Monday, February 23, 2009

Which MMOs could be shut down in the near Future?

SOE recently announced that the last full developer for the Matrix Online was leaving the company this month. The sci-fi MMO had been picked up from Warner Brothers after a disappointing launch in 2005 and been on life support since then. Luckily, the all-access pass has generated enough interest in the game that SOE felt justified keeping a small development team on the project. By all accounts this small dev team has mostly consisted of just Ben "Rarebit" Chamberlain over the last few months. The quality and amount of updates are expected to go down as a result.

The news about the Matrix Online got me thinking about some of the 2009 predictions I made. One of which was that SOE would have to take a couple of MMOs off their all-access pass to make room for new games. While it probably costs very little to keep an already established MMO running there are other reasons why companies shut them down. Some publishers like NCSoft simply see under performing MMOs as an embarrassment which negatively effects their brand name. Still others like SOE have been keeping several games running which barely break even on subscription fees and take resources away from more populated virtual worlds.

In particular, SOE has two games on their all-access pass which are barely played by subscribers. If my understanding of the pass is correct then each game receives a percentage of the subscription revenue based on how popular they are. Planetside and the Matrix Online both have niche fan bases and I wonder if they can continue to support themselves. The recent announcement by SOE makes me suspect that future development for the Matrix Online will be sparse and that it could be shut down in the near future.

NCSoft is the other company that will be probably be shutting down more then one game in the near future. Tabula Rasa is scheduled to go offline at the end of this month even though subscription numbers were projected to be good enough to keep the game's servers running. Still as I said before NCSoft isn't interested in maintaining hobby sized MMO worlds that barely turn a profit. This policy is what has me worried about City of Heroes. Champions Online will launch this year and DC Universe won't be far behind it. While City of Heroes/Villains is currently staying above the 100k subscription mark I wonder if it can maintain those numbers in the face of so much competition.

Funcom is almost not worth mentioning since all of their games seem to be on shaky ground at the moment. Both Anarchy Online and Age of Conan were released with horrendous bugs and needed further development time. I get the feeling that Funcom is incapable of moving into the post-WoW era of MMO development and might not be around for much longer. If their next game, The Secret World, isn't a decent hit then I suspect the company might be sold off. At least Age of Conan is a good enough game that I could see another publisher keeping it running.

Turbine is probably the only development studio I'm not worried about. Even though the original Asheron's Call can't have more then 50k subscribers, I think it's enough to keep the game afloat. After all Dungeons and Dragons is only projected at having around 70k subscribers and Turbine is still producing updates at a decent rate. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if Turbine eventually started their own all-access pass since they are gathering a sizable library of quality MMOs. Of course they would probably need to announced their next project to get a lot of interest in their all-access pass. Here's hoping that the rumors of Turbine acquiring the Harry Potter license has some truth to it.

Keep in mind this is just based on my opinion, but I suspect the following games of being shut down within the next year or two for a variety of reasons.

Guaranteed Closing in 2009
Tabula Rasa

Suspected Closing in 2009
Matrix Online (Crowded All-Access Pass)
Planetside (Replaced by newer FPS MMO The Agency)

Suspected Closing in 2010
City of Heroes/Villains (Competition from CO and DCU)
Anarchy Online (If Funcom bankrupts)


Heartless_ said...

As I predicted for this year, the sign of MMO trouble is when SOE starts shutting down the B-rate MMOs on station pass.

SOE, unlike NCSoft, are pros at embarrassing themselves, so not immediate need to shut down failed projects :P

Openedge1 said... suspect AO shutting down? That is interesting.
But, what if the engine development was still moving forward and the AoC engine is applied to AO?
They showed some videos of this about almost a year ago.
It makes me sick that a game like AoC with a good premise and play style that is at least enjoyable, is embarrassingly being tromped upon by the college level programmers they hired to work on this title.
Personally, I heard CD Projekt is running the Polish version of AoC (the same company who developed the Witcher) and I would like to see them grab that game up..
Man, that would rock!

Relmstein said...

I really don't think Funcom can survive their current losses. If they do stay solvent then I suspect they'll keep AO running indefinitely.

I do think Age of Conan was a missed opportunity. I like the world design and some of the dungeons had potential. Funcom's "Kill Bill" approach to combat was entertaining and unique in a crowd of MMOs that try for a Teen rating.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I am missing something.. Where did SOE announce they were laying off the last full-time dev for MXO? Ben Chamberlain supposedly quit of his own accord...

Phrack said...

They never announced that they were laying off Ben Chamberlain. He posted that he was leaving of his own accord. Neat blog and all, but if you're going to say things like that, it would benefit you to quote sources.

Anonymous said...

The last time the players of MxO spoke to SOE they were assured not only that MxO has consistently reached its' financial and subscription targets but that SOE would never shut down a game that was still being played.

Anonymous said...

You were right about The Matrix Online, it's shutting down at the end of July.

Anonymous said...

Champions Online is a Horrible attempt at a cross platform game. It really is no fun after the second play. The few fanbois who are actually skin Cryptics wang are retarded, and now worth listening to. I honestly dont think NCSoft has a damn thing to worry about. DCUO is a consol game... Champions is a CONSOL game. Neither of them focused on the PC MMOers and is why City of Heroes doesnt really have sht to worry about.

Dave said...

I don't get why Funcom keeps trying to come out with new games that end up not even doing good. I think personally Anarchy Online is a better MMO then WOW. The basis of Anarchy Online makes it an awesome game but Funcom needs to fix all of the glitches and update to a more modern graphics engine. They also never advertised very well, because if you ask anyone about the game they don't even know what it is.