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.
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.
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?