This Thanksgiving, Sony Entertainment and Atlus announced that they will soon be shutting down the servers for Demon’s Souls… for good. On February 28, 2018, the game’s online servers – which have been maintained for the last 8 years – will be shut down, bringing the end of an era.
“It’s with mixed emotions we say goodbye to the service,” Souls publisher Atlus wrote on November 27. “Countless players have enjoyed Demon’s Souls and the functionality it introduced to players when such things were rarer.” Back in 2012, Atlus vowed to keep the servers running “for the forseeable future.” But almost 6 years after that announcement, it’s clear that the “forseeable future” has reached it’s end.
Demon’s Souls – released in North America in 2009 – was the first in the Souls series by From Software, and was followed by Dark Souls and Bloodbourne. Praised for it’s innovative, inventive world, it also became known for evoking the punishing difficulty of games long past. Though the game was originally crafted as a niche adventure/horror game for a small cult audience, it quickly became a cultural phenomenon. It’s design ethos was to create a challenging play experience in order to cultivate a sense of real achievement and success in those who beat it. That ethos became integral to the Souls series, and has greatly impacted the game industry as a whole.
Though Souls will still be playable in the technical sense, the shutdown in February will affect the game profoundly. Players who pick up Demon’s Souls for the first time after the server shutdown will be robbed of several experiences veteran players consider integral to the game. The shutdown will kill in-game messaging, for example, which allowed players to leave one another cryptic hints to help survive a hostile world. The shutdown will effectively phase out both competitive and cooperative multiplayer features. Death locations and World Tendency features will also disappear, along with the Old Monk encounter and boss fight.
All this begs the question of how we ought to go about preserving games with online functionality. Servers, after all, can’t possibly run forever. But without them, the fundamental experience of many games will be lost to the sands of time.
Many players expressed disappointment regarding the shutdown. Much of the experience of Demon’s Souls will be irreparably lost as a result. But many more have reflected a resigned acceptance of the facts. “Keeping up the Demon’s Souls servers isn’t free,” one user commented on the announcement. “I’m impressed, even shocked that Atlus kept them online this long.”
Atlus expressed deep gratitude towards players who have kept Demon’s Souls alive, long after most games would’ve been relegated to the graveyard. “Thank you to everyone who played Demon’s Souls, and especially to those who still revisit its world from time to time. For those who haven’t played in awhile, we invite you to once again visit Boletaria while the servers are still live and celebrate its contributions with us.”