A group of gamers battling to save their online world from destruction have reached out to Disney for help.
Four members of the Save City of Heroes campaign, with the support of other key individuals have contacted Disney Interactive, asking for their help in collaborating with NCsoft to save their beloved game from oblivion.
NCsoft, who currently own the franchise, announced on August 30 they were pulling the plug on the long-running MMO, with the game scheduled to be closed on November 30. In the process of shutting down the game, NCsoft laid off the 80-strong staff at Paragon Studios, based in Mountain View, California.
The announcement caught nearly everyone by surprise, as the game had still been operating successfully and with ongoing development, including an expansion in open beta stages. It was also one of the quietest MMO shutdown announcements, as it was not sent to investors, press, company’s news section or even the game’s own support staff.
Almost immediately, a massive online campaign was launched that saw the residents of Paragon City, the Rogue Isles and Praetoria send letters, masks and capes to NCsoft in a bid to get them to work with the players to find a way to keep the online game running. An online petition calling on NCsoft to keep City of Heroes running has attracted over 21,000 signatures.
The closure of the #1 superhero online game of all time, which generated over $180 million in revenue, was home to over 100,000 players and 43 million avatars, was still in full development at the time that NCsoft announced they were ‘pulling the plug’. It still had one of the top customer retention rates in the industry ‘ no small feat for a game eight years old with seemingly no advertising budget.
A unity rally held in September saw thousands of players log into show their support for the game, and the developers. A fundraising effort to take all 80 staff of Paragon Studios out for dinner hit its target in just three hours.
But the fans’ pleas have been met with a blunt ‘no comment’ from NCsoft, who refused to discuss the reason behind the game’s closure, or the attempts they claim to have made to keep it open.
NCsoft’s wall of silence around the closure has resulted in Starburst Magazine, the UK’s longest running science-fiction and gaming magazine calling on its readers to boycott the game publisher ‘until such time that they start to treat their customers with decency, honesty, and most of all ‘ respect.’
Author Mercedes Lackey, who helped to draft the pitch to Disney, said, ‘We believe that Disney and City of Heroes are a perfect match; Disney now owns Marvel and two impending Marvel MMOs which are slated to be mirror opposites of the cooperative, community gameplay fostered by City of Heroes. By reviving City of Heroes, Disney will be able to satisfy the gaming desires of every player of MMORPGs. In addition, Disney has the reach to effortlessly give City of Heroes the exposure it never had under NCSoft’s regime of benign neglect–and City of Heroes will provide Disney with some extremely unique cross-marketing opportunities. Disney has always understood and fostered community and loyalty–something NCSoft never did. We believe that acquiring City of Heroes will provide Disney Interactive with the logical extension of their games for kids and teens, offering a game that literally the whole family can play.’
One of the players, Tihomir Kadic, was also a part of the group who put the pitch together added: ‘It’s easy to throw words like ‘unique’ and ‘irreplaceable’ around, especially now that online gaming is entering an explosion, but as any City of Heroes player will openly say, calling it that would be, if anything, an understatement. Not only because of the myriad ways a player could be, in every sense of the word, an individual, not for the expansive options for play, not for the immensely open and welcoming community, or maybe not even the confluence of these and countless other things. Perhaps the most irreplaceable thing about it was – is – how many rules of MMOs it broke. How many expectations it turned on its head. In a genre where it’s common to keep the players chasing the carrot by constantly moving the stick away, it’s almost inconceivable for a MMO to try – and succeed – to keep its players simply by letting them have fun, on their time and most importantly, on their terms. To borrow an adage, it is a game where shared joy is increased – and there is a lot of it to go around.’
Another player, and an Internet Marketing Specialist, Ammon Johns, who has also been involved in the project said: ‘The business case for acquiring City of Heroes is easy to make. It is the most successful and profitable superhero themed MMO ever. More than that, it still has untapped potential – it is a game that was woefully short of any commitment to marketing, and in my professional opinion, was terribly mismanaged by NCsoft. Investors have been critical of NCsoft’s poor handling of international business, and City of Heroes is almost a perfect example of the justification of such. By contrast, Disney is a paragon of a company that is truly in-touch with the global market, and indeed the family market. One knows that Disney could make a huge success of the game, and make it a key component in their reach across the modern media of family entertainment. I’ve dealt with a huge range of Internet based businesses over the many years of my career, and I’ve rarely seen a better all-round opportunity than City of Heroes presents. If I only had a few spare millions I’d have been sorely tempted not to share it with Disney at all, and go for it myself.’
Members of the Save City of Heroes campaign are expected to support the plea with a letter writing campaign, due to begin any day now.