Head Starts On Expansions?

A couple of days ago I received an email from SOE promoting the new Everquest 2 expansion, Sentinel’s Fate, which is due out in February. To be honest, I’m not that excited about the expansion because it’s just another top heavy add-on that increases the level cap and adds a bunch of new high-level content.

For some reason I’ve always been a bit against continual “vertical” expansion as I think it starts to water down the gaming experience. It doesn’t do anything to attract new players, only caters to the existing player base, makes it harder for new players to start out, and completely undermines all of the previous achievements everyone worked for. Yeah, I’m one of those guys who never bothered doing my epic weapon quest as I knew it would become obsolete in a few months (maybe I’m just a nihilist).

I’m also a firm believer in the whole life-cycle (levels 1 to cap) being equal parts of the gaming experience and I don’t think of the leveling process as just a means-to-a-raiding-end. This is of course why I’m so excited about the Cataclysm expansion and what Blizzard are doing in renewing their entire gaming content in a more “horizontal” expansion.

Yep, I possibly just coined the terms “vertical” and “horizontal” expansions. Feel free to use them or shake your head at my ignorance and inform me that they’ve been around for years.

Anyway, all of this is digressing from my original point behind this article.

The Sentinel’s Fate email not only beat it’s chest about all of the new features the expansion would add but also promoted all of the goodies you get when purchasing it. One of the bonuses obtained with purchasing the retail edition is a 7-day head start over the digital version.

Huh? Why on Earth are SOE making the retail version of the expansion essentially a mandatory purchase over the digitial one? It’s seems utterly bizarre to me as, aside from the fact that almost every gamer I know prefers to purchase and download games over the web rather than via the shops or post, I thought companies made more money from digitial versions as they didn’t have to pay publishing fees.

Either way, it caught me a little off-guard. I can already see this idea causing conflict as the bigwig guilds try to take down new raid content before others have even been able to buy the expansion. Top it all off with the fact that European players can’t even purchase the retail version (as of yet) and thus won’t even be eligible for the head start at all.

All just seems rather… odd… to me. Or am I just making a mountain out of an expansion molehill? Thoughts?

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  1. Naithin says:

    You’re right in that this is rather odd, if anything I would have thought that the digital edition would’ve been the one tagged with the headstart, but that said, this isn’t the first time SoE has favoured the retail channel.

    Very last expansion? Buy it retail, you get a bear pet which at level 20 became a mount and continued to level with you. Digital? No sign of it.

    The part that gets me though is the duration of the headstart. This is no mere weekend headstart, but a full week? Really? It will possibly lead to the very issues you mention, of some guilds churning through the content – or attempting to – before most(?) of the player base gets to install the danged thing.

  2. Cuppycake says:

    Companies do this because retail sales count in the NPD sales charts over digital. Also, more retail sales = more space on the shelves in retail stores = better marketing opportunity.

    • Gordon says:

      It’s strange though because SOE has never really seemed to care about retail slots with it’s games before.

      • Cuppycake says:

        They have always offered bonuses for buying the retail boxes. Never this large, but I”m sure there is a reason. ;)

        • Rob says:

          They offer retail bonuses, but I remember when The Shadow Odyssey came out that I had the hardest time finding a copy. For a long long time afterward you would see one MAYBE two copies on the shelf at your local Best Buy. If they were pushing for more retail sales then they must have forgotten to actually, you know, SHIP some copies to the stores.

          I can understand the digital copy not getting the physical items, but no head start? That seems wrong somehow.

  3. Yetian says:

    I agree it’s odd to have the head start for retail and I am also annoyed that Europeans are treated as 2nd class players again.

    I am fine with increasing the cap as while it is for current players and not new it does keep the player base up.

    I would expect the next expansion to be more rounded for all players. They will likely continue to revamp the old zones for lower levels which they usually do an ok job of.

    I still enjoy my low level alts as well as my high end characters.

    Come on you know you want to come back to eq2, join me and nexus on Splitpaw ;)

  4. Yetian says:

    Just an addition.

    Cuppys comment about retail space doesn’t fit with SOE in the uk. How often do we ever see EQ2 on the shelves in the uk?

    SOE’s marketing is quite frankly shocking. WoW has TV commercials, EQ2 has nothing like that.

    I would go as far as saying 90% of uk players either by the retail box from online stores or get the digital download version.

    • Gareth says:

      I’ve been thinking about that, and I believe its happened accidently with SOE’s case. In the days of Everquest 1 they had the biggest game around for PC’s so stores would come to SOE wanting to sell their products.

      Now Blizzard have that, I actually wonder how much effort Blizzard really puts into its retail operations, its my suspicion that SOE never really did put much, but now they don’t have Everquest 1 driving things its showing, the expansion pre-release shows the level of cluelessness when it comes to the international situation.

      SOE certainly can do much better, other companies like Turbine are getting their products onto retail shelves in the UK, often these products aren’t as successful either. Maybe they’ll learn from this pre-release and get things organised there, I find it ironic that they put things like station cash in and then miss out on the most fundamental money making scheme of all – selling the game.

      As for WoW, I’m kind of wondering what this new expansion really gives a player, revamping the new content sounds good in one sense, personally I preferred that style of content to what came after it though and they are messing with the very content that made them successful. By making it so uniform contentwise across the game it could also make the game harder to get through, the changes in pace before did use to be refreshing as however you cut it 1 to 80 is a longtime.

      Its a bold move though, and its certainly interesting to see how this pans out.

      • Gordon says:

        I think every other MMO pushes their games in the UK more than SOE. I mean, you can find WoW, LotRO, Guild Wars, EVE Online and all of the new MMORPGs on the shelves yet it’s almost impossible to find any EQ2 game or expansion. It’s like they’ve just given up. I think SOE should make a new expansion, maybe similar to Cataclysm, and repackage the game to appeal to new users.

  5. ogrebears says:

    What Cuppy said pretty much explains it.

    On top of that, if a lot of people ask for the game, stores will stock more of it. Which mean more shelf space, and more likely that someone who never has heard of the game will pick it up and try it.

  6. Stabs says:

    Unless you’re at the bleeding edge and competing for server/world firsts it surely doesn’t matter does it?

    • Gordon says:

      I suppose it doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things but, as a gamer, who really wants to wait longer then they have it? :) Plus, it always sucks to see your friends having fun without you. People who can’t get the retail version will just be forced to sit on the sidelines whilst their friends have all of the fun.

  7. Jeremy S. says:

    I agree. Some players talk to me in game about “still” being level “X”. I’ve abridged my answers to either not answering, or a quick “I’m having fun, that’s what’s(forgot the proper) important right?” or something to that affect.

    I used to say it was at least legitimate with close friends who want to always play at the same level. One player might level a little faster, and the pressure is on a bit for the other to keep up. But even that really isn’t legitimate. My friends and I always waited for each other.

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