[Part of my MMO Design folder.]
Massively recently drew my attention to Psychochild's blog post of "How to Sunset a Game", wherein he talks about the Business vs Player issues about such an undertaking. My only real experience with a game closing down on me is Wizardry Online, which has led to my utter hate of all things SOE / Daybreak. Sure I've had Ultima Online shards shut down on me too, but all the free ones we played on were with the express knowledge of "this is just some guy/gal running the server, quite likely in their basement, and it can (and will) end at any moment."
But Wizardry Online was run by a "big" company so I was a bit surprised when news of its demise was announced. Obviously the market for it is dying since even the Japan released is being shuttered. How SOE went about this though is really turd level scum. They pulled all support / event runners from the game, while continuing to have a cash shop selling in game items. In fact I think all focus (of the last guy on the project) went to the store, trying to milk players for whatever money they could, knowing full well said items would be useless soon.
How I would have gone about it? Make all those cash shop items free. The zones that are level locked? Open them up to all players! If that's too hard to do coding wise per area, then put an NPC who just hands out XP. Players would have been encouraged to have one last hurrah. As a bonus, since they actually run -other- MMOs, maybe give each player who registered from "x" date a bonus "thank you" package they can redeem in one of their other titles. You know, to encourage your customers to stick around?
Instead they treated the player base like dying lepers, basically ignoring their last, simple, requests while simultaneously trying to milk the remaining whales like desperate leeches. If that sounded wrong, that's because it is. I'm never playing another SOE / Daybreak run MMO again because of that experience, and strongly advise everyone else to keep away from this terrible company too.