EA have announced that they will be taking a number of their games offline on June 30th – just after long-running online multiplayer service GameSpy shuts down for good.

The list is huge, including obscure titles that no-one will miss and several classic titles still with healthy online communities. The cull list includes:

Battlefield 1942 for PC and Mac (including The Road to Rome and Secret Weapons of WW2 expansions)
Battlefield 2 for PC (including Special Forces expansion)
Battlefield 2: Modern Combat for PlayStation 2
Battlefield 2142 for PC and Mac (including Northern Strike expansion)
Battlefield Vietnam for PC
Bejeweled 2 for the Wii
Bulletstorm for PlayStation 3
Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars for PC and Mac (including Kane’s Wrath expansion)
Command & Conquer: Generals for PC and Mac (including Zero Hour expansion)
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 for PC and Mac
Crysis 2 for PC
Crysis for PC
Crysis Wars for PC
Dracula – Undead Awakening for the Wii
Dragon Sakura for Nintendo DS
EA Sports 06 for PC
F1 2002 for PC
FIFA Soccer 08 for the Wii
FIFA Soccer 08 for Nintendo DS
FIFA Soccer 09 for Nintendo DS
FIFA Soccer 10 for Nintendo DS
FIFA Street 3 for Nintendo DS
Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers for PlayStation 2
Global Operations for PC
James Bond: Nightfire for PC
Madden NFL 08 for Nintendo DS
Madden NFL 09 for Nintendo DS
Master of Orion III for PC
Medal of Honor: Allied Assault for PC and Mac (including Breakthrough and Spearhead expansions)
MySims Party for Wii
MySims Racing for Nintendo DS
MySims SkyHeroes for the Wii and DS
NASCAR Sim Racing for PC
NASCAR Thunder 2003 for PC
NASCAR Thunder 2004 for PC
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 for PC
Need for Speed: ProStreet for Nintendo DS
Need for Speed: Undercover for Nintendo DS
Neverwinter Nights 2 for PC and Mac
Neverwinter Nights for PC, Mac and Linux (including Hordes of the Underdark and Shadows of Undrentide expansions)
SimCity Creator for Wii
Skate It for Nintendo DS
Sneezies for the Wii
Spore Creatures for Nintendo DS
Spore Hero Arena for Nintendo DS
Star Wars: Battlefront for PC and PlayStation 2
Star Wars: Battlefront II for PC and PlayStation 2
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 for Nintendo DS
Sneezies for the Wii

This is hardly without precedent, EA having long maintained a policy of shutting down online for their sports games once they too old, but they’ve never shuttered this many games – and this many big games at that – at once. EA says that they are working towards a solution:

“We know that some of these games are still fan favourites, including Battlefield 2, Battlefield 1942, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault and Command & Conquer games. We are still investigating community-supported options to preserve online functionality for these titles, such as multiplayer. Significant technical hurdles remain, and at this time we don’t have anything to announce.”

Of course, many of these games still  have single-player modes that will still be playable, but there are also many (Such as the Battlefields) that will remain to all intents and purposes unplayable unless someone provides servers for them, which is likely to happen. There’s a decent chance that EA will escalate the server rental service they’ve already experimented with for Battlefield 3, and that even if they don’t private rental services will step into the breach. I mean, it’s not like EA have their own online service that they could transition these games to, or anything.

The console people, however, can probably assume with some confidence that they’re screwed.

BHowever, this is yet another reminder of the precarious position many games with mandatory online connection occupy, especially with today’s online DRM. Can you imagine this happening to Diablo 3 on PC, or EA’s latest SimCity before the offline mode patch?

What’s more, you have to wonder if the rise of always-online games is potentially denying these titles the chance of legacy status in future years. Services like GOG are packed full of games from the 80s and 90s – hundreds of them, still able to be sold because they’re still playable (Well OK, some need a fair bit of work with modern PCs, but you get my meaning). At this rate, how big is the GOG of the 2020s going to be? At this rate, it’s debatable how many of the vintage classics of that era will even be able to be played, reliant on servers long shut down. If they are at all, it’ll be because their communities have paid to keep servers going, something that we could see becoming a much bigger thing if publishers fail to support their games in the long-term.

Star_Wars_Battlefront_2_18But that idea has its own uncomfortable implications. Sure, fans may keep the big mainstream hits alive, but what room will that leave for the underrated gems that don’t find their true audience until revisited years down the line? Imagine if games like Vib Ribbon or Comix Zone, games that didn’t make much of an impact on release and took years to receive the credit they deserved, never got that chance because they simply stopped working? While I have faith that the community will keep many of the above games alive one way or another, it suggests a future where games have a limited time to find an audience before they’re lost forever, never to be rediscovered… and that’s a future that would suck mightily.