Those adventuring in NCsoft's City of Heroes may want to start searching for some new superhero MMO real estate. In an announcement on the official CoH site Friday, it was revealed that NCsoft is closing Paragon Studios and that all development on the game will cease, effective immediately. That's right, the premiere superhero/superhero comic MMORPG will shut down for good before the end of 2012, bringing an end to almost seven years of gameplay for fans - some of whom may have just gotten started when the game went free-to-play just a year ago.Community Manager Andy Belford had this to say in a farewell post on the CoH site:

Thank you. Thank you for your years of support. You've been with us every step of the way, sharing in our challenges, encouraging us to make City of Heroes better, more than everyone else thought it could be. We couldn't have come this far without you. I implore you all, focus on the good things of CoH and Paragon Studios. Don't dwell on the "how" or the "why", but rather join us in celebrating the legacy of an amazing partnership between the players and the development team.

The shuttering of CoH is the end of an era for many fans and notably paved the way for other prominent superhero MMO's including Champions Online, DC Universe Online and the upcoming Marvel Heroes. City of Heroes nearly resulted in the direct creation of an early Marvel MMO to boot, with original CoH developer Cyptic having been sued by Marvel back in 2004 for allegedly allowing players to create copyright-infringing characters, although both parties settled out of court and Cryptic was contracted to work on a potential Marvel Universe Online. The game was scrapped, but apparently had dozens of missions written by Brian Michael Bendis, with environments such as the Baxter Building and the X-Mansion designed as well.

An official shutdown date has yet to be announced, but is expected soon.

[Via City of Heroes]