Why Did Infinite Crisis Fail?

By Jeff Francis
Why did Infinite Crisis fail?

One of the more interesting features of mmo games is that, just like a living person, they go through a life cycle. In the beginning, there's the development and testing phases. Then the game springs into the world to make its mark. After a number of years, the game begins to fade as the player population dwindles. Finally, there's the final end when the game shuts down. Normally such a journey takes quite a few years, normally a decade, to go through this cycle, but such was not the case with Infinite Crisis. The DC comics-themed moba recently let their players know that the game was shutting down in August despite the fact that the moba just officially launched roughly two months ago. Why did Infinite Crisis fail?

Infinite Crisis match

While the announcement that Turbine was developing Infinite Crisis wasn't met with universal acclaim, there were some factors going for it initially. The first is that Turbine is an experienced mmo company, releasing both Dungeons and Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online. While their moba experience was nil, they had shown that they could successfully adapt the intellectual property of other companies. Second, there were no superhero-themed free moba games on the market. Finally, Turbine poured quite a bit of resources into the game, which can be seen in the quality of visuals. Comic book movies and tv shows are hot right now, so why is Infinite Crisis shutting down?

There's been chatter that Infinite Crisis was in trouble for some time. There was an interesting forum thread that was mainly discussing Lord of the Rings Online that featured an ex-employee of Turbine. They talked quite candidly about how much manpower and money was being spent on Infinite Crisis, but the real bombshell was when they disclosed that a friend of theirs, who is on the IC team, told them that the game was averaging less than a thousand concurrent users. In the world of moba games, that's really scraping the bottom of the barrel. Sites that reviewed the game also acknowledged the low player population. A game built on PvP cannot survive without a large pool of gamers.

I have some thoughts on why Infinite Crisis failed, but please note that I normally don't play moba games. (I have sloth-like reflexes.) These are just my observations of someone on the outside looking in. The first reason for the game's failure was the limited number of champions available. Currently, there are just over forty champions to choose from, and a good number of those were added after the initial launch. While that number seems decent, the fact is that several characters had multiple representations. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern all have more than one version. Between the four of them, they actually account for twelve champions in total, over a full quarter of the entire roster. There are a number of other heroes and villains that appear multiple times as well. While having three or four versions of Superman can be cool, they're still Superman when you get down to it. Personally, I think that the free mmo would have been better served by having a greater variety when it launched.

The second reason for Infinite Crisis shutting down is the moba genre itself. There are literally dozens of high quality mobas available, so it's very difficult for a new game to force their way into the marketplace and grab a meaningful share of it. The sad reality is that there are entrenched games like League of Legends and Dota 2 that seem to suck up all the air of the moba atmosphere. Even smaller games like SMITE are making a name for themselves, especially with their recent big money world championships. While new players are venturing into the moba genre, they're gravitating towards the big name games. This is not good news if you need to see a quick return on your investment as it would take a great deal of time to build up a player base.

The last reason that I can think of for Infinite Crisis failing is competition from other DC video games. While the concept of a DC-themed moba sounds great, there are plenty of other options for gamers that are looking for some intense superhero combat in the DC universe. One such example is Injustice: Gods Among Us that has sold over 2.4 million units for the Xbox and PlayStation. That particular game was created by the same people who did the Mortal Kombat series, so right there you have a fighting superhero game created by people with a big pedigree for fun combat games. The other big competitor is the Arkham series of video games featuring Batman. The response to these games have been phenomenal, and the hype is building for the fourth installment, Batman: Arkham Knight, that set to be released later this month. That series has sold in the millions as well. As you can see, gamers looking for some hardcore superhero combat have some compelling choices already. Other moba games don't have this issue as there's no League of Legends or SMITE spinoff.

With all the above factors, it's easy to see why the Infinite Crisis mmo never caught on. Despite having a lot of time, money, and manpower poured into it, there were some serious obstacles facing it. The first is that the moba genre is not only crowded, but it's also dominated by a few 800 pound gorillas. (Okay, one 800 pound gorilla and a number of 200 pound gorillas!) Next is that the champion selection was somewhat limited with quite a few versions of the biggest DC heroes taking up a large chunk of the roster spots. Finally, there was direct competition for players from other DC-themed fighting games that are of high quality. While I think Turbine gave it a really good shot, I fear that the odds were stacked against them. There's just too much competition, both within the moba genre and from other DC superhero video games, for Infinite Crisis to overcome. It's for those reasons why I think Infinite Crisis failed.

Jun102015

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