Everquest 2 Extended – A Deceptive Rip-Off
When I first read the news that EQ2 was going free-2-play I was pretty excited. I’m a huge fan of the Everquest franchise having played the original Everquest for five years and the sequel for over three and was looking forward to the idea of being able to dip back into EQ2 without having to pay the full monthly fee. Plus, being a strong supporter of the game, I also liked the idea of it attracting some much needed publicity, attention and new blood. However, instead of following the sensible F2P model that Turbine are introducing with LotRO, it seems that SOE have gone with a system specifically designed to deceive unknowing new players and extract even more money than the current monthly subscriptions.
Before I rip the whole EQ2X model to pieces, I just want to make it clear that I’m a huge, huge fan of Everquest 2. Although lacking the polish, slickness and newb friendliness that WoW offers, EQ2 is in my opinion one of the best MMOs out there, combining a rich backdrop, a great depth of gameplay, the perfect mix of casual and hardcore content, and a fantastic community. It’s also a game that has received a vast amount of love and attention from very talented developers and designers and, having first played from day one, I witnessed how they worked hard to fight back in the face of the domineering WoW and salvage an excellent game from a pretty stuttery launch. Unfortunately it just makes it all the sadder that SOE are trying to deceive potential new players and lock them into more expensive subscriptions.
EQ2X offers four subscription tiers, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum, each one costing more and granting access to more features. This is all fine in principle and I don’t have an issue with the Bronze (free) or Silver (one off $10 fee) plans as they allow people to play the game for a very low price. My issues start though with the fact that both Bronze and Silver come with huge restrictions on them that would make it impossible for anyone to play competitively and the necessary upgrades cannot be purchases individually. Even though additional races, classes and level caps are purchasable separately (again, fine with that), core and essentially pieces of functionality (like being able to use the broker – Auction House – or equip legendary – above uncommon – items) are only available once you subscribe to the Gold subscription at $14.99 a month. Yep, the exact same price as the current monthly subscription for Live players.
The real kicker though is that even once you’ve subscribed to this $14.99 a month plan, you still don’t have access to all of the content, level caps or races meaning that a player is going to have to pay more than a normal subscriber on EQ2 Live in order to access the very same amount of functionality. Utterly ludicrous.
Then there’s the Platinum membership, swooping in at a tremendous $200 per year and granting full access to, well, almost everything. Even with this mega plan you’re still restricted to a measly four races (out of a total of 19) and have to purchase each one separately, only God and Smed knowing how much that will set folks back. SOE also fail to point that a new player could pick up a copy of Sentinel’s Fate (which includes all previous expansions and comes with one month free play) on Amazon for $20 and subscribe to the normal Live version at the annual rate of $140, a full $60 less than the EQ2X Platinum plan. A far better deal plus you’re able to play for 13 months, not just 12, and have unrestricted access to everything in game.
My biggest issue of all is that EQ2X players are segregated onto their own servers and forums and can never transfer off onto the Live service. This means that once you’ve been lured into the game by the free version you have no choice but to pay for either the rip-off Gold or Platinum plans if you want to access the full game. SOE are effectively deceiving new players into paying more than a standard Live subscriber by hooking them into their characters first and then preventing them from moving away (players are forced to create a brand new account and start all over again if they want to continue as a traditional subscriber).
The impact on the current Live servers is also going to be noticeable as not only will the free version of EQ2X attract people a lot more than the prospect of buying the game and subscribing monthly but SOE are also shutting down the normal 14 day free trial. It seems like they have every intention of migrating the player base onto their new high cost service and letting the existing one fade away and die as very few people will be joining the old servers.
Of course, even though EQ2X players can’t move to the Live servers, existing players are being allowed to move to the Extended servers at a generous $35 per character. Hmm… so I could pay $35 to copy one of my characters to a new server and then have access to even less content? Fan-flippin-tastic.
This whole turn of events is an unfortunate shame for the EQ2 community and I’m very disappointed that SOE couldn’t have just mimicked Turbine’s sensible F2P model for LotRO. What’s wrong with allowing players the options to play a cut down version for free, pay for only for the content they want or choose the normal, fair monthly subscription rate like before? It’s a win-win situation that far outstrips the greedy and narrow approach that SOE have taken. I can only hope they make some changes to their payment plans before launch.