As Counting Crows told us, it’s been a long December, although the fact that it has also only just started being December speaks to something unpleasant in the makeup of this particular month. But it also means that this is a good time to check in on the overall health of various MMORPGs and see which ones look to be in the healthiest state at the end of the year.
This is, I hasten to point out, not a scientific process; last year I pointed to Marvel Heroes as a not-quite-MMORPG title that was still in a very healthy and robust place, and it later turned out that this was entirely not true and had been built upon a foundation of lies. But we’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to it in 2018. What are the healthiest games running right now?
Even if Gazillion and Disney can’t or won’t do the right thing by their customers following the termination of Marvel Heroes, at least the console companies are picking up the slack.
Similar to how Microsoft was making good on refunds for Xbox One players who dropped money on the MMO this year, Sony is returning cash to PlayStation 4 gamers. There are a few caveats, such as the fact that the refund period only covers from August 17th on, but at least it’s better than nothing!
“Within the next few weeks, you will receive a PSN wallet refund for purchases made between 8/17/17 and 10/17/16,” the company has told former players according to a screenshot on MMO Fallout. “Purchases made after 10/17/17 will be refunded to your original payment source.”
If you happened to catch the Massively OP Podcast this week, you heard my positively livid rant about the whole Marvel Heroes situation. Now, I have been doing this a long time, and I’ve weathered a lot of extremely painful sunsets of beloved games. But I’ve never, ever seen one handled as abysmally as the Marvel Heroes sunset.
Gazillion, Marvel, and Disney completely and utterly dropped the ball on telling players about the stepped-up sunset, to the point that many players had no idea what was going on. Nobody sent so much as an email or tweet or forum post to the players. The only company granting refunds? Microsoft, eating costs it shouldn’t have to eat. The only ones who did anything were laid-off rank-and-file devs who felt a duty to warn the public.
In fact, the only thing that comes close is Firefall, and that sunset came after a year of that weird thing with the Chinese cashmere company. It was bad, but it was understandable because it was basically a clownshow from the day Red 5 got bought out. This? There’s no excuse for a company as huge and wealthy as Disney/Marvel to screw over players in this way when either could have easily floated Gazillion and the game to the end of the year as promised. Or at least sent them a damn email of apology, knowing the banks were yoinking the servers on Monday. Nothing. We got nothing.
One thing you can say for the MMO industry: It never ceases to surprise all of us. No matter what predictions we may make at the beginning of a year, by December we will all be proven fools who lack vision and foresight.
Although 2017 isn’t quite over yet, we here at Massively Overpowered wanted to count down the biggest news stories that crossed over into our neck of the woods so far this year. We witnessed controversies and delights, shockers and sadness. We saw launches and shutdowns, expansions and bugs.
So before we move into 2018, let’s take a look at the year that was and remember the biggest stories that dominated headlines.
Few people are happy to see an MMO go down, especially in the manner that Marvel Heroes is going from a popular and well-liked game to a neglected title that’s been stripped of its relationship with the IP holder. A couple of MMO bloggers marked the somber occasion of the news with their own thoughts.
“Gazillion released the game as a steaming hot mess, but they diligently cleaned it up and made it a bright spot in the MMO world, particularly that they were at an intersection point between all of the Marvel characters,” said Parallel Context.
“Of all the MMOs I have played over the years, I never would have guessed this would be the first to go,” Occasional Hero wrote. “It’s never been one of my main games, but it’s always been something I come back to from time to time.”
On this week’s show, Justin and Bree pat their turkey-filled tummies and pontificate on the nebulous fate of Marvel Heroes, look ahead to Lord of the Rings Online’s future, and chide World of Warcraft for taking away fun toys.
It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.
Listen to the show right now:
Still reeling from the abrupt early sunset of Marvel Heroes yesterday? Same here. If you want a little closure, maybe check out Kinda Funny Games, which yesterday posted an interview with former Gazillion Systems Designer Anthony Gallegos, who discusses the collapse of the studio.
Gallegos suggests that Gazillion is going through “some kind of bankruptcy” and notes actually furloughed employees a week and a half before the layoffs – and indeed, lost a quarter of its staff from layoffs earlier this year. He also confirms that the license (he says “contract”) for Marvel Heroes was lost in October and negotiations with Disney/Marvel began anew.
This was a time when Gazillion reps were telling the press and the playerbase that “the company [was] functioning normally.” It clearly was not.
It’s gone, gang, and I’m so sorry.
Following the disastrous silences and accusations that unfolded over October and November, Marvel announced that it had terminated its relationship with gaming studio Gazillion and canceled MMOARPG Marvel Heroes, which was then scheduled to sunset at the end of the year.
However, on Wednesday, Gazillion employees began reporting that they’d been sent a letter by company CEO Dave Dohrmann announcing the end of Gazillion, the loss of their jobs (and some of their benefits), and a rushed end to Marvel Heroes as the bank called in its debts. The letter said the game would be shut down on Friday following an announcement, causing panic among MMO players who thought they had a bit more time. But no announcement came, and the game stayed up through the weekend.
Now, players on PC, Xbox One, and PS4 report that the game has indeed gone fully offline as of this afternoon.
Massively OP’s MJ feels like she is pressing her luck, but the Marvel Heroes servers are still up (for who knows how long today!) so she’s rushing in for a final play session. Of all the plans and goals she had in game, there is one she just has to try to accomplish: the Cosmic Trial. Previous attempts failed, but MJ has a better Storm build prepared and a good — although not properly leveled-up — team up. It’s her last chance to try and beat it, so join us live at 2:00 p.m. to cheer her on and give the game a final farewell.
What: Marvel Heroes
Who: MJ Guthrie
When: 2:00 p.m. EST on Friday, November 24th, 2017
Well then. That happened. Although Massively OP’s MJ actually had other Thanksgiving day plans, the very real threat that this could be her last time ever to log into Marvel Heroes made her drop them. Instead, she is throwing herself into being Rogue, Storm, and all of her favorite heroes before the doors close for good sometime tomorrow. Tune in live at 8:00 p.m. for quite possibly the last hurrah for this superhero game.
What: Marvel Heroes
Who: MJ Guthrie
When: 8:00 p.m. EST on Thursday, November 23rd, 2017
Massively OP has received a credible tip from a former Gazillion employee who told us under condition of anonymity that Marvel Heroes will be over significantly sooner than Disney and Marvel previously declared.
The ex-employee says he was terminated as of today, that Gazillion is being shut down entirely, and that Marvel Heroes will sunset this coming Friday, not at the end of the year as originally announced.
The termination letter written by CEO Dave Dohrmann was shared with Massively OP and claims that banking creditors have effectively pulled the plug on the company, leading to the termination of almost every employee at the studio and the apparent renege of benefits including accrued PTO.
It’s kind of hard to be thankful this year. Sure, some good things have happened this year, but we also have some things that, to put it politely, are unqualified messes. There’s everything around Star Wars: Battlefront II. There’s the shuttering of Master x Master and Marvel Heroes (the latter I actually flagged a year ago as being robust and healthy). There are titles like Lord of the Rings Online and ARK: Survival Evolved that have doubled down on methods to enrage players. And last but certainly not least, there’s still no sign of a sequel to the Warcraft film.
That one might be a grey area, actually.
But the year hasn’t been devoid of light, and there’s still stuff to be thankful for. So rather than being bitter and cranky about it, I want to focus on what we do have to be thankful for even while I hope for better in the future. Let’s talk about some stuff that’s good to be thankful for, even if it doesn’t tickle your particular fancy, and be a little more hopeful.
As CMs lock down any speculation about Marvel Heroes’ demise on the forums and players do their best to secure refunds before the title goes away completely, the question looms of what game would be an acceptable substitute to fill the upcoming void. Here is one possibility: Marvel Strike Force.
Created by FoxNext Games and Disney’s Marvel Entertainment, Marvel Strike Force is an upcoming mobile RPG with tactical elements. The game is slated to come out in 2018 and will feature both a single-player campaign and PvP battles.
“We wanted to capture the core mobile fantasy of who wins in a fight. Hydra or Shield?” said FoxNext President Aaron Loeb said. “Earlier, we had the question of who wins in a fight. Hulk or Hulk Buster? Now we ask who wins between the Avengers or the Defenders? You’re trying to solve the puzzle of how to beat the other team.”