City of Heroes isn’t the first MMO to close its doors. However, I think it might just be the first that wasn’t clearly a candidate for it. Many people lament the loss of Star Wars Galaxies, but even its fans have to admit that the population was very small and being a licensed title it probably cost a lot just to have the name, much less actually run the game. The Matrix Online was a terrible game and needed to be shot, I think only a couple dozen people were playing anyway. EA shut down a bunch of games, but then EA has been shutting down games for years (just look up the notices of multi-player console games they’ve sunsetted the servers for). Even NCsoft is no stranger, having blank slated Tabula Rasa for it’s massive cost overruns and failure to gain a market, and gnome punted Dungeon Runners for not meeting expectations.
But City of Heroes, by all accounts, including NCsoft’s own financial reports, was still a profitable game. Maybe not enough for every one of their employees to be wearing money hats, but enough to keep the lights on and to develop new content for. So it was quite a shock to the CoH community when NCsoft let go most of the Paragon staff and announced the game would be shuttered.
There have been numerous efforts to save the game, from Paragon trying to make an offer to buy themselves out of NCsoft, to angel investors, to fan driven campaigns. There have even been pleas from well-known writers, some of whom contributed to the game through the Mission Architect, calling NCsoft out for ending the game. Friend of the MMO Track, Mark Brinkman runs The Central Nexus Blog and has been keeping up with all the news and latest developments.
The harsh reality, of course, is that none of this means anything unless NCsoft is willing to sell, which they don’t seem to be. It might be a culture thing. I’ve heard from some sources that this Korean company is unlikely to sell because they view everything they create as their own and selling it would cause unneeded competition in the market. And it’s not really unreasonable. Could you imagine Sony selling EverQuest off because they don’t want to run it anymore? More likely, assuming they ever reach a point that the game isn’t profitable, they’ll shut it down and try to direct people to EQ2 and EQNext or other titles.
And really, this is ultimately where the failing of logic seems so apparent to fans. Why close a profitable game whose fans have no choice but to play a competitor’s game? Cryptic’s Champions Online, Sony’s DC Universe Online or Gazillion’s forthcoming Marvel Heroes are the only options for a spandex loving fan of comics looking to express that in an MMO.
In the battle of NCsoft vs City of Heroes, the spandex crusaders have lost, and yet, NCsoft hasn’t come out on top either. Sentiment against them is currently white hot, with people calling for boycotts of their other games. Their stock has been falling since October of 2011, and it doesn’t show signs of recovering. Time will tell if it was worth it to cancel a profitable, beloved MMO in favor of “streamlining” their offerings.
I’m guessing not.
Personally, I would love to see the City of Heroes return. I played it in beta and for several years, only leaving because I allowed others games to convince me they had finally developed THE game (none of them did) and yet I was constantly coming back to Paragon City. A month here or there, and when they went Free-to-Play I started logging in more often. And yet, I didn’t spend any money on the game in recent times, so I guess I am part of the problem.
And there is the lesson… in the end, it is money that makes the world go ’round. If you want a game to stay, you need to pay. It’s the only real way a company knows you care.
But we don’t need money to know you care, just you… so if you’ve got a tale to tell from your days of fighting crime in Paragon City or you just want to rant about MMOs being shut down, do so in the comments.