Can City of Heroes be saved?

It’s a phenomenon as predictable as Old Faithful: Whenever a significant MMO (or, heck, TV series) has its ending announced, the fans come out in force to try to save it.  Sometimes these efforts bear fruit: Jericho got a second season and Star Trek a third because of fan efforts, while EQMac and… um… hm.  Some other MMO that I can’t think of got a stay of execution.  Actually, in terms of MMOs, these protests don’t seem to work as well, usually because there’s a lot of licensing, staffing, and financial issues at play behind the scenes.

But let’s turn our attention to City of Heroes anyway, which is the target of a major fan effort to save the title before its November closure.  From the fan’s perspective, it makes sense: The game was making money, it still had a healthy population, and it deserves to keep operating (at least until one of those first two factors changes).  We all love seeing this sort of thing, because it’s inspiring and brings out the best of the community.  Plus, sometimes it’s great to see that the power of organized fans can indeed change a company’s mind and remind them that there are people at the end of those dollar signs.

Inspiring, yes.  I’m totally on board with the idea — I’d love to see City of Heroes be saved.  It’s premature to cancel it, and I think that the reasoning behind NCsoft’s decision doesn’t have anything to do with the title specifically so much as losses elsewhere in the company.  But the question on the table is can it be saved?  Are we all just spinning our wheels and making noise in a futile attempt to speak to corporate suits that don’t care to listen to us anyway?

Paragon Studios is on the fans’ side, of course, but that doesn’t count for that much since the devs and team are looking, if not already accepting, jobs elsewhere.  We got word that there are “discussions” taking place regarding the title, which is just a smidge more than no hope at all, but it sort of feels like grasping at straws to think that NCsoft will suddenly have a change of heart.  Sometimes the decisions are made despite what the fans want — see Star Wars Galaxies.  I know that SOE would’ve loved to have kept that running, because it did make money, had a good amount of players, and was a nice feather in the cap of the studio.  But sometimes the big shots make the call and there’s little that a studio can do to change that.  I’m not saying that CoH is in the same exact situation, but it does feel similar.

But even if the odds seem long, what harm is there in trying?  One of the things that make our hobby so special is how attached we get to our game worlds and how much they end up meaning to us.  Seeing the City of Heroes’ fan base rise up in an attempt to do everything in their power to save this title is something we can all identify with, even if CoH isn’t our game.  As one of the leaders of the effort to save the game wrote, “We are heroes.  This is what we do.”  The game treated the players so well over the years, now it’s the players’ turn to rally around the game.

Maybe it won’t work, and November will be a sad time for many.  But, what the heck, fight on.  Give NCsoft a pause, at least, and a reason to question its corporate ruthlessness.  And if City of Heroes does get a reprieve, even if it’s just to remain on maintenance mode for the remainder of its life, I’ll be right there cheering along with the rest.

12 thoughts on “Can City of Heroes be saved?

  1. Well, one topic I haven’t seen discussed… and I admit I haven’t really looked… is under what circumstances would the saving of City of Heroes be okay with the fans?

    Everybody assumes status quo ante. But somehow I doubt that is going to happen.

    What if NCsoft came back and said that they would keep CoH open, but 90% of the Paragon staff was still getting laid off, the only work done on the the game would be simply to keep the servers up and running (no new content ever), and the first quarter it loses a penny it is closed for good?

    Would that be enough to keep people happy?

  2. That’s a good question, I honestly think the best case scenario here is just a skeleton crew keeping the servers warm, unless it’s not too late to pull everyone back.

  3. It came to mind when I read the petition, which violates one of the rules of making demands as a customer, “Be specific about what you want.” The petition just says, “Keep it open.” I bet I could come up with a couple of “still open” scenarios where a lot of fans might prefer that the game simple close.

    “We’ll keep the game open, but to do so, we’re selling ad space on everybody’s chest, and we don’t care if WoW gold sites are on the list!”

  4. Pingback: Protecting Paragon City « Stylish Corpse

  5. NcSoft according to the CM for City of Heroes is actively trying to help the Devs find new jobs, this seems like they are not interested (NcSoft) in selling the studio/IP, at ALL. :(

  6. Any big game developer is bound to have a lot of stuff that is shared between games and perhaps also various 3rd party licensed functionality. Selling it completely may not be possible or desirable for them.

    I agree with Wilhelm regarding customer demands in general, although if there are discussions it may also be better to keep options open and perhaps find an approach that will avoid people to lose face.

    I think it is really a combination of the player community, the game features and the interaction with the developers that made the game special. Cutting off pats of that is going to make it a different beast. Will it still be a game+community people will enjoy? I do not know. But better to try and fail than not try at all.

  7. I really think it’s time we had some formal (and financial) way of recognising that gut sense of “ownership” players feel for the game they are invested in and love. I think that as players, the time put in alone makes that sense that they are partly ours very sharp. I’ve written about it before, but there should be some avenue which both supports the game financially , and allows for the playerbase to keep running it in another form if it is going to close (eg private servers/open source/options I’m too tired to think of). Something like shares, but not quite shares… it would have to evolve to suit its purpose.

  8. Pingback: CoH: To Save Or Not to Save? « Why I Game

  9. If they signed a petition agreeing to pay $30/mo to keep the game alive, that would be one thing. Expecting a company to just take the hit for the fans is very selfish. Assuming that you know better than NCSoft whether the game is worth keeping is a bit odd; it makes no sense that they would turn off a profitable game because of losses elsewhere.

  10. Actually, you know what? This kind of ‘oooh, scary, it could cost $25 or $30 or whatever’ argument keeps popping up, but yes I would pay 30 dollars or 30 euros for it. I mean, it already was a bit more expensive than other games when it launched 8 years ago or so.

    If you adjust for inflation ( http://www.dollartimes.com/calculators/inflation.htm ) a dollar in 2004 is worth something like 1.22 dollars in 2012. In GB pounds ( http://safalra.com/other/historical-uk-inflation-price-conversion/ ), it’s more like 1 pound in 2004 is worth 1.30 pounds in 2012. So basically if they rise the price to, say, $25 a month, already the inflation adjustment is half of that. It doesn’t seem particularly oppressive.

  11. Even if we lose Coh on November 30, we will keep on trying and we will not stop. Just because they shut it down doesn’t mean we have too give, that what they want use too, No we will keep on fighting until our dieing breath. So keep on Writing Letters, Signing Petitions, Protesting and so much more. They will give in and give us our game back or sell it to another company.

  12. I don’t think anyone expects NCSoft to keep City of Heroes running if it’s against its best corporate interests. As an eight-year subscriber to this game, at this point I don’t want NCSoft to keep City of Heroes open — I think we all know that would be a temporary reprieve at best.

    But what we would like NCSoft to do is agree to sell the IP, either to another publisher or to Paragon Studios itself. I honestly don’t see the downside for anyone here — City of Heroes gets a second chance, and NCSoft gets the money.

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