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SOE to Copy Blizzard’s Copy of SOE’s Idea December 4, 2010

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II.
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Have you got that?

What am I talking about?

It has been more than five years since their first MMO launched.  It has become a huge success, beyond their wildest dreams.  It is the most popular subscription MMO ever and people seek to copy it.  But they know change is needed, an update is required.

So they stage an earth shattering event, a CATACLYSM!  And from that they hope to revitalize their world, to create a new, more exciting, more up to date, and even more popular game.

So who am I talking about?

I mean, that could be SOE in 2004, or Blizzard in 2010.

One lead to EverQuest II which was, I’m sorry to say, not a more popular game than its predecessor.  The other cataclysm is Blizzard’s next World of Warcraft expansion, and we’ll see what that does pretty soon.

I’ve been reading Kotaku again.

They had an interview with John Smedley (who needs a better bio on Wikipedia), and he was talking about a cataclysm for EverQuest II, which made me think, “Urm, didn’t we come in on that note?  Wasn’t EQII your reboot?”

Okay, I am being literalistic again, one of my many faults.  But I cannot get that cataclysm parallel out of my head, false though the comparison might be.

I know he means something considerably less than the EverQuest to EverQuest II transition.  But he also must mean more than a mere expansion that throws another 10 levels on the pile, a few more zones, and some more ways to spend your alternate advancement points.

Anyway, read the article.  It must be drastically cut and paraphrased… or else Smed is all over the map.  I mean, Kotaku writes this:

While Smedley doesn’t expect the World of Warcraft expansion to have a deep impact on EverQuest II players, Sony Online Entertainment isn’t taking any chances.

And then quotes Smed saying this:

“We have five years of World of Warcraft experience behind us to know that people that play EverQuest II don’t play World of Warcraft,” he said. “We don’t see big dips in concurrency. We see a tiny drop for awhile.”

So, if WoW doesn’t impact EQII, what chances could they be taking?  And I guess that I and about a dozen people I could name are statistical anomalies, being that we play EverQuest II and WoW at times. (And it might be more correct to say that people who play WoW do not play EQII, since most of our guild in EQII at launch drained to WoW, but very few of them found their way back.  Maybe I am an anomaly.)

And then we hit on a lot of people’s favorite SOE gripe:

What they do see, though, is Blizzard potentially grabbing up a bunch of gamers new to massively multiplayer gaming, something they plan to fight with an increase in marketing for EverQuest II.

You know, there is a lot to like about EQII, but what are they going to do to sell it beyond free to play?  What haven’t they done to sell the game?  What are they holding back on, and why haven’t they used it already?

What do you think?  Are they headed in the right direction with this, or should they be focused on the next version of Norrath that we heard about this past summer?

Comments»

1. Bhagpuss - December 4, 2010

This really is a cataclysm in a teacup. As far as I can see, all Smedley is trying to do is give polite, content-free, anodyne replies to what must be, for him, just another of the endless stream of brief P.R. interludes that interrupt his daily routine.

Most MMO spokespeople, certainly those at Smedley’s corprate level, go out of their way only to say mildy pleasant, mildly complementary, blandly respectful things about other MMO companies. Specifically, SoE devs are almost always polte and positive about WoW.

What he’s actually quoted as saying is so bland and undefined it doesn’t even count as a vague statement of intent. He says

“We are looking at it closely, we have been for a number of years now. Is it something we would do within the next expansion cycle? Probably not. But I think it’s interesting.”

“It” in this context means “pressing the reset button” which means making a major revamp of the game. We all know they’ve been thinking about doing that for years. It comes up over and over on the EQ2 forums and at Fan Faire. The fact is, they may have thought about it but they haven’t done it.

And they aren’t going to do it “within the next expansion cycle” , which in EQ2’s terms now means “not before Spring 2012″. Probably. But let’s not rule it out, because Smed thinks it’s “interesting”.

Really, how is this even a story? By the time we get to the point in the “expansion cycle” he’s talking about, he’ll be on the P.R. circuit talking up EQNext. Given SoE’s appalling marketing record to date, you couldn’t exclude the possibility of conflicting interests, but resetting EQ2 just prior to the launch of EQ3 would be going some even for them.

As for the “EQ2 players don’t play WoW” thing, I think that’s completely true. He doesn’t mean “EQ2 players have never, will never, play WoW”. He means “WoW has already long ago boiled off all the players we had who prefer WoW to EQ2. We’re left with a residue that, while they might visit WoW occasionally, choose to spend the majority of their MMO time with us”.

It doesn’t contradict the anecdotal evidence of all the people in guilds leaving for WoW and not coming back. Those aren’t the “people that play Everquest” that he’s referring to. The people he means are people like me and many of the people I know in game who have been playing EQ2 for 6 years and Everquest for a decade or more.

And I doubt he’s bothered that we don’t all log in for 40 hours a week any more. He’ll be more interested that even when we go to other MMOs we keep our SoE accounts active, or resubscribe them over and over after short periods out. SoE has a much (MUCH!) smaller playerbase than Blizzard, but it’s going to have those players for life. Literally.

2. Kwambus - December 4, 2010

There is a lot I love about EQII, then there is the 90’s graphics engine that hogs CPU rather than your GFX card. The poor animation and low poly count on many NPC’s and models.

EQII needs a graphics make over in my opinion, not even necessarily more content most of us have not seen what it already has! Just make it look gorgeous and animate wonderfully everything else is pretty much spot on, better than wow in some cases too.

3. Vok - December 4, 2010

I think, as a very general rule, new players to MMOs don’t play EQII or WoW. Gamers know about these games, they’re not new and I don’t think they entice your average gamer into the MMO world now.

I think new players to MMOs play LotRO, or CoH or Champions. They play something new or different and then, when it doesn’t stick, they try the big ones – and keeping the player in the game is what WoW does better than anyone else.

I could be wrong of course, that was just my personal path to WoW. I started with SWG in fact.

An existing IP is vital. WoW had that with the Warcraft games, but no one new is playing them any more, they’re to old. I think that if Bioware is not secretly working on a Mass Effect mmo right now they are insane. ME2 is game of the year and ME3 will be massive. Imagaine having ME online drop a year after ME3 – then we would be new players to the MMO space.

SWtOR, hit or miss, will bring more gamers to the MMO market for the first time than Cataclysm or EQII FTP. It’s who nabs those new players that don’t stay in SWtOR that counts.

4. Esri - December 4, 2010

There is a lot SOE hasn’t done to sell EQ2. Because they don’t have umpteen-million subscribers to pay for TV ads and having EQ2 pre-loaded on new computers, etc…

I still have an EQ2 subscription. I do play WoW though — its the game I’ve played most this year. I didn’t like WoW when it was new, but I do now. I don’t think Smedley would care though, since I’m not letting my EQ2 sub go.

5. Wilhelm2451 - December 4, 2010

@Ersi – Well, WoW didn’t have upteem millions of subscribers when they launched, while SOE had EQ and half a million subs when they launched EQII. So if it is about budget… well, it can’t be as simple as being about budget, can it? Not with those ratios and SOE having all those people already subscribed to one game.

I find the “they don’t have enough money to market” argument to be hollow. Spending more does not always yield more. A SuperBowl ad is probably less useful to them than all the cable TV ads they run for FreeRealms.

I do wonder why they couldn’t get at least a demo of their games pre-installed on Sony computers. You would think that would be doable, though having been in big companies before, it might be tougher than anybody outside imagines.

@Vok – I think a lot of players new to MMOs start with WoW. It has a critical mass of people so that you are likely to know somebody who plays the game already and a lot of people who are not gamers have heard of it.

With F2P, that may change though. LOTRO certainly got a lot more people who were new to the genre, if the Advice channel is any indicator.

@Bhagpuss – What Smed means is certainly open to interpretation. I certainly have trouble digesting what he says as literal truth, as I noted. In your spin it also means that EQII has little or no pull on the order of magnitude greater pool of players playing WoW.

On resets and future plans, I think Echoes of Faydwer was their best shot (before F2P) of getting people into EQII. And it was a good shot. But you can only play the nostalgia card so often before it loses its punch.

As to why this is news, does the CEO of a major game studio speaking to the press not automatically qualify? CEO speaks but imparts no actual information is always worth a few inches of print, if only to compare with other statements.

6. Bhagpuss - December 4, 2010

Only slightly off-topic, SoE just announced what looks like quite a clever account-retention offer for Velious pre-orders. And I must not have been paying as much attention as I thought I was, becasue the new Vampire race came as a complete surprise.


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