On Friday afternoon SOE chucked a huge stone into the lake of MMOs, and now we are watching how the ripples spread and wondering what they will impact.
What does Friday’s blood letting say about SOE’s all-in attitude on free to play, or about one company running more than a couple of MMO titles? Should we avoid the niche titles from SOE and NCSOFT, as they appear vulnerable to closure at a whim compared to similar titles where that is all a given company has going for it? You seem safe playing in Norrath (on Windows) and in whatever the PlanetSide universe is called, but other titles… not so much. How long does the contract for the DC Universe Online IP go?
Will people who invested a lot in cosmetic gear in Clone War Adventures or Free Realms feel burned and thus be less likely to spend money now that these two cosmetic funded titles are being shut down with 9 weeks notice? Has SOE poisoned the well on this front? And what does Smed’s “no more titles for kids” pronouncement mean? I guess the myth that many MMO players were kids with daddy’s credit card has been dispelled.
Have we seen enough Asian MMOs ported to the US market only to languish and fade yet?
Can Smed be naive enough to believe that a vague promise to former Star Wars Galaxies players about SOE’s next, unannounced title being for them, that they can come “home,” means anything? I am sure that those driven out by the stick that was the NGE are pretty sure that their home is elsewhere these days. And as for those who remained, how many stuck with the game just because it was set in the Episodes IV-V era of Star Wars? Is a different IP going to scratch that itch?
And then there is Vanguard and Brad McQuaid and the kickstarter for his new game, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.
On the one hand, part of his “trust me” appeal for the Kickstarter campaign is his leadership in producing two enduring MMORPGs, EverQuest and Vanguard. Sure, Vanguard had a tough launch. That was just the situation at the time and he had to roll with it. But once it was “fixed,” the game was good.
So SOE “sunsetting” (Because that makes us all feel better than just saying “closing” or “shutting down” right?) Vanguard kind of puts a pin to the balloon of that argument. *POP*
Because if Vanguard was good enough, popular enough, and profitable enough, SOE wouldn’t have found security updates to be too difficult. Money talks, and enough money gets your fixes done. So we can assume there wasn’t enough.
So Brad now has one successful, still running MMO on his resume, even if it has been drastically changed from back in the day, and one that is being shut down… the announcement for which went out during his Kickstarter.
And then there was the talk about Brad buying Vanguard from SOE. Fine, I know a small crowd of fans were really for that, but for me that was a red flag moment. My concern for Pantheon, should it fund successfully, is that it will end up being another case of trying to do too much and ending up launching with an unready product. A small team really needs to pare down projects to the essentials to deliver. I still cringe that PvP is on the stretch goals, as that seems like a distraction, something totally outside of the vision set out for the game. And it doesn’t matter that they will likely not make it to that stretch goal, it is the fact that they even consider it an option that worries me.
So, in the middle of a campaign for a new game, sudden talk about buying up the old game seems like a moment where somebody should be saying in Brad’s ear, “Stay on target!”
On the flip side, I wonder if the timing of this announcement from SOE… delivered after lunch on Friday, the time slot chosen by PR people who hope the news will be too late to make a splash in the news cycle and will end up forgotten by Monday… might turn to something of a boon for the Pantheon Kickstarter campaign.
Certainly, there is the potential to get the news about the Kickstarter in front of a few more faces. The coverage of the closure of Vanguard inevitably rolls around to what Brad is up to now.
And Vanguard shutting down puts paid to some of the comments I have seen about the Pantheon up to this point, which basically amount to “Why do I want this when I already have Vanguard available?” Well, you won’t have Vanguard around for much longer.
Will these two points help boost the Kickstarter campaign? It currently sits at just over $238,000 of the $800,000 initial goal, with 26 days left to go. That seems like a lot, but pledges have fallen short of the daily minimum to make goal since the initial surge of support. So the campaign clearly needs a shot in the arm.
Can this news do the job? It looks like there was already a small uptick in people supporting the project over the weekend, and there is some sentiment about for supporting Pantheon as a replacement for Vanguard. But is it enough?