When En Masse Entertainment announced that it would be closing its doors this fall, we here at Massively OP came to the realization that there really haven’t been as many studio shutdowns over the years in comparison to how many MMOs have been sunsetted. Titles are born and titles die, but their studios often live on to create and operate other games.
In today’s not-depressing-at-all list, we’ll be looking back at some of the more notable MMO developers who did meet their full end at some point. In some cases, their MMOs died with them, while in others, the games escaped that fate. Which ones come to your mind? Let’s see if I get to them here.
Trion Worlds (2006-2018)
We’ll kick off this list with the most personally upsetting entry here. For a long time, Trion Worlds was a powerful advocate for MMORPGs, making and publishing a wide catalogue of games including RIFT, ArcheAge, and Trove. While its business practices got plenty of (often deserved) flak, I admired its passion for MMOs and its willingness to take chances on smaller titles (like Atlas Reactor). So it was a shock to see the company sell itself to Gamigo in 2018, the repercussions of which are still being felt two years later.
Carbine Studios (2005-2018)
I’ve lost track of how many game studios that are described as “founded by former Blizzard devs,” a phrase that simultaneously generates hope and dread. Carbine’s fate was completely tied to its one title, WildStar, which traveled along a descending trajectory before bottoming out completely in 2018. Both the studio and the game went dark that year, and our hearts have yet to recover.
Soulbound Studio (2015-2020)
Chronicles of Elyria’s $1.36 million Kickstarter turned quite a few heads a few years back, but the grand promises of a highly-immersive world were not to be. Shady studio behavior and even shadier store sales eventually led to the whole dev team being laid off and Soulbound effectively closing up shop earlier this year — despite what its now very lonely CEO might tell you.
While some MMO studios went out with a quiet whimper, others went kicking and screaming in high drama. Gazillion opted for the latter, crashing and burning in 2017 as the bank called due the studio’s debt. People were laid off in the blink of an eye, Marvel Heroes was abruptly closed, and the studio’s assets were sold to bolster… Trion Worlds. Yeah, that worked out well in the end, didn’t it?
Sigil Games Online (2002-2007)
And speaking of drama, the final days of Sigil has gone down in MMO history as one of the most infamous. Following Vanguard’s lackluster 2007 launch, the whole studio was called out to the parking lot and then fired on the spot. The game was handed off to SOE (along with some of the developers), but there’s no real silver lining here.
38 Studios (2006-2012)
The sordid tale of 38 Studios and its ill-fated Project Copernicus is as long as it is mired in a whole lot of legal drama. Suffice to say that former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling formed a company to make his dream MMO, roped in the Rhode Island government to pay for a good deal of it, and then defaulted on the loan. The studio went belly-up shortly after pushing out its first title, a single-player RPG, but never brought Copernicus online.
Mythic Entertainment (1995-2014)
Practically ever since its inception in the mid-1990s, Mythic Entertainment was devoted to the craft of MMORPG development. From text MUDs to Dark Age of Camelot to Warhammer Online, the studio boasted an impressive string of accomplishments during its run. However, its sale to Electronic Arts in 2006 would ultimately lead to its undoing, as the publisher eventually decided to close up the sub-studio following the lackluster performance of WAR and of several other gaming and mobile efforts produced in its wake. The remains of Mythic were spun out into independent studio Broadsword Entertainment, which today continues to develop DAOC as well as Ultima Online.
Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment (2005-2010)
In the early-to-mid 2000s, the Stargate franchise was hitting the peak of its popularity, and there was considerable excitement over the development of an MMORPG set in that universe. While Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment made a lot of progress on Stargate Worlds, it ultimately went bankrupt in a flurry of lawsuits and alleged fraud. In a desperate attempt to stay alive, the studio created three sub-studios to obfuscate its poor money handling.
Red 5 Studios (2005-2016)
Oh, you just know I have to mention the esports party bus somewhere in here so I can justify the header pic, don’t you? In any case, Red 5 Studios was another one of those “ex-World of Warcraft developers” studios that seemed promising when it came on the scene. Its title was to be FireFall, an MMO sci-fi shooter that initially was going to be all about the PvP but then made a hard pivot to PvE midway through development. The title underperformed, Mark Kern trotted out a FireFall-themed gaming bus for a while, and then the whole company collapsed in 2016, with the game limping on for a year after that.
Flagship Studios (2003-2008)
A lot of eyeballs were on Flagship when it debuted on the scene due to its high-profile talent (which included Bill Roper, Max Shaefer, and David Brevik). Grand promises were made, Hellgate: London was praised to the high heavens, and then it all fell apart rather quickly thereafter. For more info on this grand saga, check out our Game Archaeologist column on both Hellgate and Mythos.