Thursday, May 21, 2009

People Watching At SOE

Yesterday's EQ2 Producer's Letter announced the departure of Producer Bruce Ferguson from the game. Explaining the move, Ferguson says only, "I'm moving on within SOE to another position".

Meanwhile, Tipa's daily blogroll documents another SOE personnel shuffle; if I'm following things correctly, EQ1's producer left for a mystery project, EQ1 then appropriated Vanguard's producer, and Vanguard players found out that they no longer had a producer from reading the EQ forums (oops).

All of this seems to mirror moves Blizzard is making as work on Mystery Project 4 ramps up in Irvine. As I said at the time, your best people need to be on board well ahead of launch if they're really going to have the opportunity to improve the game. Apparently the timing was right for SOE's mystery project as well.

Tipa is pulling for EQ3, but I'm not convinced. If they call the game EQ3 (or set it in Norrath without calling it EQ3), there are going to be the following camps of people:

A) May or may not have ever played any EQ games, but associate the brand with mandatory grouping, harsh death penalities, and mob grind-fests of old-school EQ1, and won't play the new game as a result.

B) Liked those aspects of EQ1 and sign up to play the new game, only to leave in disgust when it turns out not to be a flashback to 1999.

C) Like one or both of the current games and show up primarily on the strength of the brand name, but cancel their current subscriptions in the process (fragmenting the EQ playerbase between a total of three games).

D) Show up for the EQ brand name but with no preconceived notions and without cannibalizing the existing games' subscriptions.

Unless SOE can be certain that group D substantially outweighs the other three groups combined, they're better off leaving the name EQ3 in the wine cellar to age a few more years and going with a new IP. At least, that's my guess. We'll see what happens when they're ready to pop the cork on whatever it is they're brewing up in San Diego.


Loredena said...

I agree. Moving to EQ2 meant canceling my EQ account. And then canceling EQ2 for two years while they finished baking it. I'm still really loving EQ2, and have no interest in moving on to a version 3. But if I were to do so, it would be a clean move.

Stabs said...

I think EQ2 proved what a hard act to follow a successful MMO is. EQ3 wouldn't make sense unless they closed one or both of the others down and you simply do not close MMOs that have a solid subscriber base (as both games do).

I think FR will have taught them that it's better to aim at a different player base than to aim at your current players.

I think in general we will see very few sequels. Even WoW2 would be very hard to make and runs the risk of what Loredena describes: people cancelling the old game but not really staying hoked on the new game.

Then again Blizzard are probably canny enough to have WoW2 half-developed for years then push it to completion once they see the WoW bubble burst.

Cindy said...

EQ2 was already a mistake in that with an existing and on going game you just can't keep the same lore or story and therefore you lose the original feel of the game even though you may have prettier graphics.

People who left the first game for the second may not be all that impressed and so on.

I highly doubt EQ3 will ever see the light of day something tells me SOE knows this. But who knows SOE has 'surprised' me a lot before. /groan

spinksville said...

I don't think the EQ brandname has a lot of pulling power these days. Sure, it'll appeal to the existing players and maaaaybe to people who had played EQ/EQ2 but got bored and may be interested in coming back.

But to anyone else? I suspect it may have more negative than positive vibes.

Not that I wouldn't be interested in seeing what they could do in the current market, as a good alternative to the themepark route. But I see the EQ name as a millstone round their necks these days.

Anjin said...

I tackled this over at my blog too, but I can't help but jump in. MMOs can't do sequels the same way EA drops a new Madden or Tiger Woods game every year. MMOs do not go obsolete very fast because of expansions, so there is no driving need to upgrade to the new big thing.

Yeebo said...

I have mixed feelings. I agree that on the face of it EQ3 seems like it would be insane. If that means a similar relationship to EQ II to the one that that EQ II has with EQ...absolutely, it would be insane.

However, SOE has used the Everquest setting for five different games now: Champions of Norrath 1 and II (Diablo clones set in the EQ world), Everquest Online Adventures, Everquest, and Everquest II. Of those the only one that wasn't eventually financially successful was EQOA.

If they can use the Everquest IP but use it for a game that caters to a completely different market, as they did with Champions of Norrath, I think they would have the potential to grow their overall market share as well as increase the visibility of EQ and EQ II.

For example:

Norrath Adventures, a microtransaction based gateway MMO. Fast paced, solo friendly, quest driven, very easy to get into, but ultimately somewhat shallow. Meant to suck tweens into the EQ universe, or to act as a bridge between Free Realms and Everquest II. Once players outgrow it, they are ready to transition to a more advanced MMO set in a different take on the setting that they have grown to love, EQ II.

Is that what they have planned? Doubtful. But I wouldn't dismiss the idea of an EQ product out of hand.