Is there anything more agonizing to an MMO fan than to get excited about a promising title and then see that title cancelled before it even launches? It’s a bitter fact of life in all corners of the video game industry, of course, but it especially seems a shame when these massive projects fail to get a chance at garnering an audience.
In today’s melancholy meanderings, we’ll be looking back at 10 fairly recent MMORPGs that looked interesting — and were cut down before they saw the light of day.
Daybreak’s Marvel MMO
Despite your opinion on Daybreak (c’mon, everyone’s got an opinion about this studio), you can’t deny that it was in a singularly promising position to offer up a big-budget superhero MMO. Not a lot of those are getting made, and when we found out earlier this year that EG7 was pulling the plug on it, it was quite the bummer – all the more so when we saw screenshots of the character creator boasting an infectious comic book spirit.
Amazon and Leyou’s Lord of the Rings MMO
While we were years away from ever seeing it, the promise of a second MMO set in Tolkien’s Middle-earth was heady stuff indeed. Things got really serious when Amazon joined Leyou for this project, bringing name recognition and wealth with it. You would think that Amazon would have wanted this game to go the distance, what with the new show coming out this fall on its platform, but nope — the studio mumbled something about licensing issues and Sauron casting the whole game into eternal darkness.
Blizzard/NetEase’s Warcraft mobile MMO
Whether or not you breathed a sigh of relief to see that NetEase wasn’t going to get its hands on another Blizzard property, the news that a Warcraft mobile MMO was axed this summer still had an impact due to the potential of such a game. Code-named Neptune, the project had been in development for a while with a team of 100 working on it. Were we just robbed of a mobile WoW — or saved from another Diablo Immortal-type desecration?
Blizzard’s Warcraft ARG
Let’s stay in the Warcraft sphere for just another moment to acknowledge that Blizzard also pulled the plug on a Pokémon Go-type ARG. We didn’t have a lot of details on this — Blizzard is notoriously secretive about its unannounced games — but we did learn that the title was put down a while back without any official acknowledgement of this fact.
BioWare’s Shadow Realms
I’m going to stretch the definition of “recent” here to reference a project from 2015, but it’s BioWare so I’m hoping you’ll allow it. This online action RPG would have been a 4v1 multiplayer experience where one player would take up the mantle of a “Shadow Lord” and fight the four as they made their way through gothic, fantasy, and contemporary realms. It was a really cool concept but allegedly did not get the blood pumping in internal testing, hence its cancellation.
Final Fantasy XI R
Those with long memories will recall that Square Enix announced back in 2015 that it was working on some sort of mobile version of Final Fantasy XI (later called Final Fantasy XI R) in conjunction with Nexon. After a whole lot of waiting for more news on the topic, we found out in 2021 that the project got canned because it was “not showing the level of creative differentiation” that the Final Fantasy brand deserved. And considering some of the awful spin-offs that had that name slapped on it over the years, that must be saying something.
This one… this one honestly hurts, guys. For years we were tracking this promising-looking MMO sandbox — one with gorgeous cel shaded graphics and a whole lot of immersive elements — and were thrilled to see Peria Chronicles finally entering beta testing in spring 2019. But all was undone just a few months later when Nexon claimed it wasn’t a satisfying game and cancelled it. This decision rightfully earned our award for biggest disappointment of the year.
Dean Hall’s Ion
In a classic case of announcing more than you can deliver, DayZ creator Dean Hall once told the world that he and his studio were building a “massive open world universe” called Ion. We never learned much more about this title, other than it had something to do with disasters in space and was inspired by EVE Online, before it was quietly put to rest in 2017.
So you’ll recall that way back when, CCP created an EVE Online FPS spinoff called DUST 514 that didn’t do so hot. When that was cancelled, a new shooter project emerged from its ashes called Project Nova. For about four years, CCP worked on this title, bringing it up to almost alpha level. In fact, we got our hands on it in 2018 before CCP decided to go back to the drawing board with Nova and then cancelling it altogether in 2020. Now? It’s trying its hand at yet another shooter in the EVE universe. Good luck with that.
For my money, the MMO genre doesn’t have nearly enough post-apocalyptic games. One such promising title in this area was Edengrad, a survival sandbox that was in the works for over a half-decade. It was helped out by a successful Kickstarter in 2016 and went into early access a year later. However, the title lacked the engagement and finances it needed to go the distance, and in 2021 it was delisted from Steam.