EA Closes The Book On Dragon Age Legends

By Nathan Grayson on May 22nd, 2012 at 10:00 am.

The Darkspawn have fewer hearts because they can't actually understand the power of love.

Alec didn’t care for Dragon Age Legends too terribly much, and apparently, neither did most of you. As such, to be perfectly honest, it’s no great tragedy to hear that the Facebook-friend-unfriendly spin-off is headed for the big server farm in the sky. Unsurprisingly – especially given EA’s previous track record with these things – the legend of Legends has hit the end of the line because it “doesn’t make enough revenue to sustain itself.” So then, nothing to see here, worth a throwaway mention and little else, move along, etc, right? Not entirely. There are some potentially far-reaching ramifications here – many of which spring from an incoming single-player standalone version EA’s releasing to compensate.

First up, here’s EA’s statement on the matter, via Dragon Age Legend’s official blog:

“Sad news to report today: On June 18, 2012 we’ll be turning off the Dragon Age Legends servers. This is by no means a reflection on the quality of the game; the awesome team who created it; or the incredible, passionate community who has supported it. The unfortunate reality is that DAL doesn’t make enough revenue to sustain itself. While it’s never fun to say goodbye, consider it only temporary. We’re also hard at work on our next core social projects, and we promise you they will be even more epic than anything we’ve done before.”

“As a “Thank You” to our community, we will offer a free, downloadable version of Dragon Age Legends that will be available at www.dragonagelegends.com shortly after the current version of the game shuts down; this will allow you to continue your journey in Dragon Age Legends as a solo player.”

The publisher also noted that any in-game currency won’t be transferable to other games after the DA D-Day (not to be confused with Father’s Day – though still an accurate statement, I suppose), so get on that if you ever, you know, actually played Legends.

So then, takeaways. First up, shock: a social game can’t survive on an awful, exploitative business model and major license alone. Hopefully EA will learn from this. And though a cynical mind might view EA’s social plays as quick-and-dirty marketing ploys, the publisher did take a fairly bold step into fun territory with Dragon Age Legends Remix 01. The Insomniac-developed Outernauts – at least, on paper – seems to suggest a similar goal.

This is also important insofar as it is – to my knowledge – the first online-only single-player-ish title EA’s decided to shut down. Given that the publishing giant quite enjoys shuttering servers and also seems to be embracing the alleged always online “future” with SimCity, this is an important precedent. Legends wasn’t even a particularly huge game, so it’s good to see that EA’s still willing to go the extra mile (or couple inches) to keep it playable past its expiration date.

Of course, I’d prefer to dispense with these silly (and potentially game-breaking, as Diablo’s shown) online requirements altogether, but this is something, at least. It’s one thing to say you’ll take care of customers when they’ve stopped hefting the full weight of your bottom line. Here’s hoping EA will continue to put its money where its mouth is and actually do something when/if the time comes.

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45 Comments »

  1. dawnmane says:

    That’s actually great news! I hope this is going to take precedence, so we won’t be robbed of our games when the servers are shut down.

    • Desmolas says:

      It’s not entirely great news. DA:Legends clearly didnt have much of a community even though he says so. What happens when its a game that does actually have a community?

      • dawnmane says:

        Well, isn’t a game with a large community even more likely to end up with an un-DRM’ed off-line version after a shutdown?

        • Grygus says:

          More to the point, if a game has a large community, it seems less likely to be shut down in the first place.

      • simoroth says:

        Actually your wrong. The game has 110 000 monthly users.

        If EA cant monetise that I don’t know why they are even bothering making F2p games.

        • Shuck says:

          It takes a surprising number of users to sustain even the cheapest free-to-play game. Zynga has shut down games that dropped below half-a-million monthly active players. Only 1-3% of players tend to spend any money at all, and if you have any developers actively working on the game, the expenses quickly add up.

          • Ultra-Humanite says:

            That’s not surprising in the least, in fact, that’s exactly what I would expect. The thing is, f2p games always sold the idea that it doesn’t take that many paying users to sustain the game for everyone, which is actually, not true at all.

          • Shuck says:

            Given how incredibly cheap they are, they don’t require, relatively speaking, that many paying users (and I’ve heard of some online games that have such devoted players that a tiny, tiny number of people spend outrageous sums of money on the game). The problem is that the number of people who pay is such a tiny percentage of users in most cases, so huge audiences are required. Which means the game has to have mass appeal, which is the problem with all “free” entertainment, including advertising supported media as well.

  2. Captchist says:

    Coming back to this Always On DRM malarkey.

    The way Diablo runs at the moment is tragic. Not in the sense that it’s truly awful, but in the traditional sense of – such a shame. Because the failed connections, massive lag, and days on unplayability are the real problem here, not the vision for always on multiplayer which I think is right. I played Diablo 1 and 2 and never gave a shit about multiplayer. In Diabloe 3 my entire play session has been multiplayer with about 9 different people because the moment I get into the game (“if” amirite?) they are right there wanting to play with me. It isn’t some optional mental hoop I have to jump through of – ugh, do I really want to multiplayer… maybe I’ll just play on my own. It’s easy and simple and encourages people who wouldn’t multiplay to do it.

    So Game breaking? Yes.
    Poorly implemented and released? Yes.
    Sillyness? Personally I don’t think so. I think the idea is a good one.
    I want to be able to play my games whenever I want, but having people so close to me that I can interact with them in a moment is part of the promise of the internet!
    Personally I’ll take easy multiplayer over offline play.

    • Toberoth says:

      Erm. This article is about DA:Legends and EA.

      • Captchist says:

        Whilst referencing Diablo 3, and ending up making a general statement about always on DRM “sillyness”

        • Toberoth says:

          Ah yeah ok, I reread your post and I can see the argument you’re making. But did DA:Legends have any of the benefits you’re talking about with reference to Diablo?

    • Dammokles says:

      It’s kinda like this:

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      RPS likes to throw in references to Diablo in all their other posts. The Eurogamer game of the week link in the Sunday Papers was Sunday Papers-unworthy as well. It does drive comments and pageviews, though…

  3. MiniMatt says:

    The server shut down aspect of this whole move to online only has consistently been the issue that concerns me most. Flakey internet, play on a train/plane/army base in the sandy armpit of nowhere – those are issues known in advance and can be weighed into a purchase or not decision.

    Server shut down however is something you have absolutely no control over, happens purely on the whims of an accounting department, and is something that’ll happen only *after* you’ve handed over your money.

    • Shuck says:

      Yeah, and it’s a fundamental, omnipresent risk of “games as services.” The problems are compounded by “free-to-play” games because players are usually spending money on things to give themselves future advantages in-game, rather than paying for a window of access (so players lose something of value when it gets shut down) and the temporary nature of free-to-play games (they require huge numbers of players to cover even modest maintenance costs).

  4. rustybroomhandle says:

    I still feel as if Dragon Age is EA’s throwaway brand. It’s as if it is a huge experiment in which they get to try every damn thing ever. They give us Facebook game, Japanese anime film, sequel completely unlike original.

  5. pilouuuu says:

    Always on-line single player gaming is a madness that has to end NOW!

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      These newfangled horseless carriages only serve to tie you to the ever more powerful oil industry. What’s wrong with a good old horse and cart? You could stop anywhere and have your horse munch some bushes, now you can’t even drive to places that don’t have gas stations yet!

      • Torgen says:

        And the horse can even eat your straw man argument in a pinch. Automobiles gave advantages over horses and carriages. Name an advantage always-on DRM in a single person game gives the consumer over a single person game with no always-on DRM.

        I thought so.

        • Ragnar says:

          Taking the side of the devil:

          1) Automatic install / patching – Installing and patching Civ 4 GotY is a complex process that requires following a guide. Some users ran into problems installing the Crysis 2 DX11 and High Red mod. Finding the patch for Mass Effect and Dragon Age was a trial in and of itself. With online-only, it automates the whole patching process so that all you might need to do is wait for it to download and install.

          2) Cloud saves – if you play from different computers, you can have your saved games and settings stored in the cloud, such that you could play during a lunch break at work, then pick up where you left off at home.

          3) Easily turning single player into multiplayer, and back – Diablo 3 is great at this. When I first got Diablo 3, I was doing it the old-school way: Message everyone, start a new party, start tossing out party invites to others as they come online, wait until everyone is invited and ready to go, and then, finally, starting the game. Then I realized that I can skip most of that. I message everyone, start my game and start playing. When they’re ready, they click one button to join my game in progress. If I have to leave, I quit out, but they can keep playing. It’s never been this easy to play together with my friends.

          • Phantoon says:

            1: Steam does that.

            2: Steam does that too.

            3: That’s a limitation of Civ 4 itself or any other game without it, but your argument is flawed anyways- you’re not playing single player in an always online game- you’re playing by yourself in a multiplayer game, much like how you can solo in WoW.

          • malkav11 says:

            All of those features can be trivially delivered without forcing players to maintain a permanent connection to remote servers. Sure, the servers in question need to exist for them, and the user needs to be connected to them at the particular time they desire to use the feature in question, but there’s no need to force them on the player.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I think that this is good news. I don’t care about Dragon Age Legends, but the fact that they release a free offline version of an online-only game, after they shut it down, gives me a little optimism about how EA will handle similar situations in the future.

    • Premium User Badge

      RobF says:

      Little consolation for those who put real money into the online version though.

    • Moraven says:

      But we can’t expect LoL to last forever. Or TF2. As long as it lasts long enough to get your money’s worth that you put it. At the end you do not own a thing.

      EA shuts down anything 1-2 years after if there is not CoD large communities. In the past we expected the ability for online games to last forever, especially since the community could put up their own servers. Now EA is controlling all the matchmaking servers and simply shut off servers once the game stops selling.

      Also, I miss Earth & Beyond. =/ Release it to the community!

    • Cooper says:

      Your optimism is predicated upon EA having a coherent policy across their games and platforms.

      EA are second only to Ubisoft in having the most absurdly schizoid practices when it comes to DRM, longevity, platforms and over-arching policy.

  7. aliksy says:

    I’ve never played DA:Legends. What made it so bad?

    • Kadayi says:

      RPS default stance is when in doubt assume it’s terrible, plus it’s Facebook and EA so sneering at it is cool. Though of course if it was made by Valve it would be the greatest thing ever.

      Soren Johnson (of Civ 4 fame) designed it BTW.

      • Phantoon says:

        Can you explain how it was good, then? I heard you were limited from doing anything if you didn’t spam invite people and spend money on it.

        • Kadayi says:

          Nah. I had 3 friends with characters I could call on and I got by fine. It’s a game that you play for a few minutes on a day, not something that you spend hours on. The key think was to get a good potion production line on the go and after that you were sorted.

  8. Premium User Badge

    particlese says:

    I have little interest in playing the game, but I’m also optimistic about this move and count it toward the “better preservation of gaming history” department, something written about every so often in The Sunday Papers.

  9. .backslash says:

    Oh hey there, EA. DA: Legends isn’t very good, you say? How about going back to the infinitely better Journeys? No? Well then you can continue fucking right off.

    Seriously, Dragon Age seems to be the only series consistently *regressing* over time, with each installment so far being a step back from its predecessor in almost every respect.

  10. Brun says:

    This is great news because perhaps it will encourage developers to quit spending money on stupid Facebook tie-in games.

  11. Tony M says:

    This is excellent news. DA Legends had some good game design. It was just crippled by the money generating “energy” mechanic, and a reliance on recruiting “friends” to help. If they make an offline version that removes energy and its balanced for solo play it would actually be quite good and RPS should re-Wot I Think it after the rerelease.

    • Kadayi says:

      ^This. Personally I quite enjoyed it whilst I played it. Mechanistically it was sound and it had some tactical depth to it. Will be interested to see what they do with they do with it.

      • Phantoon says:

        So there was an actual game buried underneath the “GIVE US ALL YOUR MONEY” stuff?

        • Kadayi says:

          Heaven forbid developers expect to make money off of games. Sure you could pay for things if you wanted. I won’t deny I spent a little on it, but nothing substantial. Just enough to upgrade my castle production line.

  12. craigdolphin says:

    That’s great news :) A standalone version is exactly what I’d have liked to try since the game was announced. Journeys was a fun little game. Hopefully this will be too.

  13. Ministry says:

    I hope EA and Maxis are paying close attention to Diablo 3s failings with it’s “always online for the players benefit” design.

  14. malkav11 says:

    I applaud this decision, but it’s not really something from which we can draw useful conclusions, especially not in the arena of always-online DRM. The possbility that a company may do the right thing and decouple their game from their servers before they shut them down is not enough reason to accept that it’s chained to those servers in the first place, nor enough to warrant buying said game before the DRM’s taken off. And the removal of DRM from one game does not automatically mean a company will do the same with any other games.