What Could Have Been: Paragon Nearly Bought Itself

By Nathan Grayson on April 12th, 2013 at 8:00 am.

Sigh.

City of Heroes is no more. Paragon perished, and with it, so did a home away from home for many colorful victims of radiation overdose. It was a sad day at RPS’ nuclear-powered space base, and not just because it meant the Justice League became our closest orbital neighbors. You’ll remember, though, that fans certainly didn’t go down without a THOOMKAPOWBIFFZOTT-ing fight. But, until now, we didn’t really know the other side of the story. Unsurprisingly, Paragon was waging a war of its own, and it was trying every last trick in the book to stay afloat. The part we never heard about, however, is how close the house that City of Heroes built came to pulling it off.

Apparently, another company was lined up to purchase Paragon from NCsoft, but discussions felt through at the last minute. So Paragon wheeled out the big red button and initiated its emergency backup plan: self-purchase. If successful, it would’ve become an independent entity, presumably with City of Heroes in tow.

So then, what went wrong? Former Paragon lead designer Matt Miller explained the tearful tale to Gamasutra:

“Things looked like they were going to go well and then things just kind of stopped going well. I’m not exactly sure where the sticking points were, but in the logistics of business there’s always some sticking point somewhere [on which] people just aren’t willing to budge and I think that’s where we ended up. There were one or two points where neither side could budge.”

“On the night before we all got the notice of the studio shutting down, Brian, Ross, and Destin were in there still trying to work out that deal. We were a signature away from things going through or not – and we unfortunately fell on the not side.”

Which is utterly heartbreaking to hear – a superpowered punch to the gut if ever there was one – especially in light of the content Paragon still had in the pipe for its mighty flagship. But hey, it’s not all bad. From CoH’s ashes have arisen things like the (thankfully still updating) Phoenix Project, which aims to rebuild City of Heroes from the ground up – or at least do a really, really, really good impression.

It sounds, however, like Paragon’s former staffers have largely scattered to the winds. Gama’s feature (which I highly recommend you read all of, if you get the chance) doesn’t have the happiest ending, but it’s closure nonetheless. Miller explained: ”A lot of people got severance as well on top of those 60 days. So, a lot of people went out and found jobs to start on November 1st to basically have stuff lined up. Within a couple weeks people were already lining up their own careers. Getting that new studio started just got harder and harder the longer time went on.”

“There were some core groups of close friends who would get together for coffee, go to the movies, get together for game nights and stuff. We continue to play games – board games and stuff. It’s become less and less [frequent] nowadays but there are still several of us who keep in touch.”

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14 Comments »

  1. Choca says:

    Well that sucks.

    Champions Online and DC Universe Online both have their strength and weaknesses (and CoH did too) but neither of them offers quite the same level of superhero hijinks that City of Heroes had.

    • Fenixius says:

      I just couldn’t deal with how irreverent and self-deprecating Champions Online was, but I gather some people did, since it’s still around and City of Heroes. How is DC Universe?

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        Screwie says:

        Yeah, while I do like Champions Online – the gameplay and customisation (especially for powers and powersets) is great – the level of humour, especially when it was first released, was extremely offputting.

        Most of CoH’s stories were straight-faced or, when they were humorous (the Television contact for instance), they were sophisticated and smart. The ongoing storyline kept us going for six years or more, because it was easy to get invested.

        CO’s pun-heavy humour was banal and omnipresent, it’s ‘high point’ an extended Anchorman reference with characters and lines taken from the film near verbatim. Why should I try to care about that world when the writers clearly didn’t?

      • djbriandamage says:

        DC Universe Online really is quite good. I can count on one hand the F2P MMOs I’ve paid for, and DCUO was one of those. My wife and I put a good 50 hours into that game.

  2. Fenixius says:

    Gamasutra’s feature doesn’t actually detail the ‘stumbling block’ which caused the whole thing to crash down around their ears, so I don’t really get why we had to lose City of Heroes :(

  3. Bahoxu says:

    Whenever i see an article about CoH i always kind of hope for a second or two that its going to be about CoH being resurrected. Its a good feeling.

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      Jonfon says:

      Even now I keep thinking to myself “I’m bored. I think I’ll log on to CoH and play a crime-fighting sea urchin for a bit” and then I remember I can’t. I miss you Echinoderm.

      Damn your eyes, NCSoft.

  4. soco says:

    This could be more about me not having any head for business, but that had to have been some type of serious stumbling block to decide that far into negotiations that NCSoft would close the studio, getting a total of $0 instead of selling it for anything at all which would have been above $0.

    • Shuck says:

      Apparently Paragon offered a substantial amount of money and were generally baffled when NC Soft didn’t go for it, so I’m not sure what the stumbling block could have been.

      • RonnieBoy says:

        Probably more to do with the fact that NCSoft doesn’t want to sell off an IP which could become a rival for any of its owned or future MMO projects. I mean I would love to get a reboot of Tabula Rasa, and I’m sure that Auto Assault fans would like that to make a comeback too. Short of a ridiculously sized lump sum of money, those IP’s aren’t gonna sold by NCSoft.

        I would guess that the only sticking point on this CoH deal was money, if more had been offered up the deal would have gone through.

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      Malibu Stacey says:

      Was about to post the exact same thing. I cannot understand how it made sense to NCSoft at all.

      I guess they must think the IP is worth more than what Paragon were offering. Which also makes no sense.

  5. doho7744 says:

    Ain’t no mystery, it’s standard operating procedure for NCsoft. Get an MMO let it run for a bit and when things head the slightest bit south cancel and give out coupons for your other MMO’s.

    They have done this several times. They cannibalize their poorer running games to prop up the companies favorites, and damn the customers.

    • arccos says:

      That seems to be it, yup. It seems having a company with a revolving stable of MMOs means you don’t realize/care when there’s something special about one (or more) of them.

      Reminds me of what Fox does with all their best shows, cancels them without even trying to promote them or sell them off. Maybe it’s because a show/game they sell off that becomes popular looks like the executive failed the first time around.

  6. MadTinkerer says:

    ”A lot of people got severance as well on top of those 60 days. So, a lot of people went out and found jobs to start on November 1st to basically have stuff lined up. Within a couple weeks people were already lining up their own careers.”

    Well that’s something of a silver lining. There are too many cases like 38 Studios, and too few like this where a company is forced to layoff and/or shut down but they try to ensure the process is as painless as possible. I’m somewhat less irritated at NCSoft now.