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 Meridian 59  Developer Near Death Studios Closes

Meridian 59 Developer Near Death Studios Closes

January 5, 2010 | By Eric Caoili

January 5, 2010 | By Eric Caoili
More: Console/PC

Near Death Studios, which purchased landmark MMORPG Meridian 59 in 2001 and has maintained the game since, announced it is closing its doors after five years "on life support".

Originally developed by Archetype Interactive and launched commercially by The 3DO Company in 1995, Meridian 59 was one of the first known 3D massively multiplayer online roleplaying games. The subscription-based PC title featured graphics that many often compared to Doom's, as it used a similar proprietary graphics engine that rendered sprite-based objects in its 3D world.

Meridian 59 was already long in the tooth when The 3DO Company shut it in 2000, but Near Death Studios, a studio founded a year later by the game's former developers Rob "Q" Ellis and Brian "Psychochild" Green, purchased its rights and re-launched Meridian 59 in 2002 with hopes of updating the title and growing its community.

"Unfortunately, M59 never really grew," Green admits in his personal blog. "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."

He reveals that while the company made enough money for some advertising and maintaining its servers in the U.S. and Germany, Near Death Studios didn't have enough to grow the community like the team needed. Green says Meridian 59's 2004 upgrade Evolution, which offered a more modern alternative to its Doom-like graphics, didn't help much in the face of its more popular competition.

"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 World of Warcraft 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."

He says the "killing blow", though, was the studio losing its billing provider, making it unable to process credit cards for subscriptions. After a deal to secure another billing provider fell through following several months of negotiations, Near Death Studios decided to finally call it quits.

"Honestly, the last five years the company has just been on life support," says Green. "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. ... So, this has been bittersweet for me. It's been a long time coming."

Green reassures players that the game Meridian 59 will still be available but won't be running as a commercial concern with Near Death Studios owning it.

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