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Updated Mon, Sep 27, 2010 by borticus

In every business there are failures. In the world of MMOGs, these failures sometimes sting so harshly that even time does not erase our bitterness over what could have been. As gamers, we invest a lot of ourselves into wanting to play and live within universes that captivate us. These universes can be derivatives of our favorite novels or television series, or created out of thin air by talented teams of developers, but either way, when a world comes along that captures our imaginations, we can’t let it die easily.

And so, in any conversation with an MMO gamer who’s been around for more than a couple years, you are bound to come across references to some of these great “might have beens” from years past. In this article, I’ll wander down memory lane with you, to tell you the tales of the MMOGs that never were, and update you on some that may once again march into the daylight in the near future.

Stargate Worlds

Stargate Worlds
Perhaps one of the most disappointing failed MMOG tales in recent history is the story of Stargate Worlds. SGW had all the potential of a rich, deep IP with almost endless content possibilities, coupled with a dedicated (some might even say “rabid”) fanbase to draw from. So, how did it all go wrong?

To tell you the entire story of this troubled IP, I’d have to be a professional lawyer and private investigator. The accusations, lawsuits, rumors and unconfirmed ‘insider’ statements are so convoluted you’d almost swear that they were intentionally crafted to deceive and mislead an outsider from finding the true stories behind the companies responsible for this MMOG’s failure. And, you Cheyenne Mountain Logowouldn’t be far from the truth. You see, Stargate Worlds, and the entire Stargate IP, was merely an innocent bystander in what turned out to be a multi-level get-rich-quick scheme, also known as a “Ponzi Scheme,” headed up by a CEO of questionable repute and even more questionable character. How it was that Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment managed to grab hold of the Stargate IP is still an unknown, but it seems likely that MGM’s desperate financial situation over the past several years played a role. Perhaps they did not do their homework before signing the deal, and were blinded by the potential dollars a successful MMOG could bring to their door. However, the simple truth seems to be that Gary Whiting, as the head of CME, never intended to release a finished product to the public and was simply using the beloved Stargate franchise to further their own nefarious money-making scam.

MMOguls LogoBy capitalizing on the reputation of this well-known IP, the leaders of CME headed up a multi-level marketing scheme, under the company name of “MMOguls,” which brought in droves of relatively small-dollar-figure investors who were promised outlandish returns once the game was made available to the public. One published statement claimed that SGW was “guaranteed to bring in 150-200 million subscribers” -- a claim so unbelievable that it should make any veteran MMO gamer laugh out loud. Unfortunately, several dozen claimants in the ensuing lawsuits bought into these outlandish statements and invested their hard-earned money into CME’s venture with the promise of reaping unearthly dividends at a later date. Needless to say, such promises were never kept.

As if that wasn’t enough, the story doesn’t end there. Since the collapse of CME under the weight of various statements and civil filings, various news sites (including Ten Ton Hammer) have attempted to get a straight story out of the parties involved, only to be shut down at every turn. Internal arguments and finger-pointing have become common with those caught up in the whole ordeal, and it’s difficult to tell if anyone in this story is innocent of wrong-doing.

After all of this strife, what has become of the IP itself? What happened to Stargate Worlds?

The most recent news item to float out of the murky depths of the continuing litigation surrounding SGW is that a newly formed company called “Fresh Start Studios” (comprised primarily of former-CME employees) was offered the opportunity to buy the IP and all of SGW’s assets for the sum of $100,000 -- a fraction of 1% of the total value of these assets based on the amount of third-party investments sunk into the venture. This resulted in additional legal action, because CME was not allowed to liquidate any of their assets while under litigation for bankruptcy. Former investors into CME are now suing Fresh Start Studios (and a laundry list of other parties involved with the transfer) over this questionable act, because without the Stargate IP CME now “lack[s] any reasonable means or prospect of internally generating revenues."

It’s probably safe to assume that SGW is not due for a rescue story of the sort we’ve seen happen to other MMOGs in the past. It is likely that the assets and license will be tied up in litigation for some time to come thanks to the underhanded investment schemes and fraudulent tactics of those previously in possession of the IP. The best we can hope for, as fans of the franchise, is that MGM will retake the rights to this rich universe, and more carefully choose their next partner in the future. But considering MGM’s rocky financial footing at this time, the future of this gaming franchise is far too uncertain to make any solid predictions.

Stargate Worlds Screenshot
Don't hold your breath ...

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