Most everyone who knows me well will acknowledge that I’m not generally a cynical, dark person. I’m not rooting for games to fail, for the industry to crash, for developers to be banished to the wastelands for their sins, or for the cultural return to Parcheesi. So while you might read the title of today’s piece as rather grim, understand that this is more a public service announcement than a cantankerous gamer dancing on the yet-to-be-dug graves of online RPGs.
Every MMO will die, and some of those much sooner than others. Right now there are seven games that are probably not long for this world, although in this industry you never quite know, do you? But if you have any interest in the following titles, I would recommend getting in to play them now — before it’s too late and you end up posting tear-laden nostalgia pieces on Reddit, wishing for one more day in that world. OK, that might be too grim. I’m not saying that all of these are on the verge of being shut down but that they’re operating on borrowed time and have a very uncertain future.
There’s no denying that Daybreak has been culling its once-expansive lineup to keep the profitable titles and eject those bleeding cash and reeking of age. The studio has only one game left that’s operating while not being represented on the main site whatsoever, and that game is PlanetSide.
Daybreak said that it would keep PlanetSide running for a while for free, although most likely with the intention of encouraging that game’s remaining population to make the switch to PlanetSide 2. Frankly, I don’t think we have much longer until PlanetSide will be quietly taken out to the woods and disposed of. I doubt we’ll even get an official statement unless someone notices.
Speaking of Daybreak’s library, am I the only one who keeps doing a double-take at Dragon’s Prophet on the list and thinking, “Huh, that’s still going?” The fantasy dragon-tamer hasn’t been in the news much at all over the past year and can’t be doing all that well, which has given me the impression that it’s somewhat of an albatross (perhaps a legal, contractual albatross) around Daybreak’s neck.
The last patch the game saw was back in April — and that wasn’t even fully delivered, as players are still waiting for the remaining half. Its subreddit is a virtual ghost town. I think that Daybreak will probably wriggle its way out of keeping Dragon’s Prophet on the payroll this year, although the title might well endure in Europe (where it is seemingly much more popular and better supported) under another owner.
Asheron’s Call 1 and 2
The fact that the Asheron’s Call IP is solely owned by Turbine is most likely the only reason the server’s been left running on these titles. Turbine is in a tough place these days, with its freshest MMO now eight years old, its great MOBA hope now canceled, and its only other announced project a dinky mobile game.
Now that Asheron’s Call is in permanent maintenance mode and isn’t charging a subscription, it has to be either losing money or preparing to do so. Maybe keeping it operating indefinitely and allowing players to run their own AC servers was an option a year or so ago, but now Turbine has to take a hard look at its finances and do what it must to survive. As much as it would hurt to see these two imaginative MMOs leave the field, it might need to happen.
While Cryptic Studios (more accurately, its parent company Perfect World Entertainment) has had a rocky year, the studio has two very strong properties in Star Trek Online and Neverwinter. The weak link of its lineup has always seemed to be the beleaguered Champions Online.
Once hailed as the rightful successor to City of Heroes’ superhero crown, Champions quickly faded into obscurity in the industry and scaled down its content updates considerably. It certainly wasn’t helped by a half-baked free-to-play model that denied non-paying members access to the game’s greatest selling point. And now with the studio indicating that it has the miniscule budget that we all assumed, Champions doesn’t have much of a hope for a future — just a delay of execution.
Final Fantasy XI has had, by anyone’s standards, a very good run. It’s enjoyed success on both console and PC, seen multiple expansions, and carried the online franchise until it could pass the baton off to Final Fantasy XIV.
But 2015 marks the end of FFXI as we’ve known it for so long. By the end of this year, the console version will go dark and the PC edition will shift into maintenance mode. Yet it may see new life as a mobile title, and no matter what, it’s going to go out with a bang, which is more than what some MMOs see at the end of their career.
This is a strange title to include on this list, but I have a weird gut feeling that Meridian 59 could be one of those games that might see an abrupt and unannounced end. Right now the original owners have left it running and opened up the development so that players could create their own updates, which is actually terrific for such an old title. At the same time, this lack of studio support and centralized oversight makes me nervous for its future.
I mean, when The New Yorker comes around and pronounces your game “quiet and vacant,” then you might have ceased to be an MMO and become a museum piece instead.
Then again, isn’t that better than being forgotten entirely?