One small but notable lesson from 2018 that kept cropping up was how much people really want a good pirate game. Whether it’s a thriving sandbox world or just satisfying naval combat with ports to explore, the thrill of the high seas is an appealing pitch for gamers.
Disney had a pirate MMO of their own, Pirates of the Caribbean Online. Originally set to launch in 2005, the game was delayed repeatedly until it eventually launched two years later.
Designed as a compliment to the movies, Pirates Online was a family-friendly MMO that suffered from monotonous chores and atrocious performance from the outset. Loading issues were a problem, but the character customisation was a high point and the game was thematically on point.
However, as chronicled by YouTuber RoboKast, the game began to suffer from a change in priorities. Disney Interactive began to focus more on Club Penguin, the browser-based MMO that Disney acquired for up to $US700 million back in 2007 ($US350 million was paid initially, with another $US350 million in bonuses on offer to the former owners if Club Penguin met certain growth targets by 2009).
That change in focus meant less attention towards not just Pirates Online, but Disney’s other MMO titles. Managing multiple MMO projects, plus well as the upcoming Disney Infinity toys-to-life venture, eventually became too much for Disney Interactive Studios. The conglomerate changed tack in 2013 to focus solely on Infinity and Club Penguin, setting the final voyage for Pirates Online to September 19, 2013.
The game went completely free-to-play for a month only, opening up unlimited access to all users for free. The game has been revived to a degree with The Legend of Pirates Online fan project, which aims to echo the state of Pirates Online before its closure.
The likelihood of a new Pirates Online outside of the mobile space is unlikely these days, with the waning popularity of MMOs and the Pirates franchise more generally. But with the appetite shown for Atlas, Sea of Thieves initially and the disappointment around the delay of Ubisoft’s Skull & Bones, gamers are still keen for some adventure on the high seas.