On June 6, Velan Studios' online dodgeball brawler Knockout City will have its servers taken offline, just over two years after going live. Game director Jeremy Russo explained the decision in a special announcement (opens in new tab), writing that, "Despite over 12 million players and billions of KOs around the globe, there are several aspects of the game in need of major disruption to better attract and retain enough players to be sustainable. Since we are a small, indie studio, it's simply impossible for us to make those kinds of systemic changes in the live game while continuing to support it."
Last year, Knockout City went free-to-play and independent, leaving behind Electronic Arts, which had published it as part of the EA Originals label. According to SteamDB's charts (opens in new tab), the switch to free-to-play temporarily bumped its daily player count from under 200 to over 2,000, though that soon dropped down the 200–300 mark where it's stayed ever since.
Knockout City's final update on February 28 will bring it up to version 9.0 and mark the beginning of Season 9. "This will be a 12-week season," Russo writes, "with six back-to-back events featuring some of our most creative cosmetics yet, fresh new twists on several of our best playlists, a whole event focused exclusively on League Play, and a super-sized two-week Midnight Madness where the community will pick the two Playlists they want to play to close out the last Season. There will be a whole new map to accompany an entirely season-themed Brawl Pass and Deep Space Dispatch storyline!"
On the same date, Knockout City's real-money transactions will be disabled. Season 9's events will still hand out rewards including its in-game currency, which is called Holobux, and cosmetics will be on sale while rewards will be increased.
When Season 9 is complete on May 23, a final two-week farewell event called "Thanks for the KOs" will run, offering triple XP and the return of a playlist called "Superpowers: Power Grab". The servers will officially shut down at 12pm UTC/4am PST on June 6, though players on PC will be able to continue playing, Russo writes, as "we'll be releasing a standalone player-hosted version of the game for Windows PCs. Even after the official servers go offline, Knockout City can continue to be played for eternity by fans that want to host their own servers!" More details on how that will work are still to come.
As for what Velan Studios plans to do next, it may well include something adjacent to Knockout City. "We're currently in the process of doing a comprehensive retrospective on every aspect of the game," Russo writes, "all the community feedback and analytics data, and even our development processes. Our hope is that sometime in the not-too-distant future, all this information can be used to start work on what comes next in the Knockout City universe. While we can't promise that Knockout City will be back, what we can promise is that you'll continue to see new and innovative games from Velan Studios that will surprise and delight players around the world."
This news comes just days after the announcement that Iron Galaxy Studios' free-to-play online wrestling game Rumbleverse is shutting down just six months after its launch, which came only days before the similar announcement that Ubisoft's free-to-play battle royale Hyperscape is shutting down less than two years after its launch. It's rough out there for live-service games right now, even ones as well-liked as Knockout City was when it arrived. Has anybody heard from Rocket Arena lately?