These days, it seems more MMORPG's are failing than those that are succeeding. In industry circles, an MMORPG success is judged on profit margins and revenue. In the gaming circle, success is judged by game quality and longevity. Below is my list of the top 10 MMORPG failures of all time.
10 RF Online
RF Online was the first Science Fiction MMORPG to come along after the downfall of Star Wars Galaxies. It was released in North America only a few months after Sony released the New Gaming Experience which drove hordes of players away from Star Wars Galaxies. While it was never more than a feint blip on the MMORPG radar screen, it was wildly hyped by MMORPG media outlets around the internet. The game offered a unique three way RVR experience set in a fantasy meets sci-fi world. The game went free on October 17th, 2007, only to close for good one year later. RF Online was published in North America by Codemasters Online.
in October 2006, Codemasters Online took on another Korean MMORPG import, this time the Korean Orc, Human and Elf fantasy game, Archlord. The lure for the fanatical MMOPRG player to Archlord was the ability for players to compete against each other to become the Archlord, the supreme ruler of the realm or server. Unfortunately, everything about Archlord played out like a Korean grind MMORPG and the concept never quite took hold in the United States. The game, like others on the downfall became free to play in October of 2007. Archlord is still running in North America as a free to play MMORPG.
8 Dark & Light
Dark and Light was a promising alternative to the World of Warcraft breed of games, but its 2006 release went horribly wrong. The game had some of the most horrendous bugs ever seen in an MMORPG which included frequent roll backs, guilds being disbanded, crashes, poor performance and drastic client instability issues. Farlan Entertainment, the publisher eventually acknowledged that the game was released prematurely due to investor concerns and was never able to recover. Like most failed MMORPG's, the game eventually became a free to play game. The promises offered by Dark and Light never materialized and the game quickly became a one month wonder.
7 Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising
In 2005, Perpetual Entertainment announced an inspiring new MMORPG set in an Ancient Roman world inhabited by gladiators and mythical beings straight out of Roman Mythology. The game concept was extremely well received by MMORPG players and the media. Problems eventually besieged Perpetual Entertainment who was also trying to launch Star Trek Online at the same time. Gods and Heroes was put on an indefinite hold, but thousands of pre-order copies of the game made it to store shelves Best Buty and Circuit City retail outlets days and weeks after the cancellation announcement was made. Perpetual Entertainment eventually folded. Star Trek Online is currently in development by Cryptic Studios, but hope for Gods and Heroes ever materializing has all but vanished.
6 Age of Conan
Norwegian developer Funcom pit themselves in a head to head battle against EA-Mythic as the battle of Age of Conan versus Warhammer Online reached a feverish rivalry over which game was going to be released first and which game would bet better than the other. In early 2008, Funcom decided to take the upper hand and release their game after EA Mythic pushed Warhammer Online back to the fall of 2008. The early release proved to be an extremely costly mistake for Funcom. The game was hyped in the media over its adult mature themed content which included bare breasted female avatars and sultry overtones. As players leveled through the game, glaring problems became apparent. While the game was extremely polished for the first 30 or so levels, there was a seemingly obvious bait and switch feeling once players got past level 40. Class imbalances, bugs and missing features, promised at launch, but never made it to the game began to spell out the impending doom for the title. Funcom recently announced they will be merging servers and laying off huge portions of their US based staff to compensate for diminishing revenue and subscriptions.
5 Hellgate: London
Hellgate London was one of those games that wasn't quite an MMORPG, but drew huge attention from the MMORPG audience, hoping to play a top quality horror based MMORPG as a diversion to the vast sea of cut and paste fantasy MMO alternatives. The game had several launch problems and received lukewarm reception from the media and players. Hellgate: London never attained the status it had anticipated and in November 2008, it was announced that the game would be shutting down in February of 2009.
4 Auto Assault
In 1997, Interstate 76 was released and it was a mildly successful combat game followed later by Interstate '82, by Activision. The concept was eventually turned into an MMORPG by NC Soft in 2006, a company with several MMORPG failures under its belt, as Auto Assault. The concept of Auto Assault was three factions engaged in vehicular warfare with each other. Unfortunately, the game died a horrible death, shortly after its first birthday. The game never had enough subscribers to turn a profit for NC Soft and was shut down in the summer of 2007.
3 Star Wars Galaxies
While the demise of Star Wars Galaxies entitles it to the number one position on this list, you cannot argue that for a brief period is was a glimmer of hope in the MMORPG industry. Star Wars Galaxies was different from all other MMORPG's in so many ways, you can't explain, yet was fatally flawed with exploits, bugs and constant changes by developer, Sony Online Entertainment. On three occasions, SOE tried to reinvent the game by introducing drastic changes to the game's combat systems, which culminated in the New Game Experience in November of 2005, two and a half years after its initial launch which decimated the population of the game by introducing a rather horrible 3rd person shooter element to the combat system. SOE removed many of the classes in the game and drastically dumbed down the game, in a move which SOE President John Smedley praised, claiming it was a necessary move to revive the game and increase subscriber base. In the years following the NGE, SOE has tried without success to make the game like it was before, but the changes proved too drastic and the population has never recovered. Eventually John Smedley admitted the NGE was a mistake.
2 Tabula Rasa
While Tabula Rasa was never a headline grabbing game, like RF Online, it was seen as a viable alternative to the Sci-Fi starved gamers, looking to replace their lost love, Star Wars Galaxies. The game was the brainchild of Richard Garriot, creator of Ultima Online. The game was well received by players and had a decent preorder volume. It also received above average ratings from the major gaming media outlets. While the game itself was never terrible, it also never really got off the ground. NC Soft was plagued by financial troubles which culminated in the departure of Richard Garriott after his romp on the international space station. Upon his return to earth, he resigned from the company and a few days later, it was announced that Tabula Rasa would be shutting down in February of 2009. The biggest failure of Tabula Rasa was the apparent lack of guidance and lack of interest in the game by its creator.
1 Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
If the MMO industry was a city, then Vanguard: Saga of Heroes was the drug and crime infested trailer park on the outskirts of town. Creator and self proclaimed visionary Brad McQuaid, of Everquest fame, attempted to relive the good old days of Everquest by developing an MMORPG which tried very hard to emulate the original Everquest. The game offered stunningly beautiful graphics and a very intuitive combat interface. The game's concept was originally intended to cater to the hardcore MMORPG player who wanted to walk the world for days, take years to level up and totally immerse themselves in a fantasy role playing setting similar to Everquest. The game was originally picked up by Microsoft, but dropped shortly after, leaving Brad McQuaid and Sigil Games on the hook for the cost of developing the game and bringing it to market. The company severely cut corners to release the game in a hail mary attempt to recoup their losses. The game was launched and was laden with bugs, missing content, persistent crash to desktop errors and countless other bugs and glitches, which received little attention from Sigil. Sigil eventually sold the game to Sony Online Entertainment. After the game was sold and a majority of Sigil employees were laid off, vicious rumors and finger pointing filled the internet, pointing the game's failure squarely on the shoulder's of Brad McQuaid and senior management. Rumors persisted that Brad was an AFK executive with his head in the clouds. Brad eventually vanished from sight and the game was resurrected by SOE, but by this time, the player base had vanished and all interest had been lost in the title.