Wednesday, 1 September 2010

EQ2E is going to be huge

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.

EQ2E has attracted a lot of criticism for its F2P matrix. Compared to the Lotro matrix that inspired it it seems unnecessarily harsh.

The EQ2E matrix is designed to drive players into subscriptions whereas the Lotro matrix is designed to drive players into cash shop purchases, with subscriptions as an option.

Weirdly once you adjust to the limitations (no mail, no broker, etc) you can actually play EQ2E for free for longer than Lotro. In Lotro after you outlevel the starter areas you must buy additional areas to continue. In EQ2E you can level all the way to 80 without spending anything.

I think that EQ2E will end up defeating its apparent purpose. In the end all that matters in MMOs is popularity. If you don't care if other people are around you're an atypical MMO player.

EQ2E is going to be really popular. People want to come play. And a key thing - it has the newbie fawcet that Sandra Powers talked about here. Everquest 2 is arguably the best free diku out there.

EQ2 Live is going to decline. It's lost its newbie hose. It's lost some of its players to Eq2E (and may lose a few to free lotro, to SWTOR, to WoW: Cataclysm). It can no longer replace losses. It doesn't take much for a raid to go from Just Enough People to Not Quite Enough people as I know from bitter experience in WoW. And once you start canceling raids because of non-participation you're doomed.

Now this is where SOE's restrictive matrix is actually really clever. SOE has always been a company that bends over backwards to accommodate players. Unlike Blizzard they tend to give in to player demands and whines. By starting off from a harsh position they can give in on various elements of the F2P matrix as players complain and as the EQ2E population and revenues grow. This is inevitable, it's how SOE work.

In fact it's already happening. The servers are currently down while a new feature is patched in. Restricted classes, originally entirely unavailable unless you transferred in off Live, are being made available for Station Cash. Forum noise will eventually get more restrictions lifted so that over time EQ2E gradually develops a F2P matrix that looks like Lotro's. And their reputation for listening to player concerns will be upheld and the Live players (who will lose by this) don't have a dramatic point of nerfage to rally around. Instead over the next few years people on Live will gradually move over.

And EQ2E will do extremely well. Traditionally most of us have recommended WoW as the place to start for new MMO players. There will be no point buying WoW when you can instead start with free Everquest 2 or Lotro. The newbie hose has been hijacked.

And all those high level players? Well the reason people love to raid is at heart about looking awesome. If you're in a game with tons of new people joining and going "wow, where did you get your stuff?" you get a good feeling. Jonathan Baron's classic article on why people play MMOs is as true as ever: it's all about shame and glory.


  1. I think SOE is being pretty smart about EQ2X. They have given themselves a lot of room to gradually open up more options to silver and bronze accounts, without locking themselves into price structures they might later regret. All of the options available so far (save for the last expansion pack) seem pretty reasonably priced.

  2. "The newbie hose has been hijacked."

    I love this phrasing. :)

    That said, I'm most definitely an atypical player. I'm looking for fun mechanics and interesting places to explore. Other people actively get in the way more often than not.

    I'll explore EQ2E for a little while, but since the gameplay is just the same ol' DIKU stuff, just with new UI quirks, it's not going to have much staying power for me, I'm afraid. Runes of Magic and Allods Online didn't do much for me in the end either; both were fun for a while, but the actual act of *playing* just didn't do much that I haven't done before in ten day WoW trials.

    New and pretty places to go are still great, don't get me wrong, but when those places are gated by DIKU grinding and "me too" combat, I can't work up the will to press on after a while. So far, tinkering around in Halas, I'm getting the same vibe, and it's just not inspiring.

    That said, I do think EQ2E looks good and may well be the best free DIKU game out there, and I think you're correct that the buzz will help its critical mass and keep it running. It's just... I'm looking for something more for my own play. ;) I certainly don't wish SOE ill, and I hope that this move does indeed work out well for them.

    (Though note, Blizzard can still hijack the hose back if it makes the Old World of Warcraft free to play in a pre-Cataclysm set of servers. They won't do it, but if they shifted their weight into the free end of the pool, it would cause some significant waves.)

  3. It will be very interesting to see if F2P Lotro and EQ2 have any affect whatsoever on Cataclysm's numbers. Might be hard to tell of course. And it would only be a matter of degree, lowering it from Phenomenal Success to Staggering Success.

    As for diku gameplay I understand completely what you mean Tesh. In many ways most of it isn't really game in the sense that chess is a game. It's progression rather than dying and thinking "how the hell do I overcome this thing?"

  4. Indeed, and when the answer to that question is "go grind some levels", I lose interest. If it's "try this different strategy with what you have", I'm more likely to keep trying. :)

  5. That's basically Raph Koster's theory of fun. I think the history of the MMO genre has proved that it doesn't apply to most game players.

  6. Call me skeptical but I can't help but wonder how long it will be before the shine wears off the whole thing. Right now EQ2X is riding on a high wave of hype and lots of press combined with a low entry point (i.e. no fees). But will all these players still be there once their free EQ2 characters are level 70 and they have to start forking out serious cash in order to progress and compete in an end game environment? I dunno...

  7. I agree with Mr. Spitfires that a heap of buzz when the free version is only a couple of weeks old doesn't necessarily guarantee success in the months that follow..

    But yep, it is definitely buzzing at the moment. I played EQ2 for a couple of months back in 2008, and one of the main reasons I abandoned it was that it was just a ghost town. There might have been action at endgame but as a new player in an old, low-population game, I might have well have been playing Oblivion for all the multi-player action I saw.

    Comparing these last few days of EQ2X to that, it's absolutely chalk and cheese.

    But I am disappointed in the way SOE still seems 100% focused on making it a subscription-based game. I'm playing some EQ2X. But I'm still playing Atlantica. And I'll play some LOTRO when it's imminent F2P launch lands. I'm willing to spend money and pay as I go, but I'm not going to drop a $15/month subscription on one of them.

  8. Very interesting discussion. The great thing about not being the "first" free-to-play is you don't have to talk all the time about how you'll make money. You can spend time talking about how fun your game is? Are "newbies" all that will drive a new FTP game... is it even a remote possibility continual subscribers to paid games drop their game to take up a FTP, no matter how much buzz? Or is that a gradual process> Jay,