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City of Heroes Reaches Sunset, NCsoft Paying the Price

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the old-mmos-never-die dept.

Games 290

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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Come on, you knew this was an MMO (2, Interesting)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Come on, you knew this was an MMO (5, Interesting)

Dinghy (2233934) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Come on, you knew this was an MMO (2)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#42195501)

Yes, there are many MUD's that have been running even longer. But that's citing the *exception*, not the *norm*. Most MMO's, like most MUD's, have a certain shelf-life.

Re:Come on, you knew this was an MMO (4, Insightful)

falcon5768 (629591) | about 2 years ago | (#42195547)

I wouldnt say most. Most bad ones yes, but good ones have that have active player bases usually survive for a long time. I played FFXI for years before giving it up and even with the release of FFXIV they smartly did NOT kill the FFXI servers which turned out to be a good thing considering how poorly the newer game was received.

Re:Come on, you knew this was an MMO (3, Insightful)

Dinghy (2233934) | about 2 years ago | (#42195565)

Yes, there are many MUD's that have been running even longer. But that's citing the *exception*, not the *norm*. Most MMO's, like most MUD's, have a certain shelf-life.

True, and the *norm* for shelf life is typically when the expenses start to outweigh the income. It sounds like the plug was pulled on this far earlier, if they're taking in $900k/mo.

Re:Come on, you knew this was an MMO (4, Insightful)

Grimbleton (1034446) | about 2 years ago | (#42195551)

Though some would argue UO died years ago and was replaced by an incompetent imposter.

Re:Come on, you knew this was an MMO (1)

bodangly (2526754) | about 2 years ago | (#42196477)

This. UO is not still running.

Re:Come on, you knew this was an MMO (4, Insightful)

OrangeTide (124937) | about 2 years ago | (#42195555)

These MMOs are ultimately operating a service. Expecting them to operate it indefinitely is a bit naive.

That said, it sounds like NCsoft's shutdown was premature. If a service brings in more revenue than it spends, why not keep running it? If it's a matter of getting it off the books and getting it off the executive radar, then spin it off into its own business as a wholly owned subsidiary. There are a lot of alternatives that don't amount to throwing a revenue stream in the garbage.

Re:Come on, you knew this was an MMO (1)

rahvin112 (446269) | about 2 years ago | (#42196065)

Thanks to GE and their CEO's like Jack Welch US CEO's have been led to believe that if you aren't making 20% on it you should shut it down. This is the reason many successful and profitable business have been shut down or sold to the Chinese, because it was not making "enough" money. In most cases we'll never get those jobs back.

So blame GE and their former and current management for this view that MBA's now hold.

Re:Come on, you knew this was an MMO (2)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about 2 years ago | (#42196565)

I'm not entirely sure this is an MBA oriented issue -- NCSoft, though global, is a South Korean company. It would be difficult to accurately infer a cash growth-based motive for dropping it. It could be technical, or artistic reasons, or the big one -- the people capable of growing the game in terms of interesting play, simply weren't there. Perhaps they retired, left the company, or are being vectored off to GuildWars.

Re:Come on, you knew this was an MMO (4, Interesting)

Jeng (926980) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Come on, you knew this was an MMO (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 2 years ago | (#42196519)

That said, it sounds like NCsoft's shutdown was premature. If a service brings in more revenue than it spends, why not keep running it?

Well, the submission was quite obviously from a fanboy - and leave out much more than it includes.
 
Among the key facts that it leaves out is this - the number of players has been steadily declining for years. It may currently be bringing in more than spends, but that's not a situation that's going to last indefinitely. The curves some players published shortly after the announcement show possibly as little as a year at current rates - with some very optimistic assumptions about that curve and the costs of running the game.

Re:Come on, you knew this was an MMO (1)

michrech (468134) | about 2 years ago | (#42196079)

Asheron's Call is still up -- 14 years now, if I'm not mistaken...

Re:Come on, you knew this was an MMO (2)

Deathspawner (1037894) | about 2 years ago | (#42196401)

It hit 13 years in November. Still a subscriber of two accounts. Populations suck but the game is still fun.

Re:Come on, you knew this was an MMO (1)

Deathspawner (1037894) | about 2 years ago | (#42196359)

Asheron's Call is still going strong also, and it's a subscription-based MMO. Populations are far less than there used to be, but things seem kosher for the moment.

Re:Come on, you knew this was an MMO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42196563)

It is not that it was shut down, but how and why. Couple that with refusing to sell even though there were interested parties?

Re:Come on, you knew this was an MMO (4, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | about 2 years ago | (#42195467)

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.

Re:Come on, you knew this was an MMO (2)

pubwvj (1045960) | about 2 years ago | (#42195589)

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

Agreed. Especially if the game only allows company servers. A game with open servers is more interesting and more likely to be long lived.

Re:Come on, you knew this was an MMO (4, Informative)

Chas (5144) | about 2 years ago | (#42196339)

This was one of the beauties of CoH.

It was RIDICULOUSLY casual-friendly. And it was widely acknowledged that PVP in the game was a half-hearted attempt at best. Far FAR more development time went into PVE and MAJOR QOL improvements, where you don't have to worry about competing with "A. Random Kid" on the internet. Just play how you want to. Team when you want to. Do whatever you want in the game. No competition unless YOU desire it.

Re:Come on, you knew this was an MMO (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | about 2 years ago | (#42195485)

Exactly. I play a couple MMO's. In fact I let my XBL subscription lapse as I found that I could have more fun playing some of the Free-2-Play games and spending $20 a month on in game currency or a subscription to get stuff rather than spending $60 every few weeks for a new XBox game that usually I got tired of in a few days.

But I don't expect it to last forever. I view it as no different than going to a movie or to a bar both of which I'd spend $20 or more every time I go rather than $20 a month for probably around 20 - 60 hours of entertainment depending on the time of year and free time I have.

True, but... (5, Insightful)

KingSkippus (799657) | about 2 years ago | (#42195641)

This is true, we always knew that the game would shut down at some point. However...

The MMO genre of game is especially conducive to getting people to invest enormous amounts of time, effort, and money into the product. The average City of Heroes launch day veteran has probably spend between $1,500 and $2,000 on this game, many much more. And many have spent thousands of hours playing--not just mashing buttons, but coming up with creative stories, even contributing to user-generated content areas such as the Mission Architect system that allowed players to create their own custom enemies, contacts, mission objectives, dialog, etc. In other words, what NCsoft doesn't realize is that at this point, we have just as much stake in the game as they do (some would argue more), yet they hold the ultimate authority to unilaterally declare, "Okay, game over, we're going to destroy years of your effort and a large monetary investment." Not because the game wasn't making money--it was--but because they're undergoing a corporate "realignment" [pcgamer.com] .

Not only that, but in the process, they laid off over 80 employees at Paragon Studios, the Mountain View, California development studio that built and maintained City of Heroes. Before the shutdown announcement, a group of employees and investors tried to acquire the IP from NCsoft to keep the game running, but NCsoft wouldn't sell it. After the shutdown announcement, thanks to the SaveCoH movement, another attempt was made, but again, NCsoft wouldn't play ball, even releasing a statement that they had "exhausted all options" in trying to sell the game. Excuse me? Exhausted all options? They hold the IP. Now that the shutdown has come and gone and the community has largely dispersed, practically speaking, it's worth zero. It's impossible for them to have "exausted all options" unless and until the ink is dried on the page transferring the game and its IP to another company or organization that can run it.

Not only that, but this isn't the first time that NCsoft has done this. This is the fifth game in as many years. Auto Assault. Exteel. Dungeon Runners. Tabula Rasa. Now City of Heroes. Clearly to me, the company is an MMO killer. The players of City of Heroes aren't the first group of people to have their hard work and investment destroyed, and apparently, NCsoft doesn't really care very much that it's systematically destroying communities and the output of people's creative expression. As a gamer, why the hell would I ever want to buy a game like Guild Wars 2 or any of NCsoft's other games? Answer: I wouldn't, and they won't be seeing any money from me again.

So does NCsoft have the legal right to shut down City of Heroes, lay off everyone at Paragon Studios, and carry on as if nothing happened even though the company's own investor relations statements indicate that the game was steadily profitable and it had the overwhelming support of its development staff and management? Sure, no one is disputing that. However, I do firmly believe that NCsoft, and MMO game companies in particular, have an ethical obligation to do everything they can to plan for a game's sunset ahead of time and be willing to release the game property to another company or third-party organization willing to take over running it if one is willing to (which, in this case, there were multiple parties interested in doing so). To not do so shows an immense amount of disrespect for your customers, and you run the risk of generating the negative publicity and outcry such as the one NCsoft is facing right now.

Re:True, but... (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about 2 years ago | (#42196033)

> what NCsoft doesn't realize is that at this point, we have just as much stake in the game as they do (some would argue more),

You are 100% correct. Sadly, business (& artists) just don't understand the aspect of "community".

The game without its players is just a ghost in code. Likewise, you could have the greatest movie ever, but without anyone seeing it, parody it, it wouldn't really mean anything.

Part of the problem is that we are moving into a new paradigm -- "Community Content Augmentation." Why do games that support user-made custom maps / levels tend to stick around YEARS after? Because people love to "play" in that particular universe.

i.e. Person X or Company Y produces a product. It is popular. The community _expands_ and _adds_ to it. Even more players buy the "product" because there is a _wealth_ of community content. In on sense "ownership" of the game has partially transferred to the community who bring extra value to it. Valve learnt this long ago when almost anyone could run a game server. The Steam Workshop is a fantastic modern way to help give what consumers what: more (original) content ! When you have a rating system then one can filter out the S/N.

Slashdot is the same paradigm. Anyone is allowed to add to the discussion. Ignoring the fact that trolls "subtract" from the discussion, /.'s wealth is the user content ALONG with the ability to filter / prioritize it.

Blizzard _partially_ understood the value of community when they allowed UI Mods. Now, some of the best mods are built into the game. That is a Win-Win for everyone.

Sadly, too many MMO companies just don't understand the value of community.

It would be interesting to have the facts from the other side of the story -- how much was the revenue, profit and expenses for CoH ?

Re:True, but... (1)

desdinova 216 (2000908) | about 2 years ago | (#42196229)

sadly, we'll probably never know, since the only people who know are in Korea

Re:True, but... (1)

Chas (5144) | about 2 years ago | (#42196437)

Sadly, too many MMO companies just don't understand the value of community.

Yeah. That was one of the great things about Paragon Studios. They DID understand the value. These guys went out of their way to make sure we knew how much they understood and appreciated the community.

Too bad their parent company were a bunch of oblivious morons.

Re:Come on, you knew this was an MMO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42195959)

It wasn't the closing that got us CoH players in a uproar. It was that the closure came out of the blue, and that NCSoft also decided to sack the development team and shutter Paragon Studios at the same time. The dev team didn't even have a chance to finish what they were working on or plan some sort of "end-of-game event"; they were terminated effective immediately.

Re:Come on, you knew this was an MMO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42196009)

"more"? Is there ANY modern (meaning, at least a graphics engine from THIS century) MMO that allows alternative servers???

Re:Come on, you knew this was an MMO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42196389)

You don't have all of the information.

City of Heroes was making $10 million a year out of this was a studio of 80 employees, most of which were working on 2 NEW projects. They cancelled and scrapped the new projects and killed the cash cow in the western market. If they had cut the developers to 20 and kept the game going until it slowly died it would be no big deal and we would understand.

However killing a game with 100,000 subscribers making $2.5 million per quarter makes sense?

Garrrrrrghhh nerd rage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42195343)

What if it was costing nearly $2.76 million to host/support? Heck maybe they just want to refocus resources elsewhere? Never underestimate NERD RAGE!

Re:Garrrrrrghhh nerd rage (1)

Roman Coder (413112) | about 2 years ago | (#42195395)

What I read so far seems to indicate that it was making money, not costing money. If that's right, then I'd like to know the REAL reason for closing it down.

Re:Garrrrrrghhh nerd rage (4, Interesting)

Sydin (2598829) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Garrrrrrghhh nerd rage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42195503)

If they were doing CoH2, you'd think they would keep on at least some of the staff from the first game.

And even then, TOR was known to be in development when Galaxies got taken down, IIRC.

Re:Garrrrrrghhh nerd rage (3)

Enderandrew (866215) | about 2 years ago | (#42195523)

Galaxies was maintained and owned by Sony. Bioware/EA had no control over Galaxies, though it already had a massively declining subscriber base even before SWTOR was announced.

Re:Garrrrrrghhh nerd rage (2)

Todo Proudfoot (652832) | about 2 years ago | (#42195979)

True that Sony maintained Galaxies and that Bioware/EA had no control over Galaxies BUT the previous person was right. SWG was shutdown specifically because of TOR. LucasArts owned the rights to both and didn't want SWG competiting with TOR.

Re:Garrrrrrghhh nerd rage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42196505)

As I have secondhand knowledge of the state of Galaxies, there was a major overhaul in the combat mechanics that lead to a mass of subscription cancellations. I heard it described as replacing the character stat based ground combat with a FPS style where the character stats and skills had little to no bearing on the outcome. SWToR was announced as in development shortly after it became clear that players did not simply adjust to the new rules, and Sony was not going to undo the patch.

From my familiarity with the timeline, Sony failed, Bioware announced an alternate MMO, and Lucas decided to transfer rights to run a Star Wars based MMO to Bioware when it was ready for public testing. This gave Sony some time to prepare, and potentially even try to reinspire popularity of their game, but none of their "free access this weekend, see how we've fixed it up since you stopped paying us" promotions had any significant effect and SWG was shut down in time to let SWToR claim the SWMMO monopoly.

Re:Garrrrrrghhh nerd rage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42195541)

Galaxies was a wasteland of its former glory as was. After NGE came thru, it just wasn't worth playing anymore. I still miss the "old days" though. But yeah, it's stupid the way they cut the players off in order to create a drive to fill that hole.

Re:Garrrrrrghhh nerd rage (1)

jandrese (485) | about 2 years ago | (#42195559)

The only problem with the CoH2 theory is that NCSoft always hated CoH, especially after the game went over with a resounding thud in the Korean market. They tried to add new grind mechanics to appeal to the Korean playerbase, but there just wasn't any traction.

FTFY (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42195579)

s/create demand for a certain type of game/destroy the market for a certain type of game/

Re:Garrrrrrghhh nerd rage (1)

Xphile101361 (1017774) | about 2 years ago | (#42195985)

Except that Guild Wars is still running even after Guild Wars 2 has been released.

Re:Garrrrrrghhh nerd rage (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | about 2 years ago | (#42196413)

In contrast, Square-Enix plans to release their revamp of Final Fantasy XIV and an expansion pack for Final Fantasy XI next year.

Re:Garrrrrrghhh nerd rage (1)

Chas (5144) | about 2 years ago | (#42196489)

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.

Nope. Matt Miller, the senior developer at NCSoft has repeatedly said that NCSoft shot down the idea of CoH2 numerous times.
And, as the game sank like a stone in the asian market, it's doubtful that they were going to build sequel to it with another in-house studio.

And why did they cancel Firefly?!?!?!? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42195521)

NERD ANGRY!!!!!!!!!!

Re:Garrrrrrghhh nerd rage (1)

Chas (5144) | about 2 years ago | (#42196457)

What if "not even close"? Even accounting for a second development team on a new project that had brought no money in yet.

Reading between the lines (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42195385)

"shut down the City of Heroes"... "for strategic reasons"... "to help boost"... "the success of the recently launched Guild Wars 2".
Seems pretty clear to me.

Re:Reading between the lines (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 2 years ago | (#42195425)

Well put, sir (or madam).

...and me without my mod points...

Re:Reading between the lines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42195549)

Yep, profitable != the best place to spend your resources.

Newspapers, despite years of abundant negative coverage are actually pretty profitable _right now_ the problem is that they're not getting much cheaper to create, distribute, and run compared to online alternatives. They are still profitable because there are several generations of people who prefer that format, but of course that won't last because we know that demographic is aging and newspaper readership isn't reaching down to younger people to replace their current older (statistically speaking) readers.

Re:Reading between the lines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42196045)

Seems pretty clear to me.

It helps that Guild Wars 2 is a completely god-awful game. It's a complete carebear game. There's absolutely no consequence to dying, so there's no risk to anything, so that an effective strategy in the game is to "graveyard zerg" bosses. (Basically, constantly res and continue attacking.) Someone described the "massive PvP battles" as being "players versus door" which describes it to a T - you spend your entire time attacking gates to enter castles. Woo.

The great thing is that players are already leaving it in droves. Any zone past the low-level zones are complete ghost towns. The PVP servers stand almost entirely empty, and the WvW battles that used to require queuing for hours now are nearly empty.

So, yes, they're clearly in panic mode and trying to force people over to the snooze-fest that is GW2. It won't work, of course, but I suppose they have to try.

Re:Reading between the lines (1)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about 2 years ago | (#42196095)

I'm not sure how shutting down CoH would have helped GW2 post launch. Especially since CoH was more or less run independently by Paragon Studios, who have no real connection to ArenaNet. The target audiences are even completely different. Lastly, since GW2 lacks a subscription, it would be difficult for one to take away from the other financially.

This is why all games should self host (1)

haplo21112 (184264) | about 2 years ago | (#42195397)

Its fine for the maker to host the main servers and all, but really the door should be open for users to do thier own hosting.

Re:This is why all games should self host (1)

Genda (560240) | about 2 years ago | (#42195495)

There you go, a distributed processing game where you run a client but also host a piece of the global server. That way the game processing scales with the user base and there's nobody to say "See ya" except perhaps the game master controlling the distributed services. Wonder how you would minimize the latency problems? Oh well, I'm no gamer, this is for those among you more heroic than I.

Re:This is why all games should self host (1)

whereiseljefe (753425) | about 2 years ago | (#42195833)

This would be a nightmare. Distributed processing is "easy" when you can break the workload into self-contained stateless chunks of information. By its nature an MMO is extremely state-ful which makes a peer to peer structure difficult. Then you introduce trust issues (how does my node trust the inputs your node is giving me, how does your node trust the health state information mine sent you, how does OPs ever know what we know). I'm not going to sit here and say it's impossible, that's a sure-fire way to find a foot in my mouth, but there are some major hurdles that are nigh-on insurmountable and dicate that you need a central server of some sort. Though honestly there is a possibility they could scale back the service and allow people to rent servers but then they need to hire a maintenance crew that could be better serving NCSoft's bottom line by assisting in GW2 upkeep. I doubt they'll ever actually release server code or even server binaries as there's probably a ton of proprietary code that is heavily reused in currently active mmos.

Re:This is why all games should self host (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42196233)

There is a matter of trust, but how much does that matter? If there is an issue, it could be possible to create an in game filter that would prevent another player from even showing or affecting their play directly. I'm looking at Borderlands 2. There is not much for trust there. People cheat, but others see that as ruining the fun.

Assuming everyone has a decent enough bandwidth, everyone could push their information to only nearby characters. There are certain issues outside simple game play though. I'm wondering how an auction house system would work, if it even could. That may require a centralized server, unless you use a system like what FFXIV tried to do and have player stores instead. I think it could work with better categorization and access. At least any lag spikes would be caused locally and only affecting a single player at a time.

They could have at least handed it off to somebody (2)

Sydin (2598829) | about 2 years ago | (#42195411)

It's been fairly obvious since the initial announcement that a lot of people are interested in seeing City of Heroes continue, and going to extreme lengths to make it so. If NCsoft really does not, for whatever reason, want to continue to host it, than why not just pass it off to somebody else? I'm sure they could have sold off the servers to somebody and at least gotten some salvage value. Hell, they could have brokered a deal were whoever they sell it to still charges a fee to play, which NCsoft gets a percentage of. It's just boggling to me that there is very obvious money to be made, yet a company seems to have no interest in making it.

Re:They could have at least handed it off to someb (1)

seebs (15766) | about 2 years ago | (#42195489)

Because they suck at running it.

Did you ever actually USE the "Paragon Market"? That was not developed by Paragon. It was developed by ncsoft (or someone else they hired). And it was spectacularly bad; like, I don't think I know anyone who does web development who couldn't probably do a better job in a day. Literally. Not hyperbole, not exaggerating. It was below the level of what you'd get if you went through a standard Rails tutorial.

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

I am pretty sure they will never sell it, because they don't want people to see just how incompetent they were.

Re:They could have at least handed it off to someb (5, Interesting)

srmalloy (263556) | about 2 years ago | (#42195999)

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.

Re:They could have at least handed it off to someb (2)

Megane (129182) | about 2 years ago | (#42196283)

the appearance of NCSoft not being able/willing to understand the Western market

So instead, they closed it and removed all doubt.

Re:They could have at least handed it off to someb (1)

CronoCloud (590650) | about 2 years ago | (#42196583)

Same goes for Japanese developers...they just don't "get" the American market these days. In the old days, on consoles anyway, they didn't have fair competition, Nintendo and Sega obviously showing favor to fellow Japanese companies.

Now...they actually have to compete with top of the line formerly PC centric US and EU dev houses and they just can't do it.

Look at Sqaresoft/Square-Enix and FFXI, it came out after the lessons that could be learned from SCEA's EQOA (done by American team) and they still got it all wrong! It is actually less fun to play than EQOA was. Fucking SOE/SCEA's Free Realms is a more fun MMO than FFXI is.

I haven't played FFXIV, but hear it's an even WORSE grindfest than FFXI.

Re:They could have at least handed it off to someb (1)

sp332 (781207) | about 2 years ago | (#42195491)

The company is trying to move players over to another game. The whole point is not to let players keep playing this game, so they'll look for a new one.

Re:They could have at least handed it off to someb (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42195537)

Perhaps that is part of it, but if players are already giving you their money in subscriptions and micro-transactions and revolt when you force them to make that change, then what have you gained? A big black eye and a bad reputation.

Re:They could have at least handed it off to someb (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | about 2 years ago | (#42195611)

That's right. Players will be very encouraged to take up a new game, spends hundreds of hours building up characters, only to have everything throw away in a few years when the next big game comes out. It's sort of the opposite of building brand loyalty.

Re:They could have at least handed it off to someb (5, Funny)

NewWorldDan (899800) | about 2 years ago | (#42195753)

They said that it's a strategic decision. No one said it was a good strategy.

Re:They could have at least handed it off to someb (1)

whereiseljefe (753425) | about 2 years ago | (#42195865)

It's weird though, they shut down City of Heros ostensibly for this reason, but they keep Guild Wars 1 up and running and still doing special events (and still no subscription fees).

Re:They could have at least handed it off to someb (1)

SilentStaid (1474575) | about 2 years ago | (#42196113)

It's called Functional Obsolescensce and it's been a design method since GM pioneered it back in the early days of Detroit. It's worked out pretty well for those businesses (bailouts aside.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obsolescence#Functional_obsolescence [wikipedia.org]

Re:They could have at least handed it off to someb (1)

srmalloy (263556) | about 2 years ago | (#42196131)

The company is trying to move players over to another game. The whole point is not to let players keep playing this game, so they'll look for a new one.

When Auto Assault and Tabula Rasa shut down, players were offered free time in some of NCSoft's other games. No such offer was made to the City of Heroes playerbase. Although, frankly, given the stink we raised about the shutdown, I'm not really surprised that they didn't extend such an offer, although it wouldn't have been very practical -- Aion is "Completely Free", so we could already have just moved over to that game, Blade and Soul wasn't out yet to move players to, and the Lineage and Guild Wars MMOs were all 'buy the box, play free', which would have pounded their bottom line by eliminating the game purchase from their income.

There's a reason SE hasn't shut down FFXI (5, Interesting)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 2 years ago | (#42195417)

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.

Re:There's a reason SE hasn't shut down FFXI (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42195665)

If they think that the money they're investing in Project A could bring greater profits and rewards by investing it in Project B, then that's a strategic reason to shut down Project A.

Re:There's a reason SE hasn't shut down FFXI (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42195679)

You said

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.

There are plenty of reasons. You have resources tied up in keeping it running. If you can easily turn those resources on to other projects that will net larger income and greater profit, then it makes a lot of sense to shut it down so it doesn't create a drag.

For an example, let's say they have 50 employees keeping it running and 30 servers which they own and maintain running CoH. They want to start something else that will take employees and servers to run. They can come up with the money to hire new emlpoyees and buy new servers, or they can just retool those servers.

If CoH is making them $10,000 a month and the profit is dwindling, but the new project will take a year to get up and running with those same resourcse and will net them $30,000 a month but will take them a year to get up and running, then they will loose money for the year, but then make more money in the next 3 years, it makes perfect sense to make the switch. Even more sense if you can't get the capitol to buy the new servers and run both. Then you look at it and realize eventually CoH profits will totally disappear because of a downward trend, then sink it now and switch for the long term as opposed to doing it later and risk loosing everything.

Re:There's a reason SE hasn't shut down FFXI (0)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 2 years ago | (#42195745)

50 employees to keep an established game running? As long as you're only providing basic tech support and not doing any new development, you can run a game with ten people.

Re:There's a reason SE hasn't shut down FFXI (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42196093)

They were actually in the process of developing another game as well, we don't know what that game was only that it was not City of Heroes 2. So I imagine most of the staff were working on the second project.

Re:There's a reason SE hasn't shut down FFXI (1)

happylight (600739) | about 2 years ago | (#42196341)

People would leave very quickly if there're no new development in an MMO.

Re:There's a reason SE hasn't shut down FFXI (4, Insightful)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | about 2 years ago | (#42196117)

Many flaws in your reasoning, but I'll pick at just one: The Paragon Studio employees weren't retasked to other games. They were unceremoniously canned.

The *only* thing NCSoft gained by shutting down CoH was server space, which is pretty cheap. In return they lost a $2.75M/quarter revenue stream, a dozen or so experienced developers, and the goodwill of millions of gamers. (Hundreds of thousands of people who actually played, plus a lot of bad publicity.)

At a minimum, they could have sold the game to a company that would have kept it running. Then they could have retasked their servers while pocketing a big cash infusion and avoiding bad press. But they were too short-sighted to even do that.

What's the Korean word for 'clusterfuck'? That's the best explanation for this whole fiasco.

Re:There's a reason SE hasn't shut down FFXI (5, Insightful)

Rakishi (759894) | about 2 years ago | (#42196063)

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.

CoH was not their cash cow, it made 2% of their revenues. I love how you make long arguments while knowing nothing of what you're talking about.

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.

Profit is hard to define or rather it can't be looked at in isolation. Killing CoH means NCSoft can leave the North American market, 98% of their revenue is in Korea. So they can shut down their US offices, data centers, marketing, get rid of Korean personnel with N. America knowledge, Korean managers dealing with N. America and so on. Lot's of secondary costs that can be lowered or gotten rid of totally. Just saving the time and hassle (late hours, mis-communication, flight costs, etc.) of communicating with the North American offices may be worth it. So even if CoH was profitable in isolation, once you add in all those other North America costs that get saved it may very well be a loss. Either way NCSoft clearly didn't want to deal with the hassle.

Re:There's a reason SE hasn't shut down FFXI (2)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | about 2 years ago | (#42196409)

Killing CoH means NCSoft can leave the North American market, 98% of their revenue is in Korea. So they can shut down their US offices, data centers, marketing, get rid of Korean personnel with N. America knowledge, Korean managers dealing with N. America and so on. Lot's of secondary costs that can be lowered or gotten rid of totally. Just saving the time and hassle (late hours, mis-communication, flight costs, etc.) of communicating with the North American offices may be worth it. So even if CoH was profitable in isolation, once you add in all those other North America costs that get saved it may very well be a loss. Either way NCSoft clearly didn't want to deal with the hassle.

That's it exactly. But it still doesn't explain why they didn't sell the game to a company that would keep it running. That decision can only be described as short-sighted and evil.

Either way, I wouldn't trust any game NCSoft is running in America. They might close them down at the drop of a digital hat. Gamers outside of Korea should stay far, far away from anything NCSoft tries to sell.

Re:There's a reason SE hasn't shut down FFXI (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 2 years ago | (#42196273)

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

There's risk and opportunity costs though.

Capital invested in it might be able to generate more profit doing something else. Large cash flows relative to profits make for a large risk if the income side of the stream drops for some reason and the costs reductions lag.

Re:There's a reason SE hasn't shut down FFXI (1)

Talderas (1212466) | about 2 years ago | (#42196383)

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.

This is not an entirely true statement, unfortunately other events make it more muddy.

CoH cost $X and was bringing in $Y revenue for a profit $Z. If by applying those same $X dollars to Project K and generating $A revenue and $B profit, if $B > $Z it makes sense to close down CoH and invest in Project K.

Your logic only works in an environment where you have infinite resources and time. The real world has neither.

Re:There's a reason SE hasn't shut down FFXI (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | about 2 years ago | (#42196435)

You can't shut down your cash cow just because you're banking on your shiny new toy.

Why not? It works for Wall Street! Oh, wait...

Huh. (1)

Westwood0720 (2688917) | about 2 years ago | (#42195439)

I thought that game went down a long time ago. Lineage ][ still around? I thought I read at one point Lineage 3 would be released.

They Need To Be More Specific (1, Informative)

IonOtter (629215) | about 2 years ago | (#42195457)

"Strategic reasons" just does not cut it with this crowd, especially when it's your flagship product.

What's the REAL reason? Are they getting screwed by a patent troll? Did they get compromised by a breach and are bailing out before they get sued? Is the cost to running it more than the money they bring in?

All of my gaming friends who got sucked into MMOs all played CoH, they all still have active characters, and most of them juggle between WoW and CoH, or shift from one to the other on a seasonal basis.

And to a one, all of them are very upset over this.

Look, products come and go, favorite things get pushed aside for the latest, greatest and newest all the time. But when that one, single product is the foundation of your entire company, you'd better be ready with one heck of an explanation.

Re:They Need To Be More Specific (3, Informative)

seebs (15766) | about 2 years ago | (#42195513)

What on earth are you talking about?

CoH was 5% of their revenue, I think 3%. It was never, ever, ncsoft's flagship product. They didn't even make it; they bought it from someone else. They saved it from being closed back in the day, and they made money on it, but it's never been their biggest game, or their most successful, or anything like that.

Re:They Need To Be More Specific (2)

jandrese (485) | about 2 years ago | (#42195605)

CoH was NCSoft's only "western" MMO. Everything else is Korean grindfests and lots of expensive Free to Play games. That's one of the big reasons it was shut down, because they didn't want to maintain the second development staff, second set of offices, second server farm, etc... to keep the game running.

Re:They Need To Be More Specific (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 2 years ago | (#42195765)

Ah, now there's an answer. It's not "strategic" - it's a personnel issue. That makes a lot more sense.

Re:They Need To Be More Specific (2)

Nemyst (1383049) | about 2 years ago | (#42195931)

You mean bar Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2, their actual flagship games?

Re:They Need To Be More Specific (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42195659)

Don't let facts get in the way of things when someone is butthurt because "omg all my friends played it and now they're sad."

Re:They Need To Be More Specific (1)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | about 2 years ago | (#42196019)

What on earth are you talking about?

CoH was 5% of their revenue, I think 3%. It was never, ever, ncsoft's flagship product. They didn't even make it; they bought it from someone else. They saved it from being closed back in the day, and they made money on it, but it's never been their biggest game, or their most successful, or anything like that.

They never saved CoH from being closed. CoH was never in danger of closing. The development team split, with half of them going off to make (the inferior) Champions Online, but the game was always profitable. NCSoft swooped in and bought it because it was worth money, not to 'save' anything.

CoH was nothing like a 'flagship', though. If anything, Guild Wars 1 was their flagship product in America. On the other hand, CoH was a constant revenue stream unlike GW1.

Re:They Need To Be More Specific (1)

bloodhawk (813939) | about 2 years ago | (#42196587)

flagship product? ummmm no. Just because something is profitable doesn't mean there are no good reasons to shut it down. It could be anything from hardware replacement costs were on the horizon to they think that allocating the resources from CoH to something else has the potential to make them a better return to they can see the writing on the wall with the dwindling population.

Too bad...it was a great game (1)

SilverJets (131916) | about 2 years ago | (#42195493)

Played it years ago. Loved it. It spoiled me for when I then went to see what WoW was all about. CoH was light years ahead of WoW in every aspect from character creation, to UI, to game play. Loved playing a healer in CoH. Tried one in WoW and absolutely hated it. Here's a hint Blizzard...the act of healing should NOT draw aggro.

So long CoH and thanks for all the years of fun.

Re:Too bad...it was a great game (1)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | about 2 years ago | (#42195961)

Healing *did* draw aggro in CoH. It's just that Tanks in CoH were much, much better at pulling that aggro back onto themselves.

Hint to other games: If a character class is supposed to play a role, let them be the best ever at that role. There is no other game that has balanced yet indestructible Tanks like the ones in CoH.

Re:Too bad...it was a great game (1)

Xenx (2211586) | about 2 years ago | (#42196467)

No offense, but the act of healing very much should draw aggro. You're telling me you wouldn't take out the guy keeping the rest of them alive? It's only logical.

Re:Too bad...it was a great game (1)

Megane (129182) | about 2 years ago | (#42196529)

Here's a hint Blizzard...the act of healing should NOT draw aggro.

Carebear casual. Seriously, some guy is beating on you, and every time you hit him back, some asshole wimp wearing a bunch of white shit keeps healing him? Wouldn't you want to give that other guy a nice hot cup of STFU if you were the monster?

FWIW, FFXI also causes aggro from healing. I wouldn't know if it works the same way as WoW because I've never played that. FFXI has both long-term hate that only decays as the monster gets to work out his anger issues on you, and short-term hate that decays automatically, for when you do something particularly annoying to the monster, shit like excessive healing or spamming spells. If you keep it low and slow, you won't annoy it enough to turn, but if you drop a massive cure bomb, you gonna get smacked. I've tanked more than a few times as White Mage, some of them intentional.

If only.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42195569)

Blizzard would end the travesty that WOW has turned into. I mean honestly the world would be a better place without WOW in its current form..

Re:If only.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42196427)

Blizzard would end the travesty that WOW has turned into. I mean honestly the world would be a better place without WOW in its current form..

Your troll is obvious, off-topic, and lacks subtlety. Zero stars. Thanks for playing!

very sad to be reading this (1)

zuki (845560) | about 2 years ago | (#42195703)

Difficult to comment without having the inside scoop, but "sudden-death-by-beancounter" seems to be an increasingly common ailment in the electronic age.

Was either deemed superfluous, not worthy of the time, and I can hear the famous "can we just move on to focus on the core IP development" from the accounting department.

All arguments in which players having developed an emotional bond and deep attachment to the game has little if no place at all anymore; even though ironically that was the very thing the developers tried to elicit from customers at the start of the project. But in corporate terms, this has no place in any company's strategy.

Chew'em up, spit'em out. Any questions?

There were sex offenders playing that game. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42195735)

I know for a fact there that there were sex offenders on city of heroes and had been for years. They paid with credit cards with their own name and address that is easily looked up on offender registry sites, but nothing was done to keep them out. Face book is also filled with them.

Re:There were sex offenders playing that game. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42196449)

Sure mod me down for telling the truth. A superhero game is going to attract kids and thus child predators. He was a member of a prominent group that used US flag colors as their colors. He was busted by the FBI several years ago. Personally I'm glad this game is down so that he has been cut off from a source of children.

Re:There were sex offenders playing that game. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42196543)

Makes sense; deny everyone the use of an online game because a child predator might get on it. Lets also shut down these places as they tend to attract kids and thus child predators:
  • * Parks
  • * Chuck e Cheeses
  • * McDonalds
  • * Disney Land
  • * World of Warcraft
  • * Facebook
  • * Movie Theatres
  • * Baseball Diamonds
  • * Pools
  • * Candy shops

Yes, 'Strategic reasons'. Yes, it's stupid. (5, Interesting)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | about 2 years ago | (#42195883)

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.

Re:Yes, 'Strategic reasons'. Yes, it's stupid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42196539)

You do know that Arenanet developed GW2 in Washington, right? And that none of your other criticisms of it make any sense? The closest you get to pay to win is xp boosters in the cash shop, it took me probably a third of the time to hit max level in GW2 that it did for me in COH, and the game was made in English and translated into Korean, so any characters creeping over would have been from problems with the code translating in the other direction.

I played COH for somewhere around 7 years, so I get the overall sentiment, but Guild Wars 2 isn't the bad guy here. That dev studio is in a similar position to Paragon, only they are profitable enough that they have kept from the trash heap for the moment.

Cash Cow? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42196041)

I'm seeing people referring to CoH as a "cash cow". Is this really true?

The Wikipedia entry for CoH shows that in 2008, the number of users was at 125K. I'm assuming that by the time of closure, this number had dipped, though I couldn't find a more current number (someone here surely can). By contract, Guild Wars 2 is currently at 400K.

I hate seeing a game that people loved getting closed. But a game earning $2 mil a quarter doesn't really count as a cash cow, especially with the need for new content, is it?

Re:Cash Cow? (1)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | about 2 years ago | (#42196211)

Guild Wars 2 is not a subscription game -- players buy the game once and then play forever.

In 2008, players in City of Heroes were paying $15/month to play. That changed when they went free-to-play, but the population went up significantly at that time.

CoH was a reliable, if small, revenue stream for NCSoft. GW2 was a cash infusion that won't repeat itself until they release an expansion, and then probably at far reduced amounts.

I'd describe neither as 'cash cows'. But CoH *was* reliably profitable.

Re:Cash Cow? (2)

lordofthechia (598872) | about 2 years ago | (#42196365)

City of Heroes had a recurring monthly payment (just like WoW, Rift, Everquest I, or most non Free to Play MMOs). Guild Wars 2 has no additional recurring cost (and therefore recurring revenue) past the initial game purchase (though they have released expansions for GW1).

So it's entirely possible 100,000k City of Heroes subscribers would be more profitable than 400,000 Guild Wars 2 players when looked at a period of 4-6 months past launch.

Furthermore, there is a value to maintaining your community up to (and even slightly past) the release of the next version of the game the community was formed over (see Blizzard maintaining Starcraft I for over a decade).

Re:Cash Cow? (1)

Petron (1771156) | about 2 years ago | (#42196569)

City of Heroes went Free-to-Play months (maybe even a year) ago. F2P accounts were limited to number of characters and such (unlock more with micro-transactions). P2P accounts earned Vet rewards and and had much more unlocked.

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