2016 was not Firefall’s year.
I’m not sure which year was its year, honestly, what with the e-sports bus fiasco and suspension of PvP and former CEO Mark Kern hoopla and “pre-launch reorganization” in the lead up to launch. Maybe it was 2014, when the best thing we could say about it was that it was “finally a real game.”
But 2016 was definitely not it.
Back in December 2015, rumors began to circulate that Red 5 had missed payroll, followed by a brutal company meeting, late salaries, and the inevitable “reorganization” layoffs and departures. The studio shakeup was itself followed by a hurried and bug-laden Razor’s Edge patch. In May of 2016, Chinese conglom The9, which by then effectively owned Red 5 Studios and has injected it with the cash to launch, traded part of its stake in the studio to a Cayman Islands cashmere manufacturer and announced mobile and console ports for Firefall, but that company’s stock crashed soon after and trading was suspended. Mark Kern even resurfaced to offer to buy the game that fired him.
And that was only the beginning of the end. In July of 2016, Red 5 suffered what were apparently catastrophic layoffs allegedly affecting the rest of the US team, including the community manager holding the ship together from the player perspective; at the time, he told players he believed The9 would keep the game up, but in August, the game went offline without notice, causing observers and sites like ours to tentatively declare a “sunset.”
Nevertheless, the game returned to service that same month, just as bewilderingly, and the few hundred remaining players soldiered on…
…only to find themselves facing the same situation again last month, when as Reddit and MMOBomb noticed, the game once again went offline, this time for two weeks.
Red 5 — or whoever now controls the Firefall Facebook page — broke months of silence to announce,
“Hello, we have found that our datacenter is having critical issues and all services including the website and game are impacted. We hope to have everything back online ASAP.”
As I write this, the game has been restored and is even back on Steam again.
While it’s hard to call this a good year for the game, at the dawn of 2017, we’ve learned two things: First, the game’s still not dead. And second, someone at Red 5 or The9 is still kicking the servers back up when they go down. It’s still flying. It’s not much, but for what’s left of the Firefall stalwarts, it’s enough.