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Live-service devs should “make a private hosted version of your game” when projects are shut down

Velan Studios’ director of marketing, Josh Harrison, has one recommendation for studios looking to close down or “sunset” a live-service game: “make a private hosted version of your game”.

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Talking at GDC, Harrison said that offering a standalone version of its now shuttered live-service project, Knockout City, was “the single biggest thing [Velan] did to impact the positive reception of the sunset” and not only did it garner positivity from the press and community alike, but it also “keeps the game that everybody worked so hard on alive forever”.

The Future of Knockout City


The future of Knockout City.

“If you take one thing away from this talk, this is it: Make a private hosted version of your game,” Harrison said at this year’s GDC (thanks, PC Gamer). “It is the single biggest thing that we did to impact the positive reception of the sunset. It got great press, got great reactions from players, and ultimately, it keeps the game that everybody at the studio worked so hard on alive forever, even with the live servers offline.

“There are small but mighty communities that are still going, built around this private server months after shutdown by playing games daily, hosting their own tournaments where they’re raising their own prize pools, and more,” Harrison added. “One community member even built a launcher that makes it easier to get into private servers as well as see a private server list of active player counts.”

Whilst Harrison acknowledged that not all studios have the capacity to release a standalone client, let alone “sanitise” it to strip licensed software and so on, making the change was a “relatively light lift” for the team.

“In our case, we were only able to do it for PC players for a few different reasons but it still did the job that we wanted it to, and due to some extremely light analytics hooks in it, we still see people playing it every day even nine months later.”

Velan Studios’ competitive “dodgebrawl” game Knockout City – which launched on PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, and PC in May 2021 – was initially published under the EA Originals label, but in 2022, Velan announced it would be taking over publishing duties and shifting to a free-to-play model starting with its sixth season. Sadly, that wasn’t enough to secure the game’s future, and it was shutdown permanently last year.

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