Perfect Ten: MMORPGs that died too soon

Your favorite game is going to die. I wrote about that. Some games are never even going to get to launching in the first place, unfortunately. But then there are these titles: games that went the distance when it came to development, marketing, promotion, testing… but somehow didn’t quite manage to stick the landing past that. These are the games that, in Transformers terms, are the hi-then-die cast of the MMO space.

That doesn’t always mean the games are bad, mind you. Some of these games were great fun. But through a combination of business model issues, publisher issues, player population, and just general weirdness, these titles couldn’t make it to a year and a half in the wild. Heck, some of them couldn’t even make it to a year and a quarter. And if you want to peruse this list and wonder why all of these titles are gone but Alganon is somehow still operating… well, we’re just as confused as you are.

This is the reboot, which did all right for itself. No, I don't know how that happened.

1. APB: All Points Bulletin (4 months)

We’re starting off with the game that still holds the all-time record, running from June 29th to to September 16th. Only four months of operation! It’s never going to be entirely clear how the game died this quickly, since that involves knowing what was going on behind the scenes at Realtime Worlds, which was swiftly placed into administration and then shut down without more than a whimper. The absurdly weird business model didn’t help, where players could both purchase a subscription or hour-by-hour access.

You might be thinking that the game is actually still playable, but that’s the relaunched version which guts most of the social features and focuses entirely on the whole shooter aspect. That’s all well and good, but consider that the original was shut down and the relaunch is being developed by a totally different company, the original version is well and truly gone. And it probably will remain the fastest shutdown for a while, since it was a very short road.

2. Faxion Online (5 months)

Coming in close on the heels of APB’s short run time is Faxion Online, which… honestly, I still don’t know how this one shuttered so quickly. It was a neat little free-to-play title from the outside looking in, giving players a chance to play as the forces of Heaven or Hell while exploring areas themed after the seven deadly sins. And then it just… closed, quite suddenly, with no real explanation or exploration. Just a “sorry, folks, didn’t work out.”

I still want to know more about why this happened, but this was all back in 2011, so the odds of any information on it seems low. Just the same.

It was real, Justin.

3. Seed (5 months)

For a very long time, Seed held the shutdown speed record, which is a shame because this was a genuinely novel design. The game placed players as part of the crew of a seed starship, exploring the galaxy for new worlds for humanity, with a heavy focus on social interaction and politics rather than combat. Players would do their best to repair sections of a malfunctioning station to gain political acumen as they tried to unravel what went wrong on a world out of contact from Earth.

If you’re thinking that sounds a bit like Mass Effect: Andromeda, you’d be wrong, because you shoot things in Andromeda. No shooting in Seed.

As linked above, our very own Game Archaeologist took a look back at the game’s initial design, launch, and reception, which unfortunately ran into the age-old trouble of launching too early and not having enough money to sustain itself. It’s a sad end to a novel design, and now there’s another title by the same name, which makes a revival seem unlikely.

4. Landmark (9 months)

Yes, we can definitely quibble about Landmark as a whole, but the fact is that the game actually launched last year. Of course, this was after the game had already had its primary reason for existence demolished with the cancellation of EverQuest Next, and the fact that Landmark’s purpose in the bigger scheme of things felt somewhat ambiguous even with EQN on the horizon didn’t help matters. When the game finally launched, there was reason to hope that some of the work from EQN would get ported over, but instead the game just got tossed into the dumpster less than a year after its actual launch.

There were a lot of neat ideas going on behind the scenes of Landmark, but it ultimately had a hard time getting traction as something more than the shell of EQN’s failure, and the fact that it had a beta running for roughly a million years didn’t help matters. One gets the idea that Daybreak itself wasn’t really clear on what Landmark was supposed to be, which isn’t a good position for a developer. If there’s a lesson to be learned here, perhaps it’s that you shouldn’t really consider a game a sure thing until it at least has a playable demo?

Well, that's something.

5. Earthrise (12 months)

This is a weird one, a game that died and has been supposedly on track for a revival forever. The idea was to create a sprawling three-faction PvP sandbox with involved crafting, combat progression, and social systems. What actually launched was a game that people described as mistaking “sandbox” for “grind-based,” with a crafting system which required lots of time but never really delivered on its original premise. And, you know, it was also open PvP, albeit with high-security areas a la EVE Online.

The weird thing is that we keep hearing vague rumors of a revival, and one was even due to start testing “soon” for roughly half of forever. The last we heard of it was when it showed up on Steam with the promise that work was still being done, and it’s since gone silent once again. Time alone will tell.

6.ย  Black Prophecy (14 months)

If you’ve already forgotten about this game, we understand. It was a space combat game where the main selling point was piloting a nimble fighter into combat, to the point where you had no real in-person avatar; you just controlled your ship and flew around in space. It had a mix of PvE and PvP, no auction house, and a heavily randomized crafting system. And then it shut down without much ceremony.

I very vaguely remember playing this one in an early test state and finding it vaguely decent but not tremendously compelling. It’s a pity, but it’s also worth noting that not every single title which fails quickly is one that’s too innovative or creative or whatever. Some titles just… don’t succeed.

Nothing but sad things to say.

7. LEGO Minifigures Online (15 months)

Oh, Funcom. The real problem with LEGO Minifigures Online wasn’t that it was an awful game or that it was terribly developed or anything; the problem was that Funcom needed this game to be a major hit. It wasn’t. It went back and forth between being free-to-play or buy-to-play, it went through a long beta period, and it was fun to play with kids but not successful enough to meet the company’s forecasts. So in broad terms, you can chalk this one up to another victim of Funcom’s longstanding financial problems.

Not for nothing, but I’ll really be happy when we can move on from the idea that LEGO figures are some kind of unique aesthetic. The very existence of the LEGO Batman movie leaves me cold, as if we’re somehow willing to accept a Batman movie which enjoys the weirdness of the character only when it features a brick-based aesthetic. I suppose it’s better than minions.

8. Glitch (15 months)

This one is just a straight-up heartbreaker. Much like Seed, Glitch was focused around having a primarily social system. It was also unbelievably charming in its artistic style and overall world presentation. You were left to just wander, explore,and change things for the fun of it. And it ultimately shut down in part due to limited audience appeal, albeit with a great deal of care paid to the staff departing when the game shut down.

There are revival projects in the works, but that doesn’t really eliminate the sting so much as it buttresses it slightly.

In fairness to the game’s developers, the game dropped itself back into beta status once it became clear that Glitch just didn’t have enough direction or goals for players to know what the heck they were supposed to be doing. It was – and is! – a standout in the field for many things, and I’d like to think that if Tiny Speck had a stronger up-front goal or two for players (and maybe a more forward-thinking platform), we’d still be talking about how special it is in the present tense. Here’s hoping for Children of Ur and/or Eleven, then.

Oh, you charming weirdo.

9. Tabula Rasa (16 months)

You know, the weird thing is that if Tabula Rasa had been launched later, it might not be on this list. That isn’t just down to the game being far better than it gets credit for, mind you; it’s just that it died when the idea of a free-to-play shift was only just beginning to pick up market traction. Another two years, and it may have enjoyed a fate similar to WildStar, or at least it wouldn’t have been outright shuttered.

There were a lot of really neat things at work in Tabula Rasa, and at the end of the day what really hurt the game was that it had to be launched when the developers were still working at making those neat systems coalesce into a fun game to play. Combine that with the litigation with Richard Garriott (who went to space for the game), and the whole thing was just a big-old train wreck. Fortunately, Garriott himself seems to have taken some of the lessons of the game to heart when developing Shroud of the Avatar, which seems to have a brighter future.

10. Hellgate: London (16 months)

For all that this game was briefly the poster child for “failed release” (see: flagshipped), its initial launch lasted for a really long time before shuttering (the first time), didn’t it? So much for getting flagshipped.

It’s all right, though; the game will probably have another revival project before too much longer.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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39 Comments on "Perfect Ten: MMORPGs that died too soon"

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Jeff

EQ next demise pretty much broke me as far as Western MMO’s go….

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Karma_Mule

For me the most notable ones are:

Tabula Rasa
Earth & Beyond
Chronicles of Spellborn
Matrix Online

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Cassandra Drake

Never played The Chronicles of Spellborn, but my list is pretty much the same. I’d have to replace Chronicles with EverQuest Next. But damn reaching back into prehistory with Earth and Beyond I’d almost forgotten about that game. That was a good game for its time.

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Duey Bear

Saddened about Landmark and EQNext still. I fear the Everquest franchise is doomed to a very gradual slide into obscurity. The brand weakens as generations of MMO gamers come in who’ve never known EQ.

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CloakingDonkey .

Tabula Rasa…. =(

RIP in spaghetti, never forgetti

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Apollymi

Yeah, I miss Landmark. It was very relaxing to just chop trees or dig in the ground for an hour or so. It scratched the quasi-creative itch every now again as well even though mine never qualified as any type of masterpiece.

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Sashaa

The Matrix Online… Maybe I’ll feel alone here, but this game was really great in its own way.
The way the storyline progressed, the backstory, how immersive it was. It deserved more success. I would not have enjoyed The Secret World as much if I hadn’t played MxO first.

Zulika Mi-Nam
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Zulika Mi-Nam

I believe this was the last game I played that had GM led live events on it. I used to get so hype for those.

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Merrill Frazier

Honorable mention to another SOE debacle…Vanguard: Saga of Heroes (not originally Sony, mind you…but they bought it and shuttered it). I guess it “technically” survived a while, but for how beautiful that game was, the unique classes amd crafting aystem, and instance-free dungeons…it deserved a better fate.

Zulika Mi-Nam
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Zulika Mi-Nam

Asheron’s Call (207 Months)

SuL2MBh.jpg
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Melissa McDonald

I still think the fact that the community made non-Norrath-canonical things like gigantic Pikachus and Starship Enterprises in Landmark utterly befuddled the devs and they realized they couldn’t give you powerful tools, and then, control you, at the same time.
They had an EverQuest Identity Crisis, and never recovered from that. Also it seems plain the dismal combat in Landmark was exactly what you’d have gotten in EQN, and the devs were right, it simply “wasn’t fun”.

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Matthew Yetter

I was glad to see Tabula Rasa on the list. I was actually just thinking a few days ago about how much I enjoyed it.

Shawn Schuster
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Shawn Schuster

Me too!

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RJB

Landmark was never a mmorpg and Minifigures bankrupted Funcom if that’s the same game im thinking of. APB from what i read they had someone who either had really bad accounting or did it intentionaly as one of the reasons i read about Real worlds was that they were bleeding money n didn’t notice until it was too late

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David Harrison

There is a very simple reason that Landmark was cancelled. It didn’t work. Quite simply, the core of the game, voxels, did not work in a MMORPG game. From what some ex-employees said on non-SoE/DBG forums was that behind the scenes, the game was a nightmare. Ponytail, as they called him, wouldn’t give up the idea of Landmark being the next great thing, so they poured resources in to what was ultimately NEVER GOING TO WORK. In the end, Ponytail was fired. Landmark was cancelled. SoE was sold and renamed DBG. There is no great mystery here. The idiot in charge wouldn’t admit that the core technology the game was based on just would not work in a MMORPG setting.

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Melissa McDonald

It could work just fine. They just couldn’t make it an EverQuest game. If they’d let people do what they wanted, and let go of what was canon, it could have been fun. People have no shortage of creativity in Second Life, and it’s served the game well, because it labours under no pretense.

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Mailvaltar

Regarding APB Reloaded: “[…] which guts most of the social features and focuses entirely on the whole shooter aspect”.
Not true. All the designing and customizing is still there. It’s despite it’s shortcomings still a pretty great game imho.

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Armsbend

This reads more of a list of games that should have never been made – not ones that died too soon.

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Sally Bowls

Yeah. A new business buzz phrase is “Fail Fast, Fail Often” Innovative companies are going to cancel a number of games. The goal is to cancel them as soon as possible, and preferably prior to launch. The problem is not so much the studios attempting these games, it is not canceling them prior – rather than after – launch.

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A Dad Supreme

Titan: Never made it out of the womb.

Minimalistway
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Minimalistway

Glitch! i remember that day, in the morning before i turn on the computer i thought i’ll try the game today, open Massively, first thing i see is they are closing Glitch! damn my procrastination.

There is hope for Glitch, 2 projects working on it.

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agemyth ๐Ÿ˜ฉ

Never played Auto Assault, but it only lasted 16-17 months too. I would like to see what that game was on a emulated server, but that doesn’t look like it will happen :P

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Castagere Shaikura

I had fun in that game. Mostly because i had real life friends that i played with. Man we had some long over night play times in that game.

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MesaSage

I’m not sure how you calculated the duration of Glitch, because you’re talking about two different things, date from initial launch and actual lifetime. The actual lifetime of Glitch was much shorter than 15 months if you take out the backtobeta nonsense that Stewart insisted upon. Some of us would argue that the actual life of Glitch was about 3 months, from October until January when it went back to beta.

Everything after that was just a death spiral of poor decisions.

COU and Eleven have now exceeded the dev time of the original Glitch by a full year and there’s not much chance they’ll ever see the light of day. If you get the idea I’m salty, I am, because if they’d enlisted enough help or sought some funding early, they’d be running by now. They chose to do a part time amateur effort that is just prolonging the inevitable pain.

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Fenna

One that died to soon i wish came back. earth and beyond

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Castagere Shaikura

Google Emulator

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Shane

For some reason I thought Dungeon Runners would be on here. Apparently it lasted longer than I recalled. I still miss my awesome Buckler of the Dreaded Brown Eye. Best shield name EVER!

Loyheta
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Loyheta

I’d say Lego Universe should be on here. It was better than minifigures.

EQN got killed way too early :( I know landmark is on here but they should be vastly different

And I’ll always say that SWG was shutdown way too early.

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Angel

I still yearn for the Stargate MMO that never made it to launch…So many fans wanted the game so badly. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stargate_Worlds

Zulika Mi-Nam
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Zulika Mi-Nam

I was in the alpha for it, but it was a real tech alpha not even far enough along to make an opinion on. But that is one IP perfect for an MMO.

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Matthew Riddle

I miss Glitch. It was a creative game that I could relax and play.
I remember when APB came out, all the cool and innovated systems it had, and then there was a lot of cheating and boom it died. Really sad. It felt a lot like the GTA RP thing going on now.
Landmark was interesting but never turned into much more than a fancy Minecraft clone.
Of the three, I had the most fun with Glitch.

Zander
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Zander

>.>
Archeage – Sure, it’s still going but has no where near it’s potential

Blinkenn
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Blinkenn

Earth and Beyond.
Although there’s a nice little community on the emu server.

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Castagere Shaikura

Its a blast to play too.

wpDiscuz