After just over two years open, NCsoft's free-to-play MMO Dungeon Runners
-- its first foray into that business model
in the West -- is set to shut down.
The game "just isn't cutting the mustard," writes producer and lead programmer Stephen Nichols on the game's official site
. "If she were a ship, she'd be taking on water. Yeah, she's been taking on water for a long time now. Are my cryptic references too hard to decipher? The game just isn't profitable."
The first signs of trouble for Dungeon Runners
actually arose late last summer, when staff cuts and layoffs hit NCsoft as it reorganized and consolidated its Western operations.
The game was developed and run out of the publisher's hard-hit Austin office
, and the Dungeon Runners
team in particular was scaled back when the company decided to abandon its plans to port the game client to additional platforms.
"We've been trying to figure out how to fix things for some time now. And, that's where things get sticky," Nichols continues. "We've got some ideas that could work. But, they're expensive to implement and pretty risky. Those two facts, coupled with the recent loss of some key developers, make achieving the success we seek pretty much out of the question."
According to Nichols, the light, humorous fantasy online RPG was being run by a three-man team -- "not nearly enough manpower to get where we need to be." With no option to rebuild the team, he adds, Dungeon Runners
must plan to close on New Years' Eve 2009.
players who've been electing to play the game via its paid membership option will be compensated with a code for 30 free days of NCsoft MMO playtime, and digital copies of City of Heroes Architect Edition
and Guild Wars Prophecies
. Users who purchased multiple months will be refunded, Nichols says.
Finally, Nichols says bonuses, advantages and surprises -- "loot finding, leveling madness" are being implemented in the game to make loyal players' last months with the title more fun, culminating in a nuclear explosion that will end the game world on New Year's.
Dungeon Runners first launched
in May 2007, angled as a "fast, fun and free" massively-multiplayer action fantasy RPG that "doesn't take itself too seriously." At the time, NCsoft called it a "bold leap into a new business model."
Many lighter-styled MMORPGs like Nexon's MapleStory
and Jagex's RuneScape
appear to be enjoying solid successes with the free-to-play model, the timing of Dungeon Runners
' launch may have proved difficult, as it came just before the publisher was hit with underperforming titles like Tabula Rasa
, financial losses and layoffs throughout its Western operations.