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The grandfather of MMOs like WoW and FF14 shutting down after 27 years

27-year-old graphical MUD and MMORPG game The Realm Online is shutting down, and it's one of the games that helped birth the genre as we know it today.

06/26/2023 The Realm Online publisher Norseman Games provided an update after the initial statement, saying that one legacy server will remain online after June 30. “Our commitment to the player base remains unwavering, and we will keep the community informed on any progress or new developments in this space.”

Classic ’90s MMORPG game The Realm Online is shutting down 27 years after it first opened, marking an end to one of the grandfathers of the genre and early graphical MUDs, like Habitat. The Realm Online would go on to inspire Ultima Online, EverQuest, and help create MMOs as we know them today like FF14 and WoW.

The Realm Online is one of the oldest MMOs around, as it was released back in 1996 when MMOs weren’t really even a thing, instead being what was called a graphical MUD. Standing for multi-user dungeon, they’re sort of like an MMO except they used early gameplay tools and focused on more static images and text. While graphical MUDs led to MMOs, regular MUDs did the same thing but instead focused entirely on text for play.

Early MMOs like Ultima Online and EverQuest were heavily inspired by graphical MUDs, but The Realm Online actually came out just before them. RuneScape was even originally designed to be a graphical MUD at first too.

Look at it this way, without graphical MUDs like LucasArts’ Habitat and The Realm Online, we’d have no World of Warcraft of Final Fantasy 14, or at least not how they exist today. You can see what The Realm Online looks like now below.

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A message on The Realm Online forums from Wednesday, June 21, 2023 detailed the shutdown, as Realm Worlds attempted to acquire The Realm Online IP from current publisher Norseman Games.

“We are sad to inform you of a sudden and unexpected end to our journey together,” Realm Worlds says.

“The current agreement we have with Norseman Games gives us no path to acquiring the IP,” the statement continues. “This impedes our ability to direct more money into developing content for the game. As revenue from the game decreases year over year, the effective percentage of revenue that goes to Norseman increases, making it harder still. None of the LLC members have been compensated for over a year. We had full intention of exploring every possibility to grow the player base, but without a way to acquire the IP this isn’t a workable arrangement.”

According to a follow-up statement, subscription refunds should be rolling out for players right now, before the game servers shut down on Friday, June 30, 2023.

“We have immensely enjoyed our last five years together trying to make The Realm a better place to play. As you all know, we are all players ourselves so we will continue to see you around. We hope that development on the game continues and the game lives a long and fulfilling life,” the statement concludes.

If you want some more games like The Realm Online, check out our breakdown of the best fantasy games currently available on PC, alongside the best old games too, as there is still plenty worth playing today.