A recent report from the Korea Times, in which outspoken City of Heroes campaigner and US novelist Mercedes Lackey terms NCsoft's decision to shut down the MMO's serves "unethical", suggests that the game was closed by NCsoft for "strategic reasons". However, analysts point towards figures that suggest the game was still turning a profit even as the curtain fell.
The original party line used the term "realignment" to describe the move to shut down City of Heroes, a buzzword trotted out earlier this week when the publisher reshuffled staff at its Seattle studio.
According to the Korea Times, NCsoft’s Seoul-based spokesman Kim Yo-han described the move to shut down the MMO's servers a “strategic decision,” interestingly emphasising that “nothing had been decided on selling the game or other action afterwards”, which is something of a contradiction following their statement at the beginning of October, saying that they had "exhausted all options including the selling of the studio and the rights to the City of Heroes intellectual property".
The paper also revealed that, according to "local industry analysts", City of Heroes had been "bringing in 3 billion won ($2.76 million) every quarter".
"It is hard to comprehend what NCsoft means when they said they closed it for strategic reasons,” one such analyst told KT.
“From a revenue stand point, the game contributed something below 3 percent. Still, it seems an unnecessary closure. It won’t help its image."
It's perhaps no coincidence that NCsoft's stock has fallen to what the KT reports as being worth "around 160,000 won, having more than halved from earlier in the year", and it's telling that the #SaveCOH campaign has reached NCsoft's own backyard. Lackey has been a vocal part of the drive to rescue the game, in a campaign that's seen over 21,000 signatures added to a petition against NCsoft's closure of Paragon Studios, representing a community who've raised thousands of dollars over the years for humanitarian projects.
“I think game companies owe it to their stockholders as well as their players to continue to support the game as long as it provides a profit,” she told the newspaper.
“I think canceling a game that is making a profit, along with destroying jobs and an online community, is entirely unethical. And I believe that companies that do that are going to get exactly what they deserve, as customers revolt over greed killing cool.”
Whilst the "ethics" of the situation are up for debate, it seems that the vocal backlash against the publisher for the manner in which they've conducted this closure cannot be ignored, and one can't help but wonder what might have arisen from the situation had NCsoft entered into an open and committed dialogue with fans to begin with. If the statement above is correct and nothing has been decided with regard to future action or the sale of IP rights, one might suggest that it's not too late to start, particularly with contingents of fans themselves already making direct pleas to other publishers.