In the early 2000s, few other major sci-fi action franchises were as popular as The Matrix. With the 1999 film a breakout blockbuster success, and its two sequels in 2003 also proving to be big hits, the series made its mark in Hollywood and entertainment as a whole. This success rippled into other avenues, primarily the video game market. The series had two early video game releases in Enter the Matrix and The Matrix: Path of Neo, but the Wachowski twins had something even more ambitious planned with The Matrix Online.
First hitting shelves in 2005, two years after the original trilogy wrapped up, The Matrix Online wasn't a standard movie tie-in game. Just like the aforementioned games, The Matrix Online was a project directly overseen by the Wachowskis in order to ensure a high level of quality that stayed true to their vision of the franchise. Developed by Monolith Productions, the same team that would go on to make Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, this title has its place in history as a significant addition to The Matrix franchise.
The Matrix Online – An Ambitious MMO Experience
Video game tie-ins with major blockbuster releases were common in the 2000s. While some of these titles are fondly remembered, such as Spider-Man 2 and games based on The Lord of the Rings, for the most part these licensed products were considered lazy and rushed. The Wachowskis wanted to avoid the same fate with video games based on their franchise, and being avid gamers themselves chose to step into the director's chair for everything based on The Matrix, including The Matrix Online.
Following in the footsteps of the hugely successful World of Warcraft, which launched just the year prior, The Matrix Online aimed to be a huge MMORPG experience. The goal was to have players continue the story of The Matrix, creating their own teams, upgrading moves, and battling any Agents they come across. Players are able to customize their character, from a variety of different classes and cosmetic choices. From here, they are dropped into a massive city environment to complete missions and interact with other players. Considering the premise of the films is about characters "jacking in" to a digital world to pull off fantastical feats, it is almost fitting that The Matrix Online attempted to pull off the same concept.
The Matrix Online – Connection to the Films
Another intestesting aspect about The Matrix Online was how it directly linked to the film series. Major characters such as Morpheus and Seraph appear in the game's world, referencing events from the films and interacting with the player. This was such a critical point about the game's design that it was used as a selling point. The idea of "continuing the story" from The Matrix film franchise was slapped onto any promotional material in an attempt to attract fans and gamers alike who wanted to go deeper into the rabbit hole.
While The Matrix Online had a successful reception, and a healthy abundance of players in its prime, it did not last forever. In August 2009, the servers for The Matrix Online were shut down with roughly under 500 players online during its final days. The game attracted fans eager to live out fantasies within the world created by the Wachowskis, and even got the writing talents of comic book writers like Paul Chadwick to contribute to the overall mission structure. The Matrix Online had its place in the MMORPG market, but as Agent Smith said in the films: "Everything that has a beginning, has an end." This massively ambitious title would be shelved and left as a memory in the minds the most dedicated fans, who may be rewarded for that knowledge when The Matrix 4 releases.