Some MMORPGs failed to capture players’ attention because they were ahead of their time. Others failed because the developers didn’t have a clear goal in mind. And others simply due to the saturated market that just couldn’t bear another generic and dull MMORPG.

We delve through some of those MMORPG games and try to find out what went wrong.

(November 2002 – December 2005)

What’s the idea: Creating a sequel to one of the most beloved MMORPGs can be tricky – just ask EverQuest 2 developers. Experienced studio Turbine tried its best... to annoy players.

What went wrong: They succeeded in the arduous task of making a sequel that was dubbed by fans as “nothing like the original game”. No one was happy and Asheron’s Call 2 featured a vast and completely empty world. Graphics were better but that’s not the issue here, as players quickly reverted to Asheron’s Call 1.

(April 2006 – August 2007)

What’s the idea: Something of an Interstate ’76 or Twisted Metal drive’em up couldn’t sound too bad. It was NetDevil’s second attempt at MMOs, after Jumpgate. With some nice combat vehicles, upgrades and explosions, what could go wrong?

What went wrong: A lot, it seems. The potential was thrown out of the window by making the game dull and not funny at all to play. An action and driving game where your skills don’t determine your success is just wrong. The weapons don’t hit your enemies thanks to your aim and driving skill, but to your stats. So you would just drive in circles hoping that the die roll would finally strike a hit. Obviously, everyone grew tired of it.

Auto Assault was an action game with the elements of other classic MMOs, instead of choosing its own path. Released in April 2006, the servers were shut down on August 2007 due to lack of subscribers.

(September 2002 – September 2004)

What’s the idea: A sci-fi MMORPG where players could not only fly places but also get out of their ships and engage in quests, combat and crafting. It still manages to stand apart from similar themed MMOs like Eve Online or Jumpgate, and is fondly remembered by most who played it.

What went wrong: Not easy to say exactly. The acquisition of E&B developer Westwood Studios might have something to do with it (but we’re guessing here). The player base wasn’t as high as expected, and EA decided to focus on other projects, like The Sims Online. It is also said that the decline in subscription was caused by Star Wars Galaxies. We may have to file this one in the “ahead of its time” archive, with many players still hoping for a sequel.

(October 2007 – August 2008)

What’s the idea: To focus on PvP and try to distinguish itself from the other MMORPGs based on this idea.

What went wrong: It wasn’t enough. For Fury to succeed it should also be polished, without bugs or lag, but it wasn’t. Critical reception was below average, practically dooming the game to oblivion. Less than a year after release, Auran closed the servers.

(October 2001 – August 2003)

What’s the idea: A racing game in the style of Need for Speed but with classic cars, just waiting to be tuned. It was released in 2001, a time when racing MMO games were very scarce.

What went wrong: There was a very good reason for the lack of racing MMOs: lag. While this could be overlooked in other genres, it’s extremely difficult to ignore cars jumping all over the place and turning gameplay into a mess. It was clearly ahead of its time, subscriptions were few and falling, and Motor City Online went offline on August 2003. Users earned access to The Sims Online, Ultima Online or Earth & Beyond, two of them featured in this article.

EA is trying again with Need For Speed: World Online, a free to play MMO. Nowadays lag isn’t much of a problem, so things are looking good.

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