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…