Four of the Shortest-Lived MMOs
APB: All Points Bulletin, we hardly knew ye.
This week, Realtime Worlds announced it's pulling the plug on its urban cops and robbers style MMO. Citing a lack of investors as the main reason for the game's demise, the servers are being shut down less than three months after its launch, giving APB the dubious distinction of being the shortest-lived MMO ever (unless it's bought by Epic Games). However, it's not the first online game to suffer an early death. We present to you a few other titles that went to the big bargain bin in the sky well before their time.
SEED (May 2, 2006 - September 28, 2006)
Before APB came along, sci-fi themed SEED held the top spot as the shortest-lived MMO, shutting down less than five months after its official launch. Featuring a cartoonish art style and gameplay totally devoid of combat, SEED instead emphasized social interaction and role-playing. It asked players to use things like cooperation and knowledge to overcome the dangers of a post-apocalyptic world. Turns out, though, that people would rather just use guns. While a combat-free MMO might sound interesting on paper, it proved to be too experimental for both gamers and investors. Unable to raise the funds it needed to keep the game running, Danish developer Runestone posted an open letter to the community on its Web site on September 28, 2006 and announced that SEED was a goner, but not before a "burial ceremony" was held in-game to mark its passing.
Fury (October 16, 2007 - August 5, 2008)
While SEED was a game without combat, Australian developer Auran's PvP-centric fantasy MMO Fury was nothing but combat. Featuring three arena modes, a bloated roster of skills, a ranking system and plenty of loot, Fury chose to do away with other traditional MMORPG trappings that it thought the hardcore PvP crowd might not care as much about - like storytelling, quests and a detailed game world. The game also suffered from technical problems. Although based on the Unreal 3 Engine, it required a beefy computer to run and, even then, it was often sluggish and couldn't maintain a stable frame rate. It also had its fair share of lag and bugs. Auran tried to resuscitate the failing MMO by introducing prize-money tournaments and, later, moving to a free-to-play business model in December 2007. None of it helped, though, and Fury took a dirt nap nearly eight months into its lifespan.
Auto Assault (April 11, 2006 - August 31, 2007) Imagine Mad Max as a MMO and you will get some idea of what developer NetDevil and publisher NCsoft were going for when they created Auto Assault. A vehicular combat game with RPG elements, Auto Assault took place in a post-apocalyptic world where three factions - the Humans, the Mutants and the Biomeks - fought amongst themselves using customizable cars, trucks, motorcycles, semis and even tanks. When they weren't busy indulging their inner "Sweet Tooth", players could head into town to socialize and upgrade their vehicles. Similar to the other games on the list, Auto Assault attempted to do something different in the MMO space, only to find that "different" wasn't what players were looking for. The game ended after 16 months, and NCsoft and NetDevil moved on to more successful online projects.
Tabula Rasa (November 2, 2007 - February 28, 2009)
A sci-fi themed MMO in which humanity battles against an alien threat called "The Bane", Tabula Rasa seemed to have a lot going for it. It had an innovative combat system that mixed dice rolling with real-time physics and a branching mission design that attempted to incorporate morality choices into its storytelling. It also had a dynamic game world that changed depending on which side controlled certain areas on the map. Most importantly, it had name recognition. Tabula Rasa was the brainchild of Ultima creator Richard Garriott, but not even Lord British could keep the game from suffering a quick death. Citing low population numbers, the game's developers announced that the servers would cease public service less than two years after launch. Unlike most failed MMOs, however, Tabula Rasa went out with a stylish bang. Literally. The developers organized one last, massive assault by The Bane and humanity was wiped out. It wasn't the happiest of endings, but it was one that at least gave the game's players some closure.