EA is closing down its online support for late 2008's Mercenaries 2: World In Flames. As of March 16th this year, you'll no longer be able to play a multiplayer or co-op round of a game that's been out for just seventeen months. This is part of another wave of EA gaming shutdowns that includes games barely a year old, as detailed on the rather optimistically named "Service Updates" section of EA's site.
Clearly expecting some upset at the news that a long list of games will now not be available to play online, EA issue the following comment:
"As background information, the games scheduled for shutdown in March and April 2010 represent less than 0.3% of all peak online players across all EA titles. Despite some people's perception, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work involved with keeping these older games up and running. We would rather our hard-working engineering and IT staff focus on keeping a positive experience for the other 99.7% of customers playing our more popular games. These decisions to retire games is never easy. The EA development teams and operational staff pour their hearts into these games almost as much as the customers playing them and it is hard to see one retired. We hope you have gotten many hours of enjoyment out of the games and we appreciate your ongoing patronage."
Also closing, amongst a number of PS3 and 360 games, is Lord Of The Rings: Conquest - barely over a year old. Obviously these titles must have proven extremely unsuccessful if maintaining their servers is no longer viable, but this is little consolation for those who paid £30 to £50 less than two years ago for games they had hoped to continue enjoying.
It asks the question: should games come with a warning on the box that their multiplayer features may be switched off at any time, with no compensation for customers? At the very least it has to inform future purchasing decisions. And as publishers increasingly push DRM models that require online activation (or even more berserk extremes if you're Ubisoft), learning that games are being completely switched off around the time you'd expect their budget edition to be released doesn't inspire confidence.