R.I.P. City of Heroes
Since there seems to be a conversation going on in suggested MMO list, and I tend to occasionally delete comments on there, I suppose this is news that warrants being addressed.
When games shut down, it’s usually pretty expected. Luna shut down due to a poor conversion upgrade that changed many basic gameplay elements. Lego Universe got the ax due to poor publisher support and a refusal to embrace the concept of Free to Play. Pi Story was abandoned by its developer early in production, ended up wrought with lag/ framerate issues, and never got a cash shop implemented. Let’s not forget the numerous browser-based titles that come and go each year.
But this is… different.
For those of you not in the know, City of Heroes is officially shutting down in November, and Paragon Studios has been dissolved, giving the title three more months of life.
Why is this so sudden? Despite it being the oldest and original Superhero MMO, this game was very alive and well, turning a profit and previewing many features of its (originally) upcoming Issue 24. In fact several posts about upcoming features were made mere HOURS before the sudden cancellation announcement. This is not the behavior of a developer expecting “that call to the office.”
The facts, as we know them, are this:
- NCSoft has cancelled CoH, and dismantled Paragon Studios.
- This came midst announcements of future content.
- NCSoft has lost money in the past year.
- Paragon is unwilling to elaborate, and has asked the fans to accept this.
Of course the fans are NOT going to just “accept” this. City of Heroes has one of the most vocal and dedicated MMO fanbases in existence. This is the fanbase that had many people laying into me after I gave their game a POSITIVE review. They are not going to go down quietly. I honestly think fewer people would be upset if WoW was shutting down.
Rumors running around are as follows:
- This is all an elaborate marketing scheme for the new expansion.
They say the first two stages of grief are Disbelief and Denial, and nothing illustrates that point more than this theory. This also ties into the “bargaining” phase, where the mind tries to soothe itself by coming up with REASONS it can’t be true. But, doesn’t that seem a bit cruel? It’s not April 1st, and when was the last time someone pretended they were dying and later said, “Oh! I was just joking so you’d miss me more!” end up gaining any favor. Admit it, if this was the case, you’d be so pissed at CoH and Paragon that you wouldn’t ever trust them again.Look at this in terms of another MMO that was recently shut down, Iris Online. In Iris they claimed they weren’t going anywhere, and GMs actively told players there was nothing to worry about when even the players could tell something was amiss. Then BAM, everything is gone. There was no such “feeling” with CoH.
Yeah, it doesn’t makes sense that a developer so excited for its future would suddenly accept its cancellation without argument, but then again, imagine how THEY feel. There is literally NOTHING they can do about it. They were an in-house team created specifically for the development of CoH after Cryptic tossed the rights over to NCSoft. Speaking of that…
- Perfect World owns the rights to CoH’s engine and kept the renewal cost too high for NCSoft, in order to allow Champions Online to be the reigning superhero MMO.
Now we’ve reached the point of conspiracy theory. The logic of the situation is so far out of hand that people are piecing together as many factoids as they can to try to make sense out of the nonsensical and twist as much of the facts as they can in order to greater support it. Yes, while Perfect World DOES own the rights to Cryptic, when Cryptic split from NCSoft to create Champions Online, they sold them EVERYTHING included in the CoH package. Engine included. CO was built off an entirely different engine (the same later used for Star Trek Online) and when Cryptic was LATER purchased by Perfect World, that gave Perfect World the rights to THAT engine, not CoH. I’m pretty sure there’s not an ounce of truth to that one. It’s like someone’s trying to alleviate NCSoft from this matter entirely.
- CoH was losing money and NCSoft couldn’t continue hosting it.
From what I understand this isn’t even close to true, but it’s the conclusion that everyone outside of the community will end up drawing. After all, think of it from an outside perspective: CoH goes Free to Play, NCSoft reports losses, NCSoft drops CoH. Seems like cause and effect, right? Well outsiders, it’s not the case. CoH WAS alive and well, and developers don’t keep making content for games that don’t make money. But when the publisher decides you need to go, you need to go. Logic be damned.
- NCSoft lost money on the Aion F2P conversion, and cut CoH in hopes it would get players to move to Aion or Guild Wars 2.
This… seems the most likely, as stupid as it sounds. It doesn’t make sense from any standpoint a company like PepsiCo saying “Oh, we’re not making Mountain Dew anymore. Here’s a coupon for some Naked Juice Coconut Water!” and expecting people to just grin and bear it. Yeah, you have other drinks, but not the one I came here for!
However, you don’t know NCSoft like I know NCSoft. I said this in an episode of MMO Underground when G referred to NCSoft as “a pretty good company” referring to the quality of the games they host, when I countered with “They only reason more people don’t hate NCSoft is because Nexon still exists.” They are ON PAR with the kind of shady crap Nexon has been pulling over the years… occasionally worse.
It would not shock me in the least to believe this rumor is true. NCSoft is first and foremost a Korean company, and Aion is a very Korean game, developed exclusively by in-house developers. CoH is something they picked up from an aspiring american developer that later left them and gave them exclusivity. In their mind, it’s a black sheep. It doesn’t flow with their aesthetic.
If Aion was the title that failed them, Aion is still their baby, and CoH is an old, acquired title. They’re going to cut ties with the game they didn’t create, not something they built from the ground up. It’s despicable, it’s nepotism, and it doesn’t surprise me in the least. It’s not going to work, though.
CoH’s fans are entirely too dedicated to take this laying down. Again, this is the fanbase that jumped down my throat for saying “combat felt a bit slow” so they aren’t about to let some big-shot publisher just drop their thriving game like a used dustrag. While I feel that a lot of this might be for naught: here’s a few things that are being done in an attempt to keep CoH alive:
- The petition on Change.org
I have a firm stance among the people who believe online petitions, or petitions in general, are about as effective as trying to put out a forest fire with a bottle of Visene. The internet clings to these because they are easy. This world has become a place where pressing a button = “doing your part”.
Change your avatar to a cartoon character? That’ll end child abuse! Share a video about the past evils of a long defeated warlord? We gotta stop this guy! Like a candidate on Facebook? Well, he’s a lock for the presidency now!
This doesn’t work. Plain and simple. If anything you’re only soothing your own wounds. NCSoft won’t even bat an eyelash at a paltry 10k signatures when a one minute clip of a baby biting a British toddler’s finger can nab nearly 500 million views. You’ll need at LEAST a million for them to stand up and take notice. However, if you do want to get this petition to a more respectable total, at least to say your piece before it’s sent, the link is here: http://www.change.org/petitions/ncsoft-keep-ncsoft-from-shutting-down-city-of-heroes#
- Boycott of NCSoft
Again, this isnt’ going to make an impact. Regardless of their probable hope that you’d migrate to another NCSoft title, I highly expect that they are completely willing to lose you as a customer. The psychotic religious fervor over Guild Wars 2 that I mentioned in my Sidequest ensure that NCSoft as a company isn’t going anywhere. The chop was nothing more than a way to gain back some money they lost by not having to pay a group of people for their services. When corporations start feeling the pinch (often times the “pinch” is “can’t afford the fuel on my 5th jet”) they cut their labor force. Not because it’s the best idea, or the trouble came from their works, but because it’s easy. It’s the quickest way to recoup your losses, despicable as the practice may be, but horrible companies don’t care about people. The don’t care about their workforce, and they certain don’t care about YOU, as bad as this sounds. It’s the bottom line, plain and simple, and they are willing to deal with all the other consequences. Feel free to stop buying their products if this is a matter of personal principle, nothing more. Don’t bother if you think it’s going to somehow make a huge impact on their precious bottom line.
- Physical letter campaign to NCSoft headquarters.
NOW we’re getting somewhere. As stated in this post, the corporate world is trained to deal with the onslaught of social and electronic media. It’s as simple as posting a filter on your inbox that weeds out anything that contains the words “City of Heroes” and sending it directly to their spam filter. A massive stack of PHYSICAL letters drowning out your desk aren’t so easily ignored. The issue here is that people are too used to the easy way out, and this ISN’T as easy as “button click activism”. Not to mention the years of no consequence anonymity that the internet has provided making personal tact all but dead. If you do suffer from this phenomenon, the forum post at CoH Titan should be enough to help you along the path if you truly want to make an impact upon this decision.
- Starting up a private server.
This is being seen as the last resort tactic to this campaign, and sadly probably the most likely solution to keeping this game around. It doesn’t seem likely that NCSoft is going to sell the license as much as let it die. The biggest issue of the private server is keeping the same quality the published game had, its inevitable stagnation from lack of new content and the cost of keeping a server up. It’s also possible the host can be smacked by a C&D from the NCSoft legal department (as they are the rights holders, dead game or not). As much as I hope it won’t have to come to that for you all, I can’t help but think, knowing NCSoft’s reputation, that it may be all you have left. Regardless don’t go down without a fight.
So what do you feel about all this? Thoughts? Comments? Clarifications I can much more easily edit in text form?
Discuss how you feel about this below, and let everyone know what you think.
Good luck, Paragon City.
Posted on September 2, 2012, in News and Updates and tagged cancelled, city of heroes, city of heroes shut down, coh, nc soft, NCSoft, rip coh, shut down, sudden cancellation. Bookmark the permalink. 81 Comments.