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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
- Lord of the Rings Online's Russian branch
- RIFT's mobile app
- PlanetSide 2's Korean version
- Allods Online's Chinese servers
- T3Fun’s With Your Destiny's and Asta's South Korean servers
- Zynga's MOBA Solstice Arena
- Sins of a Dark Age MOBA
- Long-time guild website service Guild Portal
- Echo of Soul's Chinese and Korean versions
- Korean shooter Dizzel
- Grand Chase, to be replaced by Elsword in the west
- The OnLive portal
- Borderlands Online (canceled)
- Steam's co-op sandbox Windborne (canceled)
- Undead Labs' Moonrise (canceled)
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.