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Metaplace announces its closure

In what can be pretty comfortably considered a shock move, Metaplace has announced it is closing in January 2010.

The announcement alludes to a lack of uptake as a reason for the closure, but no significant details are given. A FAQ has been provided and founder Raph Koster has confirmed refunds for December subscriptions and stated that a website for Metaplace residents to continue communicating with each other is on it’s way.

He’s also appealed for the last few weeks of Metaplace’s existence to be one of celebration. It’s hard to imagine there’ll be wall-to-wall joy given the enormous effort the user community have put into creating content on Metaplace. 2009 has seen the platform evolve significantly, and given that the open beta has only been in place a few months, this really does seem like a premature decision. The announcement does say that Metaplace Inc will continue operation and that they have “big plans” – let’s hope those plans are able to bear fruit because the damage of closing a service like this so early on can’t help any company’s credibility. Having interacted regularly with the Metaplace crew over the past year, the decision won’t have been taken lightly but it doesn’t take away from the impact it will have on the user community.

The biggest shame of it all is that Metaplace is an engaging, complex virtual environment that offered enormous content creation options. That this is lost when there are so many cookie cutter 2D worlds with limited creative options is sad, but the history of virtual environments is littered with examples of promising developments that didn’t reach their full potential. Metaplace is one of them now, but hopefully the technology behind it appears in another form in the future.