You miss things when you’ve been on holiday.
I’ve come back to the news that Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) is shutting down four MMOs – Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, Free Realms, Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures and Wizardry Online.
I’ve said enough before about Vanguard and the great and epic flop that is associated with it. My experience with Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures was very limited; Free Realms never interested me enough to play it. Wizardry Online was a title I mocked from the sidelines.
SOE is cleaning house. Again.
That Conspiracy Theory
Almost a year ago, SOE announced the shutdown of Bullet Run, a F2P FPS that it was publishing in association with its developer Acony. At the time I thought it was odd that SOE had published a title that was almost a direct competitor with its upcoming PlanetSide 2, only to cancel that third party title when SOE’s first party title was due out. I thought it looked like an experiment – that SOE has a similar title where it could test out some things, keep developers working on a live title for a while, maybe have Bullet Run keep those PlanetSide 2 servers warm up to the point they were needed.
Which seems very close to what has happened with Wizardry Online. EverQuest Next is gearing up for beta soon. SOE’s looks to have gained some recent hardcore MMO experience from Wizardry Online, but now it’s time for that third party title to make way for the next installment in the EverQuest franchise. It’s arguable that SOE could have launched permadeath in one of their own titles, but such a controversial system could be offered in a third party game that wasn’t expected to have a long shelf life. Lessons could be learned at minimal cost.
Both Bullet Run and Wizardry Online ran for very short period of time (for MMOs) – about six months for Bullet Run and about twelve months for Wizardry Online. That’s a terrible length of time for SOE if they wanted them to be valuable as titles, but just the right amount of time if they were being used as warm-ups to the main events, or there were other bonuses to be gained.
(Vanguard being shut down at the same time might be seen as a way for SOE to also free up some extra resources for EverQuest Next as well, but that was a title that had quite a long life. In contrast, Wizardry Online always seemed like an odd title for SOE to publish in North American markets, unless it had some extra benefit attached to it.)
I’ve got no proof, of course. Occam’s Razor would be to suggest that SOE just sucks at picking successful MMOs. I’ll leave you to decide which one sounds more plausible.