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APB: Reloaded Column: Why Do MMOs Die?

By Guest Writer on December 07, 2010

So I think I’m going to be a little bit more “ranty” in this week’s rant. I hope no one minds too much, but I have something I need to get off my chest. What’s the deal with all these MMOs getting cancelled? Let me rephrase that and this time I need you to read it with some bravado, some serious anger - really crank up the hate. So basically don’t read it like Jerry Seinfeld, as I imagine most of you did with the last one.

Why the hell would someone shut down an MMO in the first place?

You know you read that last question right if it feels like you just gargled with gravel.

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Drew Wood’s column regarding Tabula Rasa got me thinking about this particular issue. I am well aware that his column wasn’t about Tabula Rasa specifically but it still got the poisons that swim in my brain-meats churning about. So we are going to work this out together: You and I, reader! Screw research on this one. We are going to shoot straight from the gut. You and I are going to make Steven Colbert proud with our gut-speaking skills.

First off, in my opinion, there is no good reason to ever kill an MMO. No one is going to be able to see or play those games again. To me it’s almost like burning an original piece of art. If a non-MMO video game is so bad that it really isn’t even fit to be a coaster, people can still play it long after they stop printing copies. Just to be clear, I can still buy a copy of “Barbie’s Super Pony Ranch” (I don’t know if that is an actually game or not… it probably is) but no one is ever going to get to play Asheron’s Call 2 again.

Okay, so my gut tells me that money is more than likely the number one reason an MMO would get canned. Money, Money, Money, Money -- MONEY! (Sung to the tune of “For the Love of Money” by The O’Jays) It takes time and manpower to maintain a MMO. It really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. If you have servers you have to maintain them and that costs money. You also probably need to have accountants to handle all the money for whatever the revenue stream of your game is and accountants don’t work for free either. Then you need programmers to fix any glitches and other problems crop up. Those programmers, guess what? They sure as hell will not be fixing all your crap pro bono. I find it amazing that those free-to-play MMOs make money at all. Why pay for the cow when you can get the sex for free?

Lack of interest is the only other reason that I can think of where an MMO may be touched by the icy hand of death. If your game is a crap pile then it stands to reason that no one is going to want to play it. Some games start out with the best of intentions and then end up meeting an untimely demise via glitches and server problems. Hellgate: London, anyone? Hellgate was incredibly hyped on every gaming front. I was really sad when I heard that it was suffering from all those problems. APB, which shut its servers down in record time, also because of bugs and poor game play mechanics, had a solid concept behind it but seemed like it was rushed out the door.

I’m sure the game testers had comments like “the driving system kind of sucks” or “aiming is more difficult than calculus”… wait. Wait! I can do better than a math joke. I don’t want to cheapen this, how about, “aiming is more difficult than drinking Charlie Sheen under the table.” Ah, much better. Comments such as those were met with a “shut up dorks” stance from the administration of the game. There is a bright side to one of the stories however: APB is going to be re-released by K2 Network and will be free to play early next year. I had read somewhere that Hellgate: London was supposed to get a revival also. I don’t know what happened with that though (commenters, please educate me).

Apart from those two things I cannot think of another reason for a MMO to completely shut down. It honestly makes me wonder why more companies don’t just make their games free-to-play in the first place. Guild Wars was obviously popular enough to spawn a sequel. As you probably know (because you’re reading this on MMORPG.com) GW2 is also going to be free to play. All you have to do is buy the game. Nexon has had enormous success with free-to-play games. They have built an empire on it. Turbine has transferred DDO and LotRO over to the free to play model too, so there must be something about micro-transactions that is profitable.

The MMO industry is an undoubtedly difficult market to be successful in. Money does talk but unfortunately B.S. does not walk when it comes to these games. The biggest moat that any MMO developer has to get across is the one filled with gamers. Gamers can tell when an MMO is trying to cross that “moat” using a bridge or siege engine that’s constructed mostly with B.S. and hype. Gamers are a fickle bunch too. If you try to force a game out before it’s done, you might as well start tying your own noose. Guess I just stumbled across the actual answer to my questions. MMOs get murdered by Gamers for not respecting their intelligence. Empowering, right?

I think that’s ultimately how it is supposed to work: Gamers calling the shots. We get to decide what MMOs live or die. All of a sudden I don’t feel bad for all those dead MMOs with my new found power. I’ve tasted blood and I like it! Those MMOs all had it coming! It’s natural selection at its finest! We have the money so we have the power. Give us respect and a finished product or we will end you!

(Evil laughter ensues followed by a fade to black.)

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