I have castigated NCSoft for cancelling City of Heroes, just as in the past I ripped them for the demise of Tabula Rasa, AutoAssault and Dungeon Runners. This is the post where I am more forgiving. A little.
Maybe City of Heroes was losing money. I might point to Paragon’s 80 or so employees as evidence that there was plenty of room to cut CoX short of cancellation, but we on the outside don’t know with 100% certainty that CoH wasn’t in the red. With another company, one might be inclined to give the benefit of the doubt.
NCSoft’s vaunted “Truly Free” thing doesn’t appear to be working very well. Aion and Lineage 2 both started bringing in substabtially less revenue under this plan, and now City of Heroes is getting cancelled, so it’s not a stretch to think it wasn’t a success there, either. Paragon’s 80 people must have represented a significant amount of capital tied down, in a market (North America) where NCSoft has historically had a very limp foothold. So from a business standpoint CoX’s cancellation, while disappointing, is not shocking and perhaps even understandable. If the numbers say that the company is better off closing the property down, the company is within its rights to do so.
On the other hand, for the players, an MMO is more than just numbers on a spreadsheet. Sometimes we invest a great deal of time and energy and love into them, over thousands of hours and many years. While I personally feel no emotional attachment to City of Heroes, I can empathize with those who do, whose beloved characters and memorable adventures and hard-fought victories will just vanish into the ether come the end of November.
I encourage those looking for a superhero MMO fix in the wake of City of Heroes’ demise to join me in Champions Online, which, if not quite as full-featured as CoX is, is comparable in many respects and is a decent game in its own right.
On the other hand, I repeat my warning to all MMO players: don’t get too attached. Because MMO closure is inevitable. Some day the game that I am attached to will shut down forever, and yours will too. Even if it’s World of Warcraft; some day, those servers will close down and the last remaining players will sadly sign off for the last time. It makes me think that maybe the corporate model isn’t the best or healthiest arrangement for MMOs to operate under, but that’s what we have right now. MMOs have an expiration date
But there are also reasons to think that date might be far ahead in the future, yet. SOE was keeping Vanguard afloat with a player base that literally numbered in the hundreds, and now it’s got something of a new lease on life. EverQuest Online Adventures hung around for nine years on a dead console. EQMac was saved by the benevolent hand of John Smedley after outcry from what could not possibly have been many people. Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot and Anarchy Online probably don’t have large numbers of people playing them, and EVE eked along for years with a very modest subscriber base. MMOs do have a lifespan, but they can also stick around for a long time, if the publisher believes in them.
To NCSoft, MMOs are just a business. Just numbers on a spreadsheet. That’s their prerogative. But we, the players who invest hundreds or thousands of hours and the developers with their arms elbow deep in code and design, know them to be something more than that. I will miss City of Heroes, not because I loved it to pieces as a game, but because I know people who did, and I know what it meant to the hobby as a whole, to the people who played it and the people who made it the great game that it was, on both sides of the screen.