I've already said this in Discord, and I am also going to say it here.
We all know that the only game that they will keep supporting, as in having master servers, online services and being available in all store fronts (including EGS) is UT3.
Not only that, but UT3 will actually become UT3X
, a free version of UT3, which might
or not have more than just have the new Epic back end integrated.
What this coincides with is with the scheduled release of Creative 2.0 of Fortnite
, which is apparently scheduled for next month (January 2023), as in late in that month, which is exactly around the time when they will shut down the master servers for the UT series.
For those unaware, Creative 2.0 is in fact a new version of the Unreal Engine 5
editor with all the Fortnite assets, in order to create content for Fortnite itself.
Among the many features that should come with it, the main ones are:
- a new scripting language, called Verse (they dropped UScript in UE4 in favor of C++ and Blueprint, but it seems that now in UE5 they intend to have a scripting language again beyond those 2 options);
- the ability to cooperate with other players (creators, developers) in real time from the editor, being able to start, pause and stop a real game at any point and perform any changes live;
- the ability to upload all created assets to a cloud storage in Epic, and then the direct ability to use them in-game and share with other players.
In other words, it's as if Epic is setting up Fortnite to be the next platform for modding, like UT once was, however due to the age bracket the game is more popular with, in the end is basically Roblox in UE5 (you can already see that if you enter Fortnite and see all the custom community game modes).
What does this have to do with UT3X?
It seems to me that they've decided bring down the master servers at that point in time because they intend to go all in with the new back end needed to support Creative 2.0, and thus they decided to just drop all the old back ends which cannot be migrated over, opening a new chapter for them, while trying to close the chapter on us.
UT3X will be free, and I've read somewhere that it might be released on March 2023
No one knows what exactly it will bring, but it seems to me that them removing all the other UT versions from all the stores, along with shutting down the master servers, is an attempt from Epic to have just a single UT game available, and make it so that it's a new experience, especially for those who never experienced UT at all before.
Given that they will release it on Steam, GOG and EGS, replacing all the UT games they had, by removing the other ones they ensure that players do not get confused and all converge to this "new" UT version they're about to release.
Meaning that if, by then, someone searches for "UT" or "Unreal Tournament" or other, the one they will always find for thereon is UT3X, maximizing the effect of the release and potential sustainability of the game.
In other words, they're removing the UT games that would otherwise compete directly with UT3X, and which they consider to be already "obsolete".
I believe they're hopeful that existing and old UT players will try it out and converge into that single game, however what they're really mostly betting on is getting NEW players to experience the game for the first time, with no bias whatsoever from the other UT games, players that will go in with low expectations, meaning that these players may in fact like the game, given that UT3 is not a bad game by itself, it's just a bad sequel to the UT we already came to know and love.
And it's also a way to test the market at a very low cost, using the latest UT game, a game that unlike UT4 is fairly stable and is complete, and test whether or not players are still interested in arena games like UT, which may dictate the future of this franchise for the next years.
Should they migrate the game to UE5 as well, either now or later, it also grants UT modders the same tools ("Creative 2.0") that Fortnite players will get, which may give birth to the development of UT maps and mods again.
I could be dead wrong on this, but at this time we can only speculate until we see what actually happens.
Having that said, I want to be very clear
: while the master server shutdown was an eventual inevitability, I don't like the fact that they're removing the games from the stores, especially since thus far they made no attempts to contact OldUnreal for a possible way to provide the game for free (maybe already patched).
So, regardless of what they intend to do with UT3X, it seems to me that they're being very shortsighted and disrespectful when it comes to the existing community, which are the greatest fans of UT as a series, by removing these games from the stores with no other alternatives to get them.
It seems to me that it would be a much smarter move to, at the very least, allow these old games to sit with the community, in the sense that they would be allowed to provide the full game for free, but only in places like OldUnreal for example, as it would still make the game available somewhere, in a semi-official capacity, while ensuring that the search engines would still return UT3X as the first results, towards Steam, GOG and EGS.
If they did so, I think existing UT fans would be a bit more sympathetic to the idea of UT3X and Epic in general, and would be willing to give it a try, while still being able to play and download the classic ones at any time.
Therefore, if what I described above is their end game, then their actions are actually understandable, but that doesn't mean that they're correct.