I thought The Broken Mirror expansion was going to go live today… I seem to recall reading the 19th as the date over at Massively OP at some point… but when I went to go check for this post I found that the the EverQuest Twitter feed had already announced the expansion as live. Memory is a faulty receptacle at best, and my own is more flawed than most.
So here we have expansion number 22 for EverQuest.
I won’t reprise my full commentary about Daybreak announcing that expansions were out and that adventure packs were in, only to change their mind for what I consider a clear and pressing reason. You can read Tuesday’s post for that. I’ll just repeat my suspicion that it is all about the money.
Money is important, without it the game goes away, so Daybreak can hardly be faulted for going back to the expansion plan with its $140 option.
Instead I want to go with how SOE/Daybreak, despite their many mistakes… common enough for me to create a “Because SOE” tag for the blog… and the many dev hours they have squandered over the years on dubious projects that never went anywhere… SOEmote and the SOE Launcher spring to mind, while Legends of Norrath remains in some horrible limbo, neither fully exploited nor completely neglected, just lingering in some middle state… has gained, somewhere along the way, the institutional/organizational knowledge of how important expansions are to keeping their player base engaged with their games… at least their EverQuest games.
EverQuest II, which launched less than a month before World of Warcraft, just had its 12th expansion go live. Not bad for a game that just turned 11. Meanwhile, as noted above, EverQuest has had twice that many expansions in its 16 years, 14 of which have been launched during the reign of Azeroth over the MMO universe.
World of Warcraft… five expansions in 11 years, with a sixth set to hit just before the game turns 12.
Now, there are more than a few low cards in that 22 expansion hand that EverQuest is holding. Some expansions arrived broken or had content of dubious quality… especially so during the rush-rush times when SOE felt the world would end if they didn’t have two expansions out every calendar year… but SOE clearly felt a sense of urgency in getting out content.
An urgency you never really get from Blizzard.
An expansion a year though, that seems to have worked out as a decent pace for EverQuest. I think there can be too many content drops. I think EVE Online is feeling a bit of a pinch with its every six weeks or so expansion pace, in part because now expansions are not special, so there isn’t the big spike of returning players anymore.
No, once a year seems good for Norrath. It gives the game new content on a regular basis and has allowed enough time for some major features to be added, things like player housing. Okay, nobody wants that in WoW, but still…
And you can certainly argue against what I am saying by pointing at the success of WoW. The population of Azeroth is down… way down… down below half of one time peak of 12 million subscribers, with only 5.5 million hanging around now, and that is still an order of magnitude larger than EverQuest’s subscription peak of approximately 550,000 players back in 2004. Who brings in a billion dollars a year baby? Not Norrath!
The flip side of that of course is that Daybreak, with a small fraction of the revenue and player base somehow manages to get out an expansion a year. You would think that Blizzard would have the resources to move a little quicker.
Anyway, there are many complexities in that comparison, not the least of which is the culture of the organization that makes the games. But WoW is still the cash cow for Blizzard… to the point that I wonder if their move to stop reporting subscriber numbers was as much to blend WoW revenue in with their other games (like they did when they announced the combined revenues of Destiny, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm) as to stop people declaring the game is dead because it isn’t the biggest subscription MMORPG by a large enough margin… so I still wonder at their sometimes glacial speed.
Thoughts for the day as EverQuest launches expansion 22, The Broken Mirror.