OPINION: Co-Operative servers for Dirty Bomb, a promising option for retiring titles

Co-Operative servers for Dirty Bomb, a promising option for retiring titles

Last October the team behind the free-to-play shooter Dirty Bomb announced that they would no longer be developing the game. Naturally, this set off the delisting alarms but the team wasn’t ready to abandon the game just yet. While no new content would be coming to the game, Splash Damage assured fans that they would keep the servers running as long as there were a “meaningful number of players using them”.

The next update came in February of this year when the team announced a robust strategy to maintain dedicated and community-run servers. Their news post has much more detail but the gist of it is this: as popularity dwindles, underutilized community servers will be retired and taken over by Splash Damage to fill out the rack with dedicated servers. Eventually, as players reach a bare minimum, both the community and Splash Damage will be sharing space on a single server, minimizing costs for all involved while keeping the game available to the remaining dedicated fans.

This co-op strategy for managing a game’s player base is one of the most elegant I’ve seen so far, or at least one of the most forthcoming. When the end comes for a multiplayer title there are usually cries from fans to “turn the servers over to the community” which is typically met with… utter silence from developers and publishers.


Most likely because giving the community access requires handing over or at least opening up the game’s source code to the public. In many cases this can violate all kinds of contractual obligations established before the game was even announced, from non-disclosure agreements to the terms of use for middleware solutions. Furthermore, the bigger the publisher is, the more risk it puts on them: from investor backlash to expectations of equal treatment when they publish (and then shut down) their next game.

Wouldn’t it be nice? (Hey, maybe it will be!)

It’d be great if everyone could follow in the footsteps of what Splash Damage is attempting with Dirty Bomb. But given the immense variables in video game production (from infrastructure, to game engines, to server expenses) it’s understandable that not every title can follow suit. Not yet anyways. 

As advancements in multiplayer technology continue to unite console, PC, and even mobile players in the same games, we can only hope that the backend tech also coalesces to the point that this co-op sustainability is an option for more and more games.

Would you help front the costs to keep a game you love online? What are some lost titles you’d have chipped in for, or current ones you would love to see live on? Leave a comment and let us know.