Unfortunately, as the MOBA market matured around us as we were building the game, we simply couldn’t find enough of an audience.
Floon, Infinite Crisis Art Director, quoted at Massively OP
It is one of those times when I hate to be right. I was dubious that Turbine had the gravitas to get into the MOBA genre at this late date, and it turns out that they do not. Turbine announced yesterday that they would be shutting down their entry into the MOBA market, the perhaps all-to-aptly named Infinite Crisis. The statement on their site was terse.
After much deliberation, we regret to announce the official shutdown of Infinite Crisis. We will end development efforts today and will close the service on August 14, 2015.
The announcement was made all the more poignant as it came on the same day that Blizzard’s champion for the MOBA arena, Heroes of the Storm, officially went live. (And now I don’t have to do a post about that, having mentioned it here. At least until I earn the pet from it.)
I hate to be right because, while I had no real interest in the game, its abject failure leaves me wondering where Turbine goes now? As they invested their time and resources in Infinitie Crisis, they left Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 on auto-pilot, neither charging to play the titles nor paying much attention to them. So I doubt there is any more revenue to be had on that front.
Which leaves only two staples in the Turbine bag, Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online.
Not that either title is dead, but at least on the LOTRO front it feels like the game is well past its prime. The producer’s letter for the title early this year felt short on enthusiasm for me. Expansions were out the door, server merges were going to be a fact of life, and talk of a new data center could be a bright spin on further resource consolidation for all we know. And then there was the insider insight in to the turmoil at Turbine that no doubt sank a few optimistic spins on how things were going at the studio.
The more recent producer’s letter spun more of the same items (monster play maps, server merges, data centers, a new store) and, while it brought tales of “major content initiatives” for 2015, complete with hints about Minas Tirith, details were sparse. Dare we speculate on what a “surprising take on the siege of Gondor” will look like from Turbine?
Meanwhile the game has been monetized to about the maximum extent they can likely manage. The once promising F2P model that Turbine offered, where you could earn the RMT currency in-game, has expanded and consumed all, like the very darkness of Mordor, so that there is a “buy now” button of one sort or another on nearly every dialog in game.
Then there is DDO, whose 2015 producer’s letter was much more upbeat, and which felt better adapted to the F2P market to start with, never having been a “worldly” game but rather more akin to the adventure module model like table top Dungeons & Dragons. Still, as much post-F2P conversion success as Turbine can claim for the title, a lot of that has to do with how badly it fell over after launch. Everything is up when you have hit rock bottom.
Those two titles, in whatever shape you wish to claim they are in, look to be all Turbine has for now. Their investment in a MOBA has yielded naught and in order for them to start working on something new they will have to continue, to a certain extent, to neglect the products that are paying all the bills.
This is practically an every day Silicon Valley dilemma, where a start up gets success on one product, does well enough, but can never get that second success as the first eventually fades. During that stage there can be a huge amount of tension between groups. One group will want to continue to focus on, enhance, and nurture the first product. Another group will insist that the main focus must be on finding that second product, because they know the first can’t last forever.
I’ve seen some comments out there from people who, if not cheering the demise of Infinite Crisis, are happily assuming that its fall will mean more resources for LOTRO or DDO. I suppose Turbine could go that route, hunker down and focus on current products and hope for the best. However, that seems unlikely, as is spells eventual death for the organization.
To survive in the long term, Turbine will need a “next” product. But what will it be? They have shot their bolt with Asheron’s Call by making it free. Likewise, they played the nostalgia card with Asheron’s Call 2, only to give up and make that one free as well. Infinite Crisis is behind them. I don’t know what else they can do with DDO, and LOTRO is likely too mired in F2P for Turbine to play any sort of premium retro-server sort of games, like Daybreak is doing with EverQuest and the Ragefire and Lockjaw servers, in order to boost revenue.
So it feels like they have to make something new. But in which direction will they go and do they have the resources to go very far? I have to imagine that, after Infinite Crisis, which was purported to be eating $4 million a month in expenses, their corporate masters at WB may be unlikely to write a check to fund any big new ventures.
Yes, they have an iOS app under way in the form of Batman: Arkham Underworld. But that sounds almost like contract work, doing a knock-off version of another title just to collect a bit of reflected glory, and is unlikely to save the farm.
Then there is the Game of Thrones based game, which sounds a bit like an RTS from the minimal description in that Eurogamer article from a couple months back. But that is way out in the future. Both entail working with somebody else’s IP… again… as well as sending the company further from its MMORPG roots.
If you were running Turbine, what would you do? Is it time for them to give up on MMOs?