A little while back, I took a look at the healthiest games in the MMO space at this time. That was a nice, uplifting list, wasn’t it? And all of those titles continue to do just fine, even if one or two might have had a few bits of shocking news along the way.
Unfortunately, this is not an industry in which health is assured. Games can be high-quality and beloved, but they can still be shut down by outside forces. And that’s not counting games that just come out in the wrong time period or launch in an unrecoverable state.
That may sound grim, but we’re already staring at the first two shutdowns of 2017 in the near future, and both of the titles being killed are surprises. One of them might have wound up on this list if it weren’t being shut down, but at this point, it is. So let’s look at the MMOs with the most unclear futures and start hoping for the best.
I worry about WildStar a lot. I really wanted to be on-board with WildStar, and I was at launch and for some time afterwards, but the game’s designers were dedicated to making uncomfortable decisions that seemed tailor-made to drive off the majority of its fans. Half of the game was a charmingly novel sandpark game, and the other half was the sort of hardcore raiding nonsense that even World of Warcraft abandoned ages ago.
Positive changes have come to the game subsequently; I don’t mean to underplay that. But the game is still suffering from the same public perception problems as it did when people first started hitting the level cap, and the diminished staff means that it has less and less in the way of resources to arrest that slide. I want to see it come back and do well for itself, but increasingly, I’m waiting for the sad conclusion. It isn’t and was never inevitable, cupcake; it was just treated that way.
2. Dungeons & Dragons Online
If you aren’t worried about both Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online, I feel like you’re not paying attention. I’m really not comfortable with either title sharing even elbow space with Daybreak, and spinning them off from Turbine makes sense but is also a bit… well, worrying. DDO just seems like the title that’s most likely to go under first, since it doesn’t have the same brand recognition, and there’s already another D&D MMO out there that’s doing quite well for itself.
3. Champions Online
Really, this game is already dead. Champions Online seems to keep going primarily based on the success of Cryptic’s other properties, and its lack of development time in anything more than momentary bursts means that players have whittled down to nothing more than a few diehards. It continues to shamble on, undead, because the people running the servers are successful enough elsewhere that it’s not a big drain.
That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? But it’s not meant to be. This is a good game with a lot of good ideas, and it could really be something if it had proper development behind it. It just doesn’t have enough players to justify proper development, and so here we are.
By contrast, this game was undead on conception. It was an entry into the briefly overcrowded “zombie survival” genre that generated a nice burst of cash, and half of it sold decently in 2016, but given Just Survive’s rocky autumn and King of the Kill’s total failure to launch or set a new launch date back in September, I suspect that cash well is drying up, and what’s left behind is a game that doesn’t really have much in the way of unique features to draw people to it. Splitting it into two separate games certainly didn’t help matters, either.
At this point, I think the biggest thing that keeps H1Z1 going is just the image of closing the game now without ever having a full launch. It was not a great idea from the start, but everything it does has been done elsewhere and better. There’s even a survival game with dinosaurs; that’s much cooler.
5. Guild Wars
Nobody is expecting much development from the original Guild Wars at this point, since the title has been in maintenance mode for a while (and real maintenance mode, not “we’ll update every month” maintenance mode). But I wonder when the servers will actually go dark for this one, too. Hopefully never because there’s plenty of fun to be had in the original game, but I can’t help but be nervous about that.
6. Atlantica Online
I admit I don’t know much about Atlantica Online, but an older game that’s just shuffled ownership and seems to have a large number of veteran players crying foul on that shuffled ownership does not scream “good times” to me. The fact that it’s older and smaller but still had to swap owners also makes me leery of the game’s future; you’d think that the costs for hosting it would not be terribly significant.
Granted, I don’t know much about the game, so maybe this is totally normal for fans. Perhaps we’ll have a few in the comments, but probably not, and that’s another warning sign.
Let me first say that TUG has a pretty charming art style, and I’d like to see it go somewhere. But when I hear words like “minimally viable product” after months of mostly silence (even announced silence) that included rumblings about whether or not the game should even cost money… let’s just say I am not filled with confidence.
I can see why this one would be in trouble, mind you. Much like H1Z1, this one kind of jumped into a space already occupied by other games, and I get the feeling that all of the cool ideas the Nerd Kingdom folks had proved much harder to implement than was originally planned. But none of that makes me less worried about the game’s future, you know?
8. Age of Conan
If Anarchy Online is the strong foundation of Funcom’s past and The Secret World is the hope for the future, Age of Conan is the awkward middle period during which the company was briefly obsessed with death metal and doodling skulls in the margins of college ruled notebooks. Which… actually bears out pretty well with the game that we see, so perhaps that analogy works better than intended.
The point is that the game is kind of the outlier for the studio, and while I wish Funcom nothing but success, the past few years have not been kind. I appreciate and applaud the company for standing by the title and not shutting anything down, but I worry that if things start going down, this title would be first on the chopping block — especially with Conan Exiles treading over similar ground.
The selling point of this game, originally, was the whole “transmedia synergy” angle. It never actually worked that well, since Defiance (the game) took place a long way away from Defiance (the series) and shared only peripheral influence on the characters. Sure, the two were supposedly linked, but in practice it felt more like the title was just a spinoff of the show. That was just the nature of things.
Now, though, the series is over and gone. So what’s left for the game to anchor to? I realize that there haven’t been any formal announcements claiming that it’s going anywhere – just the opposite, in fact – but losing this one feels like it’s just a matter of waiting for the other shoe.
10. The Repopulation
There’s no part of this story that I like. I am really uncomfortable with the idea that the game’s creators have more or less been forced to sell off The Repopulation in favor of developing the survival spinoff that has not actually allowed the creators to do more work on The Repopulation, meaning that their survival is now dependent on something that has failed its primary goal once before. I’m not happy with the change in ownership, and the lengthy time offline plus all of that fumbling doesn’t look good for the future.
It’s a tragic end to what should, by all rights, have been a success story. I don’t like that part, either, and even if the game bursts onto the scene and gets nothing but praise, that’s going to color it.