The Daily Grind: How long should a studio keep an MMO in maintenance mode?

    
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It's so clear now that you are all that I have.

It seems pretty clear to me now that Final Fantasy XI is going to keep running for a long time. I can’t say for certain just how long, but there’s no rumble of anything shutting down any time soon, and the team is making plans not just for the 20-year anniversary but beyond even that. Pretty impressive when you consider that the game has long been placed in an official maintenance mode.

The funny thing is that “maintenance mode” is a fuzzy concept from the start. It’s a studio keeping a game running when it no longer pulls in enough money for active development, but at the same time it’s obviously pulling in enough money to be worth keeping online. Or you’re dealing with a studio that is making enough money through other games to make the cost of this other game incidental. Like I said, it’s vague.

Personally, I’m all for keeping these games online until the last account logs off never to log in again, and possibly longer than that. But at the same time, that may be unrealistic. What do you think? How long should a studio keep an MMO in maintenance mode? Does there come a point when you’d actually prefer a closure?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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Anstalt

As many others in this thread have said, keep the game up and running as long as it’s profitable, even if the profit margin is tiny.

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Zero_1_Zerum

I feel a game should close when nobody is playing it. But, because online video games cost money to keep running, I think they should shut down when it’s no longer a viable option to keep it running with the money it’s making.

And, say, ten years after that, the source code and assets should be released to the public, so people can legally run their own private servers.

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Eamil

Are you trolling at this point?

Not that I’m bothered, it’s just that every time you write a FFXI article I see at least one person annoyed that you call it “maintenance mode” when the devs themselves don’t use that term and never have. Making a whole Daily Grind piece that seems designed to annoy those people is kind of funny.

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Witches

As long as the running costs are not in the red it should stay on forever, also after a game closes the creators should get an IP fee for the code and the games should go into public domain.

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Tandor

So who’s going to pay the IP fee and on what basis of calculation? What about the binding legal contracts that are in place? I guess none of that matters just so long as the gamers who weren’t providing sufficient revenue to keep the game afloat get to play it for nothing when someone’s copyrighted IP and the developers’ years of work (and the investment that went into them) just “go into the public domain”.

Too many people these days want to play a game for free when it’s running and then have it handed to them for nothing when it closes. I wish them well if they ever run their own business!

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nomadmorlock9

I really think companies like NC Soft really believe shutting down a game forces those players to go to another of their games thereby increasing its population and success.

It really doesn’t work that way.

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Dilly Dolly

It won’t work for me. (The Korean titles don’t attract me)

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Paul

Only possible answer is as long as its bringing in enough money to cover all the costs of running it.

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Robert Mann

So long as the game is not costing cash out of pocket. If it is making some money, then it is better to keep it running… not only will it engender greater good will from the players and those who have any other reason to consider the company involvement in any other projects, but it serves as a fallback should some newer project not pan out.

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AoC

As long as you can extract a sub out of it or it costs chump change to keep the servers up, there’s absolutely no reason why MMOs in maintenance can’t exist forever. FF11 and GW1 are good examples.

quark1020
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quark1020

How long? For as long as possible. As long as someone enjoys playing it and, somehow, can make enough to pay for servers and a GM or two, then rock on!

I know of at least one game that I wish went into maintenance mode. Instead, we have to deal with slightly less legal methods to be able to play them.

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Castagere Shaikura

The idea of paying a monthly fee for a game in maintenance mode is just stupid to me but people are willing to do it. So its free money for the game company.

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Paul

So you think GM and server maintenance staff work for free? Presumably the servers can run on fresh air and the internet connectivity is free too? lol

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PanagiotisLial1

Makes me wonder if he works on his job for free as well

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Paul

:)

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Castagere Shaikura

You guys are always saying how much it cost but none of you know anything at all. You guys think they have a full staff on to restart the servers once in a while. Most of these game in this mode are from companies that collect on other games they run. Where is your proof that games in this mode cost the same to run as games bringing in real money? So many of you guys say the same thing without any proof to back up what you say.

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PanagiotisLial1

They need to have staff – its not just restarts, its monitor for problems, its support tickets too. Its running costs too. Its hosting costs too, its bug fixes too. You think everything is free. Actually there is no bigger indication that private shards too(aka mostly passion projects) of various games place cash shops while asking donations too. Of course the wording is donation points, but we all know what they are. They do it cause running a game, even in maintainance, costs.

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Sarah Cushaway

Soooo are you an industry insider with all this info? No? Didn’t think so.

cmdr_cotic
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cmdr_cotic

Perhaps they are thinking that costs would be absorbed by another product which is not in maintenance mode and that would be perfectly reasonable.

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PanagiotisLial1

Not reasonable at all to keep something in the red at the expense of another game that is doing well in my opinion. But if a game doesnt make money but doesnt lose either, then its good. Games generally are cheap – I dont like subs, I prefer to pay on set dates I want rather than one recurring(so the f2p model is more convinient) but most subs nowadays are 15 euros/usd. That makes 50 cents per day. A coffee out is way more expensive than that(2 to 3 euros here). Typically if I like and go on playing a game I will spend something. The general problem on mmo gaming is the “I want to play without ever spending a cent” mentallity, Afterwards same people will wonder why their game went into maintainance mode or even sunsetted

I will also tell you in the many yeears I play mmos I met a lot of people that admitted playing mmos not because they like mmos in general, but on contrary because they can play the for free whereas they would have to buying single player games instead

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nomadmorlock9

Clearly you have no clue of the costs of running a game even in maintenance mode. Maybe the cost of maintenance?