MMO devs discuss the painful process of shutting down online games

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Have you ever thought about what it is like for developers and community managers who handle online games that are being shut down? It’s certain just as painful (if not more) for them as it is for us, and it is not as easy as turning off a switch and walking away.

PC Gamer has a fascinating piece on the process of sunsetting titles from a studio’s standpoint, including looks at games such as Club Penguin and PlanetSide 1.

Former Club Penguin CM Bobbi Rieger shared the overload of details that the team had to sort out when the news broke: “My immediate reaction was, ‘Oh crap.’ Of course my thoughts went to the community and how we could make this as positive as possible. At the end of the day, it’s going to be hard. It’s gonna suck. I was just like, ‘OK, what’s the action plan?'”

Studios that have enough lead time for a shutdown are able to take steps to honor the community while dealing with all of the logistics that come with the cessation of an online title.

Camelot Unchained’s Mark Jacobs shared advice from someone who has dealt with this multiple times: “You should always try to be as honest as possible with the players […] At the end of the day you have a business to run and if circumstances come up that force your hand, sometimes all you have is empathy. Other times, you have to make a decision about whether you can afford to keep something running because it is losing money or distracting the studio from its main focus. Now, if you are making a lot of money, the first reason is a little less valid. But in most cases, it’s not an easy decision.”

Source: PC Gamer

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At least many of these companies let their players know. Anthony Castoro (Ultima Online, now with Daybreak games – H1Z1) ran Gods and Heroes and took the money and ran. They said they had to take the servers down for a patch or what not and they never came back up.


It must feel terrible for developers to see so much work just vanish into thin air.

Most non-MMO games remain functional even decades later. In fact I quite often find myself returning to titles from my early childhood. I just recently played good old Dungeon Keeper. It’s over 20 years old and still runs like a charm. There are many very old games that have a really loyal fanbase and I think it’s nice for developers to know that people are still enjoying their games until this day.

Now with online games, once the official servers shut down, often there’s no way to replay these games. Fans have no chance to go back in time and enjoy the nostalgia. Back in the early 2000s I played an MMORPG called “Herrcot” (that was the german name… I think it was called “Ferentus” on the international market). At some point I switched to WoW and and when I remembered Herrcot years later I found out it had shut down (some time in 2007 I think?).

Such a detailed world, so many assets, quests, so much work… simply gone. Propably forever. As far as I know, there are no private servers nor server files available. The game literally disappeared and everything left is memories and a couple of screenshots on google images. So so sad. For the players as well as for the developers.

I really think MMORPG developers should release the (server) source code or at least the last version of stable server files after deciding to shut down a game. So the last loyal fans can setup private servers. I mean… it’s not gonna hurt anyone, right? If the game wasn’t profitable anyways, why not give the last bits no the few loyal fans remaining?

Melissa McDonald

It’s got to hurt like a breakup. You built this world, you had huge hopes and dreams for it. Maybe they even came true, for a while. Then the decline, until you realize sadly it’s time to pull the plug. I can see this would be quite emotional for the devs who poured YEARS into the game.