Not every deal should be pursued, however. Although most video games are playable for years and decades after release, not so with MMOs that have had their service shuttered. It's recently come to my attention that even though these games are completely unplayable -- rendered nothing more than a few cents' worth of a DVD and cardboard packaging -- online retailers haven't kept up with the times and keep these products on the virtual shelves long past their expiration dates.
That's not to say you should avoid these products at all cost, because studies show that a large percentage of Massively readers have a sick and twisted sense of humor. What would make a better gift this Christmas than a multi-million-dollar-budget MMO that died a horrible death years before?
So don't be the typical gifter who settles for a Blu-ray player or an iPod -- give a package of misery, disillusionment and broken dreams! Hit the jump for 10 items that absolutely belong in your shopping cart if you wish to be feared!
1. Hellgate: London (Amazon, $5.77)
$5.77 is a downright steal compared to the $150 lifetime subscription that redefined the word "lifetime." For less than six bucks, you could be holding a piece of true video game history and the genesis of untold nerd rage. The fans may still be disgruntled over Hellgate: London's flop, but they should be thanking the devs for the opportunity to use the term "Flagshipped" and feel all superior because of it.
Suggested use: The box art is sufficiently demonic to pull a fast one on a weak-minded aunt and assure her that it allows one to speak to the dead if she holds it between the hours of midnight and 1:00am. After all, who's to say that Bill Roper couldn't imbue such abilities? Not me, that's for sure.
2. The Matrix Online time card (Amazon, $53.99)
As Massively's Krystalle pointed out, "The funny thing is that you can't even use that in SOE games. That's the pre-SOE timecard." So, in effect, it's a doubly useless present: a card that couldn't be applied to The Matrix Online even if it was running, which it isn't. According to one of the reviewers on this Amazon page, there's never been "a better time" to start collecting Matrix Online goodies. Because... you're creating a pointless museum in your basement that will fail to impress the one and only date you show it to?
Suggested use: Give to someone with a deep appreciation for gaming irony and watch his head explode.
3. Shadowbane (Amazon, $11.99)
At $12, Shadowbane is one of the more affordable entries on this list. That's also $12 that you could use to feed a family in a third-world country for, like, seven years, but why should they get to survive when you could be the proud owner of a defunct game with a sword-wielding minotaur on the front? Survival of the fittest, I say!
Suggested use: Again, the box art is pretty sweet, and chances are slim that anyone would get all worked up if you were to write a fantasy novel (perhaps using yourself as the inspiration for the primary character!) and use Shadowbane's art for your book cover. Just make sure to use Wite-Out on the title and substitute it with your own ("Spear and Loathing in Las'negas").
4. Earth & Beyond (Amazon, $25.00)
Now here you have a true relic of MMO history, for 12 easy payments of $2.08! Snatch this game up today, and spend countless hours sitting in a chair and imagining just how cool it would be if you could be blasting through the cosmos as you played Earth & Beyond! Sure, your family will pity you, but they won't know how good you have it.
Suggested use: Make friends with an astronaut or the head of NASA. After nine years of a tight relationship, admit your deepest wish -- that someone would give Earth & Beyond the sendoff it deserves. Casually suggest that the game could be tucked away on the next shuttle mission, perhaps to be installed on the Hubble's hard drive.
5. Auto Assault Limited Edition (Amazon, $69.99)
Sure, $70 looks like a lot, but put it into proper perspective: With it you can buy a whole fleet of virtual vehicles, but fall way short of a single car payment in real life. When you think about it, it's really the smart thing to do! Don't thank me when you buy it -- thank flexible logic.
Suggested use: Invent a time machine (see any 80's movie for suggested methods, such as the flux capacitor, the Circuits of Time, or Spock). Travel back to early 2007 to warn Auto Assault's population about the upcoming shutdown. Watch as the playerbase creates a massive resistance movement and ultimately changes NCsoft's mind -- and history itself. Then discover that you've created a paradox that will destroy the world.
6. Fury (Amazon, $3.99)
Make no mistake: This is raw, unadulterated Fury contained on a single disc. Never before has the sheer power of wrath been contained by such innocuous storage media. You would be a fool not to purchase it. A FOOL. And Fury does not look kindly on fools.
Suggested use: Because it is dangerous to leave Fury to its own machinations, you should harness its power for the forces of good. May I suggest a nifty DVD-ROM clock craft project?
7. Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa Limited Collector's Edition (Amazon, $8.99)
It's been a lifelong dream of mine to spend years working on a major project that will ultimately bear my name, and then see that product wither and perish on top of garbage dump heaps. I have yet to achieve that dream, but Richard Garriott -- curse him! -- has already done so. For $8.99, you can own the apex of his life's work: a big black package that can double as a tombstone.
Suggested use: It's a little-known fact that the full title of this MMO still carries with it weight, authority and dark magic. As such, it constitutes a trump card that can and should be used in dire situations: "No, officer, I did not kill that man... and my copy of Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa Limited Collector's Edition will testify to that!" "HAVE MERCY AND SHEATHE THAT BOX! I HAVE CHILDREN! PLEASE! I BELIEVE YOU!"
8. Asheron's Call 2: Fallen Kings (Amazon, $19.99)
Oh, you have no idea how far these kings have fallen. Did you know that there has been a 100% decrease in Asheron's Call 2's population over the recent years? Rumor has it that the game still operates, but only on a top-secret server that Turbine uses to discover resourceful MMO players, and then invite the best of the best on a space-faring mission against alien invaders who attack us by hitting the numbers one through five on their keyboards.
Suggested use: Snag a copy, head up to Boston, and camp outside the offices of Turbine Entertainment. Growing a scraggly beard and eschewing deodorant is a must. Try to collect autographs from the entire staff as they enter and leave every day, until your box glows with perfection. Then throw it out in the dumpster behind the building, because what are you going to do with a game that doesn't work?
9. RF Online (Amazon, $0.01)
Nevermind that few people have any idea what RF Online actually is -- it only costs a single penny! Why, with the spare change in your couch cushions, you could accumulate enough Christmas presents for your immediate and extended family, your co-workers or school mates, everybody in your current Zip Code, and the population of Guam. Trust me, Guam never had a Christmas so good.
Suggested use: Or you could build a fort with the boxes. That'll set you back $1.47.
10. All Points Bulletin (Amazon, $47.07)
So what if APB is being relaunched as a free-to-play title next year? This sucker cost upwards of $100 million (or $1000 million, I haven't really done my research) to make! $47.07 is a pittance, I tell you! It's the very least you could do to support... well, the store where it's being sold!
Suggested use: Don't purchase for yourself, but hover around the shelf where this is sitting and wait for a naive parent to come by and wonder out loud what they should buy Timmy or Tammy this Christmas.
"Excuse me, but I've heard this is pretty sweet," you should say in all sincerity. "And it teaches children the fundamentals of law enforcement!"
That parent will thank you later, trust me. The child... well, by then you'll be far, far away.
[Special thanks to partner-in-crime Krystalle, who helped to find many of the items on this list in lieu of working!]
Justin "Syp" Olivetti enjoys counting up to ten, a feat that he considers the apex of his career. If you'd like to learn how to count as well, check out The Perfect Ten. You can contact him via email at email@example.com or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.