Working As Intended: The MMOs we lost in 2015

It’s become tradition to fare well the MMOs that sunsetted in the preceding year, but that wasn’t always the case. At the beginning of 2015, in saying goodbye to 2014’s sunsetted games, I tried to put that into perspective.

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about how Vanguard’s early stumbles foreshadowed the changing MMORPG industry. In January 2007, when Vanguard lurched its way to launch, the genre was barely a decade old; it was booming, and it had never suffered hardship on a massive scale. In the west, we’d seen only three “major” MMOs sunset (Motor City Online, Earth and Beyond, and Asheron’s Call 2), and only one MMO, Anarchy Online, had “gone F2P,” though we hadn’t yet thought to call it yet because it was such a rare and new thing. In fact, it wasn’t until 2008’s first big wave of AAA, post-World of Warcraft MMOs launched and mostly flopped that MMORPG players gave much thought to the future of the genre and how WoW had reshaped (and possibly broken) it. Maybe not even then.

In 2016 and in 2015, sunsets are increasingly common, a result of market oversaturation, business model struggles, and changing gamer tastes and investment options. Let’s revisit the games we lost in 2015 and consider what their sunsets portend for the year ahead.

Dragon’s Prophet

Pretty much no one was surprised when Daybreak announced it was closing down Dragon’s Prophet last fall; in fact, our own readers voted it Daybreak’s most endangered MMO as far back as February of last year. The good news is that Daybreak shut down fewer games in 2015 than it did in 2014 and that Dragon’s Prophet continues as a productive game in Europe under the guidance of Infernum Games.

Infinite Crisis

Infinite Crisis

Infinite Crisis was not an MMORPG; it was a MOBA. And yet it was MMO developer’s Turbine’s next big thing, a MOBA with an ace in the hole in the form of the popular DC Universe IP. It had barely launched in 2015 when the shuttering announcement came down. “Unfortunately, as the MOBA market matured around us as we were building the game, we simply couldn’t find enough of an audience,” Turbine wrote, worrying players that the company’s MMOs – Lord of the Rings Online, Dungeons and Dragons Online, and the Asheron’s Call franchise – might likewise be in jeopardy, though so far, those fears seem unfounded.

Final Fantasy XI

Technically, Final Fantasy XI has not sunsetted. You can still log in and play it right now. But in 2015, Square-Enix announced that it was putting the game into permanent maintenance mode, believing efforts would be better spent on the more modern and wildly successful Final Fantasy XIV sequel. FFXI’s November update was meant to be its final story update, but updates continue anyway now in spite of its producer farewell and sibling send-off. Support for PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360, however, will end this coming March.

RaiderZ

Perfect World doesn’t sunset many games, but action-MMO RaiderZ was subjected to the chopping block back in August. Original developer MAIET went out of business, which left PWE unable to troubleshoot persistent server issues or “deliver a quality experience,” as the company’s farewell letter put it.

Hellgate

Hellgate has launched and sunsetted so many times since its original 2007 launch that we’ve lost count. In October, it died on T3Fun’s watch. Don’t be too sad, though; it’s inevitable that it’ll be sold and reborn again. You probably still won’t play it.

The Stomping Land

Here’s one of the rare games to sunset in absolute disgrace: After raising a tremendous amount of money on Kickstarter and selling the game in early access, The Stomping Land’s creator vanished and abandoned the game, becoming the pet example of crowdfunding’s many detractors.

Need for Speed World

Racing MMO Need for Speed World “entered its final lap” this past July. “What ultimately killed the game was a lack of feature development to accompany the game’s ongoing content updates, which means that bringing the game up to par with more modern racers would require an overhaul that just isn’t possible,” we wrote back in April.

faceofmankind

Face of Mankind

Sandbox Face of Mankind began development in 2001 and threw in the towel in 2015, surpassing its own developers’ expectations, who nevertheless deemed the game “too old to create new, meaningful content [with] visuals [that] aren’t on par with newer releases that come out on an almost daily basis.” The official website still stands today and contains a massive wiki with extensive lore underpinning the game.

ArchLord 2

ArchLord 2 is a particularly hard sunset to stomach because it was the sequel to ArchLord, which also sunsetted, only this time, its players have nowhere to go. “Archlord 2 has been a great adventure for all of us, and we sincerely hope that you have enjoyed your time with the game and the friends you made while playing it,” Webzen told players. “We know we have.” Webzen also handled the shutdown with class, refunding cash shop purchases.

Transformers Universe

We eulogized Transformers Universe last year, but technically, the plug wasn’t pulled until January of 2015, when Jagex formally laid to rest yet another of its foundered gaming projects.

Triad Wars

And then there’s Triad Wars, which just before Christmas announced it was never leaving beta and would instead be sunsetted on January 20th, 2016.

Other closures and cancellations

While those listed above were some of the more prominent games, we also saw regional variants shuttered, gaming services reaching their ends, and a number of game cancellations to boot. We lost:

Hope for the future

Not every game that shuts down stays dead. Rusty Hearts, for example, sunsetted in 2014 but returned as a mobile game in 2015. World of Darkness was canceled in 2014, but this past year, CCP sold the entire franchise and the WoD game assets to Paradox Games, giving players hope that the IP might be put to good use after all. Dungeon Fighter Online and Dream of Mirror Online both returned from the dead, too, and other dead games live on in emulation form and tribute. Here’s to all the MMOs that were bested by 2015: Thank you for entertaining us while you lasted.

The MMORPG genre might be “working as intended,” but it can be so much more. Join Massively Overpowered Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce in her Working As Intended column for editorials about and meanderings through MMO design, ancient history, and wishful thinking. Armchair not included.
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34 Comments on "Working As Intended: The MMOs we lost in 2015"

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Cramit
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Cramit

Out of all of these games, FFXI is the one that I miss the most.  Sure it is just in MM and is still chugging along but there are very few PVE group based games and honestly FFXI is the one game that took the kinda world EQ started and took the grouping to the next level.  Their group system was awesome and I really miss this type of gameplay.  Honestly I should probably go back and play again but man it was so much fun.

Skill Chains, Skill Chains, Skill Chains!!!

Okiee Napalm
Guest
Okiee Napalm

Oh, poor, sad Moonrise. How I had hopes for you, how your cancellation makes me sad for the future of monster-battler MMOs. Maybe I’m a little less worried because you didn’t feel like an mmo as much as a single player game with pvp… But, you know, all the same, I hope this doesn’t discourage anybody from nurturing their always-online monster battler concepts, if there are any.
…who do I email to get the legal rights to Toddlerock he was the best

JakeDunnegan
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JakeDunnegan

scary how many of those I’d never even heard of. SMH.
I think the real irony is the name of this article line “Working as intended”. – wasn’t that a Smedley line? Or maybe Brad McQuaid? And it was always cringe inducing, since it was usually the answer to a complaint about exactly the opposite.
It’s definitely an appropriate name for this column, though, since usually a game fails because they aren’t listening to their customers. Instead, we usually spouted some kind of boilerplate dev-speak, and the devs find out soon enough that the real answer should have been, “We hear you, and we’re going to bust our butts making it right.”

BKone
Guest
BKone

Greaterdivinity Sorenthaz Just put together the news bits and it will be easy:
if this summer Blizzard successfully transfers Warcarft IP to movies then I wouldn’t bet on LOTRO’s license extending. Also WB reboots D&D movies, they already have a director. So DDO and NW seems to be safe.
But any other western fantasy MMO is in danger zone from summer. Unless it’s developed on shoestring budget by 1 or 2 dudes.

LordOfBread
Guest
LordOfBread

In a decade of MMO shutdowns the only ones that bothered be were SWG and CCP stopping World of Darkness development.

Neo_Wolf
Guest
Neo_Wolf

Hellgate is a fantastic setting idea, it just needs a proper MMORPG engine and design to drive it instead of some cheap rinse and repeat FPS rubbish.

ManastuUtakata
Guest
ManastuUtakata

schlag sweetleaf 
Though that gif makes me want to go pee for some reason. :(

AlexSmithWI
Guest
AlexSmithWI

lasterror They get their games super cheap I imagine.  Besides MMOHUTS put it as one of the best games for 2015(Echo of Soul that is).  God what a joke that site is :P.

lasterror
Guest
lasterror

Always shocked Aeria is still in business.  Echo Of Soul English was forgotten by everyone within months of launch.  And apparently nobody else in the world wanted that game either.   Scarlet Blade English is apparently still running.  No idea how given the extremely low number of players and the rest of the world save Korea having given up on that game a year ago.   It can’t possibly be long before they pull the plug on the English version.        

Meanwhile, over at ESTGames, Cabal II struggled into beta and I guess release.  “expect graphics even better than Crysis!” MMOSite said.  BULL.  It looked awful, frame rates dipped into single digits and it lagged more than the sled they tow at tractor pulls.   The gold spamming was as bad as I have ever seen anywhere and EST did nothing to stop it.  Hordes of players who’d spent money on founder’s packs gave up and quit during the beta, not even willing to tolerate it into release  I was part of a guild which had about 100 members.  Logged in one day and discovered almost the entire guild had quit the game over the span of a weekend, leaving behind protest messages.  The game was almost devoid of real players at that point but plenty of gold spammers remained.   Cabal II might be a contender for worst launch of 2015.

Geering
Guest
Geering

The Hellgate servers are still up.

I tried connecting on a lark, I still have all my characters there.

Didn’t see anybody else, though. :(

Nanulak
Guest
Nanulak

Consumers have spoken with their wallets.  All working as it should.  Next we need the industry to adopt a 10 day money back guarantee to hasten the demise of bad products.

mjcbarnes
Guest
mjcbarnes

Lotro is doing much better now than it was a year or two ago. I think they have a solid enough player base to keep going. I was worried a few years ago that it would shut down after 2017, but I think if things continue as they are now and development doesn’t drastically change direction, it’ll probably be worth it for them to renew the IP license yet again. After the server merges, it’s become apparent that there’s way more active players in that game than I realized. I think it’ll keep trucking along for quite a few years to come. It’ll never be a giant, but it seems to be doing well enough for Turbine and has recovered some from the Kate Paiz years.

doc_miller
Guest
doc_miller

Greaterdivinity vicariousfan I think their biggest problem was trying to male a MOBA with DC skin, when they should have made a DC game with MOBA mechanics.  They geared development towards genre vets, effectively eliminating the pull the IP gave them.  They should have planned from day one that this would be a game full of newbs who loved the IP, and developed towards that crowd, eg by having a well developed tutorial in place from the start of beta, and more hand-holding game modes to bring the built-in audience along towards the “real” MOBA experience.

Greaterdivinity
Guest
Greaterdivinity

Nyphur Jokes about vampires and needing to be alive to die etc.
: /

Greaterdivinity
Guest
Greaterdivinity

vicariousfan They did it twice, actually. Guardians of Middle Earth (which I think is still alive despite nobody playing) was published by them.
Honestly, the biggest issue was their prolonged beta. It killed off a lot of potential hype and made the launch community much smaller than it would have normally been. They’d already lost most of their playerbase by the time they launched, so they were launching from a very weak position.

Archebius
Guest
Archebius

Quincha Nyphur I think that universe would have been great for an MMO, though. Obsidian makes pretty good RPGs, but WoD could have been so much more.
Granted, the few glimpses that we’ve seen into CCP’s process doesn’t give much hope it would have been that, but…

vicariousfan
Guest
vicariousfan

I’m still shocked WB tried to enter the Moba world with a DC moba…  I love DC comics however this was just a bad idea.  I mean even when it was first announced the market was already saturated.

Archebius
Guest
Archebius

Raise a glass.
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4egb2gpIg4

Jemmyt
Guest
Jemmyt

Dead Island : Epidemic.

Bingin
Guest
Bingin

wjowski That’s not how MMOs work.

CthulhuDawg
Guest
CthulhuDawg

Nyphur I know /sigh I so wanted to recreate my Lasombra Cardinal of Chicago, though I doubt the systems would have allowed for me to advance that far up the hierarchy. Still draining kine in the streets just to piss off the Camarilla would have been awesome.

Nyphur
Guest
Nyphur

World of Darkness :(

Damonvile
Guest
Damonvile

Etcher Don’t think of it as you failed to support those games. Think of it as they failed to make you want to.

shadowblender
Guest
shadowblender

WTF the stomping land won’t be anymore?

Greaterdivinity
Guest
Greaterdivinity

Sorenthaz I’d imagine that if Turbine/WB doesn’t want to extend the license it that it will close down. I doubt they can transfer the game itself over to another developer/publisher, assuming one would want to pick it up.
I’d be totally down with a more sandboxy LOTRO game with modern visuals. I keep meaning (I know, broken record) to give LOTRO itself another go and actually pay attention to the story (something I generally don’t do in theme parks) but between a lack of time and a general personal dislike of most of the character models/animations it’s tough : /

Sorenthaz
Guest
Sorenthaz

Greaterdivinity ComradeStanimir I wonder what will happen though in 2017 if it does expire without renewal.  Will it just be shut down, or be allowed to operate with nothing new added?
Part of me hopes that a more sandboxy Middle Earth MMO could rise out of it, but that would still take several years, most likely.   Or maybe Turbine whips out a surprise LotRO 2.0 type thing, but kind of doubt that.
But that’s the problem with licensed MMOs I guess.

Oleg Chebeneev
Guest
Oleg Chebeneev

I hope Face of Mankind will has reincarnation in the future with modern graphics and systems. It had really good concept behind it, ultimate roleplaying MMO.

Etcher
Guest
Etcher

I never played any if them! Am I to blame for their closure? :-/

Greaterdivinity
Guest
Greaterdivinity

ComradeStanimir They have the license until 2017, so it’s safe for this year.

Greaterdivinity
Guest
Greaterdivinity

wjowski I…what?

schlag sweetleaf
Guest
schlag sweetleaf
ComradeStanimir
Guest
ComradeStanimir

Not a bad year (regarding MMOs), when all is said and done. I worry about LOTRO, though, in this next year.

enamelizer
Guest
enamelizer

Honestly not too bad compared to previous years. This reads more like the bottom tier games being sloughed off due to a competitive market.

I think this year and the next will be worse as some of the croudfunded titles struggle to find breathing room in a market where MMOs have become out of fashion, while at the same time plentiful.

Greaterdivinity
Guest
Greaterdivinity

Honestly, I don’t thinks have changed too much. We’re still seeing regular closures of the small, low budget Asian imports, which has been going on for years, so that’s pretty much a constant. On the bright side, those seem to be slowing their entry to the West (and/or entering very quietly), which is a pretty good indicator of the F2P/MMO playerbase “maturing” (for lack of a better word) alongside the current market.
IMO the only “big” change is the advent of early access and prolonged paid betas leading to more mid-sized games attempting to break into the F2P market (of various genres), especially using big name IP’s. This is leading to a mixture of successes and failures, with Infinite Crisis and Triad Wars being prime examples of this. And Firefall doesn’t seem to be far behind, despite The9 bailing them out in a major way once already.
It’s still sad to see these games lose down, but this is Darwin, baby. SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST!

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