Today is the day, the anniversary date that I note every year, the day that EverQuest launched back in 1999. Seventeen years have gone past since I first stepped into Norrath. And the amazing thing is that we are not talking about the game in the past tense seventeen years later.
That is kind of amazing, the way that some MMORPGs hang on for so long, the way they attract a dedicated core audience that sticks with them for years on end. Back in 1999 EverQuest was getting released along side such games as Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings, Homeworld, and Pokemon Yellow.
Those three games were all very popular and have all been remastered in the last couple of years. But there was a gap along the way where very little was said about them, during EverQuest kept on going.
Yes, the whole expansion plan, and EverQuest was churning out two a year at one point… you hear that Blizzard… meant that new content was always arriving in the game.
But great swathes of Norrath still look pretty much like they did back in 1999. And enough people have remained opted-in to their monthly subscription to keep the game going.
And how are things looking at seventeen?
Last year, after the sixteenth anniversary passed, I would have been tempted to say that things were not looking so good, that the end of MMO middle-age was coming and retirement was at hand. Daybreak was talking about not doing any more expansions for the game. They were talking up another progression server, but in the past SOE had done those then pretty much ignored them afterwards, letting any community enthusiasm fade in the neglect. It was going to be bites of DLC and cash shop items for the looming golden years.
But now, a year later, things look good. Daybreak hasn’t fumbled the progression server idea the way SOE used to, embracing it and keeping people up to date on things like unlock votes. Expansions are back, because how can you pass up something that allows these sorts of price points.
And even now, this month, Daybreak is already talking about the NEXT expansion.
That NEVER happens.
SOE had, in the later years of its life, often left their Norrath fans wondering if they were going to get an expansion at all until late summer or early fall before finally admitting they had something for a November release. But here it is only March and Holly mentions the expansion explicitly in her recent Producer’s Letter.
The expansion for this year is well under way and looking incredible on the art front as well as design. We are really jazzed about where our new adventures will take you, and we’re excited to see what you think when we are ready to share more!
EverQuest, which looked like it was headed for a walker, a First Alert pendant (“The server’s fallen, and it won’t come back up!”), and a spot at the old age home suddenly looks like it is driving around in a bitchin’ new convertible with a fresh set of hair plugs.
(Life is Good guy is the property of Life is Good.)
And, of course, there are anniversary events in Norrath as well, including a drunken gnome race this afternoon.
Who knows where the game will be in a year, but it looks to be in a good place right now. It is just the cynical bit within me that wonders if the good news we’re getting this week is to compensate for the EverQuest Next news we got last Friday. Then again, it might be fitting. The fact that a game like EverQuest can thrive for seventeen years is part of the reason EverQuest Next was in peril in the first place.