite some cash for its developers, if early impressions are to be believed.
While ranking these games is somewhat unfair and we nearly decided against it, here they are anyway in order. Number 1 is the game that we believe will be the most successful of all in this list, with most games probably only releasing sometime during 2016, and we’re only doing this for games that have already been officially announced for western territories. Let’s begin.
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10 – GIGANTIC
Gigantic will probably enjoy some success because it’s actually doing something refreshing with the tired MOBA genre. First off, the third-person perspective is still very uncommon and besides SMITE, there aren’t many MOBAs that managed to make it work. Secondly, it’s a very action-y kind of game; it even feels like a shooter for a good part of it. But it’s the art style that makes it stand out from the rest, with those beautiful cartoon characters and even more impressive guardian creatures – this is one of those games that you easily spot, even if you don’t like the genre. Our main gripe with Gigantic – besides the gameplay that still needs some polishing – is the Windows 10 exclusivity, which could alienate a part of the players who still haven’t decided to upgrade their operating system, even if it’s free. But then again, we could be nitpicking here.
9 – FORTNITE
Fortnite is in development for so long that at some point we thought Epic Games had actually canceled the whole thing. But it’s still on track, currently in alpha and offering some enjoyment to a limited amount of players. We believe it could enjoy some success because it mixes two acclaimed games to a degree that very few have tried so far – the building and fort defense aspects of Minecraft go hand in hand with a cartoonish look not too distant from Team Fortress 2, and the result is a bright, visual effects-heavy game powered by Unreal Engine 4. We’re not sure how big Fortnite will become, but there’s a particular identity and co-op charm to it that could appeal to many players. And it’s Epic Games.
We’ve said a few times before that we were hoping for Ghost in the Shell to get a proper, full-fledged MMORPG treatment. However, we’re not the bitter kind and we are pleased with the prospect of shooting the heck out of the Section 9 characters in Ghost in the Shell Online. Quite frankly, the name alone could be good enough to get a few thousand, or even million players in the same way that all those fake anime MMORPGs do, but we’re confident that the makers of Dungeon Fighter Online are doing their best to deliver a solid shooter. It’s all looking like a mix between Blacklight: Retribution and Ghost Recon Phantoms, or to make matters even simpler, it’s not far from EA’s Syndicate, with all the skills that you can use, such as stealth, speed, shields or turrets. It’s solid, it’s straightforward, and probably a lot of fun in small bursts.
Unreal Tournament was one of the first proper competitive multiplayer shooters and after many years without a new chapter, Epic Games is developing a new game in a very unconventional way – with direct support from players, taking their feedback since day one and going from there. Modders will also be able to make some money with the assets they create, and the core game will be completely free, without any microtransactions. With such a praiseworthy approach to development and the strength of a name that is still treasured after all these years, Unreal Tournament will probably become one of the top free-to-play shooters when it finally releases. The pre-alpha already looks stunning and very playable, so that’s a good sign.
6 – DRAGOMON HUNTER
Dragomon Hunter comes from the makers of Aura Kingdom and we’re confident it will have the same degree of success as that game, if not a bit more. What we think this means is that it will get a nice initial boost of players and revenue during open beta and early launch, ultimately settling for a decent playerbase for a couple of years. It’s the chibi anime look that will capture the most attention from players desperately wanting something good in the genre, but the monster hunting gameplay could definitely take it a step further. At least until the next game from the same makers, Astral Realm, gets a western release.
5 – TREE OF SAVIOR
Coming from out of nowhere and immediately selling itself as a spiritual sequel to Ragnarok Online, Tree of Savior features a beautiful old-school MMORPG style. With many classes and a great visual style, we had a feeling that Tree of Savior was going to capture a lot of attention and when an English release was announced, we jumped with joy. After being greenlit on Steam in less than ten hours, we were certain that this is going to be one of the big names of 2016. Although the first English beta proved that there’s still a lot of work to do, it was also a great showcase for the potential of this game.
4 – H1Z1
At this moment, H1Z1 isn’t much more than a prototype that could lead to great things. It’s also trying to be like that other zombie success story called DayZ, but we all know just how difficult it is to create such a game where so many systems are at work. That’s why it can crash a lot and has bugs that are more terrifying than any zombie horde, but that was mentioned by the developers when it entered early access. However, we can already see that it is getting a lot of attention – and sales – and considering that there is a distinct lack of zombie survival MMOs, it is already shaping up to be a huge success. Even if development keeps on dragging and it still takes a year or two before a proper version launches, H1Z1 is already one of a kind and an enjoyable beast of an experience that just needs polish, polish and more polish before everything else.
3 – PALADINS: CHAMPIONS OF THE REALM
There’s nothing like the boost from a successful game such as SMITE, both in confidence and in cash. With that driving force, Hi-Rez set to develop another game in the same ilk, called Paladins: Champions of the Realm. SMITE also gave the studio the know-how and resources that will prevent it from creating another interesting but quickly forgotten game such as Global Agenda, meaning that Paladins will benefit from the added experience. With the huge demand for competitive shooters with eSports focus, Paladins will surely get a lot of attention from SMITE fans and not just them – if it turns out as exciting and frequently updated as that game, Paladins could be big.
A lot of you will probably disagree, based on some of the criticism that the Korean version of Black Desert Online is getting recently, but we’re pretty sure that it will still be a hit in North America and Europe. Even if gameplay is said to be solo-friendly, grindy and easy, this will not stop doubtful players from trying the game to see if it’s really like that. On the other hand, many will definitely play it because it’s one beautiful MMO, with one of the best character creation systems ever designed, and the game world is often awe-inspiring. Black Desert looks amazing, moves with grace and has so much to explore that we can’t help but feel that many players will be counting the days for the launch of the western servers.
1 – BLADE & SOUL
Here’s another game that won’t be consensual. Blade & Soul has gone from incredibly anticipated to probably dead to finally nearing release, and we’re aware that it lost some fans along the way. However, at least to us, it hasn’t lost any of its charm and is still a strong MMO game with beautiful, unique visuals, exciting action combat, a lush world and a story that is miles ahead of what other MMORPGs have to offer. Even if it won’t have the same impact as if it was released in 2013, we’re pretty sure it will still be capable of driving many players crazy with all its assets – pun intended.
These are some of our favorite success stories to be, but there are certainly others that we had to leave out of this top, including Overwatch (still unconfirmed if it’s free-to-play, although likely). Although we can’t guess the future, and neither can you, let us know if you agree with our predictions and what other games you feel will be very successful.