Not all MMO sunsets are equal, when you look at them. Sure, all impact players who made those games a home, but some titles went down fairly quickly after launch while others faded out long after their playerbase had already quit.
And then there are those MMOs that genuinely shocked us by announcing a closure. They seemed like they were doing well — or at least north of profitability — and had both a loyal population and a dedicated studio. Then we get the news they were to be no more, and it always felt like the announcement came out of the blue.
Whether or not you predicted their downfall in advance, these 10 MMORPGs still stunned a lot of us by closing up shop before their time.
The Sims Online (2008)
Considering how massive and long-running The Sims franchise is since its 2000 debut, we’d say it’s still astounding that EA and Maxis couldn’t make The Sims Online work. Perhaps it was the outdated graphics at the time of release, the lack of actual stuff to do, or the rampant virtual prostitution, but the deck was stacked against this one. Even so, with the Sims name attached, you might have bet that resources and effort would’ve been poured into improving it — rather than leaving it out to wither and die under the indifferent stares of gamers.
Star Wars Galaxies (2011)
We all know the story: Just as SWTOR was preparing to release, SOE announced that its licensing deal for Star Wars Galaxies had ended and the beloved game was heading off to a trash dump far, far away. The news hit like a Death Star blast among the faithful, and many have not forgiven SOE and LucasFilm for the move ever since.
City of Heroes (2012)
When you trace the history of City of Heroes since its 2003 release, you can easily identify a game that developed strong legs to go the distance. It had a devoted team working hard to pump out content, a profitable free-to-play model, a corner on the MMO superhero market, and even a potential sequel in the works. But when word came down from NCsoft, that was that, and an entire population of caped crusaders were displaced overnight.
Vanguard was never the most popular fantasy MMO in Sony Online Entertainment’s library, but it certainly had its fair share of devotees who enjoyed the deep systems and wide-open world. And the kicker is that the game looked like it was getting extra love and support from SOE, which had pumped more devs and money into bringing it into the free-to-play era. Alas, it wasn’t enough, and the end came hot on the heels of hope.
Free Realms (2014)
Speaking of MMOs shuttered by SOE in 2014, Free Realms joined Vanguard in an unwelcome sunset. John Smedley famously said that it was almost impossible to make money off of a kids MMO, an observation that’s been debunked by the sheer popularity and profitability of certain kid-friendly titles in the ensuing decade. Still, it’s hard to deny that Free Realms had a great look and a lot of potential for the future. But instead of sticking by the title, SOE sacrificed it — and forgot it.
Man, we are talking about SOE/Daybreak way too much on this list. Perhaps we shouldn’t judge the jumpy screams that the studio’s fans developed due to years of their titles being yanked unceremoniously from production. In any case, the in-development (but persistently playable — and payable) Landmark failed to survive the cancellation notice of EverQuest Next for very long despite being the beginnings of a solid title in its own right. Overnight, so many player-made houses and creative structures vanished as if the studio took an Etch-a-Sketch and shook it vigorously.
Marvel Heroes (2017)
Take a wildly popular MMOARPG with near-unlimited cross-promotional and monetization possibilities, and you’ll have a title that should still be blasting across our computer screens to this day. So what happened to Marvel Heroes? Gazillion. Gazillion happened, and it happened hard as the studio imploded due to mismanagement, scandal, and other devious acts so diabolical that Doctor Doom took one look at this and said, “Even that’s too macabre for my taste.”
Even the most die-hard WildStar fan — and I count myself among them — wouldn’t have denied that the MMO was in trouble following mismanaged development and a free-to-play conversion that did little to turn everything around. But even so, this was an amazingly fun product with a whole lot of potential (including revenue). It’s too bad that NCsoft didn’t think so and tanked the MMO entirely. Considering how many resources NCsoft and its subsidiary Carbine poured into this game, players found it devastating to hear the news of its execution date.
MapleStory 2 (2020)
Even though the original MapleStory’s been running since the internet’s dark ages, that was no guarantee that a sequel would be just as successful. Still, MapleStory 2 looked absolutely adorable, was far more robust in its feature set, and promised to take the series into 3-D.
And then it lasted just a scant few months before its closure, far too short of a time span to build a dedicated fanbase. It wasn’t the instant success that Nexon wanted, and so it went bye-bye — even if there were other possibilities of success around the bend.
That brings us to our most recent entry on this sad list. And while you and I may not have played TERA in a long, long time, it was one of those titles that’s been around for so long that we all assumed it had enough of a consistent population to keep going indefinitely. However, BAMs and fond nostalgia weren’t enough to keep the good times rolling. And the question that this raises is such: “If TERA isn’t safe from cancellation, what MMO is? And which will be next?”
Excuse me while I retreat to my mental happy place where all of these titles are still running in 2022.