Quote of the Day – DC Universe Online Owns on PlayStation

Smedley said DC Universe Online is the largest revenue generator across PS3 and PS4 combined, even though the game is free to play.

Fortune, Interview with John Smedley about SOE

That is a pretty amazing, given how DC Universe Online stumbled almost immediately after a hot launch.

Men in Tights

Then again, the article says that the PlayStation people are just starting to embrace free to play, so there isn’t much competition. (Warframe is the top on PS4 alone, and I wonder where PlanetSide 2 stands?)  And the game itself was designed around playing with a controller, one of my primary complaints about the game when I tried it on the PC.  It is very much a console title.

I suppose there is some irony in that DC Universe Online was something of the last stand for subscriptions at SOE back in early 2011, with Smed making a pretty strong statement about what customers of a subscription game should expect.  By the end of 2011, the move to free to play was in full swing at SOE.  Now, in this article, it is all about free and harnessing the user base for content and not depending on subscriptions.  The article closes with:

SOE continues to evolve as a company. The days of charging a subscription for online games are part of its history.

Well, except for that one subscription they still have.

Once known as Station Access...

Once known as Station Access…

SOE All Access is still a thing, and as good of a deal as it seems these days compared to the past, you still pretty much have to subscribe to get the fullest out of games like EverQuest or EverQuest II.  So call it mostly part of SOE’s history.

SOE All Access Changes… yet again… And the Future

Last Friday SOE announced changes for SOE All Access and Gold subscribers.  Come February SOE was going to take away the 500 Station Cash stipend for those accounts, replacing it with the ability to purchase a single Station Cash Store item with a value up to 2,000 SC per month.

Once known as Station Access...

Once known as Station Access…

This did not get a lot of positive response.  The loudest group of people appear to like to accrue Station Cash, not be given a single “use it or lose it” purchase.  And there was the usual concern that nobody would buy anything small with the 2,000 SC single buy because that would “waste” SC.

Smed went on Reddit and talked about why they did this and what else they might do.  The most interesting among the reasons for me was this:

Second – it helps us deal with some internal issues regarding accrual of balances of SC for people who aren’t playing or spending. There are a lot of people who play and have SC in their wallets and don’t spend it ever.. this accrues over time and it’s a problem.

Now, he said that was not the most important reason, but it was a driving factor for this move.  However, the fact that the first reason he gave, that people feel that 500 SC a month isn’t enough to buy anything, turned out to be largely incorrect based on feedback might be seen to move the second reason up to first place.

You might reasonably think that, especially since SOE has been working hard to dig themselves out of their Station Cash monetary problems.  They weren’t exactly Greece-like in scale, but SOE certainly wasn’t anywhere as sound as Germany either, to push a metaphor.

He also mentioned that they were thinking of making SOE All Access, formerly Station Access, available for just $14.99 a month.  At least the All Access Subscribers would be happy.

Then, late yesterday, the latest revision broke.  It is described as “not baked yet” but where SOE’s “head is at” on the subject.  Full details over at EQ2Wire, but the basics are:

  • SOE All Access is $14.99, gives you access to all SOE games.  All subscriptions will be converted to SOE All Access
  • The 500 SC monthly stipend is back, though you have to log in to collect
  • Something vague about European players and PS3/PS4 titles

So that is where we stand today.

This is one of those things where, if SOE had started with this deal, they would have been heroes.  But now, a couple of iterations in… and with things still not set in stone… I sort of want to say “SOE WTF?”  Being a responsive company is good… but tossing out plans that appear not to have been thought through fully and then changing your mind in public after your user base complains loudly?  That seems to be just a way to train players to complain early and often.  As we saw in EVE Online after Incarna, every dolt with a gripe against CCP now goes straight to “shoot the monument in Jita!” because that worked once.  Loudly complaining about SOE has worked… how many times now?  (Note the graphic Feldon chose to use for the EQ2 Wire post linked above.)

Clearly SOE’s stated primary premise for the change was wrong for at least the loudest portion of their audience.  I know I would rather accrue 500 SC a month than be given a “use it or lose it” monthly purchase, which came with its own set of terms and restrictions. (No Player Studio items at one point.)  This strikes me as the sort of option that seems like a good idea after a couple of hours in a conference room; what I call the “sensory deprivation chamber” decision.  Seems fine until you show it to the first person who wasn’t in the room, who should immediately point out the state of the emperor’s casual wear.

Their so-called secondary reason, that people accruing Station Cash is a problem for SOE, still strikes me as the only business reason for this move, and thus more important than Smed made out.  And I guess making people log in to collect once a month will slow down some people who just leave their accounts active but don’t play.  It won’t stop obsessives like me… I log into LOTRO once a month when not active just to get my 500 Turbine Points… but it will serve to punish a class of people who give SOE money for nothing.

And it is interesting to see where SOE All Access has landed in pricing.  It started out as Station Access, a $21.99 option, way back in 2004, jumping to $24.99 as time went on. Station Access peaked in price in 2007 when the price was jacked up to $29.99 a month.  That made it a penny more expensive than just having subscriptions to two SOE games on the face of it, and you could widen that gap considerably with the 3, 6, or 12 month subscription options, which were discounted for individual games but not for Station Access.  Complaints about the price change then didn’t seem to register with SOE.

Then, about two and a half years back, SOE renamed the package to SOE All Access and dropped the price to $19.99 a month, making it a good deal again for people who play multiple SOE games.  Of course, in the age of Free to Play, $30 a month was not a tenable position to hold.

And now here we are, about to say farewell to individual subscriptions to SOE games as SOE All Access drops in price to $14.99 a month.

In the end, I think this could be SOE stepping into the future of PC online gaming.  As Micosoft has their Xbox Live and PlayStation has… whatever it has… I own a PS3 and couldn’t tell you… so the PC online gaming market seems likely to move towards similar deals, where a monthly fee will give players access to bundles of games and benefits.

Actually, SOE lead on that, with Station Access back in 2004, then lost their way for a bit.

And I suspect we will see other companies that focus on online games follow suit.  Blizzard already offers benefits across games when you pre-order or go for the collector’s edition of one of their titles.  And one of my predictions for 2014 is that Blizz will give WoW subscribers some tangible benefit in Hearthstone.  That could lead the way to a Blizzard-wide subscription plan that gave you access and benefits across their Battle.net titles.

How about you?  SOE’s stumbles aside, do you think XBox-live like cross-catalog subscriptions are a coming thing in the PC online gaming world?

Addendum: This looks like it might be the topic of the day, so I’ll link out to others commenting on it.

Milestones: In with Wizardry Online, Out with Pirates of the Burning Sea

Wizardry Online is now a live, full fledged member of the SOE stable of games.

WizOnline

While it doesn’t really bring back the spirit of the original Wizardry for me… and really isn’t my cup of tea… it is now part of the line up, free to play if you want or as a subscription or part of SOE’s All Access Pass.

Some find me... disturbing

It was tough just getting past this screen…

It remains to be seen if this title will bring a lasting dungeon crawl experience or if their concept of “permadeath” will be a compelling feature. We shall see whether it lights a fire or languishes in the shadow of SOE’s other fantasy MMORPG titles.

Stropp has been in there for day one fun, if you are looking for a report on that.  He does mention that the “connecting” issue, that so many people have arrived here searching for, appears to be SOE completely lacking any sort of informative “you’re in the login queue” messaging.  You just sit there “connecting” until it is your turn.

Meanwhile, Pirates of the Burning Sea is taking its leave from SOE.

FLSlogo

Flying Lab Software will no longer be the developer and SOE no longer the publisher of this title. The following announcement went out to those of us still on their mailing list:

Ahoy there!

As you may know, Pirates of the Burning Sea (PotBS) will be leaving SOE’s family of games at the end of the month and setting sail with Portalus Games. Portalus may be a new name, but the people behind it are veterans of Flying Lab who love the game. They have banded together to form a new company whose sole focus is PotBS, and will continue running, developing, and expanding the game into the future.

I’m personally very excited about Portalus and I’m looking forward to where they’ll be taking PotBS, but it will be as a player, not as a member of the development team. I’ve had a lot of great moments in the development of Pirates, and while the details of these moments are wildly varied, they all revolve around the same thing: interacting with you, the players. We decided to build an MMO because we wanted to have a more direct relationship with our players, and PotBS came through in spades. I’ve enjoyed going out, and meeting and talking with so many of you, and I wouldn’t trade a moment of it for the world.

I want to thank all of you for your support, and if one day you’re sailing on the open seas, and you meet a grizzled old Pirate who talks about the old days, think a kindly thought for me. Then give him a broadsides and take his ship!! See you on the Burning Seas!

Russell Williams
– Co-Founder Flying Lab

Accounts can be migrated to the new company, which takes over today. The SOE servers will go down at 10:30pm PST. Instructions on how to migrate your account are on the Portalus Games web site.

While Potshot and I were there at launch and before with the pre-boarding pass (and once again adopting the French faction), the game never really stuck with us.

The French have the most attitude

The ship to ship combat was very good. It was about all you could expect from such a game and then some.

Broadside!

Most other aspects of the game fell flat for us however. Ship boarding combat was dull, the economy was convoluted, the strategic game was broken, and even finding ship to ship battles was unsatisfying. In less than a month we felt adrift in the burning sea, rudderless and uninterested in where the current might take us. And so we left the game, though it sailed on.

Onward!

And while I always intended to come back and check on how things had progressed after our short time in the game, it never came to pass. There are always more games to play than time in which to play them.

As with Wizardry Online, the future remains to be written. Will this be a rebirth for the now five year old game, or has it merely been moved to hospice care where it can die quietly?

The Interesting Thing About Krono and the All Access Pass…

Krono is a new item from SOE, currently available in EverQuest II.  The Krono page describes it as such:

When used, this magical krono adds 30 days membership time to the amount of the consuming character. This krono can be used only once.

  • Adds 30 days of game time to the account of the consuming character
  • Fully tradable and salable
  • No expiration date
  • Krono only redeemable in EverQuest II

So Krono is, essentially, the same thing as PLEX in EVE Online.

This is PLEX

I need to get a new stock PLEX screen shot.  That one is out of date.  PLEX is now just an object in game like any other and can be destroyed.

Anyway, Krono is an attempt by SOE to thwart RMT currency sales in EverQuest II by giving players a legitimate way to buy something that can be traded in-game for platinum.

And, on the flip side, if you are a player with lots of plat who wants to save some money on their subscription, you can fund your premium access with your game play.

As in EVE, generally a win-win, so long as the market can support such an item at a reasonable price.  In EVE the price of PLEX has been rising over time, hovering around 600 million ISK per these days, double what it was two years ago.

We will see how the EverQuest II broker handles it.  My own fear, if I were SOE, would be that of low demand and/or low or erratic price patterns.  PLEX works in EVE because everybody has to use the marketplace.  The same is not true in EQII.  In fact, free players are somewhat restricted in what they can access at the broker.  As I pointed out when I asked if WoW could support something like PLEX, market participation is a key factor.

I suppose we shall see how it works out.  I applaud SOE for diving right in with this.  According to the FAQ, if the response is favorable, Krono will be rolled out to EverQuest and Vanguard as well.

Also like PLEX, Krono are priced to be more expensive than a normal monthly subscription.  A standard game pass… what SOE calls a subscription these days… is $14.99 a month, while Krono is $17.99 per 30 day unit of time.

Krono Pricing

Clearly, nobody is going to simply buy and consume Krono just to keep their subscription going.

Unless you happen to subscribe via the SOE All Access Pass.

There is a long history to the All Access Pass, once known as Station Access, which was introduced just about the time EverQuest II launched.  In short though, it is a subscription plan where, for a few dollars more, you can have access to all SOE online games.

Pricing has varied over the years, peaking at $29.99 at one point.  But once SOE went all-in on free to play (and shed a few games), the price was dropped significantly.  Here is where the pricing stands today.

All Access Pricing

Nice, but what does that have to do with Krono?

Well, deep inside the Krono FAQ, there is a question about SOE All Access.

13. Do Krono work for game memberships as well as All Access memberships?

Yes. When a Krono is consumed, it will add 30 days of game membership time to the account associated with the character that consumed it. If that account has an existing All Access membership, the All Access membership will be extended by 30 days. If the account has a regular game membership, that membership will be extended by 30 days. If the account has no current membership, then 30 days of regular game membership time will be added to the account.

So using Krono will actually extended your All Access subscription.

And, in certain increments, it is cheaper than.  Basically, if you subscribe in increments of less than 6 months, Krono is the cheaper route.  At 6 months, they are essentially the same price.  Only if you buy your All Access subscription in year long increments is Krono more expensive.

Which makes me wonder if this was a deliberate action to help boost the sale of Krono, or if we are seeing yet another case of SOE not quite thinking things through, as happened with the $1.25 worth of Station Cash buying a 30 day subscription situation.

What do you think about that, or about Krono in general?

SOE All Access – What Does $19.99 a Month Get You?

As noted over at Massively, SOE has now put in writing what they announced at E3, a new version of the all-games-for-one-price plan, Station Access, priced at $19.99 a month down from $29.99 a month.

The plan, renamed to SOE All Access, is up on on the SOE web site.


And it has some nice new features, including a price break for subscribing in longer time increments, something previously denied Station Access subscribers.

There is even a spiffy new chart, and I love charts.

All Your SOE Subscription Options

You will note that Star Wars Galaxies is not listed.  That was expected.  You can still play, but it is in wind-down mode and won’t be accepting new subscribers soon.

And the chart itself is a bit odd in my opinion. They put free to play games in their own box, which I understand, but that does create a visual gulf between them and the All Access Pass.  And it is my experience that anything that can cause confusion will cause confusion and somebody is going to walk away from that chart convinced that All Access does not give them Gold access to EverQuest II Extended or member access to Free Realms.

At least they have removed the goofy Station Access Savings Calculator from the site.  Now they just need to make the URL redirect some place useful…

Addendum: Extra character slots are not part of SOE All Access.

If you are a current Station Access subscriber you get to keep you extra character slots as long as you remain subscriber, but anybody taking up All Access will no longer get this benefit.  Station Access used to give subscribers 2 extra EverQuest, 4 extra Vanguard, and 5 extra EverQuest II character slots.  Those will now have to be purchased with Station Cash.