Some of you are probably well aware that I used to write this site’s column about City of Heroes. And you may also be aware that I’m talking about that column in the past tense because it’s objectively impossible to write anything about City of Heroes in the present tense. NCsoft closed the doors to the game and left me more than a mite unhappy with that decision.
Some of you are also well aware that NCsoft is the company behind WildStar. That might seem like a bit of a cognitive disconnect — why in the world would I trust a company that just made me very unhappy?
Lots of reasons. I can understand the vitriol and the anger, but I also think they’re just a wee bit misplaced. There are plenty of good reasons to cheer for this game even though I harbor no small amount of bitterness about those we lost before.
Every company will hurt you
It’s best to accept this simple fact: Given enough time, every single company you interact with will do something awful that directly affects you. Every single one.
This is one of those concepts that gamers as a whole seem to have a hard time grasping. I see people demonizing Electronic Arts in the same sentence as they celebrate Nintendo, apparently forgetting that Nintendo has a history of cancelling third-party titles partway through development, refusing to localize anticipated titles, releasing a handheld system three times with each subsequent release fixing obvious problems with the hardware… you get the idea. History makes monsters of every company.
That’s not to say that Nintendo hasn’t done some wonderful things, but so has every other company. Companies exist to make money, and they’ll do nice things for you so long as that makes more money in the long run. The biggest mistake you can make is assuming that a company is doing what you want because it serves you. That’s not an end goal; that’s a means to an end, with the end being “acquiring your money.”
Cynical? Definitely. But it also means that I’m not really surprised when one of these things happens because it’s more or less a certainty to begin with. You pay your cash and hope for the best, and when the punches come, you grow to expect them.
NCsoft shut down a game I love and several other games that others love, all of which I can respect and even speculate on. I don’t think it was the right move or even a move that’s profitable in the long term. But I can understand it was done with disregard rather than malice.
Less sudden than we think
There’s also the fact to consider here that NCsoft has shut down a lot of games… after those games have consistently failed to provide the money that they were supposed to.
CoH is an aberration here, but I’ve already talked that to death. The fact of the matter is that most of the games shut down before that moment were not making money. I understand loving and missing Tabula Rasa or Auto Assault, but both games had been struggling to make money for quite some time. They didn’t attract purchasers or subscribers as intended. It’s sad but true.
This ties into the previous point somewhat because you know from the start that an MMO is meant to make its parent company money. This is not some disguised purpose hidden beneath complex obfuscation. These games had their chances to fulfill that purpose and failed to do so, and at the end of the day, that took its toll. I think some of those games might have a chance in the modern free-to-play climate, but perhaps not. Games can be tricky business.
My point here is if WildStar fails to turn any sort of profit or make any impact, it’s not as if we won’t have warning. Odds of waking up after six months of huge popularity to find it shutting down are virtually nil. The worst-case scenario is eight successful years followed by a surprising shutdown notice, or a year and a half of poor reception followed by an expected shutdown notice. I can live with those odds.
You have to believe things will change
I used to be a big fan of telling stores or companies that they had lost my business. As of right now we are done, and there is absolutely nothing you can say or do to ever get me back. Then I realized that doing so was basically encouraging the companies in question to never change.
Assuming that you take me at my word, why would you change if I’ve already said I’m not coming back? Doing things the way you’re already doing them has the advantage of being easier and less irritating, and my mind is apparently made up regardless of any new or updated information. So why bother?
Do I actually believe any important lessons were learned in the wake of CoH’s closure? I don’t know. I do know that one mistake isn’t enough for me to assume that all subsequent titles will meet the exact same fate no matter what, and in this case, I’m willing to gamble just a little bit. I may be a mite more skeptical, but even cynicism only goes far. This brings me quite neatly to my last point.
Because it’s WildStar, darn it
Even if none of the above were true, I’d still be excited for WildStar because come on people. Have you seen the previews? I want to play this thing yesterday. It’s hit all the notes I want so far, and it’s pretty much a soft sale to my preferences anyway.