Okay, it’s been roughly 7 months since the announced closure of Paragon Studios and 4 months since the server shut-off.
So why is a dead game such a hot topic still?
Well, primarily because it points out some of the major differences between MMOs and stand-alone games.
Stand-alone games, even with interactive components, eventually cease development. There are no more boxes to ship and no new revenue.
With an MMO, theoretically, the game could continue for an indefinite period of time. Unless the game itself is pulling in less than its server, CS, and support costs, there’s little to no reason that games like this can’t run for decades. Part of this is what makes CoH’s closure such a bitter pill to swallow. The game itself was paying not only for itself, but the development of new projects within Paragon.
On a secondary, but no less important, note, it also points out the problems with such closures.
with stand-alone games, for the most part, you can essentially play them even after the company ceases development.
With an MMO, they shut down their servers and the game simply ceases to exist. This not only severs the ties between player and game, but also demolishes the community that built up around the game.
And worse, for the gaming community as a whole. It SEVERELY alienates players. Not just from the offending studio, but towards gaming in general.
One of the hardest parts in gaming is building a sense of “investment” into the game. This sense that the player is working in cooperation with the developers and other players to make the game bigger, better, and a fuller experience. In a sense, the game becomes “theirs”. And this type of emotional investment tends to spur a monetary investment as well. Players bitten by this sort of closure scenario tend to refrain from investing, emotionally and monetarily, in other titles afterward. They tend not to bind tightly into the community. They don’t trust the developers or the publishers. And they severely curtail their spending under the notion of “Why spend money if it’s just going to be taken away?” Not just for the offending publisher/studio. For ANY game they approach (if they, indeed, don’t cease gaming altogether).
This was something that the City of Heroes developers and marketing spent a LOT of time and effort on. It was a combination of very close developer-community relations, VAST user-customization options in-game, and extensive, regular, RELIABLE community and media outreach. And it paid off in spades. CoH had one of the tightest-knit core communities I’ve EVER seen, and I’ve been involved in tabletop and computer gaming for over 20 years. And they did it on an advertising budget that was very nearly $0 a year.
But NCSoft was still stuck in their basic “market blitz for the first year and then nothing on advertising after that” mentality. So, while CoH was able to maintain an incredible retention rate, it simply didn’t have the resources to truly pull new customers in. They had THE top-rated title in the supers-genre for MMOs. Even the 2.0 version of their game (Champions Online) had utterly failed to unseat them. As had DC Universe Online.
So, sitting complacently on market dominance, they decided to simply flush the product because it wasn’t bringing in WoW numbers and they thought they could get better returns on shipping a few more copies of Guild Wars 2 and selling us softcore kiddie-porn with Blade and Soul. Because superhero properties can’t make money. Right?