The Game Archaeologist: Six videos from MMOs that never launched


Whenever I compile lists or run articles on MMOs that never made it out of the gate, it seems as though talking about it puts people in one of two moods. Either they’re keenly interested (as I am) into these fascinating glimpses of what-could-have-been, or they become depressed and a little sore that I reminded them of the toy they’ll never have.

I don’t mean to prod sore spots with these, I hope you understand. It’s just that part of my job as a game archaeologist is to uncover and document all of these older MMOs, even if they come with a lot of emotional baggage (say, from being killed in development). To the sore folks, I apologize in advance, because this week we’re going to take another video tour, this time to look at MMOs that never launched.

Middle-earth Online

The precursor to Lord of the Rings Online was far enough along that it generated a trailer in the early 2000s. Watching this, you can definitely see some similarities between the two.┬áMake sure you read up on last week’s column for the full story behind this Tolkein MMORPG.

Ultima X Odyssey

If I could pick just one prematurely killed MMO to resurrect and retroactively restore, it would be this one. Oh, what could have been! I think there is even a chance that this title could have changed the genre’s history as a counterweight to World of Warcraft.

Imperator Online

This E3 trailer from 2005 shows off the game as an in-universe newsreel. There’s definitely a strong Starship Troopers vibe with this one.

True Fantasy Live Online

Another title I talked about recently, this charming console MMO sports colorful graphics and a certain charm that I think would go over well even today. In the video you can see how the player voice feature would work using headsets and proximity between characters.


While this game was eventually dredged up from the dead more times than most movie zombies, it never did release by its original developer, Flagship. A consequence of the whole “Flagshipped” debacle, Mythos was nevertheless a charming Diablo clone with some potential.


Mythica is another title that stands out in my mind as a title that had tremendous potential, especially with the backing of Microsoft’s deep pockets. It’s a true shame that this Norse mythology MMO never made it out of the gate.

Believe it or not, MMOs did exist prior to World of Warcraft! Every two weeks, The Game Archaeologist looks back at classic online games and their history to learn a thing or two about where the industry came from… and where it might be heading.
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