Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

31 December, 2009

End of an era: shutting down Near Death Studios, Inc.
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 6:09 PM

Just so the Meridian 59 fans who read this first don’t wet themselves: The game will continue running. It just won’t be running as a commercial concern with Near Death Studios owning it.

But, today is the official last day of the company. We started it early in 2001 to make games and got the opportunity to buy the rights from Meridian 59 from 3DO; that game dominated NDS’s life.

If you’re interested in some details, read after the jump.

As I’ve wrote before, the company has had an interesting past. We started the company with three co-founders, two in California and one across the country. Early in the company’s history the other Californian founder dropped out right before we got the opportunity to buy M59.

We had hoped that M59 would be the springboard to other successes. We focused a lot of effort in getting M59 launched. Most people were amazed we were able to launch an MMO with just a handful of people. Others said that “of course!” we could relaunch M59, since online games never really die; I still find that humorous given how many online games have slipped into oblivion.

Unfortunately, M59 never really grew. We were lucky that we got a lot of attention for keeping an old game alive from the press. We also had a small and dedicated group of fans willing to keep the game alive. But, the press didn’t really care about our attempts to improve the game, and the fans weren’t interested in trying to attract new players. So, we were in a purgatory where we had enough money to keep moving forward, even spend some on things like advertising, but not enough to really grow like we needed.

The death knell was probably when we tried to do a massive upgrade to the client, getting an actual 3D hardware accelerated renderer instead of the DOOM-era software renderer. We finished this project a few months before WoW launched, and any fanfare we tried to generate was drowned in the flood of WoW excitement. On top of that, WoW cannibalized our subscribers (like it did for many other games), so we had even less income to deal with.

Honestly, the last five years the company has just been on life support. I haven’t taken a regular salary from the company in many years now. There’s enough money to keep the server running and someone to do the minimum maintenance required. But, little work has been done on the game, and believe me the fans have noticed. :)

The killing blow was losing our billing provider. We no longer had a credit card processor for subscriptions. We talked to another company, but after several months of false starts they told me they were dropping the project since they had sunk so much money into it without result. Which is sad, because they didn’t tell me that anything was wrong until they just dropped it. While deciding how to handle the situation, it was decided that closing down the company was the best option.

On the bright side, it’s kind of cool to have kept a business running for almost 9 years despite all the ups and downs. I’ve gained a lot of business, game design, and game administration experience. I’ve met a lot of great people over the years.

So, this has been bittersweet for me. It’s been a long time coming. I kind of wish things had gone differently; there were a few opportunities in the past that the company failed to act on. Nothing that would have let us become the next Blizzard, but things that could have give the company (and me) a different trajectory. Little sense fixating on the past at this point, though.

In my personal life, I’ve been seeing a lot of stories about life passing people by. I feel like I’ve been pretty passive in my life the past few years. I think I’m going to use this opportunity to make a break from the past and focus more on the future. Make it’s time to step my plans up a notch and make a new game.

At any rate, happy new year all. Let’s hope it brings better times for all.


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33 Comments »

  1. Sad to hear of NDS’s demise, but glad to hear you’re taking it as an opportunity to change things up. Best wishes for a New Year.

    Comment by Tuebit — 31 December, 2009 @ 9:31 PM

  2. Yeah, you seem positive about the finality of it, which is good. While I would rather you have ferraris and mansions, I am glad that you can take good stuff away from the experience. Good luck in 2010, and keep us posted here, of course. :)

    Comment by Ravious — 31 December, 2009 @ 10:30 PM

  3. The best is yet to come. The best is yet to come :)

    Comment by Dave Toulouse — 31 December, 2009 @ 11:49 PM

  4. Good timing though. Out with the old, in with the new? Happy new year :)

    Comment by Ysharros — 1 January, 2010 @ 6:28 AM

  5. Thanks to everyone connected with Near Death Studios for making such a significant contribution to the MMO genre. Best wishes for the future.

    Comment by Stabs — 1 January, 2010 @ 6:52 AM

  6. real shame the game started me on an internet game rollercoster and in back at the end of NDS, look forward to more from you Psychochild! GL for the future.

    Comment by Angellis — 1 January, 2010 @ 7:16 AM

  7. Sad news indeed. I’m glad you ended the post sounding very positive. Good luck!

    Comment by Grimfire — 1 January, 2010 @ 9:14 AM

  8. Sorry to hear that, Brian, but as you said when one door shuts, another opens! Stay positive and good luck!

    Comment by We Fly Spitfires — 1 January, 2010 @ 10:45 AM

  9. If you make a new game you better let me know to check it out :D

    Comment by Infekt — 1 January, 2010 @ 11:10 AM

  10. I’m sorry to hear that Brian. I’m sure you will make great strides forwards, and look forwards to playing the new game you will make.

    Comment by Dblade — 1 January, 2010 @ 3:52 PM

  11. R.I.P NDS

    Comment by CodeJustin — 1 January, 2010 @ 6:17 PM

  12. Good luck with your future endeavors.

    Comment by Tony Vahl — 2 January, 2010 @ 10:29 PM

  13. /AFK – The New Decade Edition

    [...] Psychochild bids farewell to Meridian 59’s studio [...]

    Pingback by Bio Break — 3 January, 2010 @ 7:44 AM

  14. Checking in with my blog roll

    [...] Brian Green, a great friend to Epic Slant, is always an interesting read. Unfortunately on my tour of blogs today his most recent article isn’t a happy one. He discusses the end of the studio responsible for Meridian 59. [...]

    Pingback by Epic Slant – MMO Design and Guild Leadership — 3 January, 2010 @ 8:10 AM

  15. Don’t feel too bad. You were a resounding success in the minds of all of the players, even if some are bitter about the details. You kept our favorite game going for almost a decade. We won’t forget :)

    Comment by Gar — 3 January, 2010 @ 6:55 PM

  16. It’s never fun when someone else’s bad work scuttles your efforts. I *really* don’t like depending on other people in a business scenario. (Must be why I solo MMOs, too.)

    Here’s hoping you get a shot at something more successful. :)

    Happy New Year! Dust those feet off, eh?

    Comment by Tesh — 4 January, 2010 @ 10:02 AM

  17. Near Death Games is calling it quits

    [...] of a few good-natured ribs concerning the now-infamous “Meridian 59 panel” . The shutting-down of NDG is a little sad for me [...]

    Pingback by D*C MMO, home of The SnarkCast — 4 January, 2010 @ 11:23 AM

  18. Brian, I still remember, quite fondly, the infamous “Meridian 59″ panel at Dragon*Con several years ago. As time passes, and I have learned more about this business, I have come to appreciate and admire your passion and dedication to M59. Best wishes to your future endeavors, and I hope to see you at D*C again someday.

    -Grim

    Comment by Grim — 4 January, 2010 @ 11:28 AM

  19. sorry to hear the bad news, but like you said you have gained a lot of experience.

    best luck to you.

    Comment by radlee — 4 January, 2010 @ 1:15 PM

  20. Sorry to see you guys close down; although it was never my game, it still serves as a sort of “end of an era” marker. I can remember first seeing Meridian 59 in Comp USA and thinking “Huh, a game over the internet?”. That must have been fall of 1996… before you could even buy broad-band in Austin. I wish you luck with your future efforts — hopefully, doing something new will be loads of fun!

    Comment by Adam Connor — 4 January, 2010 @ 4:01 PM

  21. Brian,

    Sorry to hear that you are closing the doors on NDS. M59 was my first job in the game industry. I was glad to be one of the pioneers for commercial and graphic MMO’s via the internet. I remember when you first joined the M59 team at 3DO and was excited to hear that you eventually purchased M59 in order to keep it going.

    I am now sad to see it becoming no more than a footnote in the history of gaming. I wish you luck in your endeavors. If you have any Psycho ideas for games in the Near future shoot me an email or toss me a Linkedin message.

    Rico aka Guardian ReQuiem server 110

    Comment by Rico aka "Guardian ReQuiem" — 5 January, 2010 @ 2:42 PM

  22. Meridian 59 Developer Closing

    [...] continue to run. Unfortunately, that’s about to change. Near Death Studios’ Brian Green wrote in a blog post that the company is near death — [...]

    Pingback by Brave New Gamer — 5 January, 2010 @ 5:26 PM

  23. A whole bunch of news tidbits

    [...] Near Death Studios, the company that has been behind Meridian 59 for the last nine years or so, is c… The game will keep running, but it won’t be a business concern anymore. [...]

    Pingback by Raph’s Website — 5 January, 2010 @ 9:02 PM

  24. Brian, sorry to hear about this, but it’s had a really good run. Thanks for keeping it going all these years.

    Comment by Mike Sellers — 5 January, 2010 @ 10:25 PM

  25. Sorry to see this Brian. Having known you since back in the LtM days I know how much this project meant to you. I wish you well in any other projects you take on.

    Comment by DarkDryad — 6 January, 2010 @ 8:20 AM

  26. Interested to see what you do next. After having just watched “Up in Air”, I can’t help but picturing handing you a packet and telling you this is an opportunity to do something you have always wanted (its a pretty sad movie overall, but worth seeing).

    Comment by Syncaine — 6 January, 2010 @ 12:33 PM

  27. Congratulations on keeping Meridian 59 going so long – and presumably for quite a while longer yet! I’m not going to send any condolences because I’m sure whatever you do next will turn out even better for all the experience you’ve gained, and I think you’ll enjoy the change of pace of starting something new from scratch, and find it invigorating. Best wishes for your next game!

    — Dr. Cat

    Comment by Dr. Cat — 6 January, 2010 @ 2:44 PM

  28. I was sad to hear of the end of NDS and an official Meridian 59 game. If you are going to continue to run the game, is there a place where we can donate towards operating costs? Horrible I know, but now that I know it’s gone I wish I could play it again. Anyway, thanks for being such a huge part of one of the best games ever. I’m excited to see what’s in store for you next.

    Comment by wightlight — 6 January, 2010 @ 4:07 PM

  29. Thanks for keeping it going as long as you did. I’ll always have fond memories of Meridian59.

    Comment by Glamdring — 7 January, 2010 @ 12:17 PM

  30. Aw man, I’m really sorry to hear about this Brian.

    You know what though? It sounds like you absolutely took the right things away from it. You’re also the only guys I know of that have tried something quite like this.

    Let me know if you need anything. I think 2009 was the year of everyone building character, and I can already tel 2010 is the year for taking leaps =)

    Comment by Mike Darga — 8 January, 2010 @ 7:20 PM

  31. Sorry to see this happen but I wish you well on you future plans, Meridian was my first graphical game on line. While it was not my first online game it did set the bar, at the time for the others to follow. Good Luck

    the one and only Tondar from 107

    Comment by Tondar — 12 January, 2010 @ 1:11 PM

  32. It sucks that this needed to happen. I hope this can provide you all with a good opportunity to do something greater!

    Comment by Chris Goldie — 24 January, 2010 @ 4:42 AM

  33. Chris Carter, Joss Whedon, Google, and NCsoft

    [...] the Desert worked out how few (under 1000) paying players it needed to stay alive. Brian Green has kept Meridian 59 alive even when revenue is less than the cost of electricity and [...]

    Pingback by Kill Ten Rats — 21 March, 2013 @ 10:04 PM

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