SOE: All of the great MMOs are F2P, like…?

April 3, 2014

Dave “Doctor Creepy” Georgeson, fresh of his “MMOs should live on forever, so we are shutting down four SOE MMOs!” declaration, is back trying to cram more foot into his mouth, this time trying to defend the minor league MMO model; F2P. It goes about as well has FreeRealms went.

“I think that free-to-play is the way that gamers should want their MMOs to be, and the reason I think that is that if we don’t do a really good job and we don’t entertain the player, we don’t make a dime.

If the above was actually true, it would be a good point. Unfortunately, like anyone who has ever played a F2P MMO knows, that model isn’t about entertaining you; it’s about reminding you to visit the cash shop, over, and over, and over again. It’s about putting up a “Go Gold!” message during combat ala EQ2. Because when I think of ‘make the game better’, the first thing I jump to is more ad spam during my MMO combat.

“We’re effectively street performers: we go out there and sing and dance and if we do a good job, people throw coins into the hat. And I think that’s the way games should be, because paying $60 up front to take a gamble on whether the game is good or not? You don’t get that money back.”

Says the man peddling $100 alpha tickets to a minecraft clone. Can’t wait for the ‘deal’ SOE gives everyone for EQN. Something tells me ‘free’ isn’t going to be the ‘best’ option.

“So if you buy a turkey, you’ve just wasted your money. With free-to-play you get to go in, take a look at it and find out. It’s entirely our responsibility to make sure you’re entertained. That’s the way things should be in my opinion with free-to-play.”

I like the suggestion here that for F2P to work, it’s about making the best possible game and not about making the best possible cash shop delivery vehicle. Like yea Dave, just make an amazing MMO (a first for SOE), make it free, and then put your hat out and see if you catch a few coins. That is not only completely viable, but also totally what you and SOE have been doing over the years. 100%.

This is yet again a great example of what F2P really is; a con. Dave here has to lie and twist to sell the model, because the model ISN’T about making the best possible game and believing that people will see value in it. If SOE had that type of product, they would use the model successful MMOs stick with, and MMOs that thought they would be successful launch with, the sub model.

But much like FreeRealms and the rest of the closed or fledging offerings the one-hit-wonder SOE has, they are all sub-par imitations or ‘me too’ titles, and for that quality level F2P is the model you go with, because under that model you still can dupe a few people out of a few coins while they aren’t looking, and hopefully get a few whale-sized suckers to make giant mistakes.

SOE – Makng bad games, but provide A+ blog fodder.

#SOE #F2P


So McQuaid it hurts

January 26, 2014

I have a feeling SOE shutting down a bunch of “F2P ALL TEH WAY!” titles is going to lead to a lot of blogging gold, especially things like this nugget: Brad MqcQuaid, who made the now dead Vanguard and is really proud of it, is asking people for money to make soon-to-be-dead Vanguard. At the same time, said-guy-asking-for-money was wondering if he could buy dead Vanguard from SOE.

Brad, were you going to open another Kickstarter to buy dead Vanguard, or use soon-to-be-dead Vanguard kickstater money to buy dead Vanguard? Or do you have enough money for dead Vanguard personally, but like Lord British, you figured you might as well collect some dummy cash off dead Vanguard fans for soon-to-be-dead Vanguard because hey, if making one embarrassing video is all it takes to (try to) get 800k, you might as well right?


SOE: Still a one-hit wonder

January 25, 2014

Shocking.

SOE continuing to show that if you get one MMO right (EQ1), you can basically screw up everything for the next decade and still be ok.

But don’t worry SWG fans, SOE is working on a title just for you! No chance they screw it up. Zero. That would only be possible from a studio that pulled off something like the NGE, which totally isn’t SOE…. oh wait.

 


Darkfall: Unholy Wars – Voicing the Manifested Vision in White Shades

December 20, 2012

Darkfall is under NDA right now, so while I’m writing about it, I can’t post details until the NDA is down. Whenever that happens (current date I have is Dec 27th) expect either a long post, or a bunch all in rapid fashion.

Without breaking NDA, I will say that DF:UW is indeed a sequel to DF1, rather than the suspected ‘large patch’. It’s also already provided a single high point above anything in my one month trip to 80-ending in GW2, and done more to encourage grouping than any ‘fix’ to the formula that Anet aimed at. Wish I could say more, but ‘soon’.

I’ll be deleting any comments that break NDA here, so save me the clicks and don’t if you are in the beta.


The long list of mass market MMOs that everyone is playing

October 2, 2012

So if you did not pick up on the fact that yesterday’s post was a long-winded setup to tell you that EVE is the best MMO ever, you are either new here or not paying attention. Also if you are someone who likes to dismiss EVE because it’s a niche MMO in a genre full of mass-market MMOs, this should prove educational.

Let’s cover the niche part first though, since it’s pretty easy. WoW is an outlier with millions of subs, so I’m going to put it aside for now. Yes, EVE is niche compared to WoW, but based on that logic GW2 selling 2m boxes is also niche because 12m subs > 2m boxes. Same goes for SW:TOR, LotRO (who had a lovely “come play with millions of others” ad campaign pre-release. How’s that working out for ya?), or… actually any MMO not called WoW in the NA/EU (silly Asia).

So WoW aside, how do the 400k subs (I know I know, it’s just one guy with 400k accounts, and he buys PLEX in-game so even he is not paying anything, but let’s pretend for a moment that somehow magically those 400k subs still somehow count as 400k x $15 per month for the sake of CCP’s revenue) stack up to everyone else? Well no one has 1m subs, so now we are talking thousands rather than millions.

A whole slew of ‘mass market’ MMOs are now F2P because not enough people found them worth $15 a month. SW:TOR, which will soon join the F2P fail-ranks because it could not keep its 500k or bust target, cost more money than any MMO before it, and EAWare famously stated that if you are not spending $300m, you can’t compete with WoW. I guess if you DO spend $300m+, you can’t compete with EVE either. In fairness to EAWare EVE probably cost somewhere close to 300m to develop as well. Well 300m Yen anyway.

GW2 just launched and rewrote the whole MMO formula, including that nagging issue of having to pay to keep playing, because really, who likes paying when you can get the exact same thing for free? Not surprisingly GW2 sold fewer copies than Skyrim though, another “buy the box and play forever” fantasy title. To be fair, Skyrim is in the more mass-market sandbox genre, while GW2 has to carry the heavy burden of being a themepark. Also the NPCs in Skyrim are more helpful and less likely to go poof after a month, and the dynamic events don’t repeat as often. Both games do feature loot piñata dragons, meh combat, and nice visuals. I’ll be kind and not compare the main storylines.

Rift is still a sub-based MMO, and it’s a mass-market themepark. It has fewer subs than ‘niche’ EVE if various data sources are to be believed, and somehow if Trion retained half a mil subs I think we’d here about it. Plus get back to me when Rift has 400k subs at its ten year anniversary. Hey only about 8 years to go, but to be fair when EVE launched it had way fewer subs too, so maybe Rift will grow much like EVE has. Maybe. That said, out of the last few years, Rift is the only major MMO to actually stay a sub-based MMO for a year+, so it would not be totally unreasonable to call it the most successful launch since… WoW?

So I ask, what ‘mass-market’ MMO are people talking about when stating EVE’s 400k subs is ‘niche’? I thought we got over the whole “WoW or bust” thing in 2007? Or are people really still thinking the ‘MMO market’ is 12m strong, and surely the NEXT title is going to hit that mark? Because if you do I’m sure EAWare has a spot for you on the team! Or maybe Funcom. Or Mythic. Wait is Mythic still a thing? No, why, what happened? Didn’t they have that huge surefire IP and mass-market MMO that was going to crush WoW? (I hate you whiteshades.)

And once you realize that 400k subs is not niche, but near the top of the not-WoW market, you can reasonably set expectations for design and market size if you are actually aiming to design a game that is intended to be played beyond the first month. You know, an MMO. Or what the old folks called an MMO before Anet came along and ‘fixed’ it for all of us.

Furthermore, if you can’t make $18m in yearly revenue work for you and your dev team (100k subs for a year, and assuming zero box sale money), you are doing it wrong. Probably to the tune of $300m wrong that leads the head doctors to call it quits because people pointed out that you delivered $300m worth of garbage while helping to shut down a game people loved (which may or may not have had more players than SW:TOR currently has actually playing).

But seriously, $18m a year is not peanuts, and I don’t think retaining 100k people for a year is asking for the moon. Hell, maybe would call that hyper-niche and laugh while they go back to their 1m+ subs MMO not called WoW, so it must be easy! And look, if EQ1 got 500k people back when you had to use a rotary dial to login, I’m pretty sure a team of devs can make something today to get 100k. Or 50k and try to survive off $9m in revenue. The horror.

Or you know, keep pumping out those ‘mass market’ MMOs all the kids are talking about. The ones just crushing it in terms of numbers like… WoW. Release in 2004.

Yea, those!


Breaking down failure is fail

August 30, 2010

It’s funny how we (myself firmly included in this) react when an MMO fails. We always ask why, and break down what went wrong based on that specific title, focusing on key bullet points (haha, good one self). APB is the latest MMO in trouble, and Tobold believes it failed because of ganking, specifically the ability for veteran players with more powerful character to fight new, weaker players, effectively driving them away from the game. Other bloggers have other theories as well, uncontrolled cheating being a common theme.

Now I’m not interested in discussing exactly why APB did fail, I never played it and honestly never looked twice at it. What I do want to talk about is how we, MMO bloggers, deal with the aftermath of a failed game.

Is APB the only MMO to have a ganking or cheating problem? Nope. Ultima Online was ganker paradise, and UOextreme did some really… interesting stuff when you ran it. What about bugs or server issues, topics generally associated with a failed MMO? Well I seem to recall WoW launched with a rather crippling item database ‘bug’ that made it near impossible to complete quests for weeks, and certain servers experienced horrid lag and downtime for months. If WoW had failed, we would have seen countless blog posts about how stupid Blizzard was to launch a game with a centralized item database (it was a dumb move), and what a joke of a company they are for not being able to keep a server up months after launch. We called out WAR for having poor RvR in a game based around set-piece conflict, but does anyone remember the great PvP system Blizzard had at launch for Warcraft, a franchise entirely based on conflict between two sides? (Hint: they had nothing, for months/years)

Point being, it’s easy to look at a failed game and try to attribute it’s failures on common themes (PvP, lack of content, lack of character customization, bugs, server issues, etc), and then make the leap that if only games avoided those themes, they would be more successful. It’s the leap part that I disagree with, because if MMO history has shown us anything, it’s that no theme or issue is a make or break concern for an MMO. The smoothest launch can still lead to a disaster 6 months in, while a horrible launch can turn into a game still growing years later.

Like MMOs themselves, a game failing or succeeding is a complex combination of factors, and no one single point is the ‘ah ha’ part of the failure. So while it is interesting to break a game down and examine its pieces, the ultimate conclusion should still always be that any game can fail or succeed based on a large number of factors, rather than a select few. Because another lesson MMO history teaches us is that strange ‘niche’ markets are not always niche (EVE Online), while ‘obvious’ mass market titles don’t always hit their mark (Sims Online).

Chuck-o-the-day: Chuck Norris’s face has only two expressions, one of which has never been seen.


Is Vanguard a good choice?

February 4, 2010

My fiance would like to get back into the MMO gaming scene with me, and I’m wondering if Vanguard would be a good choice for a duo to tackle? Games we have already played include WoW, LotRO, EQ2, WAR, DDO (making my fiance more qualified than all of EGs staff when it comes to MMOs), so all of those are out, and she is too carebear for DarkFall.

The game more or less has to be a fantasy themepark, so games like Fallen Earth are out as well. Ideally the setup would allow us to play about an hour or two a few nights a week and make some progress. Does Vanguard fit that bill as something to play for a few months? Hardware requirements are a non-issue as we don’t play on toasters. Things like endgame and min/maxing are not a factor here as well; we likely won’t get that far.

And if not Vanguard, any other suggestions?


Long list of SOE hate.

February 17, 2009

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.


Listen to me ramble!

August 23, 2008

Adam is back after… well a LONG time away, and has put together another quality podcast. Adam, Luper, and myself talk about a bunch of MMO goodness. Copy/paste incoming.

Adam’s back with another show!  In this episode, Adam, Luper from Voyages of Vanguard, John from TAGN (who had a contribution to the show, but was unable to discuss it as he was silly and gave away his mic so someone could do work! Work over gaming?!?!?!  WHERE are your priorities, John????) and Michal, aka Syncaine from the Hardcore/Casual blog tackle the 5 “N’s” of MMO’s for 2008:

New features in MMO for 2008 and the 5 N’s: “NICE! Neat. Nuwhut? Nonimportant, or NASTY!”  The concept was each contributor came up with at least one feature from a 2008 MMO release, and what they thought of it, within the context of one of those N’s.  MMO’s involved in this discussion were Tabula Rasa, WAR, AoC and PotBS…. it ranges from there, but as always a good discussion.  Looking forward to people’s thoughts.  Enjoy!

PS: iTunes reviews make for a happy Podcaster :)

Go listen, and give the man an iTunes review!


One year of blogging done, and what a year it has been!

June 25, 2008

It’s been a year already?

I initially started blogging for what I believe is the most common reason: to have a place to keep all my thoughts and ideas about gaming in one place. What originally started as just ‘something to do’ has slowly grown into a very enjoyable hobby and craft. Over the course of the last year, I’ve been rather heavily involved in the MMO blogosphere, be it commenting, linking, or podcasting. Through it all, I’ve had a great time and gained a huge amount of insight into not only MMO games, but my own approach to them as well. Not to mention all the great bloggers and podcasters I’ve gone back and forth with, something that would likely not have happened without the blog.

I figured the best (easiest?) way to break down my first year as a blogger was just to go over the great statistics that WordPress provides, and comment on anything I found interesting or surprising.

First up, the very top-level stuff.

Blog Stats

Total views: 104,123

Busiest day: 11,852 – Thursday, September 6, 2007

Posts: 253

Comments: 1,658

As I recently posted here, the blog hit 100k views not too long ago, a nice round number. I never gave traffic much thought when I started, but I must say I’m very happy hitting 100k in my first year.

The busiest day, way back in September, is the result of getting linked by the BBC tech page, a quote from a somewhat random post I made about WoW and the future expansion. That was an exciting day, especially since it came so early in this blog’s life. Sadly the retention rate from all that traffic was rather low, although it certainly helped. As the stats below will show, no other day/post has really come close to that huge, single hit boost from the BBC, although if the current traffic trend continues, it will happen eventually.

The total posts number, 253, is overall rather decent considering I generally don’t post on Saturday or Sunday. If my math is correct (odds are low), that means out of the remaining 261 days, I posted on average almost every single day. Clearly days with multiple posts help offset days I posted nothing, but even so, a near post-a-day average not counting the weekend is fine by me. Now to keep it up in year two!

The 1658 comments stat is what I think I’m most proud of, as to me it means people actually cared enough about what was posted here to say something about it. Comments are what really drive a blogger to continue and to stay active, and they are a great source of motivation, so thank you to everyone who has taken the time to write something. (yes, even you random troll)

Top Posts for all days ending 2008-06-25

The love and hate game, WoW style. – 16,875

Screen shot comparison. – 2,636

Looking in the mirror; the sickness that was WoW raiding – 1,918

EQ2, trial of the never-ending download. – 1,632

Throwing down the gauntlet, the great MMO challenge – 1,414

Ebolt anyone? – 1,230

Funcom to AoC players, GTFO! – 1,176

Can my toaster run AoC? – Concerned Walmart Shopper -1,143

Stuck in easy mode. – 1,059

Ghost town, population you. – 704

As mentioned above, the first post is the one linked by the BBC, and as you can see, it’s far and away the top post. The next post is somewhat interesting, in that the concept was rather simple, and it was also one of the few posts with pictures. Also of interest is that the post was about EQ2, a game that I overall spent a limited amount of time with. This trend continues in a few more examples, showing that the EQ2 community is very active, and that EQ2 itself drives a lot of MMO traffic. Top post three is one of my favorites, as it was a very personal retrospective look of my time in WoW, and in particular the endgame raiding grind. In addition to the post itself, a lot of really great comments have been left by others sharing their own experiences and methods of escaping that trap. I won’t go into detail about the rest, other than to say a few more recent posts have snuck into the top ten, and that my original post, ‘Ebolt anyone?’, is holding on strong despite originally getting very little traffic due to the blog being new. UO reminiscing still gets peoples attention, a clear sign that you never really forget your first MMO, as UO was for so many.

Referrers for all days ending 2008-06-25

news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/default – 11,015

news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/default – 3,159

wowinsider.com – 2,922

virginworlds.com/home.php – 1,831

google.com/reader/view – 1,288

tobolds.blogspot.com – 1,055

eq2-daily.com – 838

keenandgraev.com – 650

killtenrats.com – 499

crazykinux.com – 398

Again the BBC dominates the top spot, and even spot number two, despite that link being on the back page. WoWInsider, being the huge a site that it is, is not a very surprising number three, followed by the ever awesome VirginWorlds news feed. Tobold, the blog overlord himself, is not surprisingly the first blog on the list, along with Keen and Graev, KTR and the link-happy man himself, Crazy Kinux. Thank you to everyone who has linked me, it drives traffic, which leads to comments, which leads to happy blogging!

Search Terms for all days ending 2008-06-25

Syncaine – 334

vanguard trial – 312

hardcore casual – 267

eq2 – 259

wow progress – 219

hardcore – 195

warhammer podcast – 132

eq2 trial – 119

sotnw – 92

switch mmo – 77

shadowbane reset – 70

This list is a little surprising. Spots one and three are all about me, and you know, I’m kind of a big deal on Google (clearly kidding). The big surprise is spot number two, people looking for a Vanguard trial. How does that game NOT have a trial? Seriously, I’ve been looking to try Vanguard for a long time now, if just to see what all the fuss is about, and yet without a trial it’s never going to happen. It’s silly that SOE has not gotten around to this yet. Another random surprise is the amount of searches that lead people here about Sword of the New World (sotnw). I only briefly posted about the game, and generally concluded that while pretty, the game was an afk-grind with little point. Maybe that’s what people are looking for though, who knows…

Finally here are two charts (remember, people like pictures) showing overall traffic flow. On the monthly chart, you can clearly see the spike from the BBC link, followed by a return to the more normal, steady growth. Hopefully the trend continues, and one day that BBC spike won’t look quite as dominant.

The weekly chart shows that while monthly traffic might be fairly steady, week to week traffic is very sporadic. This is due no doubt to a combination of who linked me, what exactly I posted that week, and how active I was commenting on other blogs and generating hits from that. The one thing I have learned after a year of blogging is you can never really predict what will drive traffic. A well-crafted post (imo of course) may get little attention, while a quick post about something random will start a firestorm. The important thing to remember is to post about what YOU want to talk about, and not worry about posting the next ‘major hit’ blog post. If you write honestly and with passion, people will pick up on it and drop by.

To sum it all up, it’s been a crazy first year for me in regards to this blog. It’s been a huge learning experience, and hopefully I continue to improve and provide interesting reading for everyone. I’m very much looking forward to year two, especially since the ‘next big think’ in Warhammer will hit, and no doubt spur some good debate in our corner of the Internet. I can’t wait!

Thanks again to all the reader!


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