Top 10 Shortest-Lived Live Service/Online Games of All Time

‘Live service’ has been a vilified term in the gaming space for over a decade. Gamers are seeing through predatory monetary schemes that publishers are abusing with the live service model and have become wary. But the live service concept isn’t one without merit. MMOs are live service by definition, after all. FFXIV and World of Warcraft are some of the industry’s most critically acclaimed games. Still, they’re the exception and not the rule. With the sea of live service dumpster fires out there, which ones truly stand out as awful? We’re here to explore such a question with the top 10 shortest-lived live service games of all time.

10. Orcs Must Die! Unchained: April 19, 2017 – April 16, 2019

orcs must die unchained key art
Image Source: Robot Entertainment

Orcs Must Die! Unchained was the free-to-play cousin to the main series’ popular tower defense games. Despite its monetary model featuring pay-to-win microtransactions and the like, Orcs Must Die! Unchained remains one of the highest-rated games in the series with an 87 Metacritic score on PC.

Fans enjoyed the more action-oriented aspect of the game’s survival mode. That said, it wasn’t quite enough to keep it afloat for long. Orcs Must Die! Unchained halted its service along with both Hero Academy games on April 16, 2019. Robot Entertainment operated these three games concurrently at a loss, placing Orcs Must Die! Unchained number 10 on this list with a lifespan of almost two years exactly.

9. Hyper Scape: August 11, 2020 – April 28, 2022

main menu screen of hyper scape
Image Source: Ubisoft

Hyper Scape was Ubisoft Montreal’s big push into the battle royale space. It even had some genuinely intriguing concepts going for it. For example, Twitch viewers could vote on how the AI would manipulate parts of the game world. Suddenly realizing you have infinite ammo for a gun or jumping to find out you’re suddenly in low gravity was a pandora’s box of delight. It proved that Twitch integration with online games could be fun and involving.

Unfortunately for Ubisoft, the game lacked solid gunplay and long-term sustainability. Hyper Scape ended up being a flash in the pan with a strong initial player count, but a steady decline after its first month. Ubisoft admitted that the game’s modes were not balanced and that there wasn’t enough incentive for players to keep playing. The servers got killed on April 28, 2022. That was just one year and eight months after its launch.

8. The Culling: October 5, 2017 – May 15, 2019

the culling title screen
Image Source: Xaviant

2017 was the year everyone wanted in on the battle royale market. The battle royale genre existed before 2017, but only in the form of mods on existing games like Minecraft and ARMA 2. The Culling was slated to be ‘the first stand-alone entry in the battle royale genre’. It ended up being completely upended by Player Unknown Battlegrounds in March. Fortnite was released a month before The Culling as well, firmly digging the grave for the ambitious indie game.

The Culling was released in October 2017. As expected, it lacked the player base necessary to keep the game afloat due to more successful battle royale games and awful monetary practices. Players weren’t too fond of the ‘pay-per-match’ price gauging early on and decided it wasn’t worth it. The Culling transitioned as a free-to-play title before shuttering its servers one year and seven months after its initial launch. As we’ll see, the sequel would fare far worse than The Culling.

7. CrossfireX: February 10, 2022 – May 18, 2023

crossfirex image art
Image Source: Smilegate West

Crossfire was the world’s highest-grossing F2P game before 2014. Another shocker regarding this South Korean online FPS series is that it was the most-played video game until League of Legends released there in 2017. But that success belongs to the main Crossfire games and certainly not this failure. Crossfire X was a console version of the original Crossfire from 2007. Critics and fans criticized the game for its console controls and poorly executed campaign modes.

Much to my surprise, Remedy Entertainment (Control, Alan Wake 2) worked on CrossfireX’s campaign modes. These were some of the most heavily criticized aspects of CrossfireX. Oh yeah, and the campaigns were paid content, by the way. The multiplayer mode was the only free part of CrossfireX’s package. The multiplayer servers failed miserably, shutting down one year and three months after its initial launch. Crossfire’s success as the highest-grossing game of years prior couldn’t help its poorly optimized console attempt to survive even two years.

6. LawBreakers: August 8, 2017 – September 14, 2018

lawbreakers image key art
Image Source: Boss Key Productions

Despite his expertise in creating Gears of War and other classics, Cliff Bleszinsky couldn’t keep LawBreakers afloat for very long. The objective-based FPS multiplayer game was hyped up quite a bit before its release. In fact, it has even earned a cult following years after its closure. To LawBreakers’ credit, the class-based gameplay had a lot of variety with interesting roles (classes) outfitted with unique weapons and equipment.

Critics generally praised the low-gravity gunplay and variety of modes. It just wasn’t enough to sustain a consistent player base. LawBreakers shut down on September 14, 2018, just a single year after its launch. Fans are holding out hope for an eventual sequel, largely due to Cliff Bleszinsky teasing a follow-up and telling fans to “stay tuned” in a 2023 Twitter post.

5. Babylon’s Fall: March 3, 2022 – February 27, 2023

babylon falling
Image Source: Square Enix

Babylon’s Fall had a juggernaut development team behind it. Not only did key designers from Nier Automata work on Babylon’s Fall, but assets from Final Fantasy XIV helped supplement the game as a triple-A Square Enix title. Square Enix and Platinum Games were betting on Babylon’s Fall as the next hit live service game. Player counts dwindled to a scant 1,200 just a day after release. Square Enix should have learned its lesson from the failure of Marvel’s The Avengers years before Babylon’s Fall. Alas, history repeats.

Mixing the combat style of Nier: Automata with persistent online gameplay within the structure of an endless tower crawler almost seems cool, but it was too bland and boring. Babylon’s Fall would go on to be Metacritic’s third worst-rated game of 2022, and its financial results reflected that. Square Enix cut support for Babylon’s Fall 11 months after its release in February 2023.

4. Titanfall: Assault: August 10, 2017 – July 30, 2018

titanfall assault image art
Image Source: EA

Remember when Titanfall got a mobile RTS game in 2017? Yeah, me neither, and I’m a fan of Titanfall 2 like many. Titanfall: Assault was a real-time strategy mobile game that lasted 11 months and 20 days before getting shut down by EA and Respawn. Fans and critics alike praised the game’s fun bite-sized strategy combat and agreed that its monetary model wasn’t as egregious as competitors.

We still haven’t gotten a reason from the publisher why Titanfall: Assault was prematurely axed. The most likely cause was an unsustainable profit margin to keep server maintenance up. Despite getting lambasted at launch for not being a proper sequel to the cult classic Titanfall 2, fans today lament the early grave Titanfall: Assault dug itself. But no, I really would rather have Titanfall 3 next, please Respawn.

3. Apex Legends Mobile: May 17, 2022 – May 1, 2023

Promotional artwork from Apex Legends Mobile.
Image Source: Respawn Entertainment

Taking the number three slot is yet another Respawn Entertainment mobile title. Apex Legends Mobile was a direct port of the original FPS game built from the ground up for mobile devices. The game was slated for massive success, following in the footsteps of moneymakers like PUBG Mobile and CoD Mobile. Yet, bugs and faulty controls plagued the release of the game leading to a significant drop-off in player count.

Respawn fixed most of the optimization woes in late 2022, but it wasn’t enough to attract players back. Apex Legends Mobile’s servers finally shut down on May 1, 2023, just 11 months after its release. EA CEO Andrew Wilson later said in an earnings call that a lack of a casual audience resulted in Apex Legends Mobile’s early demise.

2. Radical Heights: April 10, 2018​​​​​​​ – May 14, 2018

trailer for radical heights
Image Source: Boss Key Productions

Radical Heights ended up being the forgotten stepchild of LawBreakers. Both were failed battle royale shooters created by Cliffy B’s studio, yet Radical Heights didn’t even last a paltry month before shutting down. Radical Heights was released in “X-Treme early access” after just five months of development following the team’s work on LawBreakers. It’s almost like they saw the writing on the wall regarding LawBreakers’ sales and decided not to bother finishing Radical Heights.

Boss Key Productions shuttered Radical Heights, LawBreakers, and the studio itself on May 14, essentially ending Cliffy B’s game development career with it. It turns out that putting all your eggs in one basket (battle royale) in a scramble to hit a saturated market doesn’t always turn out well.

1. The Culling 2: July 10, 2018 – July 18, 2018

key art of guy with gun in the culling 2
Image Source: Xaviant

Finally, I present to you the shortest-lived live service game of all time: The Culling 2. This game was so atrocious and meme-worthy that I actually thought it was a joke at the time. But no, The Culling was indeed a genuine attempt to cash in on the then-budding battle royale craze. That game’s sequel was the last hurrah at that desperate attempt.

Releasing an unfinished game without early access smack dab in the middle of battle royale fever, AND on the same day as a new Fortnite season, proved hilariously catastrophic for The Culling 2. Concurrent Steam players dropped in the single digits 40 hours after its release. This certifiably cemented The Culling 2 as one of the worst live service performances in history.

That wraps up our list of the top 10 shortest-lived live service games of all time. The most common culprit for a live service game shutting down prematurely tends to be unsustainable server maintenance. It’s about time publishers start implementing an offline infrastructure for live service games. That way, gamers can play them without ongoing servers. Game preservation has been a hot topic for years. Live service life cycles are a major aspect of the equation that needs major renovations. Check out our latest analysis of the most played 2024 games here on Twinfinite for more game industry trends.


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