City of Heroes was a beloved MMORPG that launched in April 2004 and lasted just over eight years. In that time it won a dedicated community of players who, even after the game died, kept playing the MMO via private servers that existed in a weird legal gray area. But now, the developers behind City of Heroes have given one private server the official thumbs-up to keep on keeping on.
In 2012, the superhero MMO City of Heroes was officially shut down. A lot of people were upset and sad about it. But not everyone stopped playing. In 2019, it became public that a secret, unofficial private server running the game had existed in the years since the game’s death. Following a meltdown of the game’s community, the folks running that server eventually released the game’s code online and some other private servers popped up. But there was always a fear—hence the first private server being kept secret for so long—that developer NCSoft would one day show up and put a stop to all this since the company owned the original code and IP.
But on January 4, the devs behind the unofficial fan-run project Homecoming announced that NCSoft had no plans to kill the most popular City of Heroes private server. Instead, the company did something surprising and provided the devs with an official license to maintain a City of Heroes server.
In a post published today on the Homecoming forums, the folks behind the private server thanked fans for waiting patiently over the last few years after teasing in 2019 that it was in talks with NCSoft about the project.
“Homecoming has been granted a license to operate a City of Heroes server and further develop the game – subject to conditions and limitations under the contract – but, as between us and NCSoft, NCSoft still owns the City of Heroes intellectual property and its derivatives,” the devs behind the project explained.
The devs confirmed that accounts and characters are “safe” and won’t be deleted. They also announced that new content will continue to be created for Homecoming, that access will remain free, and that the project will continue to be funded entirely through fan donations.
As part of this new deal, it seems other private servers might not stick around. The team hopes players will come to Homecoming and they can centralize the community more. The Homecoming team confirmed that part of the deal requires a single “in-house installation and patching solution” and this was why the team spent time developing its own launcher.
While there are still plenty of questions and details to work out, the overall reaction has been mostly positive. This is a surprising turn of events and a very rare example of fans being allowed to officially keep a game alive. It also shows that there are ways to preserve and keep MMOs going after they officially shut down, assuming there is fan interest and support for the dead game.
MMOs have always been a tricky thing for game preservationists to deal with and this City of Heroes deal shows that there are other solutions available if companies can play nice with fans and modders.