As a medium rooted in physical products, it’s difficult for video games to simply "die." However, with the growing popularity of always-online titles, this is no longer the case. As innovative as they are, video games that live on a server can be rendered useless whenever the developer thinks it’s time to close up shop. Online games often foster large, dedicated communities, and players are forced to part with a product they’ve developed a significant attachment to when servers go down.
From MMORPGs once played by millions to innovative action titles that ended before their time, here’s our list of the 10 best games you can’t play anymore, and the reasons behind their untimely demise.
While mobile gaming giant Zynga acquired "Draw Something" publishers OMGPOP in 2012, they decided to shutter the online game creator just a year later. The ever-popular "Draw Something" will survive OMGPOP’s purge in September, but a slew of beloved titles will be erased in the process.
"Cupcake Corner" is one of many OMGPOP games that will get the ax at the end of August, which will deprive more than 10,000 monthly users of their favorite bakery simulation title. The game followed a "Diner Dash"-style formula by challenging users to keep their sweet-toothed customers happy while allowing players to customize their shop as they leveled up. Casual social games like "Cupcake Corner" will always exist in some form, but the title's massive fan base will surely miss the time and money they’ve invested in their digital bakeries.
Alternatives: While "Cupcake Corner" offered up a refreshingly sweet take on the social genre, there are plenty of similar games still kicking around on Facebook, such as "Farmville 2" and "Dragon City."
Almost everybody wants to be a superhero at some point in their lives, and Cryptic Studios made many a comic geek’s dream come true with its 2004 "City of Heroes" MMORPG. Borrowing elements from many popular online role-playing titles, "City of Heroes" allowed users to create the ultimate power-wielding warrior from a robust set of customization options and team up with friends to form their own version of the Justice League.
"City of Heroes" earned wide praise for successfully bringing the MMO genre into the realm of superheroes, and grew popular enough to spawn a "City of Villains" expansion that gave players the power to be the bad guy. Despite being host to eight years of super-powered online crime fighting, "City of Heroes" was officially shut down in late 2012 as a result of Paragon Studios' termination.
Alternatives: All hope is not lost, true believers, as Missing Worlds Media will soon launch a Kickstarter for an MMO tentatively titled "The Phoenix Project" that could pick up where "City" left off. There’s also "Marvel Heroes" and "DC Universe Online" for those who don’t mind taking control of existing comic book heroes.
"The Sims" took the PC gaming world by storm when it first launched in early 2000, giving players complete freedom to build a home and manage a virtual family however they saw fit. It seemed like a no-brainer to take the concept online, and that’s exactly what Maxis and EA did in 2002 with "The Sims Online." The title played similarly to its offline counterpart, though it had gamers live the life of just one Sim while allowing them to inhabit different cities, each with their own unique rules.
While "The Sims Online" enjoyed a healthy player base, the game went dark in 2008 just a year after being re-branded as EA-Land. Still, the title helped set the framework for future titles, including the online console installment titled "The Sims Bustin' Out." With the more traditional "Sims 3" enjoying a constant stream of new content, there’s always hope that Maxis might once again allow gamers to connect with other Sims across the globe.
Electronic Arts may publish heavy-hitting franchises such as Battlefield and Madden, but their casual browser games have dedicated fan bases all their own. Playfish’s "Pet Society" was one of several life simulation games published by EA, and employed a tried-and-true social gaming formula that consisted of decorating a home, making friends, and customizing an adorable animal avatar.
All of those addictive hours of leisurely virtual living came to a close in June 2013, when EA made the decision to shut down "Pet Society" alongside "SimCity Social" and "The Sims Social" due to an overall decrease in activity. "Pet Society" players refused to go quietly, as the game’s fan base of more than 5 million created an official #SavePetSociety campaign that still gets mentioned on Twitter daily. While this wildly popular online game may be dead, it's sure to live on in the hearts of players for years to come.
Alternatives: Fans who miss their old "Society" can visit SavingPetSociety.com, a website that allows players to discuss their beloved virtual pets and lists other titles that make a worthy substitute, such as the "Happy Baby" clone.
"The Matrix" captivated moviegoers when it hit theaters in 1999, and inspired many to wonder what life would be like within the film’s virtual reality. While 2003's "Enter the Matrix" allowed gamers to play through key parts of the Matrix story, it wasn’t until WB Games released "The Matrix Online" in 2005 that fans got to truly be a part of the Wachowski Brothers' digital universe. The MMORPG puts players in the role of a human freed from the Matrix, and had a living story that was constantly updated to tie in with the existing Matrix mythos.
While the game was praised for its real-time combat engine and synergy with the Matrix's storyline, Sony Online Entertainment decided to shut down its servers in August 2009 due to subscription numbers that got as low as 500. Sony treated "The Matrix Online" players to one final hurrah before the plug was pulled, as gamers could witness the sky morphing as the virtual world around them crumbled during the game’s final hours.
Tons of gamers love beating up on their friends in games like "Super Smash Bros." and "Street Fighter," and the fighting genre was bound to get the MMO treatment eventually. CJ Internet's "Mini Fighter" was one of the few PC titles to successfully implement fighting mechanics within a massively multiplayer world, complete with beautiful 2D sprites that bring the Japanese fighters and RPGs of the '90s to mind. "Mini Fighter" set itself apart by offering gamers a combination of co-operative questing, competitive tag battles in the vein of "Marvel vs. Capcom," and even mini-games like soccer and volleyball.
While the 2009 online brawler had a passionate community in both Korea and the United States, its servers were closed in late 2011. "Mini Fighter" was the first game put out by publisher NetMarble and served as a stepping stone to the company’s current games, such as Uncharted Waters and District 187.
Tom Clancy's "Rainbow Six" series has enjoyed a hardcore following since it first hit the PC in 1998, but it wasn't until "Rainbow Six 3" made its way to the Xbox that it became one of Xbox Live's defining titles. "Rainbow Six 3" was one of the first tactical competitive shooters for the original Xbox, and its "Black Arrow" update introduced new online modes, clan support and briefing room for making plans pre-battle.
Like "Halo 2," "Star Wars: Battlefront II," and a slew of other beloved Xbox Live games, "Rainbow Six 3"'s online multiplayer only bit the bullet because the old Xbox Live service as a whole was discontinued. You might be able to dust off your classic Xbox and play through the game’s campaign, but "Rainbow Six" is built for multiplayer, making this disc nearly obsolete. The franchise is still going strong on current-gen consoles and PCs, but many gamers got their first taste of the unique strategic combat “Rainbow Six” has to offer on the original Xbox.
Alternatives: Hungry for more tactical shooting? "Rainbow Six: Vegas 2" still has a healthy player base, and both "Rainbow Six: Patriots" and "Tom Clancy’s The Division" should satisfy series fans when they eventually arrive for next-gen consoles.