SOE – The Mad Men Of MMOs

Don Draper fom Mad Men

Smed Draper

I’m starting to read some reports of folks trying out Everquest 2 Extended and, pretty much unanimously, everyone is really enjoying it. I’m not surprised at all by this because (as I’ve often said), EQ2 is a rather awesome game and certainly one of the top MMORPGs out there. The curious thing though is that given the reaction to EQ2X, one is led to imagine that a completely new and shiny game has somehow suddenly and miraculously appeared out of thin air. It’s as if the “old” Everquest 2 never existed, funny to me as EQ2X is exactly the same as EQ2 Live except with a few minor tweaks. It’s amazing what a little market and PR can do, isn’t it?

Even though I’m still sulking over SOE’s deceptive and greedy price plans for EQ2X, I am happy to see new life getting breathed into the game. MMOs revolve around their communities and it’s important to the health of the these games that they maintain an active and vibrant one plus it’s also a heck of a lot more fun for a player to roam around busy and populated worlds than empty ghost towns inhabited only by ancient veterans. In fact, the allure of a decently populated server seems to be so strong that some players are happy to pay the $35 fee to move high level characters across from Live to Extended. It irks me quite a lot but kudos to SOE for managing to create a system that is actually charging their playerbase to move away from the dying servers.

As we all know though value is a very subjective thing and we shouldn’t underestimate the role that marketing and advertising plays in it. For instance, people are signing up to the Gold membership plan and buying race packs ($7.50 for 3 races) and still facing a level cap and content restrictions when they could just buy the full game on Amazon, get 30 days free play, and completely unrestricted access to everything on the Live servers for less money. Frankly, this has got to be greatest advertising trick any MMO company has ever pulled. Maybe SOE have got Don Draper working for them?

The strangest thing of all is though is why SOE never did more marketing or PR in the past. It’s baffling because it’s obvious what benefits a little bit of re-branding and repackaging can do for a product and heaven knows it’s old hat for almost every other consumer item imaginable. Maybe the odd TV advert or a little more energy behind the marketing of expansions might have revitalised Everquest 2 years ago and avoided this whole scenario.

Still, I suppose it’s better late than never even though I find the whole moment very bittersweet. I’m glad that one of my favourite MMORPGs is getting the attention and recognition it deserves but I’m also deeply unhappy that in order to partake in it (and it is tempting) I’d have to open my wallet and fork out even more cash than ever before. As a loyal 3+ year veteran who played from day 0 this doesn’t fill me with happy thoughts.

-Gordon

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26 Comments

  1. Tesh says:

    I signed up and played for a while in New Halas.

    Not impressed. It’s not a *bad* game, it’s just more of the same ol’ DIKU stuff. I’m glad that it’s now more of a force in the market… it’s just not ringing any bells for me.

    • Gordon says:

      My biggest issue with EQ2 has always been it’s performance and lack of client stability but, still, I do think it’s one of the best DIKU MMOs out there… which is great if that’s what you’re looking for :)

    • Wolfshead says:

      I was expecting “the most polished newbie experience yet” in New Halas in EQ2 but I was very disapointed. It’s basically a carbon copy of WoW. Go to quest hub, get quest from NPC, kill 10 rats, return to questgiver for reward.

      *yawn*

      • Gordon says:

        It’s not the most original stuff on the planet, agreed, and I don’t know what the game is like now (it was certainly becoming more “WoWified” before I left) but I rekcon that’s what you’re looking for, EQ2 is one of the best there is. Plus the community is excellent.

      • gareth2w says:

        Actually I liked the storyline for Halas and the newbie experience, without excessive travel they did give the feeling of going on a journey. Not something I’ve experienced on any of the WoW starting zones, although the Blood elf one stood out for me as good (due to it chiming for me with peak oil), the undead and drenai was nice too (most people found the latter dull though, I guess I liked the emptiness), the rest didn’t move me storywise.

        Overall I’d recommend Halas heavily, good characters, a well strung together series of quests and superb zone design that really played to the strong points of EQ2’s graphics.

  2. kaozz says:

    I think I’d play more if it wasn’t so limited. While it’s really a lot of fun… I keep thinking, in the back of my mind, I could just play on live and get all of this for the same price.

    I am glad it is offered free and players are excited about EQ2 again. I just think it needs more tweaking to keep people seriously. I can’t be bothered to dump 35$ to copy a character to something where I get less.

    It is great for when I want to do the holiday events, logging in whenever I want is really great. I can’t complain there.

    • Gordon says:

      I really wish they’d just combined it with Live and made the Gold plan the same as the current Live subscription with access to everything just like LotRO is doing. I would be incredibly happy if that had been the case. The way it’s set now is just confusing and annoying. I keep feeling the itch to try it out again and play on the Extended server to get the busy community but then I think what would happen if I liked it? I’d just have to pay more than my normal subscription. Not cool.

      • Shadow War says:

        I’m completely baffled by the pricing of it as well. It seems completely bonkers when I look at it. I pay more, to get less. The only real price it’s saving me, is that of the box. I suppose the long-term alure is that you never will have to buy an expansion for the game, and just keep hoping that the free version of the game eternally rides one release behind the live version.

        Still, in the long run, I can’t help but feel that even buying expansions, the cost probably equals out.

        • Gordon says:

          If they’d made the Gold plan the same as the live subscription – i.e. give you access to everything after a small upfront fee – then I would’ve been very happy indeed. Right now it’s just very silly indeed.

  3. I signed up for it too, but I have yet to try it out long enough to get an impression. I know there’s a bunch of bloggers who have started a group, and I’m hoping to join them when I do find some more time to play.

    In any case, I think EQ2X is great, even with their wonky system of ultimately having to pay more for less. I’ve never played EQ2 and would love a shot at it, so a free version for me to poke around in is perfect for me. I don’t think the game will end up holding me for the long term anyway, but being able to jump in and out to play a bit and hang out with friends every once in a while is good enough for me.

    On the other hand, I think if I had paid for the live version like kaozz there would be no way I’d find the motivation to play EQ2X either. :P

    • Gordon says:

      I just wished they’d followed the LotRO model :( We’ll see what happens, I may end up back in EQ2 one of these days. I’m going to try out LotRO first though, get back into EVE, and probably hold for Cataclysm in the mean time.

  4. Yetian says:

    I am happy paying my sub and getting more for less on the live servers.

    I’ve been playing constantly since beta and I hope that the server’s don’t die out and force us all over to extended, but I’m not holding out much hope.

  5. Stabs says:

    We make a lot of technical terms, features, design choices and so on but most MMO players want something very simple.

    We want to have fun in a place that’s buzzing.

    I think Eq2E is going to be huge, well it’s already huge with 16 concurrent instances of Halas reported over the weekend. I think it’s on course for Eberron Unlimited style results of 500% growth. What’s particularly fascinating is that the free server is packed full of people who have a current sub and can play the unlimited game but have hopped over for the buzz.

    • Gordon says:

      Indeed, it’s hugely attractive to play on servers that are vibrant and busy. No one likes ghost towns. I’m curious to see how things pan out. My guess is that EQ2X is going to appeal to a lot of casual players or low level characters but once people start getting to higher levels, and start needing to pay more and more, the shine may wear off.

      • Stabs says:

        You never need to pay. People give away 40 slot bags so storage isn’t an issue. Most people don’t acquire much of the restricted item types playing casually.

        Basically it’s like EQ2, but popular.

        I think despite a matrix design that is obviously intended to stop this happening it will end up cannibalising the Live servers. As I know from bitter experience it doesn’t take much of a shove to move a raid guild from Just Enough People to Not Quite Enough People.

        Well we’ll see. It will certainly be an interesting next 12 months for EQ2.

        • Gordon says:

          I’m probably too competitive and completist for the Bronze plan to appeal to me. I’d want to play some of the restricted races and equip legendary items and what not. I actually don’t have an issue at all with the Bronze or Silver plans, it the Gold and Platinum ones that I think are rip-offs.

        • Bhagpuss says:

          SoE is doing quite well out of Mrs Bhagpuss and me. We are still keeping up our Station Access accounts but we’re actually playing EQ2X on new Silver accounts.

          I am considering dropping the SA account, but I’ve only done that once since SA accounts were invented and I regretted it immediately. I’ve spent many months paying to play other MMOs while remaining subbed to SA, so it’s not a new situation. It’s odd to be paying twice to play the exact same game though.

  6. gareth2w says:

    The RMT there is the killer however I look at it, which is a shame since that’s the only thing that prevents EQ2X from being merged with the current EQ2. There are some odd items for sale there, I’m expecting eventually some sort of legendary/fabled gear will be sold, probably with a special tag that allows silver subs to wear it.

    I have no urge to play on the server though, the way I see it I just need 5 more people to make a dungeon party, or 23 more for the largest raid. I can do all that on my Runnyeye every night of the week.

    As for being able to play for free forever, I think not, for starters any BG/PVP will be not possible without at least Mastercrafted (and coin restrictions and the way I see the economy/mechanics going) will likely result in a purchase cost to get them. Thinking about it I have heard that there are new tiers to mastercrafted (legendary etc) wondering if this is to steer people to a puchase.

    Then for the PVE game you can level up to 80 for free easily, buying the expansion to 90 is fine too, but dungeons post level 70 won’t be possible without mastercrafted, and will need good legendary gear after 80.

    So I see this as just leading people into putting some commitment into their toons, after that they either have to pay up more the live, or quit.

    Either way on a free to play game eventually everyone has to pay.

  7. Greg says:

    Why do you keep insisting that the pricing is “Deceptive” and that you have to fork out more money than on Live servers? The cost of the subscription on EQ2X is the exact same price and gets you everything except the race packs. The only other fee in the game that you might come across is the fee for buying a guild charter if you want to create a guild, but not everyone has to create their own guild. So I really don’t know where the idea that EQ2X costs so much more than EQ2 is coming from. In your other article you state that Gold doesn’t have access to the same content or level caps and that’s just an outright lie. Gold has access to everything that you get on the live servers. Also, just like on the live servers, you have to purchase the expansion to get to max level. It’s identical between EQ2 and EQ2X.

    Since SOE left the existing servers intact you now have more choices than before. And if you don’t mind the restrictions, you can play for free, forever, without giving them a dime, and yet you still insist that they are greedy. The price of the game hasn’t gone up in 6 years.

    It really irks me when people get their facts wrong and then make these blog posts like they know what they’re talking about.

    • Gordon says:

      Unless it’s changed, Gold is capped at level 80 and doesn’t give you access to Sentinel’s Fate areas. Plus it costs a considerable amount of money to purchase all of the extra race packs. Compare this to just buying Sentinel’s Fate on Amazon for $20, getting full access to *everything* and a 30 days free with it on Live. Live is cheaper, I don’t think there’s any disputing that fact.

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