Ever pause during your day and find yourself wondering, “Whatever happened to that game?” With hundreds upon hundreds of online titles these days, it’s surprisingly easy for MMOs to fall through the cracks and become buried as more aggressive or active games take the spotlight.
Well, every so often we here at Massively Overpowered find ourselves curious what has transpired with certain MMOs that we haven’t heard from in quite a while. Have we missed the action and notices? Has the game gone into stealth maintenance mode? What’s the deal? What has it been up to lately? That’s when we put on our detective hats and go sleuthing!
In this special pirate edition of the column, we’ll be visiting the fates ‘n’ fortunes of Pirates of the Burning Sea, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, and Puzzle Pirates. Yo ho!
Pirates of the Burning Sea
Sure, it might well be one of those MMOs that you keep forgetting exists — and yet it does, and it endures as well.
Flying Lab Software developed and launched this game back in 2008, giving players a chance to play an EVE Online-like experience during the age of sail. Pirates of the Burning Sea was taken under the wing of Sony Online Entertainment for several years as part of its widespread library of MMOs. Despite the hefty publisher at its back, the game gradually slid into a very niche position, with only two of the original seven servers active by 2010.
SOE dropped the game in 2012, which some thought would be an instant death sentence. Instead, the team formed Portalus Games and took over both the operation and development of PotBS from 2013 forward. A major “Economic Expansion” push took place during 2014 to beef up that aspect of the game.
The good news is that the game is still very much up and running if you’re looking for an in-depth sandbox and an array of ships and nations. The not-so-great news is that the title looks to be more or less in maintenance mode, with very little being done other than routine maintenance and the occasional Talk Like a Pirate Day promotion. The last patch of any size was back in June 2016 that included a change to the Pieces of Eight exchange, labor values on recipes, and treasure aisle structures.
Still, 10 years of live operation is nothing at which to sneeze, and the interest in the newer pirate games coming out this year might spill over to Burning Sea as players look at what else is out there.
Pirates of the Caribbean Online
Disney’s MMORPGs have not had the best longevity in the genre. While the Mouse House was eager to jump on board the genre with games like ToonTown Online and Club Penguin, it’s scooted back out of the massively multiplayer space with almost the same speed.
And so it was with Pirates of the Caribbean Online. Created to capitalize on the immensely popular Johnny Depp films (not to mention the Disney theme park ride itself), the MMO launched in October 2007 and was promptly ignored by everyone who was not (a) seven years old or (b) a die-hard fan of the movies. Seriously, just about nobody remembers that this game ever existed, even back when it was running.
It didn’t help that aside from its IP, Caribbean Online offered very little new or interesting content that gamers hadn’t experienced elsewhere. The free-to-play title offered a shallow MMO that was aimed at the younger set who wanted to recreate the movies. It rowed about in shark-infested waters for a few years before Disney finally pulled the plug in 2013.
There were enough fans to spawn a couple of emulators, however. Both Pirates Online: Retribution and The Legend of Pirates Online took the piracy theme to heart by altering the game’s code and offering it to a community reluctant to surrender.
The brand name also survived. Last year, Disney authorized Korean studio Joycity to develop and release an MMORTS called Pirates of the Caribbean: Tides of War. Obviously, it is only related to the MMO in its name and online functionality, but it does indicate that Disney continues to be on the lookout of how to market this brand.
The bizarre blend of Fisher Price visuals, pirate themes, multiplayer, and puzzles resulted in the endearing Yahoo! Puzzle Pirates. Launched in 2003, this browser-based MMO endured on the strength of its unusual premise and fans’ loyalty.
Development and ownership of Puzzle Pirates was taken over by Three Rings Design back in 2011, the same year that the title made the jump to Steam as a free-to-play game. There even was an iPad version for a brief window in 2013 and 2014, although this was discontinued. The game’s former developers banded together to form Grey Havens and took over Puzzle Pirates’ operation (as well as Spiral Knights) in 2016.
Last September, the devs created and launched a new type of server called Dark Seas. This was meant to offer more of a PvP-focused experience with new maps and a dangerous atmosphere. Other than that, Puzzle Pirates continues to sail under the flag of holiday events and occasional promotions.
Curious about the game’s history? Check out our Game Archaeologist retrospective on Puzzle Pirates!