EA does this every year and gets a bunch of hate for it, so let’s be fair and note that Gamespy (now owned by GLU Mobile) just shut down a bunch of MP servers on the down low. While a few of the games can continue to played via direct connection, Gamespy cannot be used for matchmaking.
Here is a partial list of games affected:
Neverwinter Nights 1
Neverwinter Nights 2
Microsoft Flight Simulator X
Hidden and Dangerous 2
Wings of War
Rebellion wrote a note to the Sniper Elite community to explain the situation.
For the past seven years we have run these servers at a cost to ourselves so that fans of Sniper Elite could continue to play online for free.
This decision by Glu was not taken in consultation with us and was beyond our control.
We have been talking to them since to try and get the servers turned back on. We have been informed that in order to do so would cost us tens of thousands of pounds a year—far in excess of how much we were paying previously. We also do not have the option to take the multiplayer to a different provider. Because the game relies on Glu and Gamespy’s middleware, the entire multiplayer aspect of the game would have to be redeveloped by us, again, at the cost of many tens of thousands of pounds.
While we are not happy about the situation, as an independent developer we simply do not have the resources to pay the massive costs of new servers along with redeveloping a seven-year-old game.
Company decides to work with GS/Glu
Company doesn’t have to pay $$$ pounds to host servers so they run them in partnership
Company complains when partner company shuts down partner company’s server
Company admits they don’t have enough to do it themselves
What’s the issue here? This is basic economics. What is so shady?
I have no complaint with GLU/Gamespy shutting down servers for seven year old games. Hosting servers is expensive, and a good business will do the ROI and see that keeping a server running for some game that results in zero revenue isn’t doing their bottom line any favors. My issue is one that applies to ALL multiplayer games that have no option for privately run servers. It sucks that so many games have a built-in fatal flaw.
Surely if rebellion is paying each year to keep the servers running then the revenue is far from zero. In fact the revenue is probably the same year to year regardless of how many players actually use the servers.
It’s zero (or less) compared to using the server to host a bunch of mobile files that sell to tweens anxious to get whatever Dancing Frog ringtone or whatever animated rapper wallpapers are hot for the week.
I’d love that idea, but it still doesn’t solve the basic problem that the game will always be dependent on some corporate server to function. If they had built the game to allow gamers to host their own servers, this wouldn’t be an issue to that hardcore community.
(1) Company decided to “work with” GameSpy, Glu was a subsequent acquirer of the company. Nobody decided to work with Glu.
(2) I have no idea what your second statement means or what arrangement was made between the game-maker and GameSpy. IIRC, working with GameSpy meant that you incorporated their match-making technology into the game files. As a result of having matchmaking hard-coded, that gave GameSpy an “off” switch for the game’s multiplayer. I would assume that use of that off-switch is governed by contract or licensing agreement, the terms of which we do not have right now.
(3) Terminating service appears to have been Glu’s unilateral decision. We have no idea whether that was done within the bounds of the original contract, whether Glu is in breach, or whether this is a grey area. We also have no idea what the original contract provided for in terms of what actions the parties had to undertake in the event GameSpy wished to terminate its services. So, it’s difficult to see what basis you have for proclaiming that there is nothing wrong going on.
(4) Rebellion did not state that they could not afford to “do it themselves”, they stated that Glu quoted an unreasonably high price to re-start the servers they had been previously operating and charging Rebellion to run. Further, if GameSpy code is incorporated into the client’s game files, then they may not have the legal ability to independently (or affordably) patch the game to provide for alternate matchmaking.
If the situation is as Rebellion states, it appears that Glu is taking unilateral action to either jack up the revenues from the asset it acquired (i.e., GameSpy matchmaking services), or eliminate the expenditure entirely. This may or may not be being done according to the terms that the game makers and GameSpy agreed upon originally, with Glu betting that most companies are unwilling to litigate the matter over old and non-revenue generating software. Either pay up big time or get lost, contract and good faith be damned.
In any event, I’m sure a work-around will emerge if the games have a sufficient fan base.
If not, I wonder what the liabilities are for companies that continue to sell multiplayer-based games without the ability to connect to multiplayer servers. I’m sure LucasArts knows exactly how many copies of Star Wars Battlefront are sold each year, and now the heart of the game has been removed. Is a disclosure required now? How about an end to sales and a removal of the game from the “greatest hits” packages they sell? EA certainly has no problem shutting down multiplayer for games like Mercenaries 2 despite lots of sealed games advertising multiplayer functionality in the retail channel.
Fortunately, most of these games have direct connect options and/or work with Hamachi or Gameranger. I think the way this happened stinks, but it’s kind of part and parcel of assigning control over the servers that make one or more parts of your game work to someone other than players. And seven years isn’t as bad as E.A.'s habits.
But this sort of thing is exactly why I won’t buy games with always-on DRM and I really wish no one else would, either. Those servers won’t stay up forever. Even if the company that runs them when you buy the game is trustworthy and intends to run them indefinitely, they won’t necessarily stay in control.
In my opinion, the right thing to do would be for each individual game creator to produce a patch(or have one ready) that allows the game they sell/sold to be played by player run servers.
Even if its just a gamespy emulation.
But if developers can sell games like that successfully, then that sort of DRM will spread, and games will become truly disposable. Better to miss out on a few games now (like Diablo III, as much as I want to try it), than ensure it becomes the industry standard.