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Game On: Titanfall is removed from storefronts after years of server hacks

UPDATED: Thu., Dec. 9, 2021

After being rendered unplayable by hackers for two years, EA and Respawn announced the removal of Titanfall from digital storefronts. The servers, broken as they are, will remain online for the time being.  (Respawn Entertainment)
After being rendered unplayable by hackers for two years, EA and Respawn announced the removal of Titanfall from digital storefronts. The servers, broken as they are, will remain online for the time being. (Respawn Entertainment)
By Riordan Zentler For The Spokesman-Review

December kicked off with some of the most conflicting video game news I’ve heard in months. Respawn Entertainment, best known for Apex Legends, Titanfall and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, took to Twitter to announce that the first Titanfall would be removed from all digital storefronts and discontinued from subscription services such as EA Play in March.

I’ve written about the series, and I admit I’m a big fan. 2014’s Titanfall promised to be an epic multiplayer arena shooter combining mech warfare with acrobatic foot soldier combat, and it did just that. However, its player base fizzled out within months despite an incredible amount of hype – the biggest gripe from many being the lack of a dedicated single-player campaign. You were either throwing down against other gamers online, or you weren’t playing Titanfall at all.

Respawn Entertainment took note of the criticism when it released Titanfall 2 two years later. It enjoyed a much warmer reception for its better-balanced multiplayer gameplay and invigorating single-player story, but its sales struggled due to stiff competition – the title was released one week before Battlefield 1 and one week before Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, two heavy-hitters occupying the same genre.

Today, Titanfall 2 enjoys a modest player base, with a few thousand gamers online at any given time. It’s not much compared to the hundreds of thousands playing Fortnite on a constant basis, but it’s something. Most people abandoned Titanfall in favor of the sequel, but the chances of it thriving in any capacity were ruined by Respawn’s failure to address years of constant distributed denial of service attacks.

Without getting overly technical, a “DDoS attack” occurs when a hacker floods a server with superfluous requests to overload the system and prevent it from fulfilling legitimate requests. For online games, this either leads to players being unable to connect at all or results in horrible latency wherein button presses are acknowledged seconds late. Essentially, grudge-holding hackers have been rendering Titanfall unplayable for the past two years.

In July, Respawn community coordinator Jason Garza let it slip that only two employees were attempting to resolve this issue, whereas hundreds of developers plug away every day at the company’s moneymaker, Apex Legends. Titanfall fans weren’t too pleased, and it led one fan to initiate DDoS attacks on Apex Legends in retaliation. Of course, it was fixed within hours.

Such petty behavior is never warranted, but I share the annoyance and impatience with Respawn. There’s a palpable amount of irony in the developer being able to quickly put a stop to the exact same method of hacking that has plagued Titanfall for years.

The truth is Respawn is in the business of making money, and Apex Legends’ method of selling cosmetic items is a superior business model to Titanfall’s traditional pay-once, play-forever standard – especially when Apex Legends has millions of active players compared to Titanfall’s mere thousands.

I understand why Apex Legends is prioritized, but I wish the company would be upfront about it instead of issuing a statement saying “Titanfall is core to Respawn’s DNA” while also essentially admitting its unwillingness to defend the game against hackers.

It’s ultimately for the best that a game long rendered unplayable be removed from digital storefronts, but it was undeniably scummy for Respawn not to admit defeat sooner, permitting the broken game to sell to droves of uninformed gamers for two years.

In recent months, Titanfall 2 has been receiving similar DDoS attacks. The hacks aren’t ceaseless, but it’s still a disturbing trend, and I’d hate to see the game die the same as its predecessor – where would fans go then? Apex Legends may take place in the same universe, but it employs a battle royale format, and there are no mechs to pilot. It’s a fun game, but it lacks that special something that makes Titanfall so wonderfully unique.

Riordan Zentler can be reached at riordanzentler@gmail.com.

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