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Bloodbath at SOE – Four Titles Closing Down, PlanetSide Goes F2P January 24, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Sony Online Entertainment, Vanguard SOH.
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12 comments

In one of those “Good news, bad news, more bad news, even more bad news, how about a tiny bit of good news, now can I bring up some more bad news” scenarios, Sony Online Entertainment announced that they had finalized their plans for their change over of all subscriptions types to the full boat SOE All Access plan, which they fumbled on earlier in the month, but which will now be just $14.99 a month and which will still come with a 500 Station Cash monthly stipend.

Once known as Station Access...

Now the plan for everybody

There is a new FAQ up in the official SOE forums describing the plan., which will be put in place “on or about” April 2, 2014.  (No April Fools Jokes for SOE!)

Down in the FAQ there are a few rather less-than-minor details, like the fact that SOE will be closing down four of their games.  Those on the list:

So SOE is going to expand their “all the MMOs you can eat” plan while at the same time cutting back on the number of MMOs on the menu.

I always say, there will be plenty of time for recriminations later.  I expect a lot to bubble up after this.  I await the SynCaine post on the F2P business model for openers.

As for the games themselves, I never really played any of them for any long duration, so my feelings on the closures are pretty subdued.

Clone Wars Adventures was an adjunct to a TV show that is no longer on the air, plus EA snagged the rights to all Star Wars video games in May of last year, so this one closing isn’t a real surprise.  It will just stand as a lesson in not investing in virtual hats.

Free Realms was never a thing for me.  My daughter played it for a bit until they broke the Mac OSX client one too many times, which weaned her from the game.  She had a lifetime membership, which I am sure means nothing.  This was SOE’s first game designed to be free to play, one Smed wanted to play with his kids.  I guess the kids grew up in the last five years.

Wizardry Online was awful in my opinion, but I came in saying I am not big on Asian imported MMOs.  I won’t miss this one at all.  I am surprised it made it this long.  I am, however, counting it towards my prediction that more than half a dozen crap Asian F2P MMOs will fold up shop this year in the US market.

And then there is Vanguard.  There is a bit of strange timing here, with Brad McQuaid launching a Kickstarter for a new game just as his last one is finally getting the axe.  I was comparing him to Mark Jacobs and Lord British in that their first MMOs were good and their second MMOs got the axe… except for Vanagurd.  Well, now the comparison is complete.

Surprisingly, the original PlanetSide did NOT get the axe.  I have no idea why.  I would have put it on that list first thing.  But it is a Smed favorite I guess.

In fact, they are going to make it a free to play title.  They are actually expending some effort on that ghost town.  Did they learn nothing when they converted Vanguard?

So, in the end, the shiny SOE All Access subscription plan to be introduced “on or about” April 2 will buy you gold memberships to:

  • EverQuest
  • EverQuest II
  • PlanetSide
  • PlanetSide 2
  • DC Universe Online

And I think with this move, SOE has stolen the crown from NCSOFT for the most closed MMOs.  Because SOE.

Addendum: Oh, and I apparently forgot about the completely forgettable Dragon’s Prophet in the SOE lineup.  When did Asian imports become a thing for SOE?  Anyway, it just opened late last year, so it was probably too soon to shut it down contractually.  But it looks like it ranks with Wizardry Online when it comes to potential.

More comments from other sources:

Woke Up this Morning, Got Yourself a Gun November 21, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, PlanetSide 2.
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10 comments

Seeing that it just launched, I decided to patch PlanetSide 2 last night.  Like most MMOs these days, you download the launcher and that in turn downloads the game for you.  I let that run over night.

This morning I got up and found everything ready to go.

Unable to resist, I clicked “PLAY” and entered the game.  I quickly chose a server, chose a faction (Terran Republic), did my customization (picked a face), chose a fit (light assault), then got quickly into the game to see what I could see.

Mental image of my expectations…

And I ended up dead on the ground within 10 seconds because the spawn point was camped.

Since that was pretty much my first experience in the original PlanetSide, I would have to say “working as designed.”

Anyway, I had to get to work, so I scrawled this out and went on my way.

I will have to give it another try over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Plenty of time to play then, and plenty of reasons not to leave the house as well.

Provided I can get back on.

PlanetSide 2 Goes Live November 20, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, PlanetSide 2, Sony Online Entertainment.
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2 comments

The counter on the main page for the game ran down at last this morning.

Just a second to go!

The site is finally live.  People can play PlanetSide 2.

The big reveal…

It seems to be pretty popular.

No surprise on the source there.  SOE head John Smedley has been in the forefront, pushing this game.  His twitter account is practically the official source for PS2 news.

Of course, PS2 has been very popular already up to this point.  The open beta has been very open and lots of people have been playing.  The game has a clear following already, on day one, with the EVE Online demographic.  It is one of the non-EVE games covered over at The Mittani, which also has coverage of League of Legends, MechWarrior Online, and World of Tanks.

It makes you wonder where CCP’s own DUST 514 will fit in things?  In competing for the same audience, the “only on PlayStation 3″ aspect of DUST 514 continues to look like an awkward move at best for a company whose following is all on personal computers.

I mean, SOE reports to the PlayStation people at SCEA and they didn’t go to the PlayStation 3 with PlanetSide 2.  Not yet at least, though Smed did say we would see PlanetSide 2 on the Mac.

Meanwhile, PlanetSide 2 seems to fit right into the current SOE philosophy.  It is free to play.  It has a premium subscription option.  It is part of the SOE All Access pass.  And, as Smed said at Fan Faire, the players are providing the bulk of the content.

Pity that the philosophy also includes selling all their European customers to some German outfit.  That puts a damper on the game for some.

Of course, that last bit is pretty easy if you build a shooter game well.  We will see how the player created content/sandbox theme plays out with EverQuest Next as he mentioned in his keynote this year.

And then there is the question of the original PlanetSide.  Smed has said they won’t be closing it.  But in a family of free to play games, where does the sole remaining subscription title belong?

PlanetSide 2 to Go Live by December 31, 2012 September 7, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, PlanetSide 2, Sony Online Entertainment.
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5 comments

Today’s SOE announcement was the PlanetSide 2 Alpha Squad, a deal by which you could get into the PlanetSide 2 beta, get some Station Cash, and get a few special early adopter perks, including a “Founder” title, all for $39.95.

Join Alpha for Beta!

Good stuff, and I know some people will jump right on that.

But down in the FAQ section, we appear to get a reveal as to the expected launch date for PlanetSide 2.

Q. I’ve purchased the Alpha Squad Package. When do I get my items?

A. Your Beta access starts immediately, and you will receive 4000 Station Cash immediately! You will receive your in-game items upon the launch of PlanetSide 2, on or before December 31, 2012.

That seems like a pretty firm statement to me.  We shall see if that comes to pass.

All I have to say is that at least it isn’t launching into the pre-holiday mess with all the other launches and expansions.

Addendum: Heh, I actually suspected as much based on what Smed has tweeted in the past, but I could not resist declaring a ship date:

Vanguard Goes Free to Play Early August 8, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Sony Online Entertainment, Vanguard SOH.
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4 comments

Almost six years ago the trailer for Vanguard: Saga of Heroes had the tag line “Set Yourself Free.”  Well, now the prophecy of that line has come to pass.

Vanguard was slated to go live as a free to play title on August 14th.

But instead, surprise, it is live and free as of yesterday.  Or I guess it is.  The statement over at the new Vanguard site reads:

In case you haven’t seen the news, we’ve announced the official date for the Vanguard Saga of Heroes free-to-play launch: Tuesday, August 14, 2012!

We didn’t want to keep you – our most loyal and dedicated Vanguard citizens – waiting any longer, so we’ve released all of the free-to-play features for you to experience FIRST!

Since SOE has a single, unified account system, I have to imagine that “dedicated” citizens includes anybody paying close enough attention to have noticed that post.  You certainly seem able to download the client and such at this point

SOE has also posted the final feature matrix for launch.  It remains a two tier system, eschewing the middle, or Silver tier that EverQuest and EverQuest II have, but a few details have changed since SOE originally posted about it.

First Day Feature Matrix

If you compare that with the earlier one, you will see that they have changed brokers and mail access.  You now just paying higher in-game fees to use those services.  There will also be no restrictions on chat access for free players.

Meanwhile, the standard inconvenience restrictions on things like item quality, total in-game coins, quest log entries, remain in place to push people to subscribe.

The Vanguard Marketplace is also open now and will be offering things in the categories of “Services, Mounts and Pets, Housing, Appearance and Equipment.”  I will be interested to see what ends up in the cash shop.

There is also a new FAQ up about the game.

All of which now leaves PlanetSide as the sole monthly subscription title in the SOE arsenal of online games.  SOE has bet heavily on its particular flavor of the free to play model. It is what I might call the “push to subscribe” subset.

John Smedley says that PlanetSide is not going away when PlanetSide 2 launches. (Smed’s twitter account seems to be the new official news source for PlanetSide 2. He was clearly telling the truth when he said that PS was his thing.)  But I do not think it can remain a subscription game, so I wonder what the plan is.

[Addendum: Massively has an interview with a bit more information posted.]

SOE Eschews the Middle Tier with Vanguard Free to Play Pricing July 3, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Sony Online Entertainment, Vanguard SOH.
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11 comments

SOE announced back in March that Vanguard, the fantasy MMO step-child in their lineup, would be going free to play this summer.

Having been around the block with SOE titles moving from subscription to F2P at least twice before, first with EverQuest II and then EverQuest, it was probably easy enough to predict what was going to come to pass.

Both of those games ended up with a three tier subscription plan. (Yes, EverQuest II Extended had FOUR tiers, but that was clearly an experiment.)

At the bottom was “free,” which required no money changing hands.  All you had to do was create an SOE Station account, download the client, and you were set to log in and go.  Of course, there were some pretty severe restrictions on just what you could do with a free account.  These were put in place both to encourage you to upgrade and to keep abuse from gold sellers and the like to a minimum.

At the top end there was the “Gold” subscription, which was essentially the old monthly subscription plan in a new wrapper.  You could continue to give SOE $15 a month and get access to what you had before the transition.

And in the middle was the “Silver” tier where, for a fee of 500 Station Cash (which could range in value from $5.00 to 80 cents depending on various sales and incentives), some of the restrictions placed on “free” accounts were relaxed.  You got a couple more character slots, the ability to have more cash per character level, and no restrictions on chat channels.

This “Silver” tier made a lot of sense to me.  For an up front, one time payment, you were able to still dispense with the monthly fee, but got some benefits by essentially buying into the system.  Doing so probably meant you were unlikely to be a gold seller or other nefarious character likely to commit acts that might get you banned.  You had invested.

So I was somewhat surprised to see the Vanguard subscription matrix that was released today, as that “Silver” tier appears to be missing.

The two tiers of Vanguard

There is a FAQ up about the transition to F2P, which this time appears to cover most of the pertinent questions, but which makes no mention of the lack of a middle tier.

I wonder if that “Silver” level has proven ineffective in keeping the riff-raff under wraps, or if it ended up being too appealing to players, thus siphoning off potential dollars from players who might otherwise opt for a monthly subscription.

And this still leaves me wondering about PlanetSide? It will soon become SOE’s sole subscription-only title.

Reusing Images is “Green,” Right?

Smed says PlanetSide won’t be going away when PlanetSide 2 shows up.

When will it go free to play?

With Vanguard Going Free to Play, PlanetSide Becomes the Last SOE Subscription Based MMO March 21, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Sony Online Entertainment, Vanguard SOH.
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7 comments

In November of last year, when EverQuest II slated to go fully free to play, I asked the obvious question;  which of the remaining SOE subscription MMOs would also go free to play?

Back then, only four games remained subscription based.  And even then, rumblings seemed to indicate Vanguard might have a free to play role in the line up.  That was clearly the wave of the future at SOE.

The SOE Options in November 2011

With the announcement today that Vanguard is going to go free to play (FAQ here), there is only one subscription MMO left in the SOE lineup.  PlanetSide stands alone.

As of Today

What will happen to PlanetSide while SOE works on PlanetSide 2?

Will SOE keep it as a subscription game for now?  Will they make it free or free to play?  Or will it go away before its successor shows up?

There do not seem to be any good choices in that mix.

SOE – What Other Titles Will Go Free to Play? November 15, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Sony Online Entertainment, Vanguard SOH.
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10 comments

With last week’s announcement that EverQuest II is going free to play on all servers, and DC Universe Online having just made the transition to free to play, Sony Online Entertainment feels like it has turned a corner.

The company has gone from being a subscription MMO company with a few free offerings to a free to play focused company with a few legacy subscription games hanging around.  The weight of games… and the absolute weight of most of their popular titles… has tilted towards free to play.

The SOE Options for New Players

Technically, the title line up will shortly be five free and five subscription, if you consider EverQuest II to be a single merged game now, and you count Star Wars Galaxies.  But new players cannot join SWG, and it will be going away on December 15th in any case.

And the lineup definitely looks biased towards newer, more popular games going free to play.

Okay, Pirates of the Burning Sea isn’t popular by any stretch.  But EverQuest II is arguably the flagship game for the company.

While the subscription only lineup looks pretty long in the tooth.

Those are some old titles in terms of video games, and the only one that still draws a crowd is EverQuest, the one time champion of the subscription MMO world.

So what happens to subscription titles at a company that appears to see free to play as the future?  Will any of the remainders join the free to play bunch?

EQOA, peaking at ~30K subscribers, has never been a big title.  It is only for PlayStation 2 and hasn’t seen any new content for almost five years.  It is being sustained as long as it remains profitable to run, but its days are numbered.  I think the era of benign neglect will continue until the subscription base dwindles to the point that SOE turns out the lights. (You can read more about EQOA over at Massively or, as Harbinger Zero suggested, check out Stoney’s EQOA Blog.)

PlanetSide, also something of a dormant title, down a single sparsely populated server.  PlanetSide will remain until PlanetSide 2 launches and that will be that.  PlanetSide 2 will, of course, have a free to play subscription model.

Vanguard is probably more popular than Pirates of the Burning Sea, which made the move to free to play, so it seems like it might have a chance for a move as well.  But PotBS is not actually an SOE title.  SOE only hosts and publishes the game.  Flying Lab Software is responsible for development and apparently are able to sustain themselves on its meager population.

Vanguard though, appears to be in a maintenance only mode, with no devs assigned to it.  A transition to free to play requires an investment of resources.  Previously SOE opted to add in LiveGamer, a system that allows players to buy and sell from each other with realm money; sanctioned RMT.  However, LiveGamer is going away, so perhaps the door is open to some change on free to play front. (Though LiveGamer seems to be doing okay without SOE.)

But somehow I doubt it.

There are only two groups of players that are going to be more prickly about adding in a cash shot with enough viable items to make money, and one of them is Vanguard players.  And for a game that is not generating enough revenue to get more than bug fixes slowly over time, the possibility of annoying the player base has to be viewed as a serious risk.  My guess is that SOE will just leave Vanguard on the subscription model and keep it around as long as enough people are willing to pay.

And then there is EverQuest.

Here is the one game on the list that has the population and the name recognition to making going free to play a viable option.

But EQ players are the second group of prickly players when it comes to cash shop items.

On the other hand, SOE has actually been working on the UI in EQ.  One of the features of the latest expansion, Veil of Alaris (which goes live today), is improved hot bars which, from the description, sound like they are going to try to make them work the way they do in most current MMOs.

That makes me wonder if SOE is planning some sort of free to play option for EQ in the next year or so.

What do you think?  Will EverQuest get a free to play option?  Will Vanguard?

And will it matter?

While the free to play option is out there, the subscriptions still exist if you want to play without some of the more onerous restrictions on a free account.  And with the new and attractively priced SOE All Access available if you play more than one SOE game, is free to play anything more than an unlimited trial at SOE?

Do you still have to subscribe to “really” be playing any of these games?

PlanetSide 2 News Coming Very Soon July 6, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, PlanetSide 2, Sony Online Entertainment.
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3 comments

Tipped off by a tweet from Smed, it seems the clock is counting down at the new PlanetSide 2 web site.

Time runs out soon…

Meanwhile, the Facebook page for the game shows the magic hour when the announcement can be expected.

Whatever the announcement is, I still say the game won’t be shipping as soon as some were saying. (Silly EuroGamer, I told you so.  Hell, SOE is even late on the announcement.)

Credulity Test – EuroGamer Edition January 19, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, polls, Sony Online Entertainment.
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7 comments

With DC Universe Online launching, EuroGamer seems to be trying to suck up to Sony in general and SOE in particular in the grand tradition of online gaming journalism.

I already quoted the gem from the first interview.

The second interview… well, calling it an interview stretches the term… it is more “Quotations from Chairman Smed”…  contains a look at what else might be coming out from SOE in the near future.  And while it galls me a bit that EG wants to play along so badly that they count FreeRealms on PS3 as a new title (wasn’t that supposed to ship concurrent with the Windows release originally?), for me the jaw dropper was this quote:

“And we haven’t announced a release date for it but you can expect it… We’re looking at late first-quarter, early second-quarter [2011].”

My first thought was “typo.”

Surely they meant 2012 at the earliest.

But, no, the title of the whole interview is “Expect PlanetSide Next Q1/Q2,” which I initially read as a date of “Next Q1/Q2″ but which I realized really meant 2011… this year… since the title of the project is “PlanetSide Next.”

So somebody at EuroGamer thinks we’ll be playing PlanetSide Next by, say, the end of May.

Really?  They just took that statement and asked no questions?  Journalism at its finest.

This, for me, flies in the face of the marketing ramp time requirements to launch a new title. Not that I would be shouted down if I suggested that SOE isn’t the sharpest spoon in the drawer when it came to marketing.  But still, the SOE of the last five years has been more about announce and delay, hype and silence (think The Agency), and not about hitting very aggressive dates.

When do you think we’ll see PlanetSide Next?