Can someone explain to me why some people think SOE is going to push the MMO genre forward? I keep hearing about how SOE is the company that is going to finally get us out of the WoW-too rut the genre is stuck in, how its upcoming titles are all doing new and great things. First is my take on the history of SOE MMOs, just to establish a base.
EverQuest® – The original game that put SOE on the map, and the overall ‘winner’ of the first gen MMO war. Undeniably a huge hit that expanded the MMO market and set standards going forward.
EverQuest® II – Considering the name and following, overall a huge disappointment at launch. It’s been fixed up over the years and currently enjoys a solid following having defined its core features. If in 2003 someone said EQ2 would be a me-too MMO rather than a major player, people would have laughed. An underperformer who has recovered well thanks to the resources available to SOE.
Pirates of the Burning SeaTM – A unique selling point (great ship to ship combat engine) ruined by a tacked on avatar system. Huge initial interest followed by a sharp decline as players revealed design flaws in its endgame and economy. Even as a niche title, this one has disappointed.
PlanetSide® – A FPS/MMO that never really hit its stride. It’s been a non-factor since release.
Star Wars GalaxiesTM – Considering the combination of MMO and Star Wars, this was basically declared a money tree before release. Some launch troubles, unmeet expectations (thanks in part to WoW), and then the NGE catastrophe seal SWG place in MMO history as a massive waste of potential. Such a giant mishandling of potential would likely have cost many companies their entire business.
The Matrix Online – While this brand has faded since its peak, The Matrix was a huge property back in the day, and considering the movie, it’s a paint-by-numbers MMO setting. The Matrix Online SHOULD have been the defining Sci-Fi MMO, and not the tiny niche game it currently is. While not exactly a SWG-sized waste of potential, it’s hard to argue that The Matrix Online fell short of expectations.
Vanguard Saga of Heroes® - The much-heralded spiritual successor of the original Everquest, Vanguard has a well documented history of failure. Starting with its much-reported beta troubles, to its epic fail of a launch, and the subsequent circus of its developers, Vanguard made history for all the wrong reasons. While currently the game is reportedly in much better shape, it’s niche status has long since been established, and many still credit it with their distaste for trying newly launched MMOs.
One undeniable hit (EQ1), two currently healthy MMOs that underperformed or disappointed (EQ2, SWG), and four titles that would be shut down if taken off the MMO life-support system that is Station Access (PS, Matrix, VG, PotBS). One out of seven MMOs from SOE live up to their potential/expectations. Outside of its first title, what exactly are we looking at as the example of MMO excellence with SOE? Sure they have a lot of history in the genre, but how do we take a history of failure as a positive? When you swing and miss with such IP’s as Star Wars and The Matrix, not to mention release a sequel to the previous king of the genre that scares away all but the most hardcore of fans, normal rational would paint you as a company to avoid going forward. Let’s also consider the upcoming MMO titles set for release.
The AgencyTM – Another attempt at FPS/MMO, only this time with a spy twist. Considering the core FPS crowd, it’s hard to imagine them going for something so FPS-lite. Core MMO fans have generally avoided past FPS-like MMOs, so it’s tough to say who the market is here. The PS3 being the trailing console of this generation can’t help either.
DC UniverseTM Online – Not out yet, but clearly moving away from the traditional MMO setup and going for a more action/beat-em-up setup with some MMO-like features. Also has the Batman/Superman videogame curse to deal with. Overall solid potential for a fun ‘diversion’ MMO, but does it have the hooks to make it the main MMO for most players? Good potential is a hit on the PS3 given the controller setup, but how will it stack up to Champions Online on the PC?
Free RealmsTM – Out soon, kid-aimed browser game going for a WoW-lite approach. It could do well, but not a product aimed at the traditional sub-based MMO crowd. Considering the Wii is the dominate console, especially among a younger demographic, it’s tough to picture FR really selling PS3 units, or the core PS3 crowd jumping all over a kids game. The PC success of kid-friendly F2P MMOs like Wizard 101 shows the market exists, but will FR capture it in a profitable way?
I’m sorry, but I don’t see MMO baby jesus on that list, do you? We have one potential flop (Agency), one niche title (DCU), and one kids game (FR). Is that really the future of the genre? What in the three above is the next great step in MMO gaming, especially considering the history of the company behind them?
PS: Part of my SOE-hate still stems back to 1999 and luring the carebears away from UO. Yes, I hold a grudge. But fanboy exaggerated hate aside, I still don’t understand the blind love by some for SOE considering their overall history…
Edit: Sorry the original version of this post was a formatted nightmare. That should all be fixed now.