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.


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


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?


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