After a year and a half of troubled development on Steam, Neowiz sunset the servers for Bless Online at midnight on September 9th. The official website for Bless Online now displays a simple thank-you message. True to their word, the end of service earlier this week was announced back in June. In the months since the announcement, Neowiz increased drop rates and experience gain, as well as reducing store prices, but it did little to stem the bleeding, as Steam Charts shows. Still, the South Korean company is nothing but prolific and released its popular TAPSONIC rhythm game on Steam earlier this year.
Unfortunately for Bless Online, it was likely doomed from the start. Releasing a seven-year-old MMO in 2018 back when it initially launched was risky enough before the early access period even started. Despite all of the usual downtime and queue issues that plague MMO launches, users quickly discovered that their "early access" MMO was lacking much of its promised content at launch. Everything from endgame dungeons or an honor system to even basic PvP features weren't included, and tensions were further inflamed when Neowiz posted a letter describing their views on what "Early Access" meant to them.
To make matters worse, Bless Online's popularity had steadily waned over time overseas. Servers were shut down at home in Korea and abroad. Players were leaving the Steam release in droves, as the sheer monetization and numerous bugs were uncovered, again and again. Going free-to-play and officially "launching" several months later gave a small boost to the player numbers, but a lack of class balance and the 1.0 "release" lacking years of content that was already available overseas ensured Bless Online was never able to sustain those numbers.
Steam has seen a rash of MMO releases in recent years, even by companies that stand little to gain from launching on the platform. Fiesta, Anarchy Online, Dragon Nest, many MMOs that have seen their peak release on Steam years afterward, but few capture so many players in the way that Bless Online did. Whereas other MMOs exist as an exercise in nostalgia, it's hard to see Neowiz's MMO remembered fondly in the same way. Many of the comments on the sunset post are angry, either at the closure of the game or at Neowiz's staggering failure to make good on their promises.
If anything, the incredible flame-out of Bless Online shows that many gamers on the platform have little patience for outrageous cash shop greed, or have little patience for an MMO that isn't essentially complete on the platform. With the dueling titans of Final Fantasy XIV and World of Warcraft/WoW Classic dominating the MMO landscape, one wonders if there's even appetite for a "traditional" MMO left. At the very least, any company that tries is going to have to do better than Bless Online.