If you’ve somehow missed this fact, then I hate to be the one to inform you of it, but it’s time you learned: MMOs shut down. Yes, sometimes even beloved games that are good and neat shut down after years of operation. This is a sad reality, but it is also a reality of the industry. Sometimes the money just isn’t there to keep the servers online and the game makes it to launch but no further.
But the thing is… sometimes the game never even makes it to launch.
Sometimes you know about a game, you hear talk of it, you might even back a Kickstarter for it, and then the game folds well before you get to anything which could be considered a launch state. So today I want to take a look at 10 games that exited the MMO field without ever having reached a launch, ranging from cancellations before any testing to cancellations when it looked like a launch was imminent.
1. Project Titan
All right, everyone knows this one; it was Blizzard’s never technically announced second MMO that apparently got yoinked because it was supposedly never all that fun to play, and some portion of the work done on it eventually turned into what we now know as Overwatch. It’s hard to say how much of a loss this one was simply because the game exists in that fuzzy state of never having too much revealed about it, but Overwatch seems to have done all right for itself. Or… it was doing all right for itself, at one point.
2. Embers of Caerus
You probably do not remember this one. It was a long time ago; the whole thing wound up getting nuked back in 2014, and at this point it’s hard to find any documentation even proving that Embers of Caerus existed in the first place. A low-magic sandbox MMO promising that you could be anything you wanted, the project quickly collapsed under the weight of its own ambitions and nothing ever happened beyond a successful Kickstarter most notable now for having claimed its Kickstarter would be a “warning shot” about the interest in the sandbox design space.
This was perhaps not the shot the developers intended.
3. EverQuest Next
Honestly, we have a great recap of everything went down with this particular disaster already from fellow writer Justin, so you should do yourself a favor and just go read that. We’re never going to know the full shape of this particular cancellation, it seems, but we know that what sounded like a really neat new title wound up getting pulled and canned after generating a whole lot of hype and breathy thinkpieces about what it might mean for the industry.
4. The Revival
Unlike an awful lot of the entries on this particular list, The Revival was actually not funded via Kickstarter but by the sale of virtual homes to players ahead of the game’s actual launch, with the idea being that you could tour your house, decorate it, and prepare before the dark sandbox MMO actually came out. Unfortunately, it turns out that the houses you could tour were the only part of this game that ever came out, with the project going on development hiatus back in 2016.
You might argue that development hiatus is not in and of itself the same thing as a full shutdown, as there’s always a chance for it to come back from the brink there. This is technically true, but seeing as how it has now been five years, the odds of this coming back from the edge are basically nil.
5. Chronicles of Elyria
Wow, will you look at that, another low-magic fantasy sandbox promising you can be anything you want. Although at least in this case, the “anything you want” explicitly includes the idea that you can be a king if you’re willing to drop thousands of dollars on the rights to being a king. That’s… different. Again, we already did a whole thing compiling the story of how this particular tale unfolded.
I can already hear at least one of the people reading this typing to insist that Chronicles of Elyria development hasn’t stopped and has in fact been revived, and yes, it’s now just a different sort of top-down strategy game but it’s still the same project and I shouldn’t say it died before launch! My response to this would be straightforward: Look, Mr. Walsh, I don’t want to be your friend. We’ve talked about this.
6. Pathfinder Online
The story of Pathfinder Online stretches for a while, but it never actually moved on past its subscription-based “early enrollment” situation, and now it finally has a closure date that the developers admit might be a little too optimistic given the state of the game’s hardware. It’s kind of a sad end to a story about a game that the developers kept trying to make happen, like it always wound up falling just shy of the audience it needed to make the game work. Sad, but maybe not entirely surprising given that it was another fantasy sandbox game with open PvP.
7. Magic Legends
Let’s be real, no one saw this coming. This was a game based on a popular franchise being developed by Cryptic, which realistically has a solid track record. Sure, it had some problems between its downgrade from an MMO and its monetization, but that doesn’t necessarily mean doom, right? Look at the pedigree! Look at where this is coming from!
Look at the game shutting down before properly launching, again. It’s the sort of thing that leads to questions about what actually happened here, but we’re really never going to know what led to such a quick termination. It sucks for the fans and all the people affected by subsequent layoffs.
8. Ever, Jane
This one surprised us a bit. Ever, Jane was an ambitious idea for an MMO, a non-combat title based on the works of Jane Austen in which players were going to spend most of their time gossiping, partying, and otherwise engaging in elaborate social fabrics of figurative backstabs along the way. If you care about the genre, it was certainly an interesting idea, but the question to be asked was whether or not there were enough players to support the idea as a full-featured MMO.
Unfortunately, we got the answer to that one when the game quietly shuttered from a lack of financial support. All the interesting ideas in the world don’t mean much when the game can’t actually support its ongoing development.
9. PlanetSide Arena
Was this a game anyone wanted? I think we made that joke when it was first announced that Planetside Arena was going to be a thing in the first place, but there is a certain amount of logic in taking the franchise and moving it into a battle royale title. Still, the small playerbase meant that the whole thing never coalesced into a playable state, and so it was shut down in January 2020 without having ever left beta testing.
10. Triad Wars
Honestly I had forgotten this one was even a thing, but I was reminded during my research that a multiplayer game based off of Sleeping Dogs was absolutely a thing, and it folded while never having actually left beta testing. I’d say “that’s depressing,” but let’s be real, most of these are.