It has been quite a week for Amazon Games and New World. There was clearly quite a bit of pent up demand for a new MMORPG launch.
I was digging through lists of MMO titles to see when the last big launch really was.
WoW Classic was huge when it hit in 2019, reviving Blizzards fortunes as they shambled about with Battle for Azeroth. But that was a nostalgia play, and while it did stand out, it was delivering something old.
I suppose there was Black Desert Online in 2015. That got a lot of attention. And there was Guild Wars 2 in 2012, which shares a business model with New World.
But I really thing that the last big budget, major studio, all eyes on the launch event might have been Star Wars: The Old Republic in late 2011. At least that is the way it feels to me. I mean, you could make an argument for WildStar perhaps or, more convincingly, The Elder Scrolls Online, both 2014 launches, but they feel a bit short of the mark.
No matter which mark you choose, it has been a while and New World is reaping the benefits of that thirst for a new experience. And it manages to deliver, bringing on board things like skill based classless advancement and a more active combat paradigm for which a some players have been loudly asking loudly for year. Even the setting feels different.
This combination of a hunger in the market along with getting something fresh, or different enough for the norm to feel fresh, led to success beyond expectations.
I logged on early on Tuesday and created a character and there were already queues for some of the popular servers, with the Valhalla served in US East running up to the 25K mark by the early afternoon.
Over on US West the El Dorado server pushed past the 17K mark.
Servers were said to be setup to allow only 2,000 players in at once, so for Valhalla there were 12.5 times as many people trying to get in as the server could hold. The game quickly began to be called Queue World as Amazon rushed to open more servers.
The irony is that the servers were setup in groups that were clearly designed to be collapsed down into a single server should populations dwindle.
A classic “plan for failure” mode, which given how the MMORPG market has gone over the years where many a title has seen a huge surge at launch only to have their player base dwindle in months, or even weeks, when the fresh game smell has worn off, is a wise move. They may yet need that option. We’re still in the fresh moment of discovery.
Over on the SteamDB charts, New World was vying with CS:GO as the most popular title on Steam. During the week the game surged past 700K concurrent players, getting into the 900K range with the weekend. As with EVE Online, the peak concurrent time seemed to hit around 19:00 UTC, when Europe is still online, North American is in full swing, and a few early risers in the Pacific are on and playing.
The queues quickly spread to all the servers. I thought I had been clever, rolling up on a low population server, but by Tuesday night my character was locked behind a 4 digit queue and I honestly didn’t care that much about the game to wait. I went and played more Diablo II Resurrected.
As the week went on, some more friends got interested in the title and jumped in. The plan seemed to be just to get into a server in the same region and work out getting together when the free server transfers Amazon promised came into being.
I gave up on my first character and went to roll up a new one on a server without a queue. There were plenty of new ones to choose from so it seemed like my problems might be over. But it was not to be. I was able to create characters on new servers, but whenever I tried to connect I got a connection error trying to get into the game.
My guess is that the starter zones on various servers were full up with new players so the game wouldn’t load me in. I tried on half a dozen otherwise low population and zero queue servers before giving up.
So by Thursday evening there were a lot of people upset at the game. Amazon put out a statement that they were working hard to address the situation.
But promises and good intentions only buy so much. Belghast summarized the situation and mood very well in his Friday morning post.
But Friday morning also saw an update from Amazon.
At lunch I opened up Steam and went to log into New World, just to see how deep the queue was on my first character and had that awkward moment of suddenly being in the game when I didn’t have any time to play. I was almost in a bit of panic. I had better do something while I was able to log in lest I not get another opportunity any time soon.
But I need not have been in a state. As it turned out Amazon pushed a number of changes into the game including raising the cap on the number of players allowed on a server, adding a much more aggressive idle timeout, and designating some servers as “full” so that new characters could no longer be created on them. That and more new servers seemed to settle things down quite a bit.
Of course, it isn’t perfection yet. While in US West as I write this the server queues are all in single or double digits and most servers have no queue, US East still has a dozen servers with four digit queues. EU Central, which is at its peak time as I write, has four digit queues on a lot of servers and it looks like about two thirds of servers have a queue over 100 deep. But there are still a pile of servers with zero queue.
And Amazon still has work to do on idle timeout. They’re going after those people you see doing things like running against walls to appear active while they’re AFK.
Meanwhile, the impact of simply allowing more players onto servers has yet to be assessed. There is already a bit of harvest competition going on as people vie for rare resources and settlements are very crowded.
But overall they seem to have at least momentarily improved the situation. In these circumstance you fight the battle in front of your and worry about tomorrow when it arrives.
Jeff Bezos was out in the press declaring the game a success. And with probably a couple million boxes sold at $40 a pop, it has no doubt been a nice payday for Amazon. Those are some enviable first week numbers. But, as we know, an MMORPG is a marathon and not a sprint. We’ll see how it goes in the long term.
- Tales of the Aggronaut – Ready to Move
- Massively OP – New World Implementing detection for “Bad Faith AFK Players”