Neverwinter Nights ceased to be a game world, and became a community
"only" on July 18th, 1997. That evening the plug was pulled on the game
server, and the six years of NWN faded into gaming history. Why do you
ask? There were many underlying reasons...and many rumors still abound:
WAS THE GAME A DRAIN ON AOL RESOURCES?
Definitely not! AOL survived on NWN Player bills in its early years,
and Steve Case was often seen playing the lead character "Lord Nasher"
to promote the game and what it meant to AOL. Average players spent a
hundred dollars or more per month to play NWN, and this was serious revenue
for AOL. Add to that the fact that NWN was DOS based AND running off a
single server, and you can see that America online would not have been
hurt by leaving the game intact.
DID THE GAME BECOME UNPOPULAR ON AOL?
Again, no. Every night there were hundreds of players waiting on one
single person to leave the game so they could log in (as it only held
500 max at the end). This occurred until the night the server was shut
down in mid-97.
DID AOL HAVE TROUBLE STAFFING THE GAME?
Ironically, the game was staffed by players! Long-time players could
either apply to be a guide (called an "NW") - or were asked after showing
they were a large part of the community. Many of the oldest and most well
known players were NW's.
DID ANYONE TRY AND SAVE THE GAME FROM EXTINCTION?
Certainly so! There were news conferences scheduled with local television
stations across the United States, there were articles in gaming magazines,
on websites, and protests held on AOL. This was a huge endeavor for nearly
four months, with thousands of people participating all with hopes to
convince AOL to leave the game intact. All, to no avail.
In small defense of AOL (very small) - the three companies owning copyrights
to the game DID try and come to an agreement. AOL wanted to expand the
game, add areas, and make the game "pay to play", and place it in the
new "Gaming" section of AOL. TSR and SSI did not want the game returned
to a pay-to-play atmosphere, and wanted to remove it from AOL's proprietary
service. This was debated for almost a year between the three companies.
Finally, with no end in sight, AOL no longer wanted to invest time in
the discussions, and announced it would take the game down when the agreement
The contract ended July 15, 1997, and the game was shut down a few days
For the AOL explanation of what happened to the graphical game - click