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NCsoft: Nothing Had Been Decided on Selling City of Heroes

'Unethical' game closure is an article on the Korea Times where a fantasy author complains about the closure of City of Heroes, NCsoft's MMORPG (thanks Ant and Krnl_Mandrake via Slashdot). The article focuses on the backlash the move has inspired, though there is a quote from an NCsoft spokesperson offering a shred of hope for fans of the superhero game:

NCsoft’s Seoul-based spokesman Kim Yo-han said that terminating the service was a “strategic decision,” adding that “nothing had been decided on selling the game or other action afterwards.”

According to local industry analysts, the game has been bringing in 3 billion won ($2.76 million) every quarter. “It is hard to comprehend what NCsoft means when they said they closed it for strategic reasons,” one analyst said.

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18. Re: NCsoft: Nothing Had Been Decided on Selling City of Heroes Dec 7, 2012, 12:52 Jivaro
Prez wrote on Dec 7, 2012, 11:20:
I hate it for everyone who is losing a game they love and all the time they had invested in it, but the "unethical" claim is just dumb. If you can't accept the fact that MMO's by their nature have a finite lifespan that could abruptly end at any time then you shouldn't be playing MMO's. It sucks but it's the nature of the creature as they say.

I don't think "unethical" is the right term to describe this either, insensitive and short-sighted maybe..but not unethical.

That said, not very many people are simply unwilling to accept the "finite lifespan" part. I would say that the vast majority of the comments I have read are more then willing to accept that fact. What they are struggling with is that it was profitable, it had a very dedicated, organized, positive, and communicative fan base, and it had an invested and caring dev team...and yet it was closed. Not only that, it was closed with very little notice right before a major content release and despite many different attempts the publisher was unwilling to sell the franchise or even negotiate a way to keep the game running.

People can argue back and forth about the various reasons. The can speculate until the cows come home about what exactly NCSoft's master plan is, or if they even have one. Here is the thing though: The industry has made it painfully clear over the last decade that it is all about the Benjamins, and that is fine. It is a business and people go into business to make money. With that being the case, if a publisher is willing to announce that a game is profitable and then close it in the same month, I think that is detrimental to not only that publisher but to the MMO genre as a whole. The message that sends to the customers is that it doesn't matter if you like the game, it doesn't matter how long the game has existed, it doesn't matter how much time and money has been invested, and it doesn't matter if the game is actually profitable. We will close it anyway and we will do so without specifically explaining the decision. That is the message their customer base received and that message isn't exactly the stuff marketing teams dream of.

Now, F2P or not, I have to imagine that it makes a great many people walk away from the genre or at least be a lot more reluctant to become invested in a MMO. Like a lot of people here I remember MUDS, and like even more people here I remember UO and Everquest...etc. MMOs are supposed to be persistent worlds. When you close a Tabula Rasa early in it's life span the message is "the game wasn't good enough and the player numbers aren't high enough, we are bailing before it costs us more money" and that message is understandable whether you like the game or not. When you close a game like this, a game that has been around for 8 years, a game that has nearly unlimited content potential due to a customer accessible mission editor, a game that that already has it's in-game F2P store installed and running, and a game that has such dedicated fans...the message is not so understandable. In fact, that message is pretty cold and it is very frustrating. I can imagine that a great many customers are probably looking at the whole genre and wondering why an Aion, TERA, or a SWTOR is still running when everyone knows they are losing money, they haven't been around as long....whatever reasons you want to think of...and yet their publishers choose to keep them going. Most of us know that it isn't quite that black and white, but at the same is an understandable question to ask.

You can explain it any way you want, and some of you have put together some well thought out reasons and explanations, but my bottom line is that closing a game under these circumstances is bad for the genre and the industry. It sends the customers a very strong message that they are in fact not valued. This genre already has troubles when it comes to the relationship between publishers and customers. I think making moves that leave a majority of former customers disillusioned and confused is not just bad for that particular company but is bad for the part of the industry participating in this genre.

I think NCSoft is going to feel a financial backlash over this, and if the quality of GW2 is perceived to be suffering given the recent announcements regarding their staffing it will only make it worse. I can say as a customer that given what I know now regarding their business decisions I see no reason to invest time or money into their current or future products, including GW2. If there ever is a City of Heroes 2 it is my hope that is published by someone else altogether, but if it isn't it will be interesting to see if the community is willing to let them off the hook for this and comes back. I wouldn't be so sure that they will, but of course gaming history has shown the gamers to be pretty fickle so who knows.

This comment was edited on Dec 7, 2012, 13:00.
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