MMOs shut down. This is just kind of a reality. It’s an unpleasant one, but we also are collectively aware that it happens and not much can be done to prevent it. Some games fail to get an audience or are no longer viable or whatever, and then you need to wave goodbye. Sometimes the game is shut down for bad reasons that are mostly a result of corporate greed, and that sucks, but at least most of the time the people in charge of the game manage those last few days with respect and dignity.
Then there are the sunsets that are handled with all the grace and dignity of throwing a smoke bomb into a server room and letting nature take its course. That’s what we’re talking about today.
Fortunately, most of the actual sunsets we have in this particular genre seem to have been managed with a level of basic decency, even if the aforementioned reasons for the shutdown are garbage. But when the shutdowns are handled poorly… well, we have these. Like, say, the first entry here.
1. Marvel Heroes
These rankings are not usually strictly in best-to-worst order, but the reality is that there’s no better example for badly managing a shutdown than Marvel Heroes. If someone was going to write a guide about how to shut down a game, I’m pretty sure that unexplained silences punctuated by actual lies are first on the list of things to never do for any reason. Everything after that point is already tainted, after all.
But even if the unexplained silence itself didn’t bother you, there was also the completely unclear actual shutdown date, the contradictory statements, the apparently foul behavior of upper management, or… you know, just go back and browse through the tags. It was bizarre.
On a grand list of all the ways to go out, I have to say that shutting down, then not shutting down, then keeping a game in perpetual are-we-closed-or-not limbo for several months is pretty close to the most disrespectful way to treat players possible, coming in as less respectful than even posting the “Bye Felicia” clip as the only explanation for a server shutdown. And here we are. Good work, Firefall!
Admittedly, there’s more going on with this one. But it was a mess from top to bottom.
For the people who still had some vestige of respect for Daybreak as a studio, I like to think that Landmark’s quick turnaround from inheritor of a canceled game’s legacy to itself being shutdown was the moment of “wait, maybe these guys are actually awful.” For those of us who haven’t liked the studio from back in the SOE days… well, it was still a shockingly quick and mean-spirited move for a title that didn’t even get a full year after its official launch to build up an audience, much less benefit from any actual development time. Especially when you consider how heavily the game relied upon player-made content.
It’s good to note that Hellgate has only had one insanely disrespectful shutdown, specifically after its first launch. The real lemon juice in the eye comes from the continued revivals, none of which actually seems interested in letting former fans just pick up where it was off. Why does this keep happening? Are the rights just insanely cheap? Do you get them for free when you turn 18 if you have the right astrological sign? Someone enlighten me.
I was inspired for this whole article by seeing that we were covering the shutdown of Elite Lord of Alliance… for the third time. It’s like Hellgate on a budget, or something. Factor in that at least one of the localized versions appear to have been brought over in some degree of illegality, and the whole thing becomes downright insane. How does that even happen?
I honestly feel like past a certain point it’s disrespectful to both players and the people who are buying the rights to this game. I don’t know how you believe that after two failures to connect the third one is going to be a success.
And here we have a shutdown that manages to be awfully managed by just sort of quietly letting it happen and hoping nobody notices. The failure of Wander came down to a number of factors, some of which were under the control of the developers and some of which were not. But voluntarily saying nothing while the game languished, leaving it present until the game actually shut down? That one is wholly in the control of people who could have at any point said “yeah, it’s dead, we’re sorry.”
I feel like at some point we’re going to need to have a serious discussion about Amazon Game Studios, which has definitely made a storied history of not actually producing games. Breakaway was almost there, and yet at the last moment Amazon declared that it was being pulled in a way that felt as hand-wringing as possible about officially cancelling the game. It’d be funny if there weren’t people actually invested in the game.
8. Bless Online
One of the points of this particular column is that there’s a difference implied between the quality of a game and the respect shown when shutting it down. I can’t think of anyone who would argue that Bless Online was a good game, but the disrespect of the whole operation came from insisting that each time one version or another shut down, of course that has no bearing on this version facing the exact same problems and critical reception! And now we have Bless Unleashed on the way, which is at least supposed to be distinct from the original game… but who knows how well that will fare.
Yes, on some level the idea of telling your current source of profit that the game is not in a good place sounds absurd. I can understand not doing it. But it’s still a foul way to manage a game.
9. The Culling
Ironically, the real thing that sank The Culling wasn’t itself so much as a hasty sequel that angered people so much that any subsequent actions were tainted. Yes, right up to the shutdown itself. That was managed decently, by all accounts, but it was still a shutdown in part tied to that initial affront, so it winds up having an air of “what did you expect” around it.
For the record, I do think that the developers reacted to fan outrage in the best possible way, walking back on plans and making what at least looked like an honest effort to mollify players. The problem is that once the initial damage was done… well, the damage was done. It wasn’t really going to be undone, just mitigated.
10. Basically any NCsoft shutdown
Oh, just pick one. This publisher handles lots of them, and odds are that at least one is still grinding your gears. I’m personally annoyed by WildStar’s “when are we going to shut down, it is a mystery,” thing, but that’s just me. There’s never been a shutdown that didn’t have at least some degree of implied contempt for players and the game itself, no matter how else it might be managed.
Because really, that’s the ore here. It’s not about the shutdown itself; you might lose a license or not have players or whatever, shutdowns happen. It’s that contempt. It’s not providing reasons or timetables or explanations or plans or anything, a last little dig that gives the shutdown that feeling of a middle finger even beyond the loss of the game.