When MMOs Die
Have you ever wondered exactly what happens when an MMO shuts down? Let's not use the phrase "shuttered" as it’s a public relations term intended to mitigate and defuse the reality of the situation. It is intended to take the sting out of the notion of a game closing; evoking imagery of a well-respected family business, closing up shop for the last time and retiring to Cheshire to keep bees. No that will not do at all, so we won't use it here. "Shut down" is far more accurate. It cuts to the chase, accommodating the economic and legal reasons, which are often the primary reason that a game is closing. It also has a far more definitive ring to it, where “shuttered” leaves room for hope. After all the shutters can come back down from the closed family business, if beekeeping doesn’t work out.
So back to the original question, what is it actually like when a substantial MMORPG finally shuts down? I'm sure we all understand the fundamental concepts involved. The logistics of it are no different from when you're playing an active game online and it's taken down for patching. You receive a succession of on-screen notifications and then you're disconnected. What I'm talking about here is the emotional impact it has upon players and social groups. What is it like to be logged in to your game of choice in those final moments? To be surrounded by your friends in a virtual world that you love and have invested so much time into, knowing that within minutes it will be gone forever? To be moments away from a form of virtual bereavement and subsequent online homelessness?
The answer is ultimately very subjective. Most mature adults have an idea of their own emotional literacy and can probably imagine how they would react in a given situation. I can fully understand how heart breaking it could be for some players to see an integral part of their social life ignominiously dispensed with at the flick of a metaphorical switch. As for myself, I would see it as an inevitability and would therefore deal with it with a degree of emotional detachment. I would also ensure that I was "there when the lights went out”, just so I could experience first-hand what the final moments were actually like. Plus, there may be some last-minute fun and games as the developers turn on various events and gated activities or release a horde of mobs into the world. At the very least, the situation would certainly merit a blog post.
WildStar closed last November and a year prior to that so did Marvel Heroes. Other games such as Vanguard and Wizardry Online have also been shut down in recent years, all of which were for financial, licensing or administrative restructuring issues. All of these games had an active player base, that enjoyed and supported the games right up until the last moment. Subsequently, a cursory search online will produce a wealth of videos, screenshots and eulogies made by those who have become displaced by MMO closures and are still mourning their passing. If you have never played an MMO to any extent, then it will all seem a little perfunctory and a bit of a storm in a teacup to you. For those that have spent hours of their life in a virtual world, with friends they’ve made along the way, it is a far more emotionally compelling matter.
I'm a firm believer in the old adage "forewarned is forearmed". It may not come as any surprise to those who know me that I've made all the necessary arrangements for my own funeral. That's how I run my life. So, for me watching videos of the last moments of any MMO is a pertinent reminder that a similar fate will eventually come to those that I currently play. However, not everyone is like me and some people don't like to continence such things. Each to their own. We all deal with things in our own fashion. However, I would advise active MMO players to watch the video below, regarding WildStar, and subsequently reflect upon it. Perhaps it may teach us to be a little more appreciative of the games we currently enjoy, because time and tide waits for no man or MMO.