EverQuest Becomes a Teen, Rebels Against Its Past

It has happened.  EverQuest has reached those awkward years and has suddenly started realize why it feels so strange inside when Firiona Vie looks at it that way.

I used to imagine Kate Jackson with that exact same look on her face when I was 13

EverQuest turns 13 today.  I was there at the birth.  Not in the delivery room, but a well wisher outside.

I still have the disk, the manual, the map, and my receipt from Fry’s.

EverQuest followed a path that seemed almost predestined for it.  Like the first baby in any family, SOE’s child was adored, a miracle, popular and showered with gifts… or subscriptions.

Then siblings showed up.  Like any younger sibling, EverQuest II was never quite as popular as EverQuest, but love is clearly a zero-sum game, and any love going to EQ2 was love that EQ was clearly not getting.

And then there was that popular family up the street and their perfect child, World of Warcraft.  Ohhh, how EverQuest fumes about that snotty seven year old.  That punk stole all his good moves.

So as EverQuest saw attention to it decline, it ran about looking for ways to get back in the spotlight.

“You want instances?  I’ll gives you instances!” it cried.

“Dragons? I’ll give you lots of dragons!  Death penalty too harsh?  I’ll cut it back!  Pirates? I can do pirates!  You want to relive the old days? Hardcore heritage! Let me tell you about my progression server idea!”

And each of these worked for a time… but not for very long and never as well as EverQuest hoped.

Meanwhile, the parents at SOE were worried about EverQuest II, which never seemed to be as popular or accepted as their first child.  They tried to make it prettier. They gave it strange new locations, then turned around and tried to build the bonds of lore between it and its older sibling.  There was a crazy Solomon-esque “cut the baby in half” scheme at one point.  But eventually they decided to change its subscription model.

Because this was the younger sibling, and we know how that goes.

When a baby drops its pacifier, if it is your first child you rinse it off, inspect it, boil it, and run it through the UV sanitizer before returning it to the child.  But by the time the second one comes along, you wipe the pacifier off on your shirt and stick it back in their mouth.

So they made EverQuest II free to play with a crazy three tier system and lots of items in its cash shop.

And it seemed to work. EverQuest II had more players.  It looked to be clearly more popular than its older sibling EverQuest.

EverQuest, surly and on the cusp of the most awkward age in life, thirteen, raged, ran to its room and slammed it door.  EverQuest wanted to be popular too!  EverQuest wanted a new subscription model!

And so in desperation EverQuest’s parents worked hard and got EverQuest something very special for its thirteenth birthday.

A new subscription plan!

EverQuest would now be free to play!  Or at least it will be once it stops obsessing about its obvious acne problem in the bathroom and comes down stairs to join the rest of the family.  Come on dear, the counter had run down, the guests are arriving for your party!

And so EverQuest has a big change coinciding with its teen years.  How will it handle it?

Sure, it will be great at first.  A lot of people will come back and visit just because they can.  And EverQuest will be fun and crowded and happy.

But that will wear off.  There will be more people playing, but EverQuest will change.

Because going free to play changes games without a doubt.

With a traditional subscription EverQuest just had to get out there once a month with the message:

Continue Playing with Your Friends? Insert $15

And it didn’t really have to do that, since thanks to the miracle of recurring billing, the message went to your credit card, not to you.  And your credit card is usually happy to say yes!

How many of us have remained subscribed to a game after we stopped playing because we didn’t go in and cancel the game, so go billed for an extra cycle or three?

Between that and pumping out an expansion every so often and fixing some bugs now and again, it was mostly a matter of just keeping the servers up and letting the kids have their fun.

Now though that regular, if dwindling revenue stream is going away.  Now EverQuest is going to have to get out there every day and hustle cash shop items and Station Cash.  The focus on revenue becomes very short term.  What did you sell today?  How much Station Cash did people spend in your shop?  How many mounts did you sell?  Did you remember to feature the items on sale?  Is the message about the new house items in the opening splash screen big enough?

The change isn’t necessarily bad or evil, but it is different and it will eventually pervade the game and ooze from its very pores.

Yes, EverQuest still has that gold membership level, which is still basically a subscription.  And some players will stick with that.  But not all of them.  Subscriptions will drop and there will be almost immediate pressure to pump us sales to make it up.

And yes, there was already a cash shop in EverQuest.  But up until now, it merely had to support its own existence.  Now it will have to carry a lot of the game as well.

It is even rated T for teen... and sounds like a teen in the rating!

So I wonder what EverQuest will look like when it turns 15.

Will EverQuest be a happy and popular young man at 15?  Will this life changing experience do it some good and give it the confidence to face an adult world?

Or will EverQuest feel crushed when the initial rush of enthusiasm wears off?  Will it tire of shilling for the “mount of the month club” in the Station Cash Store?  Will it grow sick to death of Facebook tie-ins?  Will the random picture of the week be solved at some point only to reveal a big middle finger thrust up at an uncaring world?  Will it start wearing black and sitting up in its room listening to loud music and dreaming of the good old days, like Ultima Online does?

What does the future hold for this teen?

10 thoughts on “EverQuest Becomes a Teen, Rebels Against Its Past

  1. Troy Christensen (@ShalimarTroy)

    This is one game that just seems to never get old. I have returned a half dozen times, the last with the progress servers. The sentimental feeling quickly leaves, but I have always returned. I may have to roll a new toon on Vox and start it all over again.


  2. Knug Lidi

    If EQ is the spotty teen and WOW the perfect child up the street, what the heck would EVE be? I shudder to think of the visual image of EVE Online as a nine year old. Hard, cold, brilliant, beautiful, deep, psychotic, bitter, full of potential that society doesn’t appreciate . . .

    Pretty much a combination of Ted Bundy, Johnny Quest, Calvin (without Hobbs) and Hermione Granger. Dressed to the nines and armed to the teeth.


  3. bhagpuss

    Ding 13! Grats! WTG! Woot! (I actually heard someone say “Woot!” the other day – ah, the memories…) Great post!

    I made a character on Vox this morning and within about half an hour felt so overwhelmed with possibilities, knowing where it could lead, I had to log out. It’s easy to forget just how unbelievably huge, sprawling and utterly confusing Everquest is. Then again, I did take the “Start in Ak Anon” option – it took me ten minutes just to find the gate to Steamfont.

    On the F2P issue, well maybe. I’ve watched quite a few AAA subscription titles go F2P now and I’ve yet to see any that I don’t think are better for it. I am now at the point where I don’t think I will buy a subscription game again. If I find myself playing a game that has a sub option and really spending a very great deal of time there, I might decide to sub and I’ll keep the subs I already have, at least for now.

    To take one example, The Secret World won’t be getting my business because of the subscription requirement. If they were selling the box for $60 and then it was F2P +Cash Shop I’d definitely buy it, even if I wasn’t expecting to play often. F2P isn’t all roses and kittens but the advantages seem to me to outweigh the disadvantages by several orders of magnitude.


  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – I remain mixed on free to play. I like that it brings more people into games. But then I examine my own behavior and see that the games I am playing now are:

    EVE – Subscription
    Rift – Subscription
    WoW – Subscription
    LOTRO- F2P, but I have a lifetime gold subscription

    My gut feeling is that having the luxury of being able to do a subscription allows more focus on the game rather than the need to constantly have new crap for the cash store. And in that search, F2P games appear to have to fight the desire to just sell stuff that will kill the economy or end up being clearly pay to win.

    I am interested to see how this evolves with EverQuest. EverQuest II wasn’t as big a deal for me because the dev motto has been “Have you shat on the lore today?” for the last seven years, so selling bat wings is more of an eye roll at this point versus outrage.

    But with EQ, SOE could easily piss some people off more than usual, people who are at the gold level because they care about the game.

    We’ll see.


  5. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    Heh, first error reported in the EQ forums:

    “Due to technical difficulites you will need to reset the server this char was created on.”

    Hello, SOE? Can you go reset the server? I got this error message….


  6. Knug

    @kiantremayne – Oh My, not AGAIN. What was it this time? Dissecting squirrels? Setting prams on fire? Convincing the 4-year olds to tie up their babysitters and clean out the cookies?

    Sigh. That’s the trouble with intelligent, brilliant, psychotic 9-year olds.


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