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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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19 Replies. 1 pages. Viewing page 1.
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19. Re: NCsoft: Nothing Had Been Decided on Selling City of Heroes Dec 7, 2012, 20:36 .Drifter
 
I think Jivaro sums up what a lot of the community is feeling pretty well.

My thinking is that NCSoft will, say 6 to 8 months down the road, announce City of Heroes 2.
It'll be a free to play, made by a Korean development team on the cheap, and will be an Unreal Engine 3 based repaint of Lineage 2, except with super heroes.
It will have 4 heads, 8 hairdos, 10 different costumes that can be combined in three different sections (legs, torso, head), power sets based on repainted versions of the Lineage 2 classes, and it will have nothing to do with the original game.
Within a year or less, it will close, and they will wonder why.
 
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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 time...it 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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17. Re: NCsoft: Nothing Had Been Decided on Selling City of Heroes Dec 7, 2012, 11:20 Prez
 
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.  
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16. Re: NCsoft: Nothing Had Been Decided on Selling City of Heroes Dec 6, 2012, 19:11 .Drifter
 
NewMaxx wrote on Dec 6, 2012, 17:10:
Ceribaen wrote on Dec 6, 2012, 13:00:
The other component was that there may be some eastern corporate world politics going on that we just don't have a view on, and CoX was a casualty of that.

Strategic vision takes on new meaning with Eastern politics. It's not enough to maintain a profit, one must consistently find growth. Now clearly Sony doesn't have this with say, Pirates of the Burning Sea, so why do they maintain it? It is because they want to retain the IP (or the license to publish it) and the (relatively decent) crew that runs it, but more importantly they want the corporate image of being family-friendly and reliable. The actual bottom line is a drop in the bucket for them, so clearly they put greater value on goodwill, possibly to repair their currently negative image.

NCSoft puts this up against DCUO and CO, looks at the tired, remaining team, as well as their overall portfolio, and even as a company with less of an appetite than Sony the politics simply say that there is little value in keeping that playerbase. Most likely they are gunning for a Perfect World+1 market (a step up), like Turbine's and Sony's and Funcom's, rather than PW's, and in their opinion CoH had leaned closer to the latter. So in a way it is still about image, just from a different angle.

MMO's (especially F2P's) are quickly becoming more about that than the profit, but people seems to have an issue seeing that clearly. There's a lot of value to be had in branding, goodwill, market presence, etc., and as MMO's get cheaper to maintain (as many said in this very thread) this is going to become more common, kind of like a toy in your breakfast cereal box. Their money is better spent on producing something like that than relying on a last-gen MMO that had an entirely different goal.

CoH was about the only game that NC Soft had that got rather consistent good word of mouth, had a good image with the community due the developers open channels of communications, and hasn't been considered a failure after launch.
Contrast that to most of the other games they've come out with in the past few years, other than Guild Wars, that have been anything but successful, well thought of games.
Tired game or not, it was able to maintain a core player base willing to consistently put down regular amounts of money to keep their game running, and all this went on with no real advertising budget to bring in new players, so contrast this to DCUO and CO which have few of the people that were playing it at launch still playing the game. Throwing away a player base like that, and then telling them and everyone else to try the martial arts themed game you're bringing over from Korea, where apparently it's not doing too well, doesn't seem like a very good financial or image decision.
 
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15. Re: NCsoft: Nothing Had Been Decided on Selling City of Heroes Dec 6, 2012, 17:10 NewMaxx
 
Ceribaen wrote on Dec 6, 2012, 13:00:
The other component was that there may be some eastern corporate world politics going on that we just don't have a view on, and CoX was a casualty of that.

Strategic vision takes on new meaning with Eastern politics. It's not enough to maintain a profit, one must consistently find growth. Now clearly Sony doesn't have this with say, Pirates of the Burning Sea, so why do they maintain it? It is because they want to retain the IP (or the license to publish it) and the (relatively decent) crew that runs it, but more importantly they want the corporate image of being family-friendly and reliable. The actual bottom line is a drop in the bucket for them, so clearly they put greater value on goodwill, possibly to repair their currently negative image.

NCSoft puts this up against DCUO and CO, looks at the tired, remaining team, as well as their overall portfolio, and even as a company with less of an appetite than Sony the politics simply say that there is little value in keeping that playerbase. Most likely they are gunning for a Perfect World+1 market (a step up), like Turbine's and Sony's and Funcom's, rather than PW's, and in their opinion CoH had leaned closer to the latter. So in a way it is still about image, just from a different angle.

MMO's (especially F2P's) are quickly becoming more about that than the profit, but people seems to have an issue seeing that clearly. There's a lot of value to be had in branding, goodwill, market presence, etc., and as MMO's get cheaper to maintain (as many said in this very thread) this is going to become more common, kind of like a toy in your breakfast cereal box. Their money is better spent on producing something like that than relying on a last-gen MMO that had an entirely different goal.

This comment was edited on Dec 6, 2012, 17:15.
 
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14. Re: NCsoft: Nothing Had Been Decided on Selling City of Heroes Dec 6, 2012, 16:18 .Drifter
 
Ceribaen wrote on Dec 6, 2012, 13:00:
The Half Elf wrote on Dec 6, 2012, 11:41:
Jivaro wrote on Dec 6, 2012, 11:32:
Wait, what does Perfect World have to do with it? Does Cryptic still have some kind of say in the CoX franchise?

Was about to say, CoX was run by Paragon Studios, which was the majority of the Cryptic crew that created it, and Cryptic sold it/left it and went with Atari until it was sold to Perfect Worlds.

That being said, I wouldn't mind Perfect World buying it and updating the engine to Champions Online/Star Trek Online's.

Not sure if it was posited here or on Ars. But the rumour was that something with the way the sales/split originally happened, PWE actually owns some aspect of the rights to the CoX IP. There was a licensing agreement in place but it just expired, and since PWE has their own competing product -- weren't going easy on NCSoft for re-licensing it. So NCSoft cut their losses and closed up shop on CoX.

The other component was that there may be some eastern corporate world politics going on that we just don't have a view on, and CoX was a casualty of that.

That rumor was debunked by Cryptic about a month ago, said they had nothing to do with the closure, nor did Perfect World.
As for the 80 employees, well there was a posting somewhere that NC Soft had them working on a secret new MMORPG but canceled it, and several/maybe half of their employees were on the new game.
I would post a link to the forum post but NC Soft shut the site down faster than you could blink.
 
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13. Re: NCsoft: Nothing Had Been Decided on Selling City of Heroes Dec 6, 2012, 13:44 Hellbinder
 
logic and guessing?

You have a game that makes money and has a solid group of faithful players who really like it. Its being ran by a company with 80 employees in the west... You are in the east where stuff is way cheaper and you own the ip...

Seems like if I was a bean counter and it was me that is what I would do. 99% of people just want the game.. they don't care about paragon. 6 months from now you relaunch with a Korean developer with 20 people and pam you go from 3% profit to 10% profit or more.
 
The Whales name is Bob.
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12. Re: NCsoft: Nothing Had Been Decided on Selling City of Heroes Dec 6, 2012, 13:40 Creston
 
“It is hard to comprehend what NCsoft means when they said they closed it for strategic reasons,” one analyst said.

Well, one of the hookers they frequent complained about the game and said they wouldn't get suckie suckie anymore if it was allowed to continue.

So....

Creston
 
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11. Re: NCsoft: Nothing Had Been Decided on Selling City of Heroes Dec 6, 2012, 13:20 Slayblaze
 
Hellbinder wrote:
I suspect that NCSoft is going to reopen the game again with a smaller studio located in the east.
Your suspicion is based on what?
 
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10. Re: NCsoft: Nothing Had Been Decided on Selling City of Heroes Dec 6, 2012, 13:05 Hellbinder
 
just read somewhere that Paragon had 80 employees.. yeah that will make a dent in that 7-8 million a year.

the game doesn't need 80 employees.

I suspect that NCSoft is going to reopen the game again with a smaller studio located in the east.
 
The Whales name is Bob.
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9. Re: NCsoft: Nothing Had Been Decided on Selling City of Heroes Dec 6, 2012, 13:00 Ceribaen
 
The Half Elf wrote on Dec 6, 2012, 11:41:
Jivaro wrote on Dec 6, 2012, 11:32:
Wait, what does Perfect World have to do with it? Does Cryptic still have some kind of say in the CoX franchise?

Was about to say, CoX was run by Paragon Studios, which was the majority of the Cryptic crew that created it, and Cryptic sold it/left it and went with Atari until it was sold to Perfect Worlds.

That being said, I wouldn't mind Perfect World buying it and updating the engine to Champions Online/Star Trek Online's.

Not sure if it was posited here or on Ars. But the rumour was that something with the way the sales/split originally happened, PWE actually owns some aspect of the rights to the CoX IP. There was a licensing agreement in place but it just expired, and since PWE has their own competing product -- weren't going easy on NCSoft for re-licensing it. So NCSoft cut their losses and closed up shop on CoX.

The other component was that there may be some eastern corporate world politics going on that we just don't have a view on, and CoX was a casualty of that.
 
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8. Re: NCsoft: Nothing Had Been Decided on Selling City of Heroes Dec 6, 2012, 12:50 Hellbinder
 
AO has been running for 11 years now. for the last 5 years or so they have had a small dedicated dev team of 10. now they are down to 8. which is more than enough to run a well established MMO with a decent player base. you can outsource for art assets, models etc these days pretty cost effective.

COH could easily have been run the same way and been fine for several more years. 8 million a year is more than enough to fund an established game, pay a small dev team, and pay for outsourced assets.

as for the comment below that says salaries were the issue? REALLY? one quarter could have easily paid for the salaries paid at prevailing wages in the industry and benefits.
 
The Whales name is Bob.
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7. Re: NCsoft: Nothing Had Been Decided on Selling City of Heroes Dec 6, 2012, 12:41 Cutter
 
Verno wrote on Dec 6, 2012, 12:27:
Damned shame, we will probably never see another MMO with the kind of personal customization and accessibility CoH had.

Someone will try it sooner or later. I wouldn't count Marvel or DC out of the running. Shit if they could just do justice to other superhero games the way they have with Bats AA/AC they'd be crushing games like CoD, etc.
 
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6. Re: NCsoft: Nothing Had Been Decided on Selling City of Heroes Dec 6, 2012, 12:27 Verno
 
Damned shame, we will probably never see another MMO with the kind of personal customization and accessibility CoH had.  
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5. Re: NCsoft: Nothing Had Been Decided on Selling City of Heroes Dec 6, 2012, 11:41 The Half Elf
 
Jivaro wrote on Dec 6, 2012, 11:32:
Wait, what does Perfect World have to do with it? Does Cryptic still have some kind of say in the CoX franchise?

Was about to say, CoX was run by Paragon Studios, which was the majority of the Cryptic crew that created it, and Cryptic sold it/left it and went with Atari until it was sold to Perfect Worlds.

That being said, I wouldn't mind Perfect World buying it and updating the engine to Champions Online/Star Trek Online's.
 
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4. Re: NCsoft: Nothing Had Been Decided on Selling City of Heroes Dec 6, 2012, 11:32 Jivaro
 
Wait, what does Perfect World have to do with it? Does Cryptic still have some kind of say in the CoX franchise?  
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3. Re: More Big Picture Details Dec 6, 2012, 11:25 HorrorScope
 
Ceribaen wrote on Dec 6, 2012, 11:09:
Or perhaps the licensing agreement with Perfect World Entertainment ran out, and PWE asked more than was feasible to keep the game running to continue licensing. Which would jive with the sudden closure as there was a roadmap in place to continue growing the game.

Sure, something in the details with everything considered made them make the decision to close. Unethical not being one.
 
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2. Re: More Big Picture Details Dec 6, 2012, 11:09 Ceribaen
 
HorrorScope wrote on Dec 6, 2012, 10:55:
"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."

Mr. Outsider, what this means is that $2.76 million wasn't enough for them. There was a dev team and running costs to be subtracted as well. Yes vs your wage Mr. Outsider that may have been a fine salary, but for a big company, in which you don't have their entire vision, it must have not been worth it to them. "Unethical game closure?" Unethical, pulleeeze. Disappointment? perhaps. Unethical? No. We have to know games can eventually be sun-setted. Hidden fee's, inaccurate meters to your cell phone? Unethical.

That said, it would be nice if something can bring the game back for those who still want to play.

Or perhaps the licensing agreement with Perfect World Entertainment ran out, and PWE asked more than was feasible to keep the game running to continue licensing. Which would jive with the sudden closure as there was a roadmap in place to continue growing the game.
 
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1. Re: More Big Picture Details Dec 6, 2012, 10:55 HorrorScope
 
"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."

Mr. Outsider, what this means is that $2.76 million wasn't enough for them. There was a dev team and running costs to be subtracted as well. Yes vs your wage Mr. Outsider that may have been a fine salary, but for a big company, in which you don't have their entire vision, it must have not been worth it to them. "Unethical game closure?" Unethical, pulleeeze. Disappointment? perhaps. Unethical? No. We have to know games can eventually be sun-setted. Hidden fee's, inaccurate meters to your cell phone? Unethical.

That said, it would be nice if something can bring the game back for those who still want to play.
 
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