This is, bar none, the column I hate doing most on a regular basis. None of the games I highlight in here is something that I actually like pointing to; they’re games that people like, games that may very well be someone’s absolute favorites, and yet they’re also games where the future looks difficult if not outright bad. A cloudy future is never a good thing, and this particular column does not make it all right.
But we’re still here in the early days of 2018, and that means it’s still the right time to look at the games we might not see around next year. For various reasons, these are the games that already look like they’re in trouble, instead of absolute face-shattering surprises like a couple of the shutdowns last year.
Another year, another prediction of doom? Not a happy one, of course, but one that still seems apropos. This is a game I really enjoy but that never got the traction it needed to make itself sustainable, and its subsequent efforts to fix things up seem to have… well, not done so. It’s probably the game that everyone here is the most worried about, to boot. We want it to do well, and yet all of the evidence points to it not making it much longer.
Having said that, this game has also showed up on this list for two years running now, so perhaps it will get another stay of execution this year. That would be a welcome sight. May you continue to defy the odds and run for another year, possibly with more patches. May you live up to the promise you initially had when you launched. We’re all cheering for you!
2. Pathfinder Online
One of the best comments I saw about this game was sheer bafflement that someone would see the tabletop games this was based upon and think that this was the setting that needed an open PvP gankbox. And it does seem kind of ridiculous, when you think about it that way. But the game is also kind of in a longstanding limbo where it’s not actually dead, but it has neither the funding to finish the game nor any real top-level idea about what went wrong.
It’s one of those games in limbo, and it really seems like it’s going to finally wave farewell this year. We don’t know that for certain, of course; perhaps it will persist, perhaps it will move into some sort of launch state, and so forth. But that’s not the way to bet.
3. Champions Online
Another year and the same story about Champions Online as last year. It doesn’t need to be shut down from a purely financial standpoint, obviously, but in practical terms that’s just because it’s cheap to keep it on life support. Any sparks of life are brief and non-indicative. Much as I would like it to be otherwise, the game is functionally not going anywhere good.
This is another one that showed up on this list last year, and its actions over the past year apparently amounted to a few gestures and rumors about most of the company’s staff being let go in spite of reportedly raising millions of dollars from investors. It’s a sad story and what may wind up an unpleasant ending to a story of a game with a cute art style and big ambitions.
If we can learn anything from this story – and that’s definitely possible – it’s that something big and ambitious is actually hard to make, and the reason for not making the big ambitious title might be less down to “everyone with money is a coward” and more down to “it is actually hard to make and might not even be that fun when you do make it.” Not that this really mollifies the people looking forward to TUG specifically, of course, but it’s useful data for the future.
This would already have been on here even before Nexon basically stated that it was writing the game off altogether, but that doesn’t help its future. Nor does, well, just looking at the Steam chart for the game for giggles. Nor does anything Cliff Bleszinski has said since the game launched to positive player reviews and rather tepid actual numbers.
Should we take a lesson from this, too? Well, perhaps that would be that just because not all “ambitious” ideas are actually workable and good ideas does not mean that all relatively straightforward and rote ideas are actually good, either. It’s almost like there’s a certain number of people who are going to be interested in playing, say, an online arena shooter, and if there are two or three dividing up those players, a fourth one isn’t really going to attract much, maybe?
6. Age of Conan
I don’t want to get embroiled in a discussion of how well Secret World Legends is doing; it seems to be a case of a spike followed immediately by a decline and a slide, but we’ll see how things look once updates start rolling out. Nor does Anarchy Online seem to be in some urgent risk for me; it’s been quietly put in maintenance mode, but there are rumors something will happen with fresh start servers, and it seems to hum along all right. But Age of Conan still feels like the outlier in Funcom’s catalog.
Especially when, you know, there’s already Conan Exiles preserving the company’s use of the license and also serving as a modest success, thus making Age of Conan a bit more optional.
Of course, with games in explicit or soft maintenance mode, it’s always difficult to predict how the future will go. Heck, I doubt anyone predicted that one of the most reliably updated games running would be a game in explicit maintenance mode. Yet here we are.
7. The Repopulation
Good news, everyone! New owner Idea Fabrik has been actually working on The Repopulation after the last few years of brouhaha around the game. The bad news is that in the process of doing so there was talk about basically not providing backer rewards and compensating players. (Not with returned money, obviously.) That… does not bode well. It honestly feels uncomfortable and rather unstable.
It’s totally possible that the game is going to find its footing once again, but the transition of ownership seems to have left a bad taste in the mouths of many fans, and that doesn’t make things any easier. Here’s hoping that this story doesn’t have an ending this year.
8. Just Survive
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, to me, feels like a rock thrown through the front door of a lot of survival sandboxes that really only ever cared about dropping you into a box to shoot at people. That bodes ill for games like H1Z1, which seemed to be titles that no one really liked but everyone who played tolerated anyway simply because, well, it was the best-populated way to get what you wanted. And then you have Just Survive, which was the actual survival half of the game that got spun off, de-branded, and now exists in a weird limbo of weak communication.
Do I think it’s going to live much longer? Well, it’s been a while since Daybreak shut anything down, so that does seem to have a certain viability to it. Plus, it follows a long-time strategy. My personal prediction is that this game gets shut down and the resources get poured into H1Z1, which fails to attract more players because the bubble has already burst and thus ultimately serves as a cautionary lesson about throwing away long-term potential for short-term gain that doesn’t materialize. You know, a lesson that doesn’t need to be repeated.
9. New World
The back-and-forth on this one leaves a bad taste in my mouth after the rather abrupt moratorium on Breakaway. I don’t know if I’d actually enjoy New World much, but that’s not the point; we have yet to see much of it in a playable state and it’s remaining quite mysterious. But I’m wondering if we’ll ever get the chance to find out one way or the other.
The lesson here is… no, no, I’m done assigning lessons to these from here on out. No more lessons, but I would like this to be all right and for the rumors to be dispelled. Full stop.
10. Shroud of the Avatar
I worry that this one might come across as somewhat mean-spirited, but at the end of the day it’s not about being mean, it’s about looking at the game’s development history and funding history and just feeling a little bit leery. As much as we rag on other games for having a perpetual crowdfunding model when it doesn’t seem appropriate, Shroud of the Avatar engages in the exact same antics, and it’s supposed to be launching this year? The game has spent most of its life without an actual functioning map and this is still where we’re at?
The whole equity crowdfunding thing also left a bit of a bad taste in our mouths (or minds, however you’d like to phrase it); looking at the game’s finances, it looks like it’s being funded by the constant rotation of fundraising drives. Which means that the game isn’t actually sustaining itself at its current price, and that means… well, let’s be brief and just say nothing good.