Korean game studio NCSoft took an hours-before-Thanksgiving moment to announce bad news for fans of its most recent game, Master X Master: the free-to-play (F2P) game, which only launched five months ago, is already about to go dark.
The company’s official announcement, sent to all its players on Wednesday, blamed the online game’s closure on “fail[ing] to connect with players.” (That’s a short way to sum up complaints from avid users about lag, long queues between matches, and issues with monetization and content grinding.) For those players who waited until August 30 to spend real money on the game, they will receive full refunds on any MxM-related purchases within 14 days. For everyone else, the real-money store has been shut down effective immediately, with all players receiving a glut of in-game coins to purchase and unlock all the game’s content before it shuts down on January 31.
MxM launched on June 21 as another entry in the MOBA genre (which you may know via games like Dota 2 and League of Legends), along with a few single-player “PvE” modes that range from repetitive, Diablo-like slogs to quick-and-dirty mini-games. MxM‘s full cast included “all-star” characters from NCSoft’s gaming catalog, but it also confusingly launched with a bunch of brand-new characters. Otherwise, it played largely like other popular MOBA games with few differentiating factors.
The game will probably be better remembered as a crash-and-burn example of what happens when companies expect players to dump money into their microtransaction (MTX) economies. In the case of MxM fans, they can say goodbye to the game that they tried to prop up with actual cash; unless NCSoft announces future plans to open up code for private-server use, the game will be completely toast at the end of January.
As game publishers continue to experiment with payment models on retail and free-to-play titles alike, they may find users fed up with games whose MTX expire after years, let alone months