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EverQuest II Free to Play Too? July 27, 2010

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Sony Online Entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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Well, we can certainly see which way the wind is blowing this year… in the direction of free to play… or no cover charge, if you prefer.

As noted over at Massively this morning, Sony Online Entertainment announced EverQuest II Extended, their version of the free to play.

Like the Lord of the Rings Online free to play announced earlier this year, there will be different access for different plans, from free to various fees.

EverQuest II Extended Membership Matrix

However, unlike the LOTRO plan, this is not going to do away with the current EQII subscription plans.  From the FAQ:

EverQuest II Extended is a completely separate gameplay service from the EverQuest II live subscription service. The server lists are not shared, it has completely separate forums, and if you don’t want to be around the community that plays in the free adventure service, then there is no reason for that to ever occur. However, if you want to go try out Extended, feel free to do so. Active EQII live players can create a new account on EQII Extended for free or copy over a version of an existing EQII live character for $35.

If you currently play EverQuest II, you won’t be able to drop your monthly fee unless you want to pay $35 to copy over (does that mean “clone” or “move?”) a character to a new server.  If you pay for Station Access, you will apparently get a gold level account, but that doesn’t mean much if you characters are elsewhere.

What will this mean?  Will this effectively kill off any new players to the current EQII servers, leaving them to dwindle over time like their EQ brethren?  Will guilds jump to the new server?

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in comparison to the LOTRO conversion.

I do not think, however, that this free to play mania is going to spread to Blizzard and the WoW cash machine any time soon.

Addendum:

From the forum post by Dave Georgeson:

“EverQuest II Extended” shares all the content and features of Live EQII. It plays the same. It looks the same. It *is* the same, with two obvious exceptions: a) it’s free-to-play, and b) it has a more robust marketplace.

What does “free-to-play” mean? It means that you can download the game and play all of it (except the most recent expansion) all the way up to level 80. Your character is restricted in a bunch of different ways (limited class selection, limited races, limited coin, etc.) and to unlock those features fully, you’ll need to subscribe to Gold level membership. Which, coincidentally, is $15/month. Sound familiar?

What is a “robust marketplace”? It’s exactly the same marketplace that you see on the EQII service, but it also adds lots of “convenience” items. Can’t find a good shield in-game? We sell one appropriate to your level and class. Want a healing potion to use in a pinch? Need an emergency buff? Want to shortcut your research time? Items like that are all available in the marketplace. Do we sell the very best items and equipment? Nope. Legendary and Fabled gear are better than what you can buy in the marketplace. Has the game been rebalanced so that you *need* to buy these “convenience” items? Nope. EQ2X is exactly the same game that you’re playing currently on the EQII servers. Those items are just there if you want them. They are true “convenience” items.

I guess they will be taking the Station Cash aspect to a new level and start selling equipment with stats on the new service.  That is a significant change, no matter how they try to play it off, and explains, to a certain extent, why they will be keeping EQ2 Live and EQ2 Extended apart.

Comments»

1. Ardwulf - July 27, 2010

Holy cow, was my reaction.

Looking at it, this looks like it will operate entirely in parallel with the existing EQ2 service/servers. I strongly suspect that we will see long-term decline in population on the original servers, but that was bound to happen sooner or later anyway.

This may breathe a lot of new life into EQ2, which makes me excited about it – EQ2 deserves more attention than it gets.

2. Grimjakk - July 27, 2010

I’m reasonably sure that copy means copy. They’ve always said transfer for when referring to moves.

At least I’m hoping this is the case. It would certainly dampen my enthusiasm to find out that it wasn’t.

As for the fate of the fate of the old subscription servers… we’ll have to wait and see what incentives SOE offers standard subscribers. I don’t think you’re far wrong in guessing that standard populations will dwindle, but as the marketplace changes, that would be their eventual fate anyway. At least this way, the game survives and continues to grow.

3. wraith808 - July 27, 2010

Copy doesn’t mean exact copy, however. You lose all currency. I’m thinking about doing the $5 resub to purchase stuff on the AH then doing this… but not sure at $35 a toon. Decisions, decisions…

4. wraith808 - July 27, 2010

I took a closer look, and something immediately stood out to me. “In game pop up advertising”? Really?

5. Bhagpuss - July 27, 2010

Sounds fantastic to me as a Station Access subscriber. Since I play almost exclusively on the Test server, population isn’t an issue. I’m more interested in the long-term survival of the game.

I really hope they do this for Vanguard.

6. Wilhelm2451 - July 27, 2010

@Wraith808 – Yes, at the bottom of the chart is says that if you are a Bronze of Silver subscriber, you will be subject to “frequent upgrade reminders.”

I am surprised that Platinum members, who will have to fork out $200 a year (i.e. the same amount I paid for my LOTRO lifetime subscription) will still only get access to four races by default.

And I still am not sure I like the speeding up the death of the traditional servers that this will cause. Yes, it would happen eventually, but even EverQuest still gets a trickle of new players. Not enough to off-set the losses, but something. This change promises to shut off the tap for the current servers in a much more drastic fashion.

Then again, maybe everybody on the old plan will end up merged onto the Antonia Bayle server, and we won’t have to worry about that issue any more.

7. wraith808 - July 27, 2010

It just doesn’t seem to be worth it in the case of this f2p model. The $35/toon entry cost, the loss of money, the severe restrictions on the f2p people, the separate servers… it seems way more restrictive than other f2p models, and to cost a lot more for so little. I started trying DDO again once LOTRO f2p was announced, and yes, the restrictions are there. But they’re more like a boundary around a region of the game than a box. This seems like a box.

8. Grimjakk - July 27, 2010

They DO have to be careful about being too restrictive, but the overall goal isn’t to get a current subscriber to spend more than $15 a month… its to get a new player to spend SOMETHING. ;)

9. wraith808 - July 27, 2010

@Grimjakk
But I’m the subscriber base that they would try to win back… that’s the perspective of what I’m referring to. And with DDO I was in the same subset, and the restrictions aren’t too bad… but with these, it wouldn’t really feel like I was playing EQ2… and at $35 a toon to get in, it’s even worse.

10. P@tsh@t - July 28, 2010

Ah SOE. Free to play is a great idea. EQII is a game I’d love to come back to again and again. F2P is a perfect solution for folks like me.

Of course, the reason I play MMOs is to be able to play with friends. Yet again an MMO company has figured out how to put walls between players.

I can’t imagine that the raving hordes of the great unwashed F2P players will irreparably pollute EQIIs pristine pool. These games need people not more walls or reasons not to play in the first place.

I can’t think of a better sales tool than having a high pop thriving server of helpful, devoted and knowledgeable players to show the noobs what is great about the game.

Sounds like another squandered opportunity for SOE.

11. wraith808 - July 28, 2010

@P@tsh@t
If you look at the forums on LOTRO, the main concern is the influx of f2p players. This was probably a concession to those concerns more than a squandered opportunity, truthfully.

12. Wilhelm2451 - July 28, 2010

If you read the interview over at Massively, or the forum piece I quoted above, a key item in SOE’s plan is to open the flood gates on Station Cash purchases.

They know that their current player base is vocally against selling anything that isn’t merely cosmetic, and admit as much. So that group will have its own play ground, fenced off from new players, to dwindle and fade, while this new version of EverQuest II, will be able to sell anything it wants.

13. HarbingerZero - July 28, 2010

@Bhagpuss

“I really hope they do this for Vanguard”

My thoughts exactly. In fact, my only real criticism is that they should have done this for Vanguard *first* rather than EQ2. Unless EQ2 is bleeding subs more than most of us seem to think they.

14. Wilhelm2451 - July 28, 2010

I get the feeling that they won’t bother with Vanguard. The problem is that the upside of doing this for Vanguard would be pretty small financially. Good for the game (maybe) but not so good for the bottom line.

They’ve already cut people from the Vanguard team again and the game seems to have more limited appeal than EQII. Plus, Vanguard has already had the Live Gamer cash shop grafted on, hasn’t it? They are keeping EQII Live Gamer and EQII Extended servers apart, so I’m not sure they would mix them for Vanguard. Would a new, Vanguard Extended server, isolated from the current players be viable?

I think you will see it happen to EverQuest long before you see this happen to Vanguard, and I have trouble seeing them do this for EverQuest.

15. wraith808 - July 28, 2010

But maybe since they don’t have to worry about segregating the population for Vanguard, they could do it in a way that’s more similar to the other f2p MMOs out there rather than this hybridization.

I really want to get back into Vanguard, but I can’t see paying $15 a month for it. I purchase here and there like with DDO I can see, however.

16. HarbingerZero - July 28, 2010

Wraith808 hits it on the head. We all know that Vanguard isn’t making them a whole lot of money (if any). If you want to play around with the F2P bandwagon, why not test the waters there where you have nothing but upside? And if Live Gamer has already been grafted into VG – well that makes it easier to justify a move to F2P, not harder.

The downside I can think of is that I get the (totally unscientific) impression that most VG regulars are actually Station Pass customers, so there might be some backlash to watering down the value there.

17. Wilhelm2451 - July 28, 2010

@HZ – But you’re missing the point. That there is little in the way of downside is nice, but there is no real pay off likely for investing in Vanguard. And without a pay off, what is the point?

Do you really believe that if Vanguard went to this new model, that it would attract enough new players to not only pay for all the work and additional overhead, but would also make a profit on top of that.

If so, you’ll have to convince me, because I cannot see that ever happening.

Vanguard, like a lot of games, has a small, loyal following, but it is never going to have more than that. Be happy that SOE keeps it alive at all.

18. wraith808 - July 28, 2010

@Whilhelm2451
I see what you mean, but I think either would have been a good move. As you said, everyone knows that VG is pretty much on life support. It’s not going to score that many more players without a lot of work. But DDO was in the same boat. And when given that work, did turn around. I personally think it would be better to play around with the one that failure is an option for, than EQ2. Because, no matter what they do, there’s going to be backlash on the EQ2 front, and from what I see, they can afford another NGE less than they can afford to spend on VG to make sure they get it right, especially since they can’t really expect new money from The Agency or DCU for a while yet.

SOE is an enigma to me, though. At times, they seem focused on the long term, and at times, on the short game. I think that really comes through in their games- for the negative in most cases.

19. Xyd - July 28, 2010

I play the original EQ for about a year and got frustrated with the zone loads. (Yes, I know that has changed.) I do, however, know WoW pretty well thru all the expansions.

Do you know a good link that can educate a WoW player on the difference in EQ2 vs WoW, and what to expect in terms of gameplay?

.xyd

20. The EQ2X Reaction Rundown « Ardwulf's Lair - July 29, 2010

[...] The Ancient Gaming Noob provides a gush-free breakdown of how the new scheme will work, and wonders how it will affect, if at all, what Turbine is doing with LotRO. My guess is that it won’t have any effect until at least next year, when both games are over the initial conversion and can react to what the competition is doing – now that there will be competition, since prior to this Turbine had the whole “decent MMOs you can play for free” market sewn up. [...]

21. Wilhelm2451 - July 29, 2010

@Wraith808 – I see the parallel you are drawing, but I do not think it is as close a comparison as you might think.

While DDO was clearly under performing, Turbine continued to invest in the game, adding a lot of content and tuning the way things worked. The game is considerably more sophisticated than it was at launch.

Eventually they felt they needed to break the mold and went F2P and it paid off both because of the new revenue model and because of all the work put into the game. And, of course, it helps to have the Dungeons & Dragons brand name on the game.

Compare this with Vanguard. SOE has invested some in Vanguard, but a lot of the initial investment was just fixing the game so it would play right. They have added some new content, but that has been slow in coming and any future content will be slower still as they have drawn down staff on the game. The game is not poised for success, lacking only in customers. It is a basket case and, having gone back to play it again in April, it still feels about like it did on day one.

In the end, Turbine decided to gamble and won. But they only have two viable titles at this point, DDO and LOTRO, so it isn’t like they had a myriad of choices.

SOE decided to reinforce success, and chose to go with EQII for their F2P experiment. More money into EQII keeps expansions and content drops coming and keeps their current top performer alive and competitive.

22. wraith808 - July 29, 2010

@Wilhelp2451
Very good points all- I thought that more content than that had been added for Vanguard. I consider it a real shame, since that game really had potential, but I see your points.

After thinking this over a bit more, I realize the problem I really have with this segregation of players. The experience on the free server *is* going to be a lot different for one major reason- you can’t get the same level of play as on the regular server on the free server, even if you pay! You have to pay more to get the same amount of content that you would have on the regular server. So I guess they really are going for the new player, rather than the lapsed player.

The way I figured it, a lapsed player would pay $35 for entry, and lose gold and certain items. Then would have to possibly pay to get the same race/class combination, and certain of their items wouldn’t work until they paid a certain amount… It’s sort of like the $5 subscription thing they put in place. It looks good, until you look under the covers more closely.

23. Wilhelm2451 - July 29, 2010

@Wraith808 – I would just say that relative to DDO, Vanguard hasn’t gotten much new content. I know new things have gone in, but SOE hasn’t really made a big commitment to the game the way Turbine has with DDO.

But, as you point out, the segregation of the players, that is a bitter pill to swallow.

From one angle, SOE is being very generous, letting the current player base remain in their current situation. They could have just inflicted the whole system on the current servers in an NGE-like bet that the number of new customers would overshadow the defections that would come.

From another angle, they are hedging their bets, protecting their current revenue stream while they try to create a new one. What happens if the EQ2II Extended servers become more profitable than the EQ2II Live servers… well, we’ll have to wait and see if that comes to pass.

24. wraith808 - July 29, 2010

@Wilhelm2451
And you bring out a point that I hadn’t thought of. What happens if the new servers do become more profitable? Is this their way of trying out a new subscription model? And if it works, will they phase out the old servers? After all, if they’re making money hand over fist on the new servers, then what does it matter if they lose a few curmudgeons that wouldn’t get with the program?

25. Should Vanguard Go F2P? « Harbinger Zero - July 30, 2010

[...] July 30, 2010 This started as a comments discussion on The Ancient Gaming Noob’s page about EQ2′s move to F2P, and is quickly expanding.  And my general rule is: your blog, you get the last word.  Its a [...]

26. Lomax - July 31, 2010

Robust marketplace
Convenience items

Really? Sorry SmokeJumper is a corporate weasel. To give an idea of the kind of items being sold they are selling “wands of destruction”, these instant kill non heroic/epic mobs.

Along with cure all potions, instant self res potions, runes of power that buff your DPS. All of them make a difference in the raid group level.

And as for “we are not selling the most powerful items”, that’s a joke, he knows full well that due to constant stat revisions mastercrafted is actually the best to wear for most levels.

Expect the drop rate though for rares to craft them to drop, but don’t worry, you can buy these rares off the marketplace, how convenient.

This design will reward the developers with more money in only one way, by encouraging players to buy more.

27. Wilhelm2451 - July 31, 2010

@Lomax – Well, at times like this it is often a choice of “corporate weasel” or “unemployed.” Being in the latter category still, weasel doesn’t look so bad.

But yes, they do seem to be soft pedaling the nature of the items they are going to sell.

“Can’t find a good shield in-game? We sell one appropriate to your level and class. Want a healing potion to use in a pinch? Need an emergency buff? Want to shortcut your research time?”

That little snippet doesn’t really convey the same message you’ve written, does it?

But, it will be interesting (for me, as I am not playing EQ2 now) to see how this plays out and how the two parallel worlds of post-cataclysm Norrath will co-exist.


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