Digital Necromancy: How Ingenious Modders Quietly Revive Abandoned Multiplayer Games

When do you know an online game has truly died? Maybe you’ve returned to an old favorite after a few months off, only to find that all of your usual playmates have moved onto the next big thing. While it can be upsetting in the moment, it reflects an uncomfortable truth: Besides a handful of true outliers, even an outstanding traditional multiplayer game has a finite lifespan–sometimes measured in mere months.

As popular forever-games like Destiny 2 continue to soak up the playtime at the very top of the industry, the average life expectancy of less-mainstream multiplayer offerings has dwindled. In the last two years alone, several large publishers have unleashed a tidal wave of hype and marketing for projects that failed to live up to expectations, such as Valve’s doomed card game Artifact, or BioWare’s Iron Man fantasy simulator Anthem. But while most gamers have at least heard of these high-profile flops, there are dozens of multiplayer also-rans that don’t make much of an impression on launch day. From losers of the now-forgotten MOBA wars like Magicka: Wizard Wars to virtual card battlers like Might & Magic: Duel of Champions, simply put, some of these games fail so hard that no one even realizes that they failed at all.

However, while these games never quite gathered the critical mass of players that their publishers so desired, most of them do boast a devoted fanbase. So when a large company like Ubisoft looks at a niche card game like Duel of Champions and decides to shut its servers down, that leaves a substantial number of fans in the lurch–locked out of their favorite game, permanently. While many might just dismiss this as the unfortunate fate that will eventually befall almost every multiplayer game out there, there might be a solution to these fans’ woes. Unbeknownst to most of us, there are modders who specialize in bringing dead multiplayer games back to life. Ranging from singular hobbyists who just want a beloved favorite to rise from its grave, to non-gamer engineers who delight in the technical challenge that these projects present, you can find them if you know where to look.

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