The Soapbox: Your favorite MMO is going to die

Your favorite MMO is going to die. Don’t take it personally, though; every other MMO is going to shut down, too. That includes my favorites and everyone else’s favorites.

Do you like Final Fantasy XIV? It’s going to shut down. WildStar? It’ll shut down. Ultima Online? Oh, yes, the shutdown is coming. The Secret World? Guild Wars 2? The Elder Scrolls Online? Destiny (yes, I meant to leave off the 2, I mean the original)? RIFT, Trove, Black Desert, Revelation Online, Crowfall? All of the above will shut down.

But don’t get up in arms about this. Seriously, relax, take a deep breath, maybe hum a little William Shatner tune. All of these games are going to shut down, but that’s just because every single MMO exists in one of three states: not yet launched, shut down, or waiting to be shut down. And as cynical as that may seem, I think accepting that truth is going to do wonders for all of us when it comes time for the next unexpected shutdown. Because it’s going to happen.

You're going to die.I understand where the assumption comes from, of course. The whole point of these games is that they’re persistent over an extended period of time. I talked a couple of weeks back in an Overthinking response about that persistence of character, the idea that what you did today is going to ripple outward forever. That’s an act with an impact; it doesn’t just vanish. Thinking “well, the game’s going to shut down” sort of shoots that down instantly.

But there are no MMOs that last forever. None. Several of them haven’t yet shut down, but those ones are still going go shut down eventually. Several of them won’t shut down for many years yet, but the day will come when the servers go down and won’t come back online.

How am I so sure? Well, because it’s happened a lot already. But it’s not even unusual. The majority of creative things last for a while and then go away. Television shows, blogs, comic books… any sort of serial medium eventually ends. Your favorite band will put out a final album at some point, and even if no one is expecting that this is the last album or the last tour, you never know when Chris Cornell will die unexpectedly and ensure that he’s never going to sing another word.

I once saw a particularly unusual piece arguing that life is a series of last moments you don’t realize are the last moment except in hindsight. At some moment, you will say “I love you” to a parent for the last time, or you’ll go to a restaurant for the last time, or you’ll watch a beloved film for the last time. And you don’t realize it’s the last time until much, much later.

We, as a community, have to start accepting this. MMOs are going to die. Some of them are going to outright shut down, some of them will stay online with no real updates. Some of them will continue on in a remarkably active maintenance mode that still promises no new big content. And some of them will keep going actively for a very long time, but eventually every one of them is going to end.

It happens everywhere else, after all. Firefly didn’t last forever; neither did Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Law & Order seemed like it would go on forever, but then it got canned, and a spinoff got canned almost instantly when long-time favorite Jerry Orbach passed away unexpectedly. At some point, we’ll see the last issues of Saga and The Walking Dead hit the stands. Game of Thrones has an endpoint the showrunners have known from the beginning.

Here’s the really weird thing: In most cases, endings are, if not welcome, at least expected and somewhat desired. I personally really wish that the last Barenaked Ladies album were Everything to Everyone, since their subsequent albums have been missing something. (First figuratively and then literally when Page left the band.) We were getting great Simpsons episodes right up until we weren’t, and at this point the dang thing is shambling along as a zombie. I have criticisms about the ending of Transformers Animated and Deep Space Nine, but the shows set out to tell a story and they told it rather than just faffing about endlessly and avoiding resolution at all costs compared to, say, the X-Files.

This isn't alive yet, but it, too, is going to die.

Am I saying that I’m happy City of Heroes shut down? Of course I wasn’t happy when it happened; I enjoyed the game, it was one of my favorites. But it wasn’t some unfathomable crime without compare, just something unpleasant that happened. And if I’m being totally honest, I prefer the game shutting down when it did to what’s wound up happening with, say, World of Warcraft.

Sure, I can’t log in and enjoy Paragon City any longer. But I can’t log in and enjoy Azeroth any longer, either, and I haven’t really been happy with what’s been done with that game since the third expansion. Given two options of making something I loved inaccessible, I prefer the one that’s more obvious about it.

This one is arguably dying even sooner than it seems.It’s really one of the most predictable events out there. Games will shut down, and if you’re lucky, it will be when that game has accomplished most of what the designers set out to do originally. You’ll have memories and joy of the times when it was around, but it will at some point no longer be around. And that’s just fine.

So why do we need to accept this so badly? Well, partly because if it’s going to happen anyway, getting upset every time it does happen makes us seem like we’re unable to recall what happened a few months ago. This is a reality, and it’s going to happen. You may have been lucky so far, you may have avoided losing any MMOs you really love, but you will not be lucky forever. It will happen.

Moreover, it encourages you to focus on playing the games you enjoy rather than just trying every new thing under the sun. If you like Lord of the Rings Online, play that. Play the heck out of it. Work on the next project you want to accomplish there now. The game won’t be around forever, and it’s better to make the memories you want with it now rather than hoping you get another shot later on.

Plus, you know, realizing that all of these games are temporary makes you far more capable of appreciating the games while you have them. In less than a month, I’m going to be playing the second FFXIV expansion. I never expected the game to get one expansion. If this is the last one ever, we still got more expansions than I would have expected, and I’m happy for both of them. And it means I can look forward and say “yeah, we probably have two or three more expansions left in the game’s lifespan” without any sort of ire.

It’s not going to last forever. It’s going to last as long as it does, and then it won’t be around any more. And rather than being upset that it’s temporary, what’s important is that we got to see it at all.

So recognize that your favorite game will go away, that it will shut down and fade into memory. That’s all right. It’s inevitable. And it’s normal. So enjoy it while it lasts.

Everyone has opinions, and The Soapbox is how we indulge ours. Join the Massively OP writers as we take turns atop our very own soapbox to deliver unfettered editorials a bit outside our normal purviews (and not necessarily shared across the staff). Think we’re spot on — or out of our minds? Let us know in the comments!
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72 Comments on "The Soapbox: Your favorite MMO is going to die"

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zoward

And as usual, art imitates life – we’re all going to die someday as well. If I can’t handle a game shutting down, well, staring down my own mortality is going to be a real bummer…

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Mari, Ojibwe Writer

I mean, I get the gist of the article, but damn Elliot. Kinda Grimdark there.

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Kevin McCaughey

I don’t think Everquest will shut down in my lifetime. I think I will die and it will still be going.

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aleccia_rosewater

If the MMO in question is truely great then the cultural impact will remain for decades to come

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Rottenrotny

Yes, get rid of them all. Start with a clean slate.
Personally I would enjoy this immensely.

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mistressbrazen

I think Eliot’s position is well stated. I couldn’t believe it when they announced Glitch was closing. I was in a funk for weeks. I was feeling the same about the impending doom of TSW, but though I’m still angry at Funcom for its deception and the crappy way it is treating the players who kept the company alive for these past four years….I’m over it now. I played both games lovingly and enjoyed their unique environments so much. I still miss Glitch and I will miss TSW as well when the servers are closed, but in the final analysis, life moves on and hopefully something else will come along and satisfy the itch to experiment with an environment that is unique, meaning not fantasy and where I am not trapped in a ship. I am now forcing myself to look forward to the future instead of looking back at what was lost.

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murmillo

Does that mean that the first ever MMO World of Warcraft is going to shut down as well?

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mistressbrazen

WoW wasn’t the first MMO.

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David Carson

And you weren’t the first person to miss staggeringly obvious sarcasm.

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Dean Greenhoe

This is a great point. Nothing lasts forever. The good news is, for reasons unknown, I no longer have the desire to play a game for years on end like when the industry first launched. Now a days, after only a few months in a game I get an itch to try something different.

I think we are now better adjusted to change than we were decades ago. Today’s tech is moving so fast that we expect that high of a new game much more frequently.

Face it, we want what we want and we want it now. So, expect the “end” for a game to come sooner and sooner as time goes on.

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Bryan Correll

Geez. I hope some sort of wang related gaming news comes along so Elliot can cheer up.

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Nick Smith

I am a sad panda.

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Schmidt.Capela

First, you can’t quite compare something like a TV series to a common MMO. I can go back and watch a TV series again any time I want — I’m about halfway through binge-(re)watching everything Star Trek that is in Netflix, for example. The same is true for books, movies, offline games, etc; those things might not be continued anymore, but I get to experience then again as often as I want. For all intents and purposes, they will never truly die.

Second, something similar can happen with MMOs. In some cases we have emulators, in other cases the devs themselves are making the game a MMO/Offline hybrid where you can play the game in either mode. In either case, I will be able to relive at least part of the experience long after the official servers have died.

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SmugglerSteel

You took the words right out of my mouth the unfitting comparson of TV, books, or comics to MMO.

I’d add too, that it seems almost scam’ish when you put it this way: MMO’s are games you often pay 100’s (or more) over the coarse of it’s run, yet will eventually loose all access too. It’s not true scam obviously because you know this as a condition of spending that money. Though it seems odd that game I spent only 20 to 60 bucks for I can still play years and years later, but the game I spent 100’s on your just SOL on eventually. I think people are starting to see that for the bad investment it is at the very least on sub-conscious level, and is part of what is hurting MMOs.

Companies also need to start thinking about the fact they work to build a community around a MMO. For them it’s good business to do so as it fosters people to stick around. Yet little thought is given to breaking up the community when the end comes. It’s often done in rather callus way and creates bitter feels toward the company. This hurts them in the long run, as people will pass over their future products. You can’t build a lovely little village in real life, then few years later bulldoze the house over night and not expect people not to be pissed at you. You only need to look at the army of people that swore off SOE due to it’s handling of SWG, or people that swore off NCSoft for it’s handling of City of Heroes to see treating the community you fostered nothing more like a piggy bank to be smash it will hurt you in the long run.

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Mari, Ojibwe Writer

You’re not paying to own the game. You’re paying to own the experiences and memories you make there. If you paid, then it’s on you to accept that.

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Nordavind

*Star Trek Netflix binge watching in progress fistbump*

django857
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django857

Earth & Beyond but i do have a great Emulator for it. In a lot of ways its even better because it has the missing classes that EA left out of the game.

PurpleCopper
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PurpleCopper

Really? Now I’m extremely curious when and how World of Warcraft is gonna die.

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thirtymil

The usual formula is you stack up the profit the game is making on one side, and running costs and whether it’s produced by NCSoft on the other side, and shut it down when the second side wins :)

In Warcraft’s case, pre-cross realm zones it would have been easy for Blizzard to control their costs by merging servers and switching off the old blades as they fell out of use, thus keeping their costs below their subs income. These days, with CRZ in place and everything being ‘merged’ a bit more by stealth, it’s hard to tell how it’d work.

I suspect the answer is the lights will only go out when few enough people care about it for it to cause any PR issues.

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Bryan Turner

Nah, WoW has basically crossed a cult following threshold like Star Trek did after it’s Original Series got canned, you will never be able to kill interest in WoW, once you think it’s dead JJ Abrams will get his hands on it like Frankenstein.

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Koshelkin

I think no one of us should plan to play one game forever, so I don’t see the problem with shutdowns.

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Sally Bowls

Suggestion: IMO, there are two other related topics that could serve as a basis for discussion:

1) Will the MMO industry die? Not specific MMOs, but at some point there cease to be MMOs with active developers?

2) If so, what will be the last MMO? Bree has said more than once on the podcast that she did not want to be playing a WoW-clone when she retires. Who knows, but if I had to bet now, I would bet the last MMO will be WoW – for the same reasons I would bet the last cellphone maker will be Samsung and the last x86 maker will be Intel; shrinking markets tend to consolidate and favor the dominant producer. I.e., will they pry a WoW-clone or WoW from Bree’s cold fingers? (FYI outside the US, this is a gun control bumper-sticker slogan)

This is also my objection to the decline of the subscription model. Of course, new sub model MMOs will be rare/tiny/nonexistent. But if we consolidate down to where the last two MMOs with devs are WoW & FFXIV, then that is a future where subs are an increasing % of the market on the way to subs being 100% of the market.

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Koshelkin

I heavily doubt MMO’s will completely die like ever. Escapism will be a thing even in year 2200. That is if the human culture hasn’t undergone very, very fundamental changes. I bet Cpt. Kirk was secretly playing MMO’s, too.

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Sally Bowls

That is very reasonable. Yet look at where we are now. YMMV, but I don’t see a new MMO being announced after New World. (Assuming you discount Kickstarter “opportunities,” as I do.)

But who knows. MMOs are fun and I hope they keep on coming.

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Bryan Turner

Hanging out in a Goldshire Orgy while macking it up as a Demon Hunter (since Kirk has to be so edgy) while blasting classic Beastie Boys tracks.

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Koshelkin

As you say, good sir.

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Sally Bowls

A very good – and very overlooked by many – point. Although, there were two points blended. Stories have arcs: is there any artistic reason to make LotRO book 4 or Rogue Two? Products have product life cycles. At some point, there will be the last production ICE automobile or cellphone or “MMO” (as certified by the that’s-not-a-MMO police on this site.)

But I am excited because, for a change of pace, if I squint just right, I can be more optimistic than the article! Isn’t it effectively a “distinction without a difference” between “WoW will go forever” and “Wow will still be going when you die?”

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Fisty

SWG and WoW are two successfully emulated MMO’s. If enough people want it, some may never die.

Tamanous
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Tamanous

I would say Wow is successfully emulated. SWG requires the original cds which means it has a serious barrier to entry and a diminishing one as those cds become more rare.

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Fisty

That’s not really a serious barrier.

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Schmidt.Capela

Unavailability through official channels is the one situation where I pirate things without a qualm. And I believe many feel the same.

It’s part of the reason I have nearly 500 games on GOG; I purchased there many of the games I had pirated due to them never being available where I live. When a way to get a legitimate copy of those games I had pirated presented itself, I took the chance even for games I never planned to play again.

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Bryan Turner

You forgot the fourth step, private Emulator server.

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Kevin

Sure, I can’t log in and enjoy Paragon City any longer. But I can’t log in and enjoy Azeroth any longer, either, and I haven’t really been happy with what’s been done with that game since the third expansion. Given two options of making something I loved inaccessible, I prefer the one that’s more obvious about it.

That’s…an incredibly selfish way of thinking for the people that still enjoy something you may not, just saying. I don’t particularly enjoy FFXIV as much as I used to anymore, but I would never wish the game to shut down just to vindicate my own personal disdain for the direction it’s taking.

styopa
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styopa

It’s curious that you didn’t use WoW as an example.

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rafael12104

I’m jaded. The older I get the more I remember the travesties of yesteryear. And the result of becoming my grandpa is that I expect shutdowns fair or no. But, it really doesn’t make me appreciate my current game more. Instead it makes me jump from game to game with great ease and no loyalty.

Now. GET OFF MY LAWN!

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

I’m with ya. I feel like I an unable any longer to be fully engaged in any mmo now so I just wander.

/e tromps through your roses with my walker and my pee slippers.

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Reht

My favorite MMO died years ago, unfortunately the studio just hasn’t pulled life support yet.

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McGuffn

The Matrix Online isn’t going to die. You be crazy.

threeknee
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threeknee

Umm… okay? Not sure this was something that needed to be argued.

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Markus Eliassen

What about meridian 59? 32 years old and still up to this date.

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Roger Melly

1996 wasn’t 32 years ago .

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Markus Eliassen

Wait, fuck. I’m stupid. I was thinking of the alpha, released in 1995, but even then that’s 10 years off. My bad.

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enamel

I love a good discussion of existential nihilism in the morning.

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rafael12104

Love the smell of Nier Automata in the morning!

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MesaSage

I think it would take a very good replacement of Tolkien’s world to shut down Lotro. There’s a base level of fan that wants to see that world and explore.

Now Eliot, go write this piece for the WSJ and change the theme to “The Stock Market will one day go downwards.” There’s a fan base that has a hard time with reality.

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Melissa McDonald

The good news is that you will probably have moved on already. EverQuest is still going, but I haven’t played it in years.

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CthulhuDawg

Counterpoint, I’ve had a sub and login daily to EQ for the last 17 years :P

My initial reaction to the article title “YOU SHUT YOUR MOUTH!”

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Schmidt.Capela

Not exactly MMOs, but I have games from the early 90s installed on my computer, as well as emulators with games from the 80s, and play them from time to time.

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CthulhuDawg

Same. I started in 93 with Wolfenstein3d, Doom, Catacomb, SkiFree and Moonlander. My dad brought home a PC from his work, Windows 3.1 if I remember right and they were what was installed on it. Doom still has more play time on my modern gaming behemoth than anything released in the last decade.

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Armsbend

There is no factual basis that all graphic based games have to shut down. It would be more accurate to say, There is absolutely no proof at all that your favorite game will ever be shut down. Because the first one Ultima is still running. You could look at that game, which for all I know it hath never been even discussed as a possible shut-down, and say that it is possible they will go on forever.

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John Kiser

Ultima isn’t even the first one as meridian 59 and some gmuds predate it that are still running. What ends up happening is if the profit margins vs operating costs get to a certain point it isn’t worth it to them.

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Dug From The Earth

Right

Obsolete computer hardware isnt even an issue anymore either, as tech improves, more and more things can be simply run from the cloud, removing the issue of playing much older games on newer machines.

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Mr Poolaty

EMP ENDS ALL!

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Mr Poolaty

FFXI doesn’t die!!

Estranged
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Estranged

Eliot – I hope the readers will take a hard look at what you are saying.

WildStar is a great game, so many refuse to play it because of a potential shutdown – for example.

Self-fulfilling prophecy.

Our friends and guilds can move to other games. All is not lost.

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Jeff

In Wildstars case it really has more to do with how the game was marketed and presented as “A Love letter to TBC… scrubs need not even think about visiting our webpage much less logging on.”

Yes they saw that it cost them a huge potential player base, but it was too late and lets face it they pissed off a lot of those customers and the current belief is”Hey you don’t want us around you just want our income…pass.”

It’s a lesson in alienating people, more than a fear of not playing because of an impending shutdown.

Estranged
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Estranged

Read this website, so many comments on not trying Wildstar, due to their financials.

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ensignedwards

…I don’t think anyone was unaware of this. It’s kind of in “sun rises in the east” territory as far as revelations go.

It’s common sense that nothing lasts forever, and even more common sense that MMOs don’t, since there are costs associated with keeping them operating. Someone has to actively maintain them; they don’t just persist under their own volition.

People don’t get upset when their favourite MMO shuts down because they were labouring under some false impression that the game was going to be around forever. They get upset because they’re losing something important to them, perhaps sooner than they expected to.

I know that everyone I love is going to die sooner or later. I have know this for a very long time, and I have never pretended otherwise. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to get upset when they finally do shuffle off this mortal coil, especially if it happens suddenly and before their time.

I don’t understand what the point of this article is supposed to be.

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James Hicks

I know of at least one that’s designed never to need shutting down – viable with no players, viable with one player, or ten, or a million. Sure, one day, we are all mortal. But an MMO needn’t be, at least not on the scale of a human life.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

I hear Ashes of Creation will add eternal servers if it hits the 5 million mark.

Sorry.

Sorry.

/e turns off snark.

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Reht

Yep, and then you can refer those servers to other people in your social network who can then refer their servers to people in their network to keep it going forevah!!!!!!

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

I think I prefer THIS Shatner song.

I post because I care.

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bigangry

This hits home, not just because I’ve been watching a few Chris Cornell tributes on youtube in the last hour, but because of COH shutting down, lo, those 5 years ago. I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had through City of Heroes, and I still talk to a bunch of them on a nightly basis on ventrilo. I’m still sad that the game got shut down, but the friendships, and the memories, and the fun that I had are still fondly remembered.

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Bhagpuss Bhagpuss

You’re missing an extremely important factor, Eliot. It’s entirely possible, even likely, that some, possibly many, MMOs currently running will outlive some, possibly many, of the people reading this piece.

Yes, nothing lasts forever and that includes both games and the people who play them. I fully expect some of the MMOs I play to outlive me. If I die before the MMO does then it is, for all intents and purposes, eternal as far as I’m concerned.

If I have a worry in this regard, it’s not that the MMOs I love will die before I’m done with them but that I will.

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cista2bpo

Exactly, this is also what I was thinking all through this piece. Saying your favorite MMO will shut down is like saying Canada will be eliminated as a country, or the Sun will cease to shine. All of these things are true of course. But I am certainly expecting Canada, the Sun and EVE Online to exist also after I am dead.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Can I have your stuff?

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MeltWithYou

In some circles, WoW and [insert any MMO here] are already dead

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BalsBigBrother

It’s not going to last forever. It’s going to last as long as it does, and then it won’t be around any more. And rather than being upset that it’s temporary, what’s important is that we got to see it at all.

Um have you been reading my mind, dammit I think I need to reinforce the tin foil hat again.

This has very much been my stance on the mmo genre pretty much since I started playing them. Enjoy them, be passionate about them but always be at peace with the fact that they will eventually end. So make the most of the time you have, enjoy it and get those good memories stored up.

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Nordavind

I know. Some sooner than they deserve, others later than they should. And I accept that. It’s only logical. It’s life. Stop dwelling in the past. Move on. <3

xoxo
Nord

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Greaterdivinity

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