It is always a somber day in gaming when an MMO shuts down. With the recent end of City of Heroes, many people have a very fresh reminder that these digital worlds populated by hundreds and thousands and even millions of living, breathing people are not guaranteed.
The Sad Story
Asheron’s Call 2 was one of the earliest and largest examples of an MMO sequel, back in the era when MMO sequels still seemed like a good idea. It also did not last long, starting with a smaller playerbase than anticipated and never growing to nearly the size expected. It lasted a scant three years, with a single expansion along that time-frame, before it was forced to close down for good for no reason other than lack of profit.
In the modern age, when a game starts losing money, often it will shift to a free-to-play format, as has happened recently with The Old Republic and with Champions Online before it. Back when Asheron’s Call 2 was failing, the free-to-play model was not commonplace and hadn’t been seen to be truly profitable yet, so it simply ended with about four months’ notice, making it the highest-profile MMO shutdown to that point. The game had actually even won multiple awards for its world and generally innovative improvements on the gameplay from the original Asheron’s Call (which is still running today). These awards made it abundantly clear to everyone in the gaming industry that it isn’t always enough to make a great game, you still need to find a way to get it to make money.
Fast-forward seven years. Asheron’s Call still runs today, and Turbine still makes money off of it. On December 13th, Severlin announced on Turbine’s forums that they are, in fact, bringing Asheron’s Call 2 back. They won’t be setting up a separate subscription or free-to-play service for it, they will simply be making the server for it available to everyone with a paid Asheron’s Call subscription, using their regular login information, and linking players to where they can download the client for the revived game.
Here’s hoping it goes better this time. I, for one, can’t help but smile to see this game get a second chance.