The Daily Grind: Is an MMO’s shutdown announcement better or worse than shutdown suspicions?

This is a post about Marvel Heroes. It’s also a post about Firefall. In fact, it’s a post about all of the games where there’s a period between “shutdown announcement” and “things are still humming along.” There’s a certain point where communication stops, where updates don’t happen, where sometimes the servers just go down without explanation and then come back up without explanation. And you play the game knowing, at that point, that things are not going to be all right, because there’s no possible world where things turn out fine after that.

Which is awful, yes, but part of me wonders if that’s worse or better than cases where you’re suddenly smacked in the face with a shutdown notice. As far as City of Heroes players knew, everything was fine before the shutdown; by contrast, Marvel Heroes players knew full well that something was up well before the announcement came down. So what do you think, dear readers? Is an MMO’s shutdown announcement better or worse than shutdown suspicions? Is it better to just know, however surprising it may be, or would you rather it starts slow?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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30 Comments on "The Daily Grind: Is an MMO’s shutdown announcement better or worse than shutdown suspicions?"

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Zen Dadaist

I always want to know in advance. Gives me time to prepare. Rumours are tiring so I’d rather have it confirmed asap.

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Michael Lehner

Telling or not telling before shutting down. In my eyes either is still better than pulling a Funcom: telling customers for over a year that new stuff is coming and it will be awesome (while delivering no new content but only selling a few new mounts and lootboxes), then killing the game and replacing it with another one.

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Delisted Games

Confirmation is always best. Details and dates direct from the team or publisher at least confirm things. Sad as it is to see another game shut down, knowing when it’ll happen makes me feel better than guessing or waiting.

possum440 .
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possum440 .

Gaming should be heavily regulated by the government. Especially MMO’s. Way too many MMO’s will continue to farm gamer’s for cash until they finally state “Oh, by the way, we may or may not be shutting down”.

These companies need to be fined heavily, to include their publishers for this behavior. Firefall was just one glaring example of this.

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Nate Woodard

It’s better at being worse. No one wants to hear about a popular MMO shutting down, but rumors are equally bad because it could kill a player-base or prevent it from expanding.

PurpleCopper
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PurpleCopper

Shutdown announcements are better because shutdown suspicion rumors are often true and leaves people worrying.

TophatKiyaki
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TophatKiyaki

This doesn’t even seem like it would honestly warrant posing the question. I can’t imagine anyone who would rather just have their favorite game die out of the blue one day instead of knowing it’s coming in advance.

Like Sray said below, it isn’t always a black and white situation, and announcements generally won’t come until there’s a 100% chance there’s no way of continuing, because even the faintest air of bad press can kill any chance the game had of moving forward.

That said, Warframe languished on the edge of financial failure back in 2012, and their communication about said fact is what SAVED the game from death. It resulted in the establishment of the Founders Program, which provided enough income to the team to continue development to the point the game could stand on it’s own.

So, in the long run, there just isn’t ever a proper situation where being upfront about it with the consumers doesn’t seem like it wouldn’t be the best option. You obviously don’t need to be providing in-depth commentary about the financial state of your team, but the least you can do is say “We’re having trouble.” Warframe has proven that if your game is loved enough by a small amount of people, just doing that can be enough to save you if you’re willing to put in the leg work once you’ve got the funding.

And just pulling the plug out of the blue? Yeah, that never ends well for anyone involved. It kills your cred in the eyes of the players, and they’ll remember you being part of the team that did it for a long, long time.

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Fervor Bliss

Knowledge is always better. I have never found ignorance worthwhile.

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Dystopiq

I prefer closure. At least I know.

Bruce Morrison
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Bruce Morrison

I think it’s worse as a player when you have no clue that it’s going to happen like with City of Heroes.

abyssalstar
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abyssalstar

CoH was still profitable at the time and everything was running smoothly. We had no reason to think a shutdown was coming. I’m not even sure Paragon Studios had a clue until NCSoft dropped the bomb.

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A Dad Supreme

As much as people put their emotions into a game, I’d think it’s far better to officially announce a shutdown for several reasons.

It keeps people from spending their money they may or may not recoup (more likely not), that they could have used on something better. Spending money on a game that gets shutdown shortly afterwards has got to feel like being the last guy who was killed in a remote battle of a war after a peace accord was struck between two countries a few hours earlier. If you spend $100 but missed the cutoff by a month and a day, that’s got to suck vs the guy who just made the deadline a day later. With no announcement, there is no cutoff. It’s usually just “Bye, thanks for the fish!”because they’ve already spent it all and knew they went busto.

Second, it helps people to give proper closure… well, I mean those who actually want closure. There are always going to be a few holdouts like some of the City of Heroes people over the years who never accepted the shutdown of a game 13 years ago. There is no amount of time to help those poor souls as they’ve had candlelight vigils galore, rallies, even “chat servers” where they can’t even play but still log-in.

But for the majority of players that can face reality, never announcing that NCSoft was shutting it down would have been far worse if they tried to log in and couldn’t, thereby cutting them off from properly saying goodbye to some friends or making plans with others to continue in other future games. That’s far more cruel in my estimation.

Third, it shows professionalism from the company and reflects better on the employees. Games that mysteriously shutdown always have a “taint” to them that many workers, even if innocent can’t shake.

I remember meeting an ex-employee from SOE who worked on Vanguard at a comic show once and he was telling me that when people found out he worked on Vanguard, the first thing they say is “Oh SOE sucks, huh? I hate them.” And he got tired of telling people he actually liked his time working there so he said “Yeah” just to get those small-minded people out of his face who painted everything either black or white. Now that’s with a company that took someone else’s failed IP and kept it from shutting down, ran it as long as it could and then announced it couldn’t keep it going and they still get flack. It’s got to be far worse for people where no warning is given.

TLDR: Yes, better to give warning of a shutdown, not clues and hints.

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Castagere Shaikura

I have had 3 mmo’s shutdown that i like. It always sucks but i would like to know ahead of time.

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Kevin Smith

Like some others have said it is always better to know. Knowing something is going to happen with no chance at not happening in the long run reduces the angry and resentment to a degree when it does happen. Believe it or not people go through the stages of grief for a game closure. It’s never good to lose something you enjoy, but losing it overnight with no warning is the worse.

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Wanda Clamshuckr

What’s worse is when they are sneaky about it. I hate having to put together clues.

We’re adults. We pay for your salaries. Tell us what the fuck is happening with the game we are supporting.

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Sray

You can’t do that without damning your business for sure. Shutdown announcements come when it’s 100% certain, and not when there’s still a chance of reprieve for a reason: if you start telling people before then that there’s trouble, it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy; as people will leave because they don’t want to be on a sinking ship. It sucks, but there’s a good reason why they don’t tell us that sort of stuff.

Reader
Wanda Clamshuckr

I think, for the most part, that the decision to shut a game down doesn’t happen in the last month of it’s life. Investors look at the numbers, the CFO and CEO and whomever else chew over when to cut the cord officially based on loses and whatnot and when the best time is to shut the servers down and send everyone home with their papers.

“We can still make x amount of money in these 4 months before killing it.”

It’s not necessarily about trying to save it at that point. They know it’s already dying. It’s about mitigating financial loss. Read: Getting a little more money into their wallets vs next to none.

They don’t care about the players. It’s already a done deal. Not telling the community means they can make a few more Cash Shop sales, gain a couple months of subscription fees, and plan their getaway to soften the impact on them.

A lot of noise is made at the end to buffer damage. Mitigation of reputation loss. The CM’s have a group hug with the community. People take screenshots. It’s lovely. Really, though, it’s the final ends to the means of business and how to move on, and hopefully pick it up later.

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Sray

Marvel Heroes and Firefall are extreme circumstances, and yes those decisions are being made literally at the last minute, and they’re happening due to creditors pulling the plug. No, your average shutdown isn’t decided upon 3 days in advance, but the average shutdown doesn’t tend to be a surprise to anyone playing the game either.

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Utakata

The shutdown announcement will always be worse, as there is always a chance of a shutdown rumour of not being true.

But either way, the game company should always come clean, as it’s never good form and/or PR to be stringing their players along.

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Kickstarter Donor
Tobasco da Gama

Better. It’s never good to let people spend money on something without knowing that they’re on borrowed time.

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Thomas Zervogiannis

And time. Even though the goal should always be to enjoy the moment and have fun in games, sometimes you make longer term plans in MMO’s which are not fun all the way. Better to know what is coming.

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Tanek

I’m not sure it is as black and white as all that. I think there can be cases where something going on in the background has to be kept out of the public view to avoid affecting the outcome. License negotiations might fall into that category. (This is not to excuse the month of “all is normal” weirdness from Marvel Heroes…that was something else altogether.)

The situations that annoy me are the ones where a game is in financial trouble and the company tries to hide that until it is too late. Yes, knowing that the game is not doing well might scare off some players, but it will also let you know how much others enjoy the game and want it to survive. Be honest and realistic when communicating with the customers. Have a ‘save the game’ sale or something. Because if you just shut down and people find out after the fact, some will always wonder if they could have done anything to help keep one of their favorite games going.

threeknee
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threeknee

Don’t hide it. It’s scummy to keep taking your players money (or whatever is left of them) when you know you are shutting your game down.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
BalsBigBrother

Always better to know the truth of something than to have it hidden away.

For me personally this is especially true in the case of bad news though in some circumstances I can understand why others may think otherwise even if I don’t agree with that.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Loyal Patron
Jack Pipsam

Honesty is the best policy, if they know the game has shutdown date, they shouldn’t hide it.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Armsbend

I think a slow burn is better. You can find a new home and create forum drama for entertainment in the meantime.

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Hirku

Clear communication is always better, especially when it’s bad news.

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starbuck1771

I prefer to know then suspect. Knowing is better then it just happening out of the blue without advanced warning because you have time to prepare.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
bigangry

Without a DOUBT I prefer the suspicions shutdown to the out of nowhere. Having lived through both COH and Marvel Heroes, the announcement of COH gutted me the hardest. It felt like a punch to the gut, as opposed to the (preferable to me) impending sense of dread that ended up with the inevitable “Saw THAT coming” ending.

Speaking of, it’s 5 years since COH shut down in a few days. I’d like to say that I’m over it, but, well, I’m not. It hurts less, obviously, but I’m actually kinda hopeful with the footage from Ship of Heroes, and the progress being made on Paragon Chat (Kheldians!) so I’ve got that glimmer of faith that we’re gonna get something decent again. Maybe not Soon(TM) but soon enough.

Minimalistway
Reader
Minimalistway

I prefer hard facts, can’t deal with not knowing what’s going on, in games and life, which makes things hard for me sometimes, i burn myself with anger when i wait for someone to show up at 10am and it is 10:10 and they didn’t call, and i live in a culture where people are casual about time :-)

I prefer knowing, so i can take decision and move on, waiting waste energy and time.

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