Yet Another Title, Meet the NCSoft Axe

Dungeon Runners is shutting down. Despite the fact that the development team was sitting on a detailed, virtually ready to go package that they felt would make the game profitable, pending NCSoft management’s approval. Here today their decision was announced.

No, this game isn’t making enough money to pay the huge development staff of three people. You’ll pardon me for saying that I simply don’t believe that Dungeon Runners was doing so badly it couldn’t afford three guys and the Commodore 64 the servers were running on.

No, NCSoft would not like to put a plan into place that could make the game profitable – a plan that they sat on for months. No, NCSoft has to axe it. How many times will this happen? How many failures will this company rack up? How long before Aion gets the NCSoft Executive Treatment? City of Heroes? What the hell kind of retard business plan is it to pour development money into a project – no, sorry, make that projects – and then, when it’s not as profitable as hoped, kill it off? Not try to save it. Not sell it off to somebody who could make it successful, like, say, selling off Auto Assault to NetDevil, who’d developed it and wanted to buy it rather than see it die, and maybe recoup some of those costs. No, clearly the best idea is to bury it, where it will never make any money again. Awesome business sense, at least if making games fail is your business.

I wasn’t a particular fan of Dungeon Runners, but there’s no reason it couldn’t have been a modestly profitable game. Way to go, NCSoft. Again. I’m not as much sad to see it go as sad for the people who liked it, and incredulous, yet again, that anyone would trust this company to manage the manufacture of a ham sandwich, much less a complicated enterprise like an MMO.

CLARIFICATION: No, I don’t actually think City of Heroes, Guild Wars or Aion are getting shut down anytime soon. The point, for those who missed it, is that there seems to be zero margin for errors or setbacks at NCSoft. Given the history of MMOs, how sensible does this seem?

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11 responses to “Yet Another Title, Meet the NCSoft Axe

  1. Based on what I can tell, unless NCSoft is hiding something we don’t know about, the only Western development going on for the company are CoH and GW1&2. They aren’t trying to save these games because they don’t want to develop Western games anymore.

    How’s that for a conspiracy theory?

  2. Oops. Just found out about some developer called Carbine Studios that working on a game. Maybe if I’m lucky they won’t actually ship a game and my theory will stay intact.

  3. I wouldn’t trust NCSoft to make a Ham Sandwich either.
    It’d be made on stale bread, with about 80% fatty useless (g)rind, they’d garnish it with glitter glue and tinsel and wonder why people don’t buy it.
    When someone hands them an edible sandwich, they take out the garnish between the layers of ham, demand to know why there’s no tinsel on it, refuse to put it on show, and only people who have heard about it from friends buy it and then wonder why it doesn’t make a profit…

  4. You’d be surprised how much money companies spend on projects and then just pull the rug. I’ve seen MILLIONS spent on developing new platforms that get scuttled before we’ve even attempted to launch the product. It’s mind-boggling and infuriating since layoffs quickly follow.

  5. Just because they could keep the numbers in black it still does not mean that they would. They would look at it and see something moderately profitable or something that at best would be moderately profitable and go – can we do something better with this money?

    And if the answer is yes, then they might kill the product. NCSoft is also a public company, which means investors and other have moe insight into their numbers – hiding things is more difficult and they will have more focus on showing things that looks good to investors.

    Had SOE been a public company I am quite sure that they would have axed more and axed earlier some of their less successful games.

  6. I played Dungeon Runners for a little bit but it didn’t hold me long. However, I liked it enough to buy two boxes to throw a little monetary love their way for making a fun game.

    While I do currently play Guild Wars on occasion, I have to say that I’m done with NCSoft in general. They have quickly become universally known as the company that shuts down games. I’ll continue to invest my time and money in persistent worlds that actually have a chance at persisting.

  7. “I wasn’t a particular fan of Dungeon Runners, but there’s no reason it couldn’t have been a modestly profitable game.”

    And what exactly do you base that assumption on? Do you have access to their expense reports? Their P&L reports? Do you know exactly how many subscribers the game has? How fast they were losing subs? Seriously, there is a world of inside info that you have absolutely no clue about that goes into making a business decision. While it may suck to see another MMO bite the dust, it would suck even more if companies kept these failures afloat to please people like you, only to have their entire company go bankrupt and be forced to close all their games.

    Short-sighted blogging FTL.

  8. I think it is sad that NCSoft has axed as many products as it has, largely because I am convinced there was potential in some of them.

    Still, this rant seems out of proportion to some of the other destructive actions by other big businesses in the MMO world, like Atari’s treatment of Turbine and subsequent lawsuit and also, in the MMO-to-be world, Bethesdas’ legal actions against Interplay on the topic of a Fallout MMO.

  9. You can’t have it both ways; either DR was a potentially profitable game or it was not. In either case NCSoft screwed up, squandering either the design resources or the opportunity to turn a profit. Nobody is arguing that DR was actually doing well and that it therefore shouldn’t be canceled – that it was doing poorly is common knowledge and this writing has been on the wall for probably a year.

    The point is that NCSoft, which has canceled more MMOs than anybody else visible to the western market (unknown to me at the time of writing were the two Korean games they’ve canceled as well,) can’t seem to get it right, and you can’t credibly claim that’s because they’re publicly held, since a) lots of other companies are publicly traded and b) being privately held does not somehow grant a company the magical ability to lose money or make bad business decisions. They might be able to hide bad business longer, but losing money is losing money, and someday the piper is gonna come calling.

    As for the Atari/Turbine squabble, there’s not enough information out there for me to have anything to say about it. If Turbine’s allegations are true, then yes, Atari are a bunch of dicks, but my personal inclination to believe Turbine doesn’t outweigh my reluctance to comment on a situation I don’t feel I have adequate intelligence on. In a case like this, the third similar situation in the last two or so years from the same inept company, it’s really pretty obvious that somebody in NCSoft’s management hasn’t the vaguest clue what they’re doing, or at minimum, that they’re trying to do too much outside their area of expertise.

    On the Fallout MMO/Bethesda thing, I haven’t talked about it because I frankly don’t care much. Potential MMOs are of less interest to me than actual functioning MMOs, at least until we start hearing lots of details or a release is imminent.

    And yes, obviously many companies throw good money at bad projects. That doesn’t make doing so smart business.

  10. I prefer the direct approach as opposed to letting a game linger a slow death. SOE could do to cut, oh, about 3/4 of its portfolio. hehehe But I see your point. It’s always kind of sad when a game goes down due to company bureaucracy, no matter what.

    I hope that whatever money — and perhaps in the form of physical developers not necessarily cash — is saved, that it will be re-invested into bigger and better.

  11. Actually I think Aion IS at risk seeing as how its subscriber base is very likely to do a Warhammer only more so.

    Such a shoddy reputation for dumping on its own products may well accelerate the Aion failure cascade.