Wednesday, October 3, 2012

An update on City of Heroes

A brief summary thus far:
After announcing that City of Heroes would be shut down at the end of November, many fans have decided that their game -- the #1 superhero MMO in the world, thank you very much -- will not go quietly into that good night. As such, that have organized online vigils, sent capes and masks to NCsoft headquarters, bought dinners for the Dev team as a means of saying "Thank you," tried to get the game sold to other companies, and generally sticking it to The Man.

The Man noticed. The Man blinked. The Man is scared, now, because someone at NCsoft corporate has realized that they've pissed off a significant chunk of their market, and they are scurrying to do damage control.

So they wrote this press release:

City of Heroes® Players and Fans,
We wanted to let you know that your voices have been heard and your concerns have been taken into serious consideration. We appreciate the overwhelmingly constructive and positive messages in the emails, notes, and packages you've sent in support of the game. It has not been an easy decision for us to close Paragon Studios® and prepare to shut down City of Heroes. 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. City of Heroes has a special place in all of our hearts, and we want to ensure its reputation and the memories we share for the game end on a high note. 
Once again, we will be holding events throughout the process of preparing for the game's end, and we encourage players and fans of the franchise to join forces and enjoy their time in a game that we've enjoyed supporting for more than eight years. 
The NCSOFT® Team

If you are well-versed in corporate speak, this means fuck-all. It's essentially "Stop writing to us, we really want this to go away now."

Hey, don't take my word for it. Listen to the sage wisdom of Larry Dixon, husband of Mercedes Lackey (who is a bigtime COH player):

It's as "real" as anything else NCsoft says or does. That'll flip if they want it to. What it *is* is an admission that they've noticed enough to respond to it "on company letterhead." Its face value is meaningless.
The REAL takeaway from this is "Hey this is starting to hurt, stop it guys!" If the revival efforts meant nothing, NCsoft would not post what amounts to "Elvis has left the building." And that is all that is. They want the negative attention to stop. That is an official attempt at deflection. Or, in political terms, an "Un-Answer."
It appears to be a response but actually accomplishes nothing except silence those who weren't very into it. Like I say, what it says is irrelevant; the thing to take notice of is that it was put there at all. And that means time to step it up because the other fighter just staggered.
If the "Save CoH/We love Paragon" etc. efforts were ineffective, we'd never have seen such a statement. The hidden meaning of that note is that it has dawned on somebody that this is developing into "anti-NCsoft," not "Save-CoH," so they issued a mollifying statement with a lot of buttonpushing feel-warm cozy buttons about how special what they just murdered was to them.
Now they reap the mistrust they sowed, they can see the coverage increase, the caution against them and the players taking their money away in droves, and we can look them steely in the eyes and reply "Too bad. It's just business. Isn't it."
The "exhausted all options" is bizspeak for "We didn't get what we wanted, so we stopped bothering to find solutions." Businesspeople who truly WANT a result ALWAYS find a way, they never "exhaust all options." So right there is an admission from NCsoft that they're very bad businesspeople. Most certainly unimaginative and inflexible.
Shortest form: As a strategist, the hits are being felt by NCsoft, and they've barely begun.
Second message: This is the murderer issuing an official statement that they "really tried hard" not kill what they had a choice about murdering, and hoping that "Oh they loved it like I did, they're really sorry!" should be your takeaway from that and that should make EVERYTHING just fine, right?
I don't take "We loved it too!" as anything but an insult to our intelligence.
Nah, this is a "There, that'll shut'em up" attempt, as if talking to six-year-olds.

People are noticing. This is turning into a public relations debacle, which translates into loss of revenue -- and that's the one thing no company wants.

You see, they don't want to admit it, but they are in the process of closing down all offices outside of Korea.  Go ahead and look at that Glassdoor rating: 2.3 stars out of 5, and falling. Read those reviews and see if you don't discover a recurring theme.

Frankly, I'd respect NCsoft more if they just said "Look, we don't want American/Canadian/European money any more. We're just going to focus on the lucrative Asian market," because at least then they'd be honest about it.

I don't know if it's a case of dwindling market share, and they're just going to consolidate closer to home while making games for demographics they understand, or if it really is a case of cultural racism and disdain for every western-style game (i.e. not focused on the stereotypical Korean MMO grind), but either way, it's looking pretty obvious that they don't care about anything outside their personal sphere of influence.

But what's important is this:  we've caught them in that, and it doesn't look good. And they're slowly starting to realize that fact. If they ever want to expand back into North American and Europe, they have to stop the bleeding.

They're begging us to stop asking questions. To stop making them look bad. To sit down, shut up, and go away. To that I say:

We are heroes. This is who we are. This is what we do. 


  1. Thank you Erin for drawing attention to this, i for one refuse to give up the fight.

  2. That Glassdoor link is pretty damning, that's for posting it, and for speaking out.

  3. Eh, the best you'll get out of them is less than even the EC from Mass Effect 3. After all, the publisher knows best.

    To get the taste of that ending out of my head, onto happier subjects. Have you seen Obsidian's Project Eternity?

  4. Add to that: We will never give in, we will never give up. If NCSoft thinks they can wait it out and we will grow silent once the servers go dark, we must be ready to prove them wrong.

  5. Beautifully stated!!!

  6. One big problem with NCSoft's attempts to focus on the asian market...Blizzard have started concentrating on it too.  If NC think they can have Asia all to themselves and turn their back on the west then they are in for a shock.  Pandas and monk in the latest WoW expansion are a clear statement of intent and Blizzrd are very good at killing the competition...

  7. I hadn't even thought of this!  That IS good news.  I was already planning on being a stormcrow as NCsoft continues its slide into irrelevance, but now I get to eat popcorn and watch as Blizzard eats their lunch. 

  8. they have altered thier FaceBook page to Korean Letters, to make it difficult for Westerners to search the HQ audiance

  9. Boring. Lost interest.


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