A Look at Microsoft and MMOs: 3-0 Cancels

Many of you may not know it, but Microsoft has actually had their hands in quite a few MMORPG projects within the past few years. No stranger to the videogame marketplace in general, it only seemed to make sense that one of the largest providers of consoles and games would also begin to dabble in the increasingly profitable (for some!) MMO business. However, after attempting to take on three separate projects over the last five years one was sold off, and the other two were killed off and left what could only be described as a very shallow grave. I am, of course, speaking of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, Mythica, and Marvel Universe Online.

Announced back in 2002 Mythica was Microsoft’s first attempt at making an MMORPG. It was actually quite a neat sounding game at that. Based on the legends and lore of Norse mythology your character would actually be a “demi god” that was able to wipe out multiple enemies at once. Something that still hasn’t been done today. Unfortunately, just over a year in development, Microsoft was sued by Mythic Entertainment due to the name, Mythica, being to close to Mythics own name. Worries that the consumer would get confused were the primary reasons for the lawsuit. Then on May 25th of 2004, Microsoft officially canceled the title citing a competitive MMORPG environment as the main cause, although rumours still swirl today that the lawsuit was what actually cause Microsoft to call the game quits.

Microsoft’s other fantasy MMO, Vanguard, was not to be killed off but rather sold off. Beginning development in 2002, Sigil Entertainment and Microsoft entered into a partnership that had Sigil developing the game with Microsoft publishing/owning the rights to the game. However, due to Brad McQuaid’s inability to show Microsoft what they wanted on the original timeline provided they eventually began bickering about the project. Then in May 2006, Sigil acquired the name back from Microsoft, much to Microsoft’s joy, and proceeded to work on the game in their own manner  securing a publishing agreement with SOE instead of Microsoft. In the end, however, not even SOE would continue funding the game and as such it was released in a “beta” stage that has forever cursed the game to oblivion.

Finally, we have Marvel Universe Online. Perhaps Microsoft’s most ambitious MMO project to date and yet still it could not be escape it’s inevitable cancellation date. Announced back in 2005, Marvel and Microsoft, in association with Cryptic Studios (devs behind the famous City of Heroes MMO),  began work on the “next gen” super hero Marvel MMORPG. Stating that the game would cover over 60 years worth of marvel comics it really comes as little surprise that the game was canceled in less than 3 years. At this point Microsoft was already creating quite a reputation for its MMO business and after a year with no new information people already began development of this project. Like Mythica, in 2008, Microsoft canceled the project due to “an inability to compete with the current MMO marketplace.” Today most of the same work done on the Marvel MMO can be found in Champions Online, Cryptics newest super hero MMORPG.

So that pretty much wraps up Microsoft’s MMO history. They also helped in operating the Asheron’s Call games, of which one was canceled, but beyond that there really isn’t anything more to add. It’s actually quite odd that Microsoft has given up on every MMO they have personally pursued. Especially considering that every MMO seems to have been given up on as a result of Microsoft not having enough faith in the franchise for it to be successful. Sounds like somebody might need to start talking to a counselor…


  1. “Microsoft’s other fantasy MMO, Vanguard, was not to be killed off but rather sold off.

    In the end, however, not even SOE would continue funding the game and as such it was released in a “beta” stage that has forever cursed the game to oblivion.”

    What do you mean by oblivion? I picked up this game last year. While it wasn’t all that, it still made it to retail, and to me that’s beyond the “beta” stage.

  2. While I do find Microsoft’s record humorous, there is more to it than that. What that tells me is that Microsoft is not willing to produce an inferior product, if things don’t look good, its sold or killed. How much of that is caused by Microsoft themselves? That is the question. Granted, they are not MMO’s, but Blizzard is notorious for doing the same thing. And because of it they have a near perfect release record. Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo and WoW are all the best of their respective genre. Personally i think ax-ing the inferior games is a good thing.
    But the big question still remains, is Microsoft doing something to ruin their own games? Are they the cause of their own problems…

  3. Agree with Qix and I don’t think we can say they’re ruining their own products.

    I mean Mythica was simply meh, VGSoH was way out of the timeline as pointed out and would probably cost too much to get on track, hence it’s very early release and as for Champion Online, I don’t think their is enough space for two super heroes MMOs.

    So basically, in my point of view MS took the right business decisions so far.

  4. Vanguard is beyond the beta stage, however, its launch was a disaster. The game was essentially in beta when it launched and therefor the game was almost destroyed. While the game still lives on, it won’t ever be a popular MMORPG because of the launch. As such, it was doomed from the beginning.

  5. Mythica was my most-anticipated MMORPG of its day, and I was very sad when Microsoft canned it. The fact that they have now twice canceled an MMO for fear of competition makes me wonder why they ever bothered. Of course there’s competition. There’s always competition for pretty much any product MS is going to release. While it’s true that there isn’t enough room in the MMO market for multiple games with WoW’s subscriber base, there is plenty of room for games with LotRO, CoH, or EQ2 subscriber levels. All of those games are profitable and continue to generate new content (at a faster rate than the industry leader, WoW, I might add).

    Mostly what this tells me is Microsoft is suffering from big-boy syndrome. If they can’t release an MMO that’s going to be #1 in the market, they don’t want to bother. Both Mythica and Marvel Universe Online would have been profitable, maybe even wildly so. But they wouldn’t be hitting WoW levels of subscription, so MS decided to forget about it. I’ll be surprised if MS bothers to invest in an MMO again, and doubly surprised if they don’t cancel it part way through.

  6. Nice article but you have to add more on the subject!
    I’m very pleasedby Xbox/360 but I agree with U about the chronical incapacity of MS of handling a MMOG, andis sad since they wont to be the choice for “online gaming”.
    They also falied one of the most waited XBox game: True Fantasy Online.
    Heavily funded by MS and developed by Level 5.
    Sounded to be awesome.
    Cutted down with nonsense.

    Asfar as I know they were also behind Citizen Zero, not properly a MMORPG but was said to be a MMOG.

    Will they risk going to the end only “pretcted” by the Halo brand?

    But for meMShas ZERO credibility on MMORPGS.

    BTW forgive my poor english but I’m italian!

  7. If they need some confidence be for getting behind an MMO i think KUFII or the the series it self is more then enough just from what I’ve seen and played.

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