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.