The Great MMO Culling of 2017


Last night, the lights went out on one of the strangest and perhaps saddest chapters in the EverQuest franchise history, as Daybreak closed up Landmark and evicted however many inhabitants it had to other sandbox worlds (I hear Trove is doing well, if you like the blocky style…). It was triply depressing, because it was not only the end of Landmark, it not only reminded Daybreak players of the failure to produce EverQuest, but it was the latest casualty in what I’m calling the Great MMO Culling of 2017.

MMORPGs, both young and old, shut down all of the time (and new ones start up as well, so there’s a churn in the industry at large). But once in a while we get a tight bunching of shutdowns and it feels like there’s some sort of small-scale apocalypse going on. Within the first three months of 2017, five MMOs are being sunsetted: Asheron’s Call, Asheron’s Call 2, Super Hero Squad Online, Landmark, and Club Penguin. Now most of these have asterisks beside their name, perhaps noting their diminished populations or, in the case of the last entry, the fact that the game is being retired in order to prepare for the launch of a mobile sequel. But still, five games gone in these first few months with no major launches to counter that streak.

I’m not really down on this. Asheron’s Call was a crying shame, and I think Daybreak’s handling of Landmark as a whole is just shameful, period, but these aren’t tragedies on par with City of Heroes or Star Wars Galaxies. And even though 2017 has yet to counter with expansion and game launches (apart from Conan Exiles’ early access, if you want to toss that in), there are a lot of signs that by the end of the year, we’ll have seen quite a bit:

  • FFXIV: Stormblood and Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind are going to dominate the news — and players’ attention — in June
  • LOTRO and DDO both have expansions on the way with keystone settings
  • Revelation Online should be this spring’s Asian fling MMO once it hits soft launch
  • The Repopulation is coming back under new management
  • Ashes of Creation is really shaping up into a fairly major MMO deserving of attention. Crowfall and Camelot Unchained should both have an active year of development and discussion, even if betas aren’t in the cards for 2017.
  • Plenty of indie crowdfunded MMOs are starting to bloom and will be springing up left and right with early access and launches. Project Gorgon might even launch by the end, fingers crossed.
  • What’s going on with Amazon Games Studio’s various projects? Of note, New World and whatever John Smedley is now heading up both could be worthy of some excitement and coverage.
  • Seriously, there are some interesting and promising titles on the way with potential to be breakout hits, such as Worlds Adrift, Sea of Thieves, Peria Chronicles, and maybe possibly probably Destiny 2.

It’s just a bummer that 2017 has to start out this way. We’re heading into convention season (PAX East, E3) over the next few months, and that’s always a good time to see what surprises may be out there.

I guess I’m personally rooting for a year in which studios operating live MMOs make wise decisions and shore up their games and design direction. If World of Warcraft can keep these meaty patches coming, if LOTRO is getting its second wind, if WildStar can actually survive somehow, that’ll be a win for me. Just… no more shutdowns for a while, OK?

5 thoughts on “The Great MMO Culling of 2017

  1. romeomoon February 22, 2017 / 4:39 pm

    I’ve been wondering lately if there was a way for these companies to carve their MMORPGs into smaller single or limited multiplayer games for PC and consoles. Although I’d miss playing with large groups of players online, I’d still be willing to give a paired down version of City of Heroes a try. In fact I felt the opening levels of (In)Famous felt a lot like CoH, and even Kingdom of Amalur felt a little like World of Warcraft.

  2. Dez Tal February 23, 2017 / 1:22 am

    Maybe it’s a changing of the guard as Western based MMO development companies consolidate their existing MMO bases in a largely saturated market of time hungry cash strapped players and we will see more Asian based game developers. It’s largely happening like that now. Lots of MMOs developed for the Asian market being ported for a Western audience. I reckon (without any statistical facts to back me up) that South Korea and China have larger growing gaming populations and willing to spend cash and time and will drive MMO development. Thou even their Governments are stepping in I have read to limit gaming time with forced breaks.

    Personally over the last 10 years. I’ve moved from MMOs and hours spent raiding and questing to just doing 1 or 2 hour sessions with 2 or 3 close mates. Perhaps the market is reflecting that evolution as gamers have also aged and younger gamers are more into consoles and mobile games.

  3. House of Grouse February 23, 2017 / 12:53 pm

    Been with ddo going back before us in Europe moved over to Turbine (now Standing Stones) I was regular on Yugi Oh online till Konami shut it down. Moved over to Heathstone and finally getting hooked on World of Warships. May even try tanks at some point. But loyalty to games seems to be very limited in some cases.

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