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City of Heroes Reaches Sunset, NCsoft Paying the Price 290

Posted by Soulskill
from the old-mmos-never-die dept.
KingSkippus writes "At midnight Pacific on Saturday, December 1, NCsoft shut down the City of Heroes servers for the final time. Since announcing the closure, a group of players has been working hard to revive the game by getting attention from the gaming press, recognition from celebrities such as Sean Astin, Neil Gaiman, and Felicia Day, and assistance from fantasy author Mercedes Lackey. Meanwhile, NCsoft has been drawing negative publicity, including a scathing article about the shutdown from local news site The Korea Times, noting that the game was earning $2.76 million per quarter and that 'it is hard to comprehend what NCsoft means when they say they closed it for strategic reasons.' NCsoft's stock price has fallen over 43% since the announcement in August, almost 30% below its previous 52-week low, right when investors were counting on the success of the recently launched Guild Wars 2 to help boost the company."
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City of Heroes Reaches Sunset, NCsoft Paying the Price

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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @03:10PM (#42195339)

    Look, I think that more MMO's should allow for playing on alternate servers. And I appreciate that players put a lot of time and effort into building their characters.

    But when you buy a MMO, you have to know that it's not a permanent thing.

  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @03:17PM (#42195417) Journal
    You can't shut down your cash cow just because you're banking on your shiny new toy. What if the new toy flops? If SE had shut down FFXI prior to the diasastrous launch of FFXIV 1.0, the company would have gone bankrupt. All that time, the revenue from XI kept them afloat.

    If CoH was bringing in profit, however small it was, then there was no good reason to shut it down, no matter what "strategy" they're trying to go for. You can't push players from one game to another - MMOs don't work like that. They'll play both or none at all, and neither game has little bearing on which one that is.
  • by Sydin (2598829) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @03:19PM (#42195437)

    I'd like to know the REAL reason for closing it down.

    City of Heroes 2. Same reason Bioware/EA went out of their way to get Galaxies taken down just before the release of The Old Republic: they want to create a demand for a certain type of game, then provide it soon after.

  • by Dinghy (2233934) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @03:21PM (#42195459)

    But when you buy a MMO, you have to know that it's not a permanent thing.

    Yet amazingly, Everquest [everquest.com] and even Ultima Online [uo.com] are still running, after 13 and 15 years respectively.

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @03:22PM (#42195467) Homepage

    But when you buy a MMO, you have to know that it's not a permanent thing.

    Which is why a casual gamer like me looks at a game with an on-line component and says "I'll pass".

    I'm too old and lame to feel like getting my ass handed to me by a 12 year old, so any form of online play for me is a negative instead of a positive.

    I want to be able to pop a game in the console, and play. I don't want to care if they have decided to shut down the server, or if they have some terrible DRM which requires me to be connected to the internet. If your game can't work on a console which has no internet connection, I am not interested in your product.

    This sounds like one of those situations in which someone published a decently successful game, and then decided to leave the players out in the cold as they move onto other things. I suspect an awful lot of people will look at subsequent NCsoft titles and wonder if it will be playable in a few years.

  • by Remus Shepherd (32833) <remus@panix.com> on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @03:51PM (#42195883) Homepage

    As a player of CoH I've been watching this all unfold for months, and it's just sad on every level. Obviously sad for the players and developers, but there's a greek tragedy that is looming over NCSoft as well.

    The 'strategic reasons' that caused NCSoft to shut down CoH is that they just don't understand the product -- an easy-to-play game friendly to casual players with little or no PvP content. That kind of thing doesn't sell in Korea and doesn't make sense to NCSoft's Korean masters. They have made a decision to consolidate their games along the Korean 'grind-and-PvP' model, possibly with a centralized game store using common currency, as some other large game producers have done. CoH could not be adapted to that model. Advertising in America would be additional cost for a marketing department that only understands Korean game culture. So they decided to effectively pull their games out of America and focus on what they know best back at home.

    It's a strategy, I guess. They'll still sell games in America, but they'll be anglicized versions of Korean grindfests with little or no marketing. GW2 is a prime example...and the players there are beginning to understand that, with the GW1 gameplay replaced by ridiculous grinds and a 'pay to win' cash market, not to mention characters from the korean alphabet creeping into the American version of the UI.

    Frankly I wouldn't trust NCSoft to keep any game alive in the Western market, not now and not for another year. They don't want to do business here. They don't want to make the kind of games that casual players enjoy. They want to have a stable full of Lineage clones, and cutting off a profitable CoH is the first step towards that strategic goal.

    It's just a tragic display of hubris. They were even too short-sighted to consider selling the game. Just sad, all around. RIP, Paragon City. I'll remember you for letting me be a hero.

  • by srmalloy (263556) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @03:59PM (#42195999) Homepage

    So what happens if they sell it to someone competent? It does better. And ncsoft loses face.

    NCSoft has lost face already. Their stock value has been sliding since the day of the Unity rally on the Virtue server, and their stock sank another 7.8% after the release of the Korea Times article questioning the business acumen of shuttering the game in the first place.

    Without access to the reasoning behind the decision, I have no way to be sure why they decided to close the game -- particularly with it making a profit of about $2.75M a quarter -- but I believe that it was done to conceal the fact that they were already demonstrating their incompetence. NCSoft has brought to the Western market a number of MMOs rooted in the style of the games that are their bread and butter in the Asian market, with a heavy emphasis on grinding for rare drops, patronage of the in-game store, and PvP. That these games kept doing poorly and getting closed (Aion having shown "disappointing performance" in the last quarter), while City of Heroes -- almost the antithesis of the Korean style of MMORPG -- kept making a steady profit created the appearance of NCSoft not being able/willing to understand the Western market at a time when they were making an effort to become a major online gaming provider. With the ugly counterexample gone, NCSoft could rationalize that they just needed to find the right subject, rather than a different playstyle, to make an MMO popular in the Western market.

  • by Jeng (926980) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @04:22PM (#42196319)

    The company who started Everquest stated that they would not shut down the servers as long as there were active players. Who knows what will happen down the line though.

    Also, they are still developing for this game, just a week or two ago the 18'th expansion was released.

    I do not think there is any other MMO with anywhere close to the amount of content that Everquest has.

    If you only played when the game first came out you would never recognize it as the same game.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @04:53PM (#42196743)

    Well, it's not the same thing.

    When they canceled Firefly, it meant that I wouldn't get any new episodes.

    This would be as if they canceled Firefly *and* made my existing DVDs stop working, so I can't even watch the old episodes any more.

    And this is not just an MMO issue. This will happen to *every* DRM game, sooner or later. The entire games industry is no longer selling products, it's renting them, and the only reason people haven't realized it is that we're too soon in the process for it to really hit people where they live yet. (Unless they play NCSoft MMOs.)

  • Re:I don't get it... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by palndrumm (416336) * on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @10:33PM (#42200175) Homepage

    Officially, NCSoft tried to sell it but failed - they released a statement on October 2 [ncsoft.com] saying that: "We’ve exhausted all options including the selling of the studio and the rights to the City of Heroes intellectual property, but in the end, efforts to do so were not successful." The #SaveCoH community is profoundly skeptical of this, to put it mildly.

    Unofficially, various parties have reported that their attempts to contact NCSoft to discuss the possibility of a sale never got anywhere - their emails, phone calls and letters all went unanswered. Bottom line is, so far there's been no indication that NCSoft want to do anything other than kill off CoH completely. If they let it be known that they'd be willing to sell it for just a few million, there'd be several interested buyers, or at the very least a heavily promoted (and I suspect heavily supported) Kickstarter campaign running right now.

  • by Cimexus (1355033) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @11:09PM (#42200457)

    I've often wondered how popular a kind of "MMO Minecraft" type game would be, where you start from a completely empty slate.

    It'd be an MMO, with character classes and skills and items and crafting and PvP and mobs and all the other stuff that goes along with being an MMO. But, when the server starts, you have an empty world or continent. Nothing at all on it except natural terrain, plants, animals/mobs etc. It's then up to the players to mine the resources, build the cities, craft the weapons and armor etc. Like EvE Online, but not in space, mixed with Minecraft, but with better graphics and a proper class/skill/levelling system.

    This could even extend to players or clans being able to physically purchase land and set permissions on who could build on or alter that area. Perhaps a particular clan would buy narrow strips of land running between settlements, and build roads or train tracks on that land (which the game mechanics would allow you to do, and which would permit much faster travel than walking). Others might become traders (since there's no NPC shops). Others might even offer secure storage facilities to players that had too much stuff to store in their personal inventory (i.e. they'd build some big, tough structure out of very-hard-to-destroy materials, allow people to put boxes inside with their stuff ... the game would have to support some 'locked box' permissions system to ensure that the building owner couldn't just steal everyone's stuff etc.)

    Would be quite interesting to see which people tried founding cities and trade hubs, and failed, and which succeeded. And why did they succeed? Could they offer people in that area better security than in other areas? Was the area closer to transport or resources?

    Anyway yeah, just a thought. I would totally play that kind of game...sounds awesome. I love sandboxey stuff (and don't like most conventional MMOs that are story/quest driven and prohibit you from doing certain things).

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