Everyone has a story about the first MMO they played, even if it was just a LAN party at a friend's house. MMORPGs have matured into their own industry, and now that we've been playing online games together for more than a generation, we can look back at some of the earliest MMORPGs that first broke that new digital ground and made online gaming more than a niche interest. Technology moves fast, and the market even faster, so a lot of these games have either passed into the recycling bin of history or are collecting virtual dust in a forgotten external drive.

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There's an incandescent light at the end of this neon tunnel, however. MMOs are like any genre, and nostalgia has made some older versions of games even more popular than their modern counterparts. That might explain the sudden and enthusiastic drive to salvage and revive classic games, and there are a few from back in the day that had something unique or creative about them that deserves a revival. All of the following games are no longer officially playable, although some private servers may exist. Now that the public has a greater appetite for the MMO genre and its myriad of possibilities, maybe these games deserve another chance.


City of Heroes

Date Released: April 28, 2004 in North America, and February 4, 2005 in the EU

Produced By: Developed by Cryptic Studios and Paragon Studios, published by NC Soft Corporation.

Date of Shutdown: November 30th, 2012.

There are a number of reasons why City of Heroes is a good candidate for a revival, one of them being an existing fan base. When this game first came out, it was before the Marvel Cinematic Universe really took off, and the public interest at the time wasn't enough to generate enough players to keep the game going. That's changed over ten years, with the DC movies and other comic-book based adaptations going mainstream. Not to mention the fact that there's still a private, fan-maintained server running that maintains the source code needed to build the game as well as a player community to use it.


Asheron's Call

Date Released: November 2nd, 1999

Produced By: Developed by Turbine Entertainment Software, published by Microsoft, Turbine, and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.

Date of Shutdown: January 13th, 2017

Considering the amount of work, planning, and money that went into this game, it never really got a fair chance. It was ahead of its time with concepts like a seamless word instead of one broken into zones, and it was one of the first games to have a multi-million dollar budget. With the publisher of the game changing hands over the years, Asheron's Call lagged behind other games when it came to updates and additional content, ultimately leading to its downfall. Unlike some other games, the IP isn't public domain, and Microsoft has refused to release it, so no private servers currently exist.


The Matrix Online

Date Released: March 22, 2005 in North America, and April 15, 2005 in the EU.

Produced By: Developed by Monolith Productions, published by Sega and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.

Date of Shutdown: July 31st, 2009

2005 was just too soon in the life cycle of MMOs for a dystopian game of this nature to work. The graphics were awkward and the options for classes and professions were too limited, although it had the positive effect of making the gameplay feel more efficient. It also didn't help that the sequels in The Matrix movie trilogy weren't as well-received as the original, and their poor showings at the box office stifled the publicity for the game just as it was trying to get off the ground.

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Pirates of the Caribbean Online

Date Released: October 12st, 2007

Produced By: Developed by Disney Online and SilverTree Media, published by Disney Online.

Date of Shutdown: September 19th, 2017

Considering the popularity of pirate-themed MMOs now, how did this game ever get shut down? Looking at the track records of MMOs based on movies, maybe this isn't much of a surprise after all, but maybe a modern revision with less reliance on the popularity of the film franchise would be more successful. The technical capacity is already there, since an official version of this game based on another defunct MMO courtesy of Disney, Toontown Rewritten, has been running in an open beta phase since 2015.


Battlestar Galactica Online

Date Released: February 8th, 2011

Produced By: Developed by Bigpoint Games and Artplant, published by Bigpoint Games.

Date of Shutdown: February 1st, 2019

MMORPGs are all about individual customization, and this game just didn't have enough of it. The popularity of the television show on which it was based wasn't enough to carry this game without it. There was only one class, Pilot, one of two races to choose from, and two warring factions that players had to choose from during the character creation process. Add some of that to a revised version of the game that still has the unique features that made it a niche favorite, like perpetual PvP mode for virtually every zone and a "battlespace."


Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine

Date Released: 2007 in Japan, 2008 in North America

Produced By: Developed by CAVE and GungHo Online Entertainment, published by Atlus, Aeria Games, and Marvelous USA

Date of Shutdown: The North American and European versions closed in January 2014. The Japanese version closed down in May 2016.

This game was ahead of its time when it came to the futuristic setting mixed with elements of fantasy horror. Now that the apocalypse appears more often in pop culture and anime series like Castlevania are bringing even more viewers to their nearest streaming service, it's time to revise Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine. The setting is post-apocalyptic Tokyo and your avatar is a demon of your own design, so how is that not an interesting start?

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Tabula Rasa

Date Released: November 2nd, 2007

Produced By: Developed by Destination Games, published by NC Soft Corporation.

Date of Shutdown: February 28, 2009

Tabula Rasa had some great things going for it, like the combination of RPG features like quests and character development with FPS combat systems, but it spent too much time in development hell while the developers were still trying to decide the exact nature of basic and essential concepts, such as the setting. The post-apocalyptic vision of an Earth that has been conquered by an alien race might also have been ahead of its time, but that's one of the unique features of the game that would get more traction now than it did in the past.



Date Released: February 2nd, 2012

Produced By: Developed by Flagship Studios, published by HanbitSoft in North America and Frogster in the EU.

Date of Shutdown: January 22nd, 2014

Here's the story of a game with a creative, infernal concept that languished in financial and intellectual property rights Hell. Flagship Studios was staffed by the same people who had been part of the Diablo development team, and Mythos was based on the same demonic aesthetic. Given that Blizzard can't seem to get any new Diablo property off the ground, with the nearest offering being the recent revamp of Diablo 2, maybe it's time for a revisit of the concept for a similar open-world MMO.


Dynasty Warriors Online

Date Released: November 10, 2010 in North America, 2006 in Japan.

Produced By: Developed and produced by Tecmo Koei.

Date of Shutdown: The English version shut down on January 1st, 2014.

This is really about a revival of the English version of the game, which would be relatively easy since the Japanese one is still running. Ten years ago, a game based on Chinese history and mythology would have been a hard sell, but that's not the case anymore. Final Fantasy XIV removed any doubt that JRPGs can be successful worldwide, and the epic historical events recounted in Dynasty Warriors Online have since appeared or been referenced in various movies and comic books, so they aren't as obscure as they were in 2010.

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World of the Living Dead

Date Released: February 21st, 2014

Produced By: Developed by Ballardia, designed by Dave Barton and Kulpreet Singh.

Date of Shutdown: June 23rd, 2014

Why this game fizzled out is a bit of a mystery, given the concept was a good one that immediately attracted player fanbase. Despite the fact that the undead appear so often in movies, television, and literature, they're still underrepresented in video games. The survivalist concept is also an idea that's getting more attention these days, and that's the central focus of World of the Living Dead. If this game got some decent funding and the backing of a reliable developer, it could rise again as something even better.

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About The Author

Kristy Ambrose

(106 Articles Published)

Kristy Ambrose has been writing professionally since 2010. She dabbles in various genres and creates everything from short blog posts to serialized novels. Her inspiration comes from gamers, beachcombers, foodies and of course her fellow travelers. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Victoria.

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