Sad news: Glitch is shutting down

Here's some very sad news: Glitch, the innovative and playful virtual world from Stewart Butterfield and his friends at Tiny Speck, is shuttering. The letter from Tiny Speck is very bittersweet.

This is a horrible day. This is a horrible thing to have to say: Glitch is closing. The live game/world will be closed on December 9th at 8pm Pacific time (see when this is in your time zone). The website and forums will remain available until the end of the year, so players can still communicate and find each other. Glitch HQ, the Glitch API and third party applications which rely on the Glitch API will become unavailable at the same time as the website closure.

Automatic refunds for recent purchases will begin immediately. Refunds for older transactions will need to be done manually and will be processed as quickly as possible, from most recent to oldest. For details on your payments, to request a refund, or to see the status of your refund, please visit the refund information page.

Unfortunately, Glitch has not attracted an audience large enough to sustain itself and based on a long period of experimentation and our best estimates, it seems unlikely that it ever would. And, given the prevailing technological trends — the movement towards mobile and especially the continued decline of the Flash platform on which Glitch was built — it was unlikely to do so before its time was up. Glitch was very ambitious and pushed the limits of what could be done in a browser-based game ... and then those limits pushed back.

For many of us at Tiny Speck, the creation of something like Glitch was a long-held dream. There's no better word than "heartbreaking" to describe what it feels like to have to do this. And we know that for many of you who poured your creativity, energy and imagination into Glitch and the community, it will be heartbreaking as well. We are sorry to have let you down.

We are grateful to have had the opportunity to play with you. The game was absolutely preposterous. And yet, we kind of liked it.

A Sad Announcement from Tiny Speck (Thanks, Ayzad and all the others who sent this in.)


    1. Agreed. While I knew of the game, the marketing was simply not there for this wonderful little world. 

      I can find all of 2 posts on Gamasutra that mention Glitch, and one of them mentions its closure. I can find 1 post on IGN referencing Glitch. 

      If you are offering a new experience, you need to entice an audience to come try it out. The reason why social games exploded on Facebook is, in part, because of the social platform and the way it could be exploited. Word got out through play, thanks to virals, spammed willy-nilly on newsfeeds and walls. Every day, you get a message offering a free gift. If you stay away too long, you get an email pleading for your return, sometimes with the addition of an even better gift. You play on a site that you are already visiting, you are reminded to play, you are given incentives, and your interactions produced advertisement.

      But poor Glitch had none of that, really. Beautiful art, quirky music, and an interesting world is not enough to draw most players into a game.

      Actually, Glitch could have benefited from a little more actual gameplay, too. It was more of a game-ish experience than an actual game. Maybe that was supposed to be the appeal.

      I’m sad to see Glitch go, but I’m also not surprised.

      1. I suspect the fact that they launched and then unlaunched was deadly.  Any attention they may have attracted would have been wasted.  It’s bad enough to get some press attention and then not have the game ready for a while – that can kill a game – but this is much worse.  I’ve seen it before – if people read about a service, go to check it out and find it’s now unavailable (especially if for an unknown length of time), they’re not likely to look at it again.  The game then needs twice as much buzz when it relaunches, but the people who wrote about it in the first place are highly unlikely to give it the same attention they originally did.  At best the game will get some cursory “that game we talked about is back up” notifications which are easily missed, and the original momentum is lost.

        1. I’m willing to bet that the unlaunching was a symptom of the decline, not the primary cause of it. They obviously launched thinking they would attract large numbers, and I would think that the unlaunching idea came as a result of those numbers simply not materializing. That was a desperate, ill-advised strategy to get to do the big launch all over again.

          I’ve been on Glitch on and off for a year, mostly because I kept hoping something big would happen to the gameplay and it would somehow realize its potential. But even though I spent a lot of time there, it never really clicked for me. It was just a cross of a platformer and MMO-like grinding. The quirkiness was nice, but in such high doses that, just like a pound of cheesecake, it usually weighs too heavily on your system.

          I just never found something I felt I should share with my friends. That’s where the crux of the matter is. If it had been something exciting that I wanted to bring my friends into, then I, like everyone else, would have done the marketing legwork. I do feel sad about it ending… But it failed, not for lack of trying, but for lack of succeeding.

  1. This is sad, as Tiny Speck had put together a world that was really fun and encouraged cooperation. Aside from the rook attacks, there was no violence involved.

    I wish there were Glitch merchandise to buy, but alas there was none. I would have bought the soundtrack in a heartbeat, or a coffee mug or a shirt, but there was nothing. I hope all of that great artwork still gets preserved somehow.

    Now I have to make a screenshot of my Glitchen to be my new avatar…

    1. Actually, as I read this, my first thought was “So I won’t be able to download the soundtrack forever?”

      I mean, for Christ sake, I KNOW that Glitch music will help me to keep woke up all night if I need it. Well, a couple of Street Spirits selling coffee and random magical shit in every street near my house wouldn’t hurt either.

      NINJA EDIT: Found a Glitch site with music download links! (click “Music”, between the “Wallpapers” and “Ringtones” options)

  2. Sorry to hear whatever this was is going away, I guess.  The internet has become so large that stuff can live and die and we’ll never hear about it.  Since I’m a gamer, active in social media and read a dozen blogs every morning.(half of which are geek stuff like BoingBoing and the other half are gaming sites) as well as a dozen webcomics and I’ve NEVER HEARD OF THIS BEFORE, I can’t help but wonder if they just spectacularly failed at marketing themselves or if I was never in their projected client base to begin with.

  3. I only started playing a few months back, but it was fun and different from most stuff on the net.  I too, wish there was a soundtrack or mugs.

    A wallpaper pack of the maps or different areas, a screen grab of all the items etc.

    Lots of fun, I will miss getting to go to Ur every now and then.

  4. Sad but expected. Glitch was a great world but a horrible game. The big problem was that almost everything in the game was (atleast when I stopped playing) based on progress bar mechanics – mine a rock, progress bar. pet a pig, progress bar, cook some food – progress bar – repeat hundreds of times. the Flash engine was never responsive enough for any of the platforming elements to work very well and the other elements, while very charmingly presented had just awful game mechanics hiding behind them. That was the number one reason glitch failed – it was presented as something new and innovative – but the core was just a  bad, repetitive flash game. 

    1. Exactly. I played it for a couple weeks maybe back when Boing Boing was talking about it previously, but it was just a non-stop grinding quest without any real demand for skill and got really boring and pointless. Played another bullet hell style flash game called Realm Of The Mad God, which required a good amount of skill, but quit that after a couple months because I was feeling another video game obsession coming on and needed to spend time being creative. It’s a balance. Heh.

      1. In the aftermath of the announcement I’ve read a lot of comments similar to some comments here, but if you’ve stayed on, you’d realize that many of the things former players ranted about has been changed. I’ve only played for a few weeks and I’ve already been addicted – something no other MMOs have done.

        I also got many friends from different circles and age groups to join, and usually the response after seeing my gameplay was lukewarm, but after they played for a week or so, each have also gotten addicted.

        Fact is, Glitch has been evolving rather rapidly (at least over the past few months, according to forum postings). changing things from core gameplay mechanics to new features and enhancement. I suspect one of the reasons they “unlaunched” the game back in Nov last year was for this purpose. A lot of “balancing” has been done since then. There’s actually quite a bit of skills learning, minimal grinding if you know how to combine those skills and specific in-game actions, though players can play in either style and still progress well.

        A lot of changes has been continuously made to improve the game based on suggestions by the playerbase, but comments from former players about how the game sucked, while no longer true, ended up discouraging a lot of new players to the game. I too joined after reading some of these articles and comments, but what a surprise after I joined. It’s too bad Tiny Speck didn’t publicize the changes as much to counter the negative press.

    2. They tried to incorporate some farming elements that involved a bit of skill. I’m thinking of fox brushing (where you had to put your brush over a fox at the right moment) or salmon pocketing (click on a salmon as it swims away).

      Both were annoying, not fun at all. They required a small measure of skill that made the task tedious, and the Flash interface was just not ideal for it.

  5. My son and I played for a month or two.  It was an adorable game, but there came a point where you had to either devote a lot of time to grinding levels, or give up on levels and use it as a chat.  Ultimately, we didn’t really want to do either.

    1. It was actually one of the least “grindy” MMOs I’ve ever played. Grinding is one way to play it, but it’s boring and repetitive. Much better ways to level up was to complete quests, participate in feats, explore and earn completist badges, curry favor with the giants etc.

      I don’t know if the above were changes only added recently, but there were so many ways to go about levelling up when I just joined about a month back, suiting any playing style.

      1. To complete the quests, though, you had to grind a bit. Grinding just to complete a quest isn’t, in itself, particularly interesting. Having quests that don’t appear to build towards some overarching goal is also not very interesting. Where were the narrative hooks? Where was the urgency? Where were the interesting choices?

        Sure, I could curry favor with the giants, but why would I do so? If the benefit isn’t immediately clear… if it doesn’t seem to lead anywhere right from the get-go… then why would I do it? Why would I spend my resources on that?

        Sure, I could explore, but exploration in a 2D environment is far less immersive and impressive than exploration in a 3D environment. A 3D environment can easily feel more vast, which lends itself to deeper exploration. Surprises can be hidden more effectively within a 3D environment. That element of surprise and the delight that accompanies it is a very powerful motivator. 

        Navigation is also more difficult in a deep 2D environment, because your axes of exploration are limited. For example, I don’t have to do a lot of jumping or climbing to explore in Guild Wars or WoW. I just have to move. I’m not presented with a skill challenge every time I want to take a tour of a new area. I can reach a vantage point that lets me enjoy a larger view of the whole area… one that I don’t have to buy.

        It might simply be a matter of different play styles. I wanted to enjoy the game. I was emotionally invested in wanting to like the game, as one of my very dear friends worked on it. I never felt compelled to monetize, the “social” aspect didn’t seem fully formed, and I didn’t really feel compelled to return after a few visits. Bear in mind, I spent a few weeks playing the game. I didn’t just give it a half-hearted try one weekend. 

        But I accept that I might not have been the target market.

        EDIT: I read Mark Stephan’s comment below. I guess I just never saw the community that others described.

        I played briefly before they went offline, then again when they relaunched. I never felt or experienced the sense of community that others here claimed to experience. I suppose it is truly my loss, and I wish I would have known what I could have done to have had that experience.

    2. There are definitely layers to the game.  There’s the grindy part for those who want it, but beneath that, the creative community of players was pretty amazing.  People were writing custom poetry and leaving them as notes for people to find, there were scavenger hunts, races and other games, and even plays that people wrote, produced, and performed in the game.  If I had more initiative I was going to start organized “crime” in the game ;)
      Amazing creativity of the players of the game.  Open API allowed for people to write their own apps against the game, and the best chat system of any game I’ve played…
      It’s sad to see all that creativity now gone, but alas all is ephemeral… (-Fried Butter)

  6. My son and daughter both played Glitch for a while, but lost interest when Glitch went down for a revamp. By the time Glitch returned, they had both become (and remain) obsessed with Minecraft.

    1.  Yeah, I had this same experience. I played for a bit, but then the game went down and I moved onto different things. Grindy games like this should stay up once they’re up, otherwise players lose momentum.

    1. But click through to the FAQ.  They looked at that solution, but it wasn’t feasible.

      In the end, I was left with the feeling that Glitch was a rich man’s hobby. They never really tried to monetize it. It was possible to buy in-game clothing, but not necessary or even very appealing, and there was nothing else to buy.

      1. Actually you could also upgrade your furniture types, decorate your house etc. with the credits. Granted all these were still cosmetic changes but that was the intent – the company didn’t want players to get advantage over others through a “Pay2Win” mechanism.

        1. I would agree, and go further.  I don’t think they gave a damn about turning a profit.  Sadly, that’s why they’re shutting down.

        2. I can respect that. The biggest successes in the monetized game space, though, center on paying to obtain an advantage _or_ paying to unlock new content. Off hand, I know of a few MMOs (DDO, Wizard101, Everquest 2) that provide that successfully without harming the experience for those who don’t wish to spend anything.

          I say this as a F2Player who does _not_ buy hard cash. I see it as an option, and I accept the limits I impose on myself by not purchasing items with real money. But most people like the convenience and power that real-money spends give them.

          It would have been nice to purchase swag associated with the game. A book of concept art, a CD of the music, a Glitch mug… just some way to help identify myself, as a player, with the game.

  7. I played it a fair amount, mostly as a time killer. In a lot of ways it’s like an entertaining version of *ville games. No difficulty, no signifciant decisions, etc… but unlike the *villes it had some charm, and the tasks you’re performing were often at least moderately entertaining in their own right, rather than being nothing more than a thiny veiled skinner box.

    It was sort of obvious that something like this was coming when one of the only major events they had that flat-out failed was the new user sign-up event…

    I’m really impressed that they’re refunding money rather than just giving notice and pulling the plug like most such companies have.

  8. The time I spent playing Glitch was beautiful but frustrating. I loved the style and artwork, but I was inundated with hundreds of items whose use was unclear, many fiddly grinding-based tasks, and long journeys.

    I hope someone buys up the IP and puts it to good use.

  9. Glitch was too cute to live. I played for a night and came away feeling sick to my stomach like eating 10 cotton candies. Never went back.


  10. There was a huge amount of potential here, but it was just missing a little something that really allowed it to catch on — was it sort sort of clear goal or objective? maybe it was just timing. 

    1. I have a feeling it was coming, but after a couple years, it should have came.  Rook attacks were on the right path, but they never went anywhere with that.  Giant churches, longer quests, etc. never made it

    2.  The thing that turned me off was the lack of any great changes. There wasn’t anything you could work towards outside yourself.

      A Tale in the Desert, in comparison, has the players working towards the Monument goals. Glitch had it in the beginning, with the construction of streets and such. But I arrived after all the construction was over.

  11. I think Daemon’s comparison to the ‘villes is apt and also his description of why Glitch was better. It was deceptively charming and the player base was great. I think we all knew that the entire game was just grinding but it didn’t matter. The artwork was beautiful, the soundtrack awesome, and the writing consistently entertaining. I’ll miss it as a pleasant and very accessible diversion (as a Flash game it was a 15 second process to start playing Glitch while you were browsing).

    1.  Plus the players were all super nice.  I’ve never been in a gaming community that friendly, polite and kind.  The Global Chat was a big part of the reason I enjoyed it so much and many of the activities worked better if you did them via teamwork.

      1. Yeah, the other players were all very helpful. I like the cooperative aspects of the game, without feeling like I had to play every day or for long periods so as not to let others down. 

        It was a nice way to unwind, and I enjoyed the humor and artwork. 
        I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that offered that much without being required to pay for it.

  12. Thanks for posting this!  I started playing Glitch after reading about it on boingboing, so I am glad to see its ending noted here.

    1. It wasn’t the flash that killed it though… I think it was marketing, and the pay structure, pure and simple…
      I paid because I liked the quality and artistry of the game, and felt they should get some compensation, but not enough people would do that for those reasons

      1. Oh, agreed for the most part. But it played an indirect role: even though I liked the look of it and the idea of it, from the postings I saw, I never signed up for it because it was in Flash. Yeah, I’m one of those guys, and perhaps there aren’t enough people like that to make a difference, but hey – there’s one potential player who decided not to.

        1. You’re dead right.  Look at the people with their ipad out on the commute home.  They aren’t working, they are playing Angry Birds.  Flash hurt, but the length of engagement for success did too.  It was a pretty Farmville without friend spamming.  That’s not a BAD thing, but it’s not enough.

  13. Aside from echoing many comments here, I’d point out how Glitch was an experiment in nonviolent gaming. In fact, it nonobtrusively encouraged cooperation, friendship and not being assholes to newcomers.
    I don’t believe there are any similar gaming experiences out there, excluding hypershallow non-games the kind you can find on Facebook.

    Also, the great thing about Glitch were its endless double-entendres and pretty kinky jokes disguised as saccharine “family game” stuff. You just couldn’t avoid laughing at the “aggressive hoeing” messages, or the dirty talk from Wood Trees. Nor at the paranoid trees, the selfmutilating pigs, the snails (screws + nails, of course) or the eggplants (plants which gave you eggs, clearly)…

    Damn, they had just added a transportation system based on lemmiwinking through dinosaur intestines… All those things will be gone, like tears in the rain…

  14. I’m sad because there is nothing else like it. It’s a gentle, almost entirely exploration/harvesting/crafting game, that encouraged people to show off and share and cooperate and such. It was (is for a short bit more, if now bittersweet) lovely, and calm. And when I am in pain (I have Fibromyalgia), normal games are too stressful. So this is a big hole in my life, both for a pleasant pastime, and for the social connections I was just starting to form. So this is a loss… so many nice folks I met as Satva Gargoyle… sigh.

    I can still feel the heartbeat of the Giants…

  15. I tried it out and was not impressed, I’m sorry to say. Clearly a good deal of loving attention went into it.

    What I didn’t like:

    1. Very very slow. I mean slow not just in loading times and in navigation, but in overall game progress. The earliest stages of the game seem deliberately designed to slow you down, which is not a good thing. Also very slow technically. Takes way way way too long to load a new screen. The loading was also somewhat buggy, with invisible objects that apparently failed to load in a scene that was nevertheless open to play.

    2. Too facebooky. Looked like it was going to become the grindy sort of game where you not only have to gather a whole bunch of resource to get anywhere, but where resource requirements go up in a steep curve as you continue. This is a crude way to design a game like this. This could in fact be a false impression, because I could only bear to play for an hour or so due to problems in item 1. For anyone who despises the evil business model behind a typical facebook game, however, this is a big first-impression/early-experience turn-off, even if the game would actually turn out not to have that kind of model in the end.

  16. I was in the first beta of Glitch (before they unlaunched). At the time, I kinda dropped out because the fun was lacking— but I heard they fixed the things that made it fun with the unlaunch and relaunch.

    When I heard this, I thought about returning. A number of my online friends were having great fun with it. However, being busy forced me to stay away.

    I don’t think I could have stood for it to break my heart twice, but I am sorry it’s leaving. It’s never nice to see something die.

  17. I would have liked to play (I got a Beta invitation), but for some reason, I was never able to connect to the game.  Farewell, Glitch, we knew you all too little.

  18. As unfortunate as this is, I’d like to point out something cool they could potentially do now. Is there any interest in making it fully open source? I’d love to actually put forth money to get this game to stay alive in some way shape or form, perhaps a Kickstarter for them to take the time to set up a wiki and the open source version of the game, and it would perhaps help cover some of the costs that I’m sure the team is dealing with right now.

    Maybe easier said than done, but it seems like such a waste to abandon it entirely.

  19. Can I just say – and I know this will sound creepy to some – but I am a 51 year old guy and I enjoyed playing Glitch, I found it relaxing and inoffensive and a psychological antidote to the more violent games that I normally play. I do agree with the person who said that the game mechanics were at fault here, it WAS repetitive and not as ground breaking as it was claimed. But I think it did show that there is a place for the moral spirit of the idea behind the game in the marketplace – I’d like to see another game (with greater interactivity) that is based around gentle play. Call me a hippy if you like.

  20. When I couldn’t get in for a while, I stopped playing.

    It’s a very pretty game and the tutorial is much better than the first time I played. It’s such a shame.

  21. It’s a pity, the game did have some lovely features, the cute music the adorable avatars, etc; but all the faults that people have pointed out were real and let the game down. 

    I like to think that there are elements of the game that could be incorporated into something much more interesting, but I don’t think Flash is the platform for it. Even with the simple, click “progress bar” click style thing lag could really stuff the game up with enough players on a screen at any given time. If more players had signed up these problems only would have gotten worse and I think thats the real problem. Had it been more of a success, the playability would have dropped.

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