Well, it didn't, really. But it's starting to occupy the same niche as Aion currently seems to. It's there, it's in no danger of shutdown, and it's still a moneymaker, but it isn't going to be the sort of thing that pulls crowds in large numbers. And that's ultimately what developers and studios have to be concerned with at these events.
Ultimately, most of the information that we got out of this year's events have been a steady string of "more of the same" for CoH. That's something I remarked upon back when I wrote up my impression of PAX East. It's not that the game hasn't had any bombshells to drop over the past year, but City of Heroes Freedom was more or less aimed directly away from any sort of major convention. It would have gone hand-in-hand with Hero-Con, presumably, if that event were still being run with any sort of regularity. Sure, PAX Prime had a couple of mentions of Freedom, and Paragon Studios had a booth, but I certainly haven't heard anything that makes me think the company dropped some enormous new bombshell.
Why do I bring up Aion in that context? Because if you don't remember, say, two years back, Aion was the game that NCsoft couldn't stop talking about. Aion was the new hotness, it was lightning in a bottle, it was going to set the world on fire. And then it launched, and while it definitely managed to garner a solid playerbase (I'd be remiss if I neglected to mention MJ Guthrie's column on the game, Wings Over Atreia), by and large the gaming world shrugged and paid no attention.
The MMO world paid attention, of course. But that's not quite the same thing. Stalwart fans of 2-D fighting games pay attention when a new installment of The King of Fighters gets released, but the gaming world as a whole has essentially shown that it couldn't care less. And after seven years, it looks like it's become a more accepted fact that the gaming world, as a whole, has moved on from CoH.
PAX, for better or worse, is a show for the gaming world as a whole. For that matter, pretty much every gaming show in existence is aimed at the larger market, rather than at those of us who enjoy crazy niches. This is probably for the best -- there's likely enough of a market to support a show based solely around MMOs, for instance, but there's probably not enough of a market to support 2-D fighters. (Or shmups, to cage to one of my personal all-time favorite genres. I'd be so happy to hear about a new Darius game.)
As a result, most of the news that we hear about in these major shows is aimed at the larger audience -- the people who have yet to be converted, not the masses who are already dedicated to the game. When Paragon (ceremoniously) comes on to the scene, it has to be with something that's going to attract the general audience.
So the goal of this PAX wasn't to drop some huge piece of information to get old and new fans to start looking at the game. The point was to provide a presence, to set up a booth, to give away costume codes, and to remind the people in the audience that there's this game you might have heard of, and it'll be free-to-play in the very near future, you know. So maybe you might want to take some characters out of mothballs, here's that new costume code you can use with it when the game is free-to-play, of course you can take a look at all of the improvements...
You get the idea.
Of course, for those of us who follow the game anyway, that makes the proceedings something of a downer. We already know this stuff; we don't need to be told it again. Still, there comes a point when you have to stop preaching to the converted. Convincing existing players to stay on board when Freedom goes live is just a matter of giving us enough things to like that we feel rewarded. Convincing new people is a different matter altogether. Paragon's strategy might not be the most exciting option available to stalwart players, but it is reasonable.
Then again, I wasn't there. For all I know, the costume code instantly cures all status ailments forever and gives you free money just for looking so cool. By all means, if that's the case, tell me so at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or if there's something else exciting that I somehow missed, you can share it in the comments -- as I have mentioned, the technology I'm using as I write this is basically two steps away from soup cans connected via strings. Next week, I'm going to look at... well, I'm not sure exactly what, but I'm thinking maybe something with Storm Summoning? It's apropos. Or a discussion of the next group on the list with villainous intents.
By day a mild-mannered reporter, Eliot Lefebvre unveils his secret identity in Paragon City and the Rogue Isles every Wednesday. Filled with all the news that's fit to analyze and all the muck that's fit to rake, this look at City of Heroes analyzes everything from the game's connection to its four-color roots to the latest changes in the game's mechanics.