It turns out the wonky New Age interpreters of the Mayan calendar were wrong (as usual), and our world didn't end in 2012. We didn't smash into Nibiru, the mirror Earth, or get visited by our alien creator-gods, or get bombarded with cosmic radiation and comets and asteroids the size of Madagascar, or smote by angry deities raining holy judgement from the heavens. Our universe moved quietly into baktun 188.8.131.52.0 just like it was always supposed to, and the world kept spinning on. But this was sadly not the case for a handful of game worlds that got shut down by their developer-gods. Here is our tribute to the fallen MMO worlds of 2012, as prophesied by the crystal-worshipping hippies that misread one scholar's interpretation of the Mayan calendar sometime in the 1970s.
Ancient Mayan Prophecy: "The crops will wither without a cash shop to feed them."
Not all F2P conversions can pull a dying game out of a tailspin - especially when that conversion doesn't include some form of microtransactions. LEGO Universe's Free-to-play conversion basically gave players two options: pay 10 bucks a month, or stick with the pared-down, gimpy, barely-fun game that can only be improved by subscribing.
This gambit proved unsuccessful. Free-to-play launched mid-August 2011, but failed to convert enough new players into new subscribers, and the game shut down in January 2012. A cash shop would possibly have extended the life of the game - it's not hard to envision players being willing to pay a little extra for special bricks, unique colours or whatnot - but since they also closed the studio and marketing department at the same time, it's unlikely that such an extension would have been particularly long-term.
Ancient Mayan Prophecy: "The spearless hunter cannot hope to fell the mighty tapir."
Earthrise was an innovative sandbox-style post-apocalypse MMORPG developed by Masthead Studios. Despite the apparent market-interest in an open-world sandbox MMORPG and plans to convert to a F2P model, the game was released too early and failed to meet player requirements. The plug was pulled before they had a chance to give F2P a try.
Game servers were shut down in Februrary, but it was announced in May that Wuppertal-based developers SilentFuture would be reviving Earthrise in Q4 2012 as a free-to-play title. The re-imagining will no longer be post-apocalyptic, but set during the apocalypse itself, and with a revamped backstory, improved gameplay and new features. Th Q4 2012 re-launch is not happening, but the new Earthrise is beginning closed alpha testing as of December 28. And Masthead Studios has recovered from the loss - they have a new project, Guns & Robots, in the works. We can keep our fingers crossed for an Earthrise re-launch sometime in 2013, and for the future of Masthead.
EverQuest Online Adventures
Ancient Mayan Prophecy: "Nine console years is like ninety human years, bro."
The console-only MMO is a rare bird, and EverQuest Online Adventures made the most of it, staying alive longer than the console for which it was developed. The PlayStation 2 was overtaken by the shiny new PS3 in 2006, but EQOA continued its run for another 6 years after that despite the new system's built-in hard drive, superior graphics, faster speeds and more robust internet integration.
A 9-year run is a success story for any MMO, and EverQuest Online Adventures seems to have died of old age rather than some kind of inherent internal flaw. And since it didn't have additional hardware requirements like its only real rival, Final Fantasy XI, it was the only real console-only MMO option for a lot of people.
Ancient Mayan Prophecy: "Cut off the body and the head will die. And vice-versa, I guess."
The brutal state of the global economy has made for some hard times all around, and game studios were no exception this past year. Reakktor Media, a tiny German game studio, went insolvent earlier in the year and had to close down their MMO space shooter, Black Prophecy.
Running and maintaining MMO game servers is an expensive endeavor, and Black Prophecy seems to have been a victim of the economy. It was the game studio, not the game itself, that failed - basically the opposite of the other games on this list. In all of the other cases, the failing game was shut down to save the developer, publisher or parent company. In this case, the game seemed to be fine, but the parent company went broke.
City of Heroes
Ancient Mayan Prophecy: "And an army of warriors shall rise up, only to be pimp-slapped by the gods."
While some games die with a whimper and a tear, other games go down kicking and screaming to the last. NCSoft's decision to close down City of Heroes and its development studio sparked a reaction in its fans that prompted us to reward them our Best Community Award for 2012. Tens of thousands of CoH players and other MMO enthusiasts signed petitions, sent letters to the publishers, attempted to help broker the sale of Paragon Studios to outside companies and staged in-game Unity Rallies to keep their game alive. It wasn't just a bunch of disappointed gamers voicing directionless nerdrage in countless futile forum posts - it was a concerted effort by a community to take positive steps toward a common goal, and to keep their favorite game going.
So far, their efforts have been unsuccessful. City of Heroes closed its doors in November, and the game remains mothballed, but that doesn't mean the movement has grown any less passionate or committed to its goals. Check out Plan Z: the Phoenix Project - these guys aren't giving up simply because someone said "no." There is also a lot of discussion involving starting a Kickstarter campaign to buy the IP and the game code.
It's always sad to see a beloved game shut down. Jobs are lost, communities dissolve and disperse and all we are left with are the memories. We are saddened to see these games go, but the memories of the fun times they brought us will remain. Share your commemorations in our comments section below.