Massively Overthinking: ‘Dead games’ in the MMO space


I had a laugh a while back when I spied this tweet in my feeds from a Bungie CM who was suggesting people mute the words “dead game” on Twitter. Forever. It’s a whole mood. I hate seeing the phrase because it’s seldom actually used for games that have actually been killed off or sunsetted – ever notice that? It’s always used as a weapon to tear down someone who likes something that is perceived as not being at the height of popularity. Something small, something forgotten, something unloved – but something alive.

I want to talk about “dead games” in the MMO space in this week’s Massively Overthinking because the reality is that we have a lot of games that get plastered with that term. What games are considered “dead” but aren’t? What “dead games” do you still play? Are you as sick of the term as I am? What terms would you prefer?

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): Chris really hit the nail on the head for this one. It’s funny because among the general population, most people consider Pokemon GO a dead game, yet it’s been among the top-grossing mobile games for years, and actually has been making more money than its initial release at times. I actually see this a lot in games I play, as I tend to make it past the “first 30-days” (or less!) that mainstream gamers hit before their attention turns elsewhere, and its not even small titles: Every Animal Crossing between iterations, Monster Hunter games that have been out for a few months, even people at my school said this about the Asheron’s Call games even as I would have to wait in a queue to log in because of the high demand.

“Dead games” is just a part of a general “rhat’s not cool anymore” slam. I remember kids in the ’90s slamming my interest in Star Wars up until celebs were getting excited about The Phantom Menace, and even if it wasn’t critically a good movie, it did turn some of my classmates into fans.

And that’s the thing: People can be turned to the “darkside.” I may not like it, but since (at the minimum) my hobbies and interests have always been taunted as being “uncool,” I’m probably just numb to the idea that pretty much any game I’m enjoying will be a “dead game” even if it’s financially and/or critically successful. What is important to me is that at least talking about “dead games” can attract a mainstream that may come and go like the tide but may leave a few gems in their wake.

Now, if a game is actually dead, like sunsetted or close to it, that’s another matter entirely.

Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX, YouTube, Twitch): Every time my tank queue goes over 30 seconds in FFXIV, I usually say some kind of quip about how long my wait time is and then joke at how FFXIV is a dead game. Obviously, that’s not true. But I hear it all the time in Black Desert Online, especially in the Olvia servers.

I personally find it hilarious. It’s like the signal to bring in the clowns. As soon as someone says, “BDO IS A DEAD GAME,” there’s going to be the person who defends BDO and uses superior logic and tactics to forever prove that BDO is not a dead game. Then there’s the guy from a certain reddit that will say, “WELL ACTUALLY, THE WHOLE GENRE IS DEAD.” And those arguments get super heated. It’s a good time – bonus points if the original poster just said it to troll.

I don’t really have a stake in it. As long as the game isn’t sunsetting, I’m a happy camper.

You know what’s a really dead game though? Wizardry Online. (More like Wizardry Offline, am I right!?) Why? Because it’s actually sunsetted. It would be fun if it weren’t dead, though. Had some neat ideas going on there.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): I couldn’t possibly be more sick of this term. I want it launched into the sun on a burning rocket that is also set to explode while fighter jets intercept and blow up any debris left behind.

Repeating a point that Tyler’s recent Not So Massively column excellently made, this phrase has been used to poison the well against a wide variety of games like Anthem, as well as titles like WildStar and MapleStory 2. It’s a frustrating tribalistic habit spawned from the identity of being a gamer, nurtured by angry YouTubers, granted relevance by social media posts that eagerly try to go viral, and deep-seated in the idea that sales numbers are the primary metric of a healthy game. And more often than not, a “dead game” claim is used by people who also wail about the genre’s impending end with all of the eloquence and foresight of your favorite sidewalk soothsayer crackhead.

I guess what I’m saying is: Stop bloody well using it as a weapon and let people like different games.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Just as in most online discourse in our culture, extremist language bubbles to the top — and I see “dead games” as an extreme position that allows for no nuance or context. There are always so many factors to consider before banging a gavel and declaring a game dead. How are its numbers? Is it still making a profit? Is the studio actively developing for it? Is the community supportive of the game and openly promotes it in blog posts, Reddit threads, etc.? Is it still enjoyable?

I mean, if a game’s servers are technically on but the dev team has clearly abandoned the game, there’s only seven people playing on Steam Charts, and nothing new or interesting has happened with that title in a half-year, then yes, it’s “dead” even though it’s still walking. But I feel that gamers are over-eager to apply this label to any game that they’ve burned out on or hold some personal vendetta against.

Tyler Edwards (blog): Yeah, this is one of my biggest gaming pet peeves.

For one thing, the phrase “dead game” has been so over-used it’s lost all meaning. Go to the forums or main subreddit for virtually any game, and you won’t have to look hard to find at least one person claiming the game is dead or dying. I’ve even seen people apply to the label to single-player games that were never intended as live services. The game didn’t die; it finished development. That’s how single-player games work, you absolute vegetative donkey.

In theory, the term could have some use. I think it’s meant to imply a game that’s in maintenance mode and/or headed for imminent closure, and knowing that a game is in that state is useful information for potential new players. But when it’s thrown at every game under the sun, it stops conveying anything useful whatsoever.

When it comes to large games that have momentum behind them — like World of Warcraft, which has famously been dying since alpha — the “dead game” parrots are irritating, but largely harmless. But when it comes to newer and smaller games, they can be downright toxic. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as the “dead game” labels scares away people who might otherwise give it a try. I definitely believe this has been a significant contributor to the premature demises of some really great games, like Anthem and The Secret World.

So yeah, I’ve had it with the term. It’s a cancer on the medium.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!
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