Barely a money maker?
As much as I hate to admit this because I freaking hate that game... World of Warcraft was our only real competition. There are multiple games like this out on the market... even oddly enough one that was made by the SAME STUDIO!
Remember Cryptic Studios originally developed City of Heroes with Statesman as the lead developer at the time. They sold their half of the rights to NCSoft at which point Positron took over as the lead developer. And I'm using their character names here because I find it kinda funny how the story in game eventually copied real life. Except in game Statesman died but still Positron ended up taking over his position in both cases.
Anyway... what was the first thing Cryptic Studios did after selling of City of Heroes? They made a knock off version of the exact same game, Champions Online. Even that didn't do as well as City of Heroes did... even after City of Heroes shut down and a lot of players moved over to Campions Online hoping to get a similar experience it still didn't do as well as City of Heroes did.
I myself jumped from one MMO to another during that gap trying to find a game as good as City of Heroes and never stuck with one for more than the free trial. In a lot of cases I stopped playing before the free trial even ran out cause they were boring as hell.
City of Heroes was one of the top selling games at the time. It really should be the number one best selling game. I can't comprehend how the hell World of Warcraft manages to outsell us other than maybe it's been around longer because the game isn't even good. That was one of the games I tried... and I tried it multiple times actually because other people kept telling me how great it was but I got bored after 10 minutes every time I tried to play.
My personal issues with WoW vs. CoH…
1. Custom characters simply don't exist. You can change the faces a little bit and that's pretty much the extent of it. I enter the game and every player I run into all look exactly like me. This is a common problem I had in a LOT of MMOs I tried. In City of Heroes... I kinda had this issue with Stone armor back in the day because it use to completely cover the character. That's not a problem anymore. I also had this issue with the Kheldian forms which is a little less of an issue now with power customization. And the Arachnos archetypes being forced to wear the uniform for their first costume slot. I know they can change that with their other costume slots but still I remade my Arachnos characters about 20 times changing their costume colors until I could play the game without running into someone who looked exactly like me. Even with those few limitations on those specific archetypes and power sets City of Heroes/Villains still has more options than any other game I've ever played. It took me a while to customize certain characters to my liking but I managed it. WoW, you can literally only change the character's face. This is partly due to the cloths in the game having an actual function for defense and damage resistance but they couldn't at least have different styles with the same stats? I mean I kinda got the impression that even if I could customize the look of my character to not look like every other player that I would have to sacrifice stats to do it since most players would naturally want the best items in the game and going for what looks good to me vs. what's practical would probably hinder my character... a lot. The first things you see in these games is the character creator and the main appeal of these types of games is getting to create your own character so I don't understand how a game with the worst character creator ever manages to be the top selling MMO above the game with the best character creator ever.
2. Variety of missions... City of Heroes has multiple different mission types including hunting, defeat all, blinkie, rescue/kidnap (hero/villain), defeat a boss, various mixes of all these things... plus with AE you can create your own missions. No other game lets you do that. WoW only has ONE type of mission... Hunting... which is arguably one of the WORST types of missions. It's the only mission in City of Heroes that didn't have a way point to tell you where to go, they just tell you defeat X number of these enemies and you have to figure out where to even find them. That's the entire game on WoW, there are no door missions. Another thing that makes these types of missions so bad is kill stealing. That's not a problem when you're on a mission map because only you and members of your team have access to that map. But an open world hunting mission means everyone has access to that map and likely they need to hunt the same enemies you do. It's freaking annoying. I would rather have to lead a stupid NPC who gets lost if you move more than 2 feet away from them to a door than deal with hunting missions all the time. This is a huge part of why I got bored so fast. I kept doing one mission after another and I was like if I was playing City of Heroes right now I'd have gotten a real mission by now. Why even get quests if they're all going to hunts anyway. If that's all you're doing anyway you can street sweep without ever speaking to a contact.
3. Speaking of Contacts... WHERE THE HELL ARE THEY? I was lucky in that I had my cousin and other people who already knew the game to show me where to go because the game doesn't have waypoints. If I was a new player who didn't know anyone I would of quit WoW even faster because NOTHING is explained to you about how the game even works. City of Heroes is really easy for new players to get into because way points in the game tell you where to go most of the time. In fact of all the MMOs I tried WoW was the only game that didn't have a single way point anywhere. Without my cousin helping me out I would of just quit immediately. I couldn't even find my first contact without his help. He basically took the place of the way point for me because the game didn't have one.
4. Worse than not having way points is not having a freaking map! I mean there is a map if you want to call it that but it's totally useless. The point of a map is to tell you were things are in the world and help you find your way. City of Heroes did that from day one and the maps even got better as time progressed adding points that didn't use to be there. Like Pocket D use to be a secret club... You either stumbled into it by accident or weren't sure if it even really existed. Now it's just on the map and everyone knows about it. WoW's "map" has ZERO information on it. It's basically the equivalent of the world map in City of Heroes. I never use the world map because same problem, it doesn't tell me anything. The only map I actually use is the zone map and that's what WoW is seriously lacking.
5. UI... Honestly City of Heroes has the cleanest looking UI I have ever seen. There's a specific trey for powers, a specific trey for inspirations. You can easily move and rearrange everything to your liking. It's very easy to see when a power is recharging. In WoW I can't see shit. Everything looks the same, powers and inspirations are all mixed together. Even the recharge animation is almost impossible to make out. That last part might just be because I'm color blind. In CoH when a power is recharging it seems to shrink and turn grey till it comes back and is ready to be used again. WoW the powers look exactly the same. There's like a little clock hand thing that appears over the power but this also happens while the power is in use so it happens twice, once for the animation of the power itself and again for the power recharging. And this is so hard to make out when you're color blind that I'm just hitting buttons randomly till something happens. I have no clue what I'm even clicking on because everything looks the same. Not a problem in City of Heroes.
Oh and the targeting is a lot easier to see too. CoH puts that square box around the entire character and if you some how can't see that, press F and you'll go directly to that target. WoW puts a circle on the ground around the target's feet which is harder to see and there's no follow so a lot of the time I have no freaking clue who I'm even fighting. They can be standing directly in front of me and I'll still have no clue who I'm even targeting. I've died multiple times in WoW simply because I didn't know who my target was. I'd target an enemy in a mob, walk toward where I thought I was targeting, start hitting powers only for NOTHING to work because my target some how wasn't in range.
All of these things combined just made WoW boring, repetitive, and irritating to play and I just could not understand how anyone got into that when so many basic game mechanics seemed broken and game breaking compared to City of Heroes.
I even played an MMO with a better alignment system than City of Heroes has. Every mission was designed with system in place that would push you more to good or evil and it was done so much more fluidly than in City of Heroes. It's not a simple click this option in a window and BAM you're a Vigilante now. Like as an example, you're given a mission to rescue an NPC. There's no window that pops up asking if you want to save him or kill him. You can either just lead him out like you would do in a rescue mission on CoH or... the NPC is actually a targetable attackable NPC just like all the enemies so at any time you can decide to kill him by actually attacking him the same way you would any other enemy in the game. There's a progress bar not only for XP but also for your alignment. It starts neutral and goes more blue or red depending on your choices during missions. If you do what you were suppose to do or if you do something against what the mission objective was. It's actually more in like with what I thought Going Rogue would be when it was first announced... despite that and ironically even being a STAR WARS game that MMO still wasn't as good as CoH cause the alignment system was really the only good thing about that game. The archetypes were really unbalanced. Like one of them was literally just entertainer. One of the missions I got was just to stand on a stage and dance for ten minutes. Pretty much everyone was either a Jedi/Sith (Same archetype you're alignment determines what side you're on.) or a Bounty Hunter because those were the only archetypes that really did anything.
Star Wars arguably has a much bigger fan base as a whole but as far as just the MMO games go... they actually tend to under perform for what they should be. City of Heroes easily beat that. WoW was our only real competition... as much as I don't understand WHY WoW is so bloody popular. It doesn't seem like they've really done anything to improve the game play, it's still the same crap that they had when it first came out. They release new races and enemies and keep raising the level cap with every update but they don't do anything to improve the game for new players. They've got something like 80 last I heard, levels of content but that content is just non stop hunting... you know the same exact thing you did at level 1. Our level cap has always been 50 and some how we still manage to have more content without ever once raising the level cap. Our idea of more content involves actually adding content not just raising the level cap and being more of the exact same thing.
On top of that... people were also spending real money on expansion packs for City of Heroes that arguably should have been free. I'm not talking about City of Villains and Going Rogue, those were actually worth the price. I'm talking about those costume packs that included just one new costume set, a couple emotes, and maybe some sort of power. I never had access to that stuff till Homecoming because I refused to pay for something that should of just been a free update. A lot of people did pay for that stuff though even though it was a total rip off. A lot of people continued to pay for the game even after it went free because certain parts of the game like Incarnate content still required a monthly subscription. I logged onto Lord Imperial once after I left before the servers shut down and noticed a lot of the powers I had already unlocked had been greyed out because I wasn't a subscriber I didn't have access to certain powers. Had to pay to get those powers active again. They also for some reason decided that Masterminds should be locked behind a pay wall and since a lot of my characters were Masterminds I couldn't even log onto those characters.
I think I heard that over a billion players had been logged on the last day of live... considering the entirely population of the planet is around 7 billion that's at least 1/7 of the total population of the planet and with being the second best selling game, only being beat out by that POS WoW... how do you figure it was barely a money maker?
Also... South Korea? You know when City of Heroes first launched it was only available in the U.S. and Canada right. So what makes you think that South Korea is their primary player base when the game wasn't even available in that region till about 2-3 years after the game first launched? Maybe it wasn't a big money maker in South Korea but the game had already made millions of dollars before it ever released in South Korea. They were expanding the market to other countries and it did pretty well in most of the world. Their Primary player base would still be right here in the U.S. though because that's where it started not in some country that as you claim never even showed interest. That's an oximoron statement by the way because primary player base suggests that most of their player base is from that area which can't be true if that same area also never had any interest in the game. Only one of those things can be true, either that's the primary player base or they never had any interest, it can't be both.
All that being said... I got the impression from reading the announcement and from the fact that there's a bunch of unfinished content they were still working on that the Developers at NCSoft never really wanted to shut the servers down but rather someone higher up in the company made the decision because they wanted to focus on new titles rather than updating and maintaining a 12ish at the time year old property. Usually decisions like that are just about what's been around for a really long time that I can get rid of to make room for something new rather than this isn't making any money so I don't want to keep putting money into it if it's not turning a prophet. That's usually why any hugely popular successful franchise ends is just because someone wants to do something new instead of continuing to milk that cow. Though it seems the most successful businesses like Disney are that way because they never stop milking that cash cow. All the companies that are struggling seem to be doing so because they cancel their biggest money making properties solely based on age. Approximately 10 years seems to be a cut off point because these people seem to think that's about the time fans will lose interest and look for something else even though fans will continue to complain about the cancelation long after the fact.... hence the need to prove to someone within the company that City of Heroes still has a massive fan base. I mean they could shut us down but at some point other people are just going to create more private servers because no one wants to see this game die.