SOE – The Mad Men Of MMOs
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.