These days, massively multiplayer games seem to dominate in the realm of PC gaming, but it has been a long road, with many casualties. Most MMO's from the olden days are still online in one form or another, but a few have been buried by the companies that launched them. The reasons for their discontinuation stems from a variety of reasons, but one thing is for sure, it’s the fans that got left out in the cold. For them, the days of the game world they once played in are over, with no way to return.
These days, the proliferation of player run servers for World of Warcraft, Everquest, and other games means they will never truly die, but for some games, that wasn't possible at the time they went offline. Some of these games still have followings from the PC gaming community, but many have since moved on.
In one odd instance, there is a game that died as it was, and was reborn into something very different. This was the case for Star Wars Galaxies players. The open universe they grew to know, was removed, and replaced with something more akin to Everquest and other traditional class based MMORPG's. While this move might have been a good choice to attract more mainstream players, it caused many longtime players to leave in pursuit of greener pastures elsewhere.
Another game, which that I played back in the day was from a once popular studio known as Westwood. They developed Earth & Beyond, one of the first space-based MMO's. For its time the game was fun, well made, and had a decent story that could have made a real legacy for itself had it continued.
Before the release of E&B, Westwood was purchased by EA, and attempted to run with E&B much the same way Verant had made a hit out of Everquest. After a year of struggle and small success, EA had decided that E&B would not be the hit they were looking for and decided to focus on The Sims Online.
The thought at the time was that The Sims was a smash hit PC title, and that bringing your Sims online into a massive neighborhood would be extremely popular. Plans were drawn up to close E&B and to allocate its resources to furthering The Sims Online. The playerbase dropped by a sizable margin when this was announced, and just 2 years after Earth & Beyond went live, it shuttered its doors.
Ironically just four years later, The Sims Online would also be shut down due to lack of a sizeable playerbase and revenue stream. For diehard Earth & Beyond fans, however, hope may yet live on in the E&B Emulator Project, which is progressing nicely and has big plans for reviving the days of Earth & Beyond in the 21st Century. As for fans of The Sims Online, your best bet these days rests with The Sims 2 and its prolific expansion packs.
A recent addition to the graveyard is a new game from NCSoft, Tabula Rasa. Launched in November of 2007, it was another Sci-Fi styled game with a unique story. In this universe, Earth was invaded and some survived by fleeing to another planet via ancient technology found on Earth. The game also doubled as a First/Third person shooter combined with its RPG aspects to form a truly unique MMO. It was announced that Tabula Rasa is closing its doors on February 28th 2009. While this short lived MMO will be missed you can play Tabula Rasa for free until its termination date.
MMO's are some of the most involved and long running PC games, where communities mingle and cooperate in ways not seen in other genres. Whenever one goes offline the players suffer, as the virtual world they have invested their time and effort into is no more. But most MMO players simply shift gears into the next MMO they want to immerse themselves in and start anew.