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EverQuest Forecast – Today Rain of Fear, Tomorrow Cloudy? November 28, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, Sony Online Entertainment.
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Back in April of 2007, when the EverQuest team announced that they were going to stop doing two expansions a year in favor of doing a single, higher quality expansion annually, there was some discussion about how this came about and what it meant.

I wrote a post about that at the time, in which I asked the question:

How many more EverQuest expansions?

At the time… and this was six years ago… I gave what I thought was a high and a low estimate.

At the low end, I thought maybe the 10th year anniversary in 2009 would be a good time to hang things up.  Ten years was a good run.

At the high end I said that five more expansions would likely enough be it.  I mean, by November 2011, who would be left playing EverQuest?

So I get to officially declare I was wrong, as today sees a sixth expansion since I wrote that post, and the 19th EverQuest expansion overall.  Today is the launch day for the Rain of Fear expansion.

Fear! It Rains Down On Us!

I still don’t like the name.  It is a little too literal for me, with shards from the plane of fear raining down or some such.  I thought Reign of Fear might be better, but I didn’t get a vote.

Then again the EverQuest site seems to be a bit behind the curve still.  This is not an unheard of event there.

Last year’s expansion NOW LIVE!

Life in the web site update lane.  Things fall out of date so fast.

Anyway, today is supposed to be the launch day.  And on a Wednesday no less.  It is like Bizarro world.  The new expansion commeth.

Of course, since I wrote that post I referenced above, in addition to six more expansions, EverQuest has also gone free to play as well as launching another pair of nostalgia farming progression servers.  The game has been brought up to date (off-line broker, hotbars that work like we now expect hot bars to work, a camera that goes where you point it), some older zones have been revamped (which can be good or bad, depending on how you feel about nostalgia), and new features have been piled on (housing was a big one).

EverQuest has remained a going concern and looks like it will continue to do so for some time.

Still, nothing lasts forever.

So I will tempt the fates again and ask, how many more EverQuest expansions?

Two more gets us to the 15th anniversary, five more to 2017, and seven more to the 20th anniversary of the game.

I am tempted to say two more, because once you are free to play, I start to wonder if expansions really mean anything.  Should you be selling a box… even if it is only a virtual box at this point… every year, or should you be doling out content in smaller doses to be purchased ala carte by your users?  The Hero’s Forge thing comes to mind.

Hero’s Forge or Hero Forgery?

Of course, SOE has complicated this by screwing up their virtual currency with heavy discounts to the point that they felt they could no longer sell subscription time or expansions for Station Cash.  They want straight up money for that sort of thing.

At the other end, I am sure that EverQuest will still be around in 2019 for its 20th birthday in some form or another.  But will they still be selling expansions at that point?  What will have changed in seven years?  Will it be all nostalgia servers all the time by then?

So I am going to go with four more expansions.  Four more should overlap the last one with EverQuest Next, and once you have three EverQuest versions going, you have to stop and focus, don’t you?

Or maybe not.  We shall see.

How many more EverQuest expansions do you think we will see?

Additional ironic note: The links in my 2007 post are dead. Those sites are down, EQ lives on.

Addendum: There it is.

There is even a trailer.

Comments»

1. bhagpuss - November 28, 2012

Which do you think will come first? The closure of Everquest or the disappearance of the PC as a platform to support it? I wouldn’t bet on there being any kind of mainstream PC gaming market in 2019, although I don’t doubt some form of retro-hobbyist version will exist indefinitely. You can still buy a harpsichord, after all.

2. Wilhelm Arcturus - November 28, 2012

@Bhagpuss – You’re going to force me into more predictions, aren’t you?

I will say that there will be something that you and I recognize as the PC platform, mildly evolved though it may be, in 2019. And I believe that will hinge on one thing: Keyboards.

So your harpsichord reference was apt, as it also supports a standard keyboard interface. You would just more likely use an electronic keyboard to get the harpsichord sound these days.

We have had our current keyboard layout since the 1870s simply because it works and we haven’t come up with anything that works better. If pressed, I can probably write with a modern pen faster than I can type, but I won’t vouch for the ability to read it later.

Touch typing on a decent keyboard is the lynchpin of data processing and the computer age.

Any vision of the future that does not have a keyboard attached to it must provide a better alternative. Cursor control can be done by touch screen, and my iPad is great for reading or viewing things, but the keyboard still rules for entering words into things.

And as long as you have to have a keyboard hanging around, you will essentially have desktops and laptops.

I think sales and the need to replace PCs for new ones will continue to decline. See my hardware doldrums post. And they may start to become more and more appliance-like, which is practically an evolutionary necessity. But we’ll still have something like PCs in 2019. They are simply too damn useful, and the keyboard is what makes that so to my mind.

And as long as they are around, there will be a gaming market along for the ride. There have been games on computers since there were computers after all.

Now, back to the main question: How many more EQ expansions do you think there will be?

3. bhagpuss - November 28, 2012

I have to agree on the keyboard thing for data entry and for most of what we think of as “written” applications. Despite all the promises (and reality) of voice controlled computers, a keyboard still seems preferable for those. There was a time when you could control EQ by voice, come to think of it. One of SoE’s countless forgotten, unsupported innovations.

Once it becomes a sealed unit not modifiable by the user, though, is it still a PC?

Everquest expansions is a tricky one. Ian Hunter, ex-Mott the Hoople singer, went on releasing albums/CDs throughout the 80s and 90s. He said that his record company knew exactly how many he would sell every time because he basically carrried the same fan-base with him from release to release. They were able to budget for that and he remained economically viable for them to keep on their books. I’d imagine EQ must have been there for some while now.

F2P really messes that equation up, though. SoE again intimated that the current EQ2 expansion may be the last one in the recognized “expansion” format. They said that about the one before that, though. If they stop doing EQ2 expansions, I would still not be surprised to see a few more after that for EQ. I suspect
the playerbase there is more resistant to ad hoc marketplace purchases and keener on lump-sum expansion transactions.

My guess is that we won’t see any further EQ expansions after EQNext releases. As to when that might be…

4. Wilhelm Arcturus - November 28, 2012

@Bhagpuss – “Once it becomes a sealed unit not modifiable by the user, though, is it still a PC?”

Let me introduce you to the 1984 Macintosh. Or, more recently, the iMac. You can dual boot the latter to run Windows, but all the end user can do is upgrade RAM and attach USB devices. Getting close to appliance, and it plays WoW. Must be a toaster.

As for SOE, I want to go visit their HQ again and count feet. They shoot themselves there so often I can’t imagine that they collectively have very many feet left between them.

SOE has devalued Station Cash to the point that they had to stop letting people buy subscription time and expansions with it. So either they have to fix that… which is a tall order that involves creating more demand in ways that does not involve “triple cash” deals, and clearly expansions and subscriptions were not enough… so they can sell smaller bits, or they have to go on selling content for real money, which means expansions.

It is a mess. And there is LOTRO selling all of their content and expansions for Turbine Points. Of course, Turbine also introduced that horrible slot machine game too, so F2P is sucking in many dimensions.

5. Appreciating My Fellow Bloggers | - November 29, 2012

[...] RIFT: My Home Within a Home Stylish Corpse – A Little Light Reading The Ancient Gaming Noob – Everquest Forecast – Today Rain of Fear, Tomorrow Cloudy? The Brainy Gamer – The Wreckage and The Way Out The Nosy Gamer – Holding Pattern The Psychology [...]

6. NoAstronomer - November 29, 2012

And in 2012 even Windows laptops are essentially appliances. I bought a middle-of-the-road Toshiba in June for my daughter. We took it out of the box, turned it on and it worked.

I upgraded the memory but I couldn’t really have touched anything else. If she needed more storage I would probably have picked up a USB hard drive. Even the memory upgrade was probably nothing more than a nice to have.

I still count it as a PC though. Personal Computer. Does an iPad, or my Kindle Fire, count as a PC though? hmmm…..

Mike.

7. wizardling - December 2, 2012

I can’t see PC or Mac gaming ever really dying. Maybe more titles will be console only, but the fact is unless consoles change radically, some games and especially user created content, modding, customisation,and simply having the freedom to do anything, all work best on a personal computer. And if consoles _did_ radically change to make them as open as personal computers, well. Then they’ll be actual personal computer, not consoles any more! Heh.

The advantage of consoles are that there is only one or a very limited number of configurations, and virtually no user customisation, making software quality assurance and optimisation much easier. This is why console software typically has fewer bugs and runs faster on lesser hardware. But that comes at a price. Me – I’m not willing to give up the openness of the personal computer for only consoles – not ever. YMMV, but I still thrill at the possibilities a personal computer opens for the user willing to learn.

Anyway – it all seems a bit of a pointless argument given there is absolutely no reason why consoles and the personal computer cannot co-exist. Zealots and platform bigots aside, why would anyone need to forgo one in favour of the other?

As for how many more EQ1 xpacs – I reckon one per year for as long as EQ1 can support at least half a dozen servers. Once EQ1 reaches Vanguard population levels and server numbers, well – maybe no more, and EQ1 will go into maintenance mode. But I’d be surprised if that happens any time soon. EQ1 still has a lot of life left in it – each new xpac proves that, and the progression servers adamantly reaffirm it!

All SoE has to do is keep giving players enough new content and the occasional progression sever every three years or so, to support guilds. Kill the guilds by giving members nothing new to do or no old fun to revisit, and EQ1 is finished – whatever some players like to think, EQ1 survives because of it’s social aspect.

Whether that social aspect be as simple as a friendly guild chat while you solo or box, other people in the world to passively notice your actions and achievements, or as involved as top end raiding – EQ1 would, as single player RPGers have pointed out many a time, make a very poor and really rather dull single player RPG.

So yeah – while SoE often seems to make the least possible effort, and when surprisingly they do, they fail at follow through, EQ1 has plenty of life left, even if the rest of the decade is just a repeat of the previous one in terms of SoE’s actions.

Honestly – given the lack of appeal on my part towards modern MMOs, it won’t take much to keep me playing EQ1 for the next ten years. Even if I do take breaks or put raiding on Fippy on the back burner in order to play other MMOs, I plan on re-visiting Asheron’s Call when I next have enough time. I’ve zero inclination to play WoW or anything newer again, as the newer titles stand.

There would have to be the 2013 equivalent of 2004′s WoW to get me away from older MMOs – some MMO so fun in all the right ways, without being dumbed down too far or catering to the lowest common denominator, that my attention is captured and I devote all my MMOing time to it. But I see no signs of it.

Even if my some miracle a company has the finances and balls to make another MMO that hits enough of the right spots for me, I’ve always come back to EQ1 from time to time. It will be a painful day indeed, when I can no longer login to old pre-EQ2 cataclysm Norrath. I just thank Prexus there’s no Lucas Arts to yank a non-SoE intellectual property out from under their feet (I will never ever play another Star Wars MMO – you can’t trust even a financially viable game will stay running. Being at the whims of Lucas Arts and now Disney does _not_ inspire confidence).

Well, I better end this post before it truly rages out of control for a few more pages :-) See ya starside!

8. Wilhelm Arcturus - December 2, 2012

@Wizardling – “there is absolutely no reason why consoles and the personal computer cannot co-exist.”

I don’t think anybody was putting the argument in a “consoles vs. PCs” dichotomy. Knowing Bhagpuss, I assumed he was talking about bringing MMO gaming to new devices outside of PCs and consoles, like Android and iOS. Devices, which I pointed out, lack a real keyboard, which I feel is what will keep the PC relevant for a long time to come, gaming or otherwise.

As for the “how many more expansions” question, I was attempting to elicit a guess in the form of a number with perhaps some rationalization or justification. Saying, essentially, that they will keep making them as long as they keep making them isn’t really playing the game.

That question, by the way, also assumes we all agree on what an expansion really is in the traditional EQ sense. They might well stop selling those and go into a more ala carte model of selling new content or functions at more frequent intervals if they can figure out how to fix their massive Station Cash fiasco. That would be, in my opinion, the end of expansions yet not the end of the game getting updated.

wizardling - December 2, 2012

Well, “I wouldn’t bet on there being any kind of mainstream PC gaming market in 2019″ seems pretty clear to me. That wouldn’t result from a market favouring choice, the right tool for the right job, and user preferences. Maybe Bhagpuss wasn’t saying _he’s_ against these things, just that he can’t see choice, etc remaining viable.

The idea that serious PC gaming will completely die out is, well, no offence to anyone – patently absurd to me. History simply doesn’t bear it out, and as I said – in order for a console to be good enough for certain types of games and user preferences such as openness, it would need to gain a personal computer’s capabilities. Then you no longer have a console. You’ve a personal computer using your TV as it’s display.

On to EQ xpac predictions:

A specific numeric guess as to the number of expansions left was what you wanted? Heh, well my point was that I’ve no idea because I expect it will be based quite simply on how long EQ1 remains profitable. EQ1′s profitability depends on so many factors that any guess on my part would be nothing more than a stab in the dark. But ok, I’ll play – six more xpacs for EQ1!

Six because:

a) Yearly large content expansions seem set to continue for some time, if only because raiding would become a nightmare if you had to get sometimes a couple hundred or more players in sync with micro-transaction bought raid content (“Ok guys, tonight we’re raiding part’s 3-4 + 7 of WKL, 2- 6 of TI, and all of VVVoH, then the attunement for Dok B [totally made up acronyms] which we’ll be raiding next time. Make sure you’ve bought all of those! Ok, ready to go? What? Why are nine people still not in? Dammit, they didn’t buy that part? Arrrgh!”).

Remember – not everyone raids all the time. Even my smaller Fippy guild has over 100 active raid ready members, and we’re still lucky to get near the 72 player maximum for raids. More often we’re raiding with only 60ish. You’d have to make sure that not only are people flagged – which can be PITA enough, but instead of simply buying one xpac and being set for six months to a year, that they’d bought all the micro-transacted raids the guild is doing.

I know this much – no way would our guild survive greater burden and hassle to be able to raid. Hell, despite generally being well organised for a fun family raiding guild, we’d be shooting ourselves in the food if we only ever went with members who sign up and know for sure they’ll be there on a particular night. We’re mostly adults with real world lives we have to fit EQ in around. We can’t always commit to every raid date ahead of time. We need those who were able to make it on the night to fill up the raid.

So yeah – I can’t see major content updates being heavily sub-divided into separately purchased content. At most maybe an xpac for a year broken into two parts released every six months. In other words two mini-xpacs a year, rather than one big one.

Really it seems more likely the majority of SC store items will remain vanity and minor and/or low level helpful items that do not unbalance raid level play. Maybe SoE could try selling bonus raids as well, but what nightmare that’d be.

The reason it would be worse than flagging is with flagging SoE can allow the non-Flagged to be piggbacked into a raid zone. But imagine that with say, 50% of raiders having to have purchased a raid via micro-transaction. Boy – talk about a recipe for guild drama when some rightly or wrongly feel they’re financially carrying others! Ha, bad ju-ju all round with that idea!

b) It is reasonable to based on past patterns to assume EQ1 remains viable enough to warrant xpacs for at least six more years.

c) Six is my favourite number ;-)

9. Wilhelm Arcturus - December 2, 2012

@Wizardling – “Well, “I wouldn’t bet on there being any kind of mainstream PC gaming market in 2019″ seems pretty clear to me.”

But it didn’t say anything about consoles, which was my point. And I pretty much argued and got agreement on the whole keyboard aspect.

Okay, I said four, you said six. Any other calls?


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