November 19th, 2012 by Karen
Now as many of my friends and family know, I play a delightful MMO called City of Heroes. I’ve actually played CoH since the birth of our youngest child back in 2005. It is my home away from home, my escape from the everyday. In the game, I am a super hero. I can leap tall buildings, I can fly, I can save the day…I can be anything I wish here, though most of the time, I choose to throw around an awful lot of fireballs. City of Heroes players come from a very diverse cross-section of the population and I have played on teams with some pretty heady folks, from award winning authors to CEOs and VPs of large Silicon Valley Tech companies, to college professors and more. We’ve had amazing fun together through the years and some very esoteric discussions between missions. It’s really an incredible group of people and I am proud to call so many of them friends.
At the end of August, the company that distributes the game, NCSoft, abruptly announced that they would ‘sunset’ our game on November 30th. When I say ‘abruptly’, I mean it…even our wonderful development team at Paragon Studios wasn’t even told until the morning of the announcement. It was a vicious and unconscionable way to fire a group of amazing, talented individuals, not to mention that they did it right before a holiday weekend here in the US.
The community instantly rallied together and various plans coalesced, most of which ended up on the Titan Network Forum and grew exponentially. A Change.org Petition was started and has more than 21,000 signatures now, a massive letter writing campaign made NCSoft beg us to stop while at the same time lying to players (they mention that ‘We’ve exhausted all options including the selling of the studio and the rights to the City of Heroes intellectual property, but in the end, efforts to do so were not successful.’ however there are multiple investment firms that have come forward to say that isn’t true…their inquiries were never responded to), and an amazing Unity Rally was held in the game on September 8, 2012 which over 3,000 players attended, filling 2 entire servers to capacity with large waiting queues on each.
Note that date. September 8th, 2012.
Why? Because that’s the date that gamers stood up and said “No.” Time and time again, NCSoft has killed off their games in a ruthless manner and we as players will no longer tolerate being treated like trash and we definitely will not tolerate our dev team being treated that way either. (Note, an appreciation dinner drive for the Paragon Studios team raised over $1,000 in just 3 hours, we love them THAT MUCH. What game community EVER says that about their developers and moderators?) We are being forced out of a growing game with a loyal player base for no discernible reason…in fact, some rather awesome number crunchers took the time to delve into the past several quarters and years of earnings reports for NCSoft and reported back to the community that our game was generating on average $10 million in profit a year. $10 Million. Profit. And we’re not good enough?
Additionally, despite a concerted effort of players to politely and respectfully reach out via any and every means available to NCSoft, they have maintained absolute silence with the exception of the request to stop sending them mail. Only their out and out lie to the players approximately five weeks after the initial announcement changed the tone of player’s pleading messages. Their twitter account has remained dormant with the exception of one retweet in September, their various videos on their YouTube accounts have a large number of negative votes and comments and no new content in the last 3 months, their NCSoft West Facebook Page is littered with complaints and rants, their main NCSoft Facebook Page is rife with angry comments despite most of the page being in Korean, and their company has been tagged in a bunch of unflattering pictures many of which call for a Boycott of NCSoft products. Lest you discount this as just angry gamer rage, please reread this paragraph. Despite the massive emotional outpouring by the City of Heroes gaming community, until they lied to us, we kept things civil.
Below is a really wonderful chart of the NCSoft stock price since the game closure announcement. (Tony V at the Titan Network shared it with me, and I’d love to give credit to the originator, so if it’s you, let me know!) You can easily see how the stock price immediately began falling the day after the Unity Rally on September 8th and has continued its free fall ever since.
There is a reason for this: NCSoft is a poorly run company rife with mismanagement, continued deceitfulness (see the Richard Garriott debacle where they falsified documents and lost a $32 million lawsuit), and a habit of ignoring players wants completely. They have shown time and time again that they do not understand the Western gaming market and the closing of City of Heroes will be the nail in their coffin. I simply hope that once NCSoft is well and surely dead that a savior will come save the players from a total team wipe by purchasing the IP for City of Heroes in NCSoft’s bankruptcy sale.