We learned last month, the money making MMOs at Turbine have been split off to be run by a new company called Standing Stone Game. That meant Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeon & Dragons Online would both be leaving Turbine. That left Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 in the lurch.
Staying with Turbine rather than being spun off with the new MMO running entity Standing Stone Games seemed to indicate a short future for the two titles, something quickly confirmed in a statement from Turbine:
It is with a heavy heart that we must announce the end of our support for Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2, and will close both services on January 31st, 2017.
This decision did not come easy, and we know this is disappointing for many of you. This game is a labor of love, and it’s not easy for us to bring it to an end.
We have had a phenomenally long run; one of the longest in the world of MMORPGs, and that in and of itself is a spectacular feat. We are proud of our legacy, and the entire Asheron’s Call team has been honored to adventure with you for nearly twenty years. We thank you very much for being a part of it.
It’s been an amazing run. You’ve done Asheron Realaidain proud.
Between now and January 31st, 2017, the game will remain available to play, completely free, for any player currently with an account. New account creation will be disabled.
Yet hope springs eternal… only to be stomped on. In an earlier time of greater optimism at Turbine, there was talk about letting players be able to setup private Asheron’s Call servers, a promise that immediately led to, “Hey, maybe we’ll get something!” And then Turbine came back and said no, private servers would not be a thing.
We had hoped to be able to hand off our servers to the community, so our most loyal players could continue their journey through Dereth. Unfortunately, this is something we were unable to do.
So that was that. Turbine further clarified the end time for Asheron’s Call, saying that the game would go dark at noon Eastern Standard Time on January 31, 2017. If this post went live as scheduled, that was two minutes earlier, so the game should be down by the time you read this. Hopefully, if you were a fan, you got in your final look at the world and didn’t get hampered by the last minute attempt to ruin the closing.
MMORPGs are strange beasts, and their passing are always sad and strange. The social nature and persistent world aspects of them make them different from games where you play for a session and then everything resets. As we have gone on about, and demonstrated ad nauseum, people get invested in MMORPGs. And Asheron’s Call, being one of the “Big Three” late 90s MMORPGs that, along with Ultima Online and EverQuest, popularized the genre, all the more so. It was a “first” MMORPG for people in the pre-World of Warcraft era, with its own special features, quirks, and lessons.
It is hard for me to imagine the day that EverQuest goes dark. All those memories… mostly good, since we forget or repress the bad over time… that I could no longer pretend were just a patch update and a login away. I don’t play anymore, but I could… and that I could makes a big difference. So I feel for those who are losing their first MMORPG today.
That said, I do wonder at hope continuing to spring up. Some are pinning hopes that there will be an announcement of some sort about Asheron’s Call tomorrow. As the somewhat detached outsider, it is tough for me to see the hook one can hang that idea from.
Asheron’s Call was one of the big three, but it was the smallest of the bunch, topping out at half of UO’s numbers and a quarter of EQ’s subscription peak, so it doesn’t have the legacy of success that the other two had. Furthermore, in the pantheon of Turbine titles, Lord of the Rings Online is their big success. For Origin and SOE, their first MMORPGs remain their most popular, while Turbine has long neglected AC in favor of the two games that went with Standing Stone. And then of course, there is Turbine, a shell of its former self, and WB, a media company from which one can expect no favors.
So while I don’t want to stomp on anybody’s dreams, I haven’t seen anything that would make me think there will be a post-closing announcement. But we shall see tomorrow I suppose.
But whatever happens tomorrow or in the future, today we mark the end of what once was.