The office is brightly lit and impeccably clean and a large cherry wood desk monopolizes the center of the room. Behind the desk sits an older man, graying at the temples he sits comfortably in a large leather chair. Two sides of the office are windows that overlook a sprawling city bustling with life; its 9am and you have been called into your bosses “bosses” office. The man takes off his glasses and looks at you solemnly, asks you a few pointed questions on a project you’ve been working on for the past few years of your time at this company. You do your best to answer confidently and politely, he motions you to have a seat and you oblige. He starts to go over some facts and figures to sound like he is building a case for your dismissal. Life and time for you stop at that moment.
As you leave the office you understand what your new directives are, the project you’ve been on has been making the company money and that has made you proud. You know the hours you have put in and the effort you and your team have made. Along the line the job has taken a personal connection, not only just to you but also your team that works with you and for you; they have been loyal. You realize that this decision is going to hurt your team and the community that has been built up from years of hard work. “It’s not that it hasn’t been making money, it’s not going to make enough to be able to redirect certain resources that are best used elsewhere”, are the words from the director that echo in your head. The word “elsewhere” stands out like a sore thumb in your mind. You walk into the office and slam the door, there is a hush over the area as your partner walks in and asks if you are ok. “They are shutting it down”, as the breath escapes your lips doing your best to look professional, “after all these years, it’s finally going to end. We need to let everyone know.”
Does it happen that easily? Because that is what I imagined when I read that The Matrix Online was going to be shut down today.
This blog is not about The Matrix Online, it’s about how these game companies come to the decision and no matter at what human cost, it all comes down to the dollar bill.
Regardless of what is going on in my personal life, my friends and the people close to me in real life and in game. What really set me off today was the anticlimactic announcement of The Matrix Online servers being shut down this summer. “And we are really proud that we lasted four years while other games released at the same time didn’t.” That also means that you have four years of a loyal fan base that is going to waste, Four years of experience and four years of information gone to waste. And not to mention the time within that four years that players spent countless hours developing characters, exploring the game and building relationships. Because at the end of the day that is why people play MMORPG’s, if not then they can just play a single player game that at least they will own for life.
What really bothers me is that there is never the precursor to these decisions, it just happens and the public is forced to accept it. It happened with Tabula Rasa, Hellgate:London, Earth and Beyond and many others. I found a list here after doing some research on MMO shutdowns
. It was actually disheartening to read all these names, even worse is the list of game studios that were shut down as well. Companies like SOE seem to be very systematic in their marketing, advertising and decision making skills.
The fact that MXO being shutdown isn’t a surprise, but why no recourse for the fanbase or at least a rally to keep the doors open for a certain time longer. I understand what it’s like on all sides of this coin, the player, the worker, the director and the consumer. I have worn all the hats in one way, shape, form or another. I’ve had to make the decision that I knew was painful but best for the company and also to be the player to wake up to the news announcement that your game is going to be shut down.
We are consumers and investors alike. As a gamer, we go and buy the software or download it online. That in most cases costs money, and then we start to invest our time into the game just to see if we like it. If we decide we like it, that expands into many hours upon hours of personal investment if not we are stuck with some software, QQ sell it on EBAY and buyer beware. This is time that we can be doing ANYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD, but we CHOOSE to buy and play YOUR GAME.
Now I understand that there is a certain burnout rate for every game and gamer alike, I’ve been around MMO’s long enough to feel it myself. No one wants to acknowledge this but I don’t think it’s healthy or humanly possible to do the same thing repetitively for prolonged periods of time. That is what causes job burnout, relationship burnout and what prompts vacations, people in general need to change stimulus. OK, I’m getting to psychological here so I will get to my point. We have a choice and us, as a community have choices and with those choices come certain responsibility and power.
How is that? Ok, for one take it money. All these games and websites cannot run without MONEY, it’s not humanly possible unless they have some rich benefactor that keeps it running. And we have the most important thing that is word of mouth, the power of reputation. As a society, and that’s what we are: A Society; word of mouth and reputation can make and break a game studio. Prime example is The Matrix Online, just didn’t have either the positive reinforcement from the GS (Gamer Society) or the company itself to survive.
I was looking into MXO at one time, I was a huge fan of the first movie and the small set of animated shorts; the two sequels were not good in my own opinion. When I went looking for reviews the ones I found were:
“The Matrix Online, isn't as innovative as it ought to have been. It relies heavily (unapologetically at times) on many of the genre's conventions, from class archetypes to loot to endless missions of errand running and extermination. In many ways it feels like a fantasy game in sci-fi clothing. For me, that just doesn't do justice to the potential inherent in the brand.” – 1up.com
From the community what I saw was the majority of “Fail, fail, fail. This game is hawwible don’t pway it!”
So considering these rave reviews I stayed away from trying MxO, because quite frankly I don’t have the budget or hard drive space to try every single game I see. For $50 for the software and $15 a month, $65 for every rabbit hole is too rich for even my blood.
Dana Massey recently wrote, “Fact is, the players are as broken as the games they yell about.”
And to back that statement up I recently received a comment on a past blog where I observed Requiem:Bloodymare: “They dont stuff the Cs down your throat cause theres no need to. The game is just eye candy disguised as a general gridnfest with little to do but go oooh and ahhh at the landscape till that gets boring! Crafting? What crafting? True balanced PvP? What balanced PvP? Grinding and running the same 3 dungeons all the time? Yeah they got that! So there you have it. I just made a review of Bloodymre without having to write a blog about it! Good Luck dude your going to need that sub to get to cap and even then youll puke of the grinding before you even get there!” -AmbushMartyr
My general response is who cares? I am having fun, I’m playing a game and it’s different. Who knows how long I will play and even if I will make it to cap. That doesn’t matter, what matters is how do I feel about my investment consisting of my money and time. All in all I spent a whopping $15 bucks on the game and that is a far cry less than the money that some other people spend on games such as MxO or even Runes of Magic.
Right now the games I play may be shut down next week and that will be ok. I played the game and enjoyed myself for what it was even though I walk away having not owned anything, I paid for an experience. That is what these MMO’s bring us is the “experience” of playing a different role for a certain time, and I realize that nothing lasts forever. But what would bother me the most is that if they shut them down without at least reaching out to the community and offer it a chance to survive.
It’s wildly brilliant people like AmbushMartyr that make this community an interesting place to be. And the large game studios should be grateful that we don’t stand together as a collective instead we go around like a snarling pack of wolves trying to rip each other’s throats out. Because the alternative to that would really put the power in the players hands, and that would be scary.