The online gaming industry is booming as more people begin to see the benefits of dynamic gameplay, social communities, and fresh content. There is much untapped potential in the MMORPG platform because it is still a relatively new way of experiencing popular franchises. There are many top MMORPGs upcoming in 2009 and beyond. Online games of the future will continue to build up on their predecessors and truly achieve the next-generation status. Here are the most anticipated MMORPGs to be released. Gameplay features and release dates are subject to change.

Stargate Worlds – Release Date: Q4 2009

Stargate Worlds will be based on the hit television show, Stargate SG-1. An MMORPG game placed in a science-fiction universe of this magnitude has been long desired by fans worldwide. The storyline will highlight the earlier seasons of the show and the main setting at release will be the Milky Way Galaxy. The war between Goa’uld and the Tau’ri rages on, one of many conflicts between races in the show.

Stargate Worlds

Players will be able to choose certain archetypes, which operate differently from other traditional MMORPGs. There is no particular ‘tank’ class or ‘healer’ class. Instead, a highly flexible tech tree can be used to customize your character in endless ways. Each archetype will have three specialization trees that give the player the ability to have hybrid roles. Combat will emphasize first-person shooter concepts and tactical gameplay. The weapons will be diverse and the enemy AI will prove to be a challenge.

Aion: The Tower of Eternity – Release Date: Q4 2009

Aion: The Tower of Eternity is one of the most anticipated MMORPGs to come out in 2009. Released in Korea, the game went on to win “Best Korean Game of the Year” in 2008, praised for its epic scale and incredible graphics. Following critical acclaim and popularity in Asia, the North American version of the game will be launched in the US in late 2009.

Aion Tower of Eternity

Based in a dream fantasy universe, Aion incorporates never-before seen features such as the ability to fly and even fight while flying. With the power of the CryEngine, there are breath-taking visuals and diverse environments. Avatars are highly customizable (adjustable height, facial features, weight, hair styles, skin tones, tattoos, and more) and the PvP system rewards you “points” for killing fellow players. As you win more battles and lay waste to your enemies, your wings will change appearance, your rank will grow, and you can purchase powerful gear with the points you earn.

There are a total of twelve classes and eight professions in the game (production and gathering), giving your character many styles of play. Do not miss this one.

Champions Online – Release Date: July 14th, 2009

Champions Online is the next-gen MMO project headed by the creators of City of Heroes. It will be the first MMORPG to allow PC gamers and Xbox 360 gamers to play together at the same time. The combat will be real-time and fast paced, but with elements of strategy still in place.

It is the extensive customizability of characters in this game that makes it one to look forward to. The number of things you can do to create your character is unparalled in today’s industry. You can edit the way your character moves (a ‘wolf’-like superhero would travel on all fours) and even alter the forms and colors of special abilities, such as heat rays.

Champions Online

Combat is all about action and focuses on strategic offensive moves as well as defensive moves (such as block). These actions can be mapped on four buttons (block as a shoulder button). Your hero character must protect Millennium City and become a harbinger of justice. But here’s a twist. Every player can create his or her own custom arch-nemesis (similar to your hero character’s creation), who appears at different points of the player’s career. Champions Online is confirmed for release on July 14th, 2009.

DC Universe Online – TBA 2010

DC Universe Online is another super-hero based action MMORPG, with one of the most popular comic franchises in the world behind it. You can battle alongside superheroes and villains such as Batman, The Joker, Superman, Wonder Woman, and others. Players can create their own personal heroes (or you can take the darker path as a villain) within the full scope of the DC universe.

DC Universe Online

You will have the ability to have a Justice League or Legion of Doom communicator based on your allegiance, which will determine how NPCs and other players will react to you. DC Universe Online is scheduled for release between late 2009 and early 2010. It will pit all the forces of the DC universe in an action-packed online game – who will emerge victorious?

Star Trek Online – Release Date: TBA 2009-2010

Star Trek Online, being developed by Cryptic Studios, will depict the future of the Star Trek universe. It will have new worlds, civilizations, and a huge universe of the cosmos to explore. You will get a chance to be a captain and commandeer your own spaceship. In addition, you can lead a number of crewmen (NPC controlled). Fans of the hit series should not miss this title because there will be many references to major characters, locations, and other famous storylines in the game.

Star Trek Online

On the ground, the combat will be fast paced, and in space, players can use many tactical positions to find strengths and weaknesses in enemy ships (as well as smart balance between using weapons and shielding). The game world will be massive enough that players can explore uncharted territory and discover new planets. An ingame Galactic Economy will also be present, which is reminiscent of EVE Online.

Star Wars: The Old Republic – Release Date: TBA 2009-2010

Star Wars: The Old Republic, being developed by Bioware, is possibly the most anticipated MMORPG of 2009. It will be the newest online game based on the Star Wars universe; its setting takes place 300 years after the events of the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series.

The conflict between the Galactic Republic and Sith Empire has escalated, giving players the chance to join either side but also the chance to determine their own moralities in a complex universe. There will be a class system (Bounty Hunter has been announced, exclusive to the Sith Empire) and players will be able to choose NPC-controlled ‘companion’ characters that form up the party. Conversations and actions you take influence these companions, developing the ongoing story of your character itself.

Star Wars The Old Republic

Every class will have its own storyline and there will be many planets and cities to explore, such as Coruscant. The hype is high and Bioware has stated that there is more content in the game than all currently released Bioware games “combined”.

Guild Wars 2 – Release Date: TBA 2010-2011

Guild Wars 2 is the upcoming sequel to the hit MMORPG Guild Wars, being developed by ArenaNet. It will be radically different from the first title, such as giving the player the ability to move in all three dimensions and interact with a dynamic environment (breaking obstacles and even setting things on fire).

Guild Wars 2

There will be four new playable races and other features, such as a persistent world; unlike the instanced-based system of the original (but there will still be instanced areas for the main plot). World-scale PvP will be one of the major aspects of the game. While players cannot transfer their characters from Guild Wars to Guild Wars 2, the names they’ve chosen will be available to use again. Players will also be able to port achievements they won in the previous title to the sequel.

Jumpgate Evolution – Release Date: June 23rd, 2009

Jumpgate:Evolution is the upcoming MMORPG sequel to Jumpgate: The Reconstructive Initiative, being developed by NetDevil. There have been major improvements to gameplay and a new graphics engine has been implemented.

Jumpgate Evolution

Players can ‘jump’ to brand new locations and face looming threats in space, such as pirates and members of the opposing faction. This time low-tier PCs can run the visuals and play smoother than before. In addition to the increased accessibility, players can use joysticks to enhance the gameplay experience. You can play as one of three nations and fight epic battles in space with thousands of players in real-time. There are no classes in the game and combat will be twitch-based.

Earthrise – Release Date: H2 2009

Headed by Masthead Studios, Earthrise encompasses a great clash between two factions – the authoritarian corporate government and the rebellious order known as the Noir. There will be a player-driven economy, a skill-based character system, and a robust PvP system (with elements of a 1st person shooter game from a 3rd person perspective).Earthrise

It is a post-apocalyptic world where players will have the chance to shape the new beginning of mankind or create a powerful dystopia. Other notable gameplay features include a complex crafting system and even an offline progression mode which allows you to increase your scientific knowledge, earn income, and become immersed in the social facet of the game.

Fallout Online (Project V13) – Release Date: TBA

The post-apocalyptic setting never gets old and few franchises have depicted it better than the Fallout series. Project V13 (Fallout Online) is the codename for this upcoming MMORPG (also known as Fallout Online), though it’s not yet officially announced.

Fallout Online

The game is currently being developed by Interplay and Masthead Studios, including Chris Taylor, one of the creators of Fallout. Little is known about the game so far but the potential scope of an MMORPG set in this particular universe makes it a highly anticipated release. It will utilize the same engine as Earthrise (also being developed by Masthead Studios) and will most likely integrate the characteristic SPECIAL system of the series to determine the skills, abilities, and specializations of player characters. Some things are guaranteed to be in for sure – ghouls, super mutants, nuclear radiation, and explosive battles.

Untitled Next-Gen Square Enix MMORPG (Rapture) – Release Date: TBA

Rapture is the codename for the new MMORPG currently under development by Square Enix. Little is known about the project and it is not confirmed whether or not it will be a sequel to Final Fantasy XI or even related to the Final Fantasy series. It has been announced that the Untitled Square Enix MMORPG will be released on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Vista-running PCs. The title will run on the Crystal Tools game engine, built by Square Enix, which allows high-scale CGI graphics to be rendered in real-time, with the potential to “recreate battle scenes reminiscent of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children,” as stated by Tetsuya Nomura.

Untitled Next-Gen Blizzard MMORPG – Release Date: TBA

After the monumental success of World of Warcraft (over 11 million subscribers), it’s surprising Blizzard has resources left to create another MMORPG. The question is: how can they follow up on such a breakthrough? However, the Untitled Next-Gen Blizzard MMORPG has been announced to exist but very little information is known about it.

Jeff Kaplan, a lead game designer of World of Warcraft, posted in the official forums that he has redirected his time to the “upcoming, unannounced MMO.” Mike Morhaime, the CEO of Blizzard, confirmed that it will not be a sequel to WoW and stated, “It’s gonna be different.”

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