The Game is Dead ... Long Live the Game
If you spend any time on the 'official forums' of any game with a multiplayer component, it is inevitible that within months or perhaps weeks of release you will see posts along the lines of "the game is dying!" I was thinking about this as I looked at the playlist numbers below:
Looking at the stats on GameSpy as of October 24th ...
1. Half Life 30437 servers, 76271 players
2. Half Life 2 18512 servers, 59279 players
3. Battlefield 2 6359 servers, 40604 players
4. Call of Duty 6294 servers, 15528 players
5. Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory 3280 servers, 11617 players
6. Americas Army: Special Forces 1835 servers, 8663 players
7. Unreal Tournament 2004 2543 servers, 7310 players
8. Neverwinter Nights 1317 servers, 5833 players
9. Medal of Honor Allied Assault 2115 servers, 4622 players
10. Quake 3: Arena 1999 servers, 3821 players
11. Medal of Honor: Allied Assault Spearhead 1294 servers, 3766 players
12. Soldier of Fortune 2 1245 servers, 3485 players
13. Unreal Tournament 2157 servers, 3437 players
14. Battlefield 1942 811 servers, 2812 players
15. Halo: Combat Evolved 758 servers, 2579 players
16. Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy 700 servers, 1767 players
17. Battlefield 2 Demo 83 servers, 1342 players
18. SWAT 4 230 servers, 1101 players
19. Battlefield: Vietnam 252 servers, 922 players
20. Vietcong 284 servers, 817 players
21. Lord of the Rings: The Battle For Middle-Earth 218 servers, 754 players
22. Halo Demo 175 servers, 706 players
23. Return to Castle Wolfenstein 255 servers, 657 players
24. FEAR: First Encounter Assault Recon 222 servers, 615 players
25. FEAR: First Encounter Assault Recon Demo108 servers, 547 players
One game in particular I recall that sentiment being expressed strongly about was Jedi Academy. The supposed release (delayed to 14 months later) of HL2 eclipsed the release and drove down review scores, but the game sold fairly well, and has maintained an active community of modders and players for over 2 years.
Other 'old' games on there include Soldier of Fortune II, Medal of Honor Allied Assault and Return to Castle Wolfenstein. The bottom line is that so long as you can find a game you like and that has some players online (if you happen to like that thing), the game is alive and well.
The problem is that games that include both 'single player' (SP) and 'multiplayer' (MP)content run the gamut from SP-focused games with 'tacked on' MP to MP focused games with a 'bot match' mode masquerading as SP. So the expectations you have for a game might not match the reality of the market. Take Jedi Academy, for instance - it is a story-driven, SP focused game with some decent MP modes, but nobody seriously thought it would challenge 'Counter-Strike' - or even the WWII shooters like Medal of Honor Allied Assault.
I have been thinking about this since the release of F.E.A.R. - a game dominated by a tense and excellent SP mode, with some available MP modes. I have spent a bit playing the MP mode, and it does a pretty good job of translating the tight gameplay into some fun action. Deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, elimination - all are enjoyable, and there are games around that are lively and challenging. Yet on the official forums, two of the most active topics are declaring "FEAR MP is Dead!" Here is a game that has been out less than one week, has several hundred players, requires a hefty computer to run, yet it is dead?!?!
If this is what a 'dead game' looks like ... kill more games!