Friday, May 6, 2011

Dark Times For DCUO?

The DCUO Unlimited Podcast has a new episode up today, and the tale is a bit sad to listen to - it's only May, but it's looking like a shoe-in for roughest launch of 2011, if for no other reason than because of the sheer number of things that have gone wrong. 

Back in December, I had moderate expectations for the game - I wasn't expecting it to have much content or staying power, but I figured that I would probably pick it up, play for the included month, and maybe come back for another month sometime later in the year after a few patches.  However, the more I heard about the game - and, just as notably, the LESS I heard about the game as very few blogs I read covered it in any way - I began to think that the price tag was a bit high, especially given reports of lack of polish. 

Wilhelm saved for posterity one of those John Smedley quotes that makes you wonder how this guy can still be allowed to talk to the media.  Asking console players for a $15 monthly fee was always a tough sell, but Smedley insisted that SOE understood the obligation to provide players with "a lot of new content" for that price tag.  First of all, SOE's current PC subscribers don't really get "a lot of new content" each and every month.  More importantly, though, this kind of statement makes you look bad if your planned monthly patches immediately drop to six weeks in frequency.  And that was the good news. 

Then the DCUO team got hit with an undisclosed number of layoffs in the March bloodbath.  Meanwhile, players must have concluded that they were not impressed with what was in Smedley's touted content patches, because the game opened this month testing plans to merge down to the bare minimum four servers - one for each platform (PC, PS3) in each region (US, EU).  It's not even clear how they will handle PVP or not with that few servers remaining.

Of course, four servers will be four more than are available right now - as Wilhelm's new sidebar graphic notes, today is the 17th day of downtime for the Playstation Network (and all PS3 DCUO players) and the 4th day of downtime for SOE's PC players (who got to keep playing for the 13 additional days it took Sony to realize that SOE had been hit by the hacks as well).   

(It is vaguely appropriate that Wilhelm is taking a page from Walter Cronkite's book - if you've lost Wilhelm, you've probably lost middle Blog-merica, as Lyndon Johnson supposedly said after Cronkite's famous editorial comment on the state of the Vietnam War.) 

The downtime is not the fault of the DCUO devs, but, as the DCUO Unlimited gang noted in the discussion, the timing could not have been worse - some players who were on the fence to begin with may not be back after the hack debacle, and the incident does not inspire a lot of confidence in theoretically potential customers.  Games that have limited amounts of content are simply a tough sell with a full price box ($60 for the PS3 version) and a full price sub ($15) given all the free to play and formerly pay to play options on the market today.  You have to wonder how much the decision to launch the game at this price point may have hampered their long term potential. 

4 comments:

Stabs said...

While it's hard not to feel sorry for the games developers at SOE and the many people who love their products having our data lost through what appears to be gross negligence is a bitter pill to swallow.

When you look at the mad things MMO players do (a guy flew to Iceland to be able to cut the power to someone's house so his Alliance could kill an internet spaceship in Eve) it's absolutely apparent that if you leave security holes some of your generally very tech savvy, too-much-time-on-their hands hardcore fans will find their way in.

Sony has a duty of care which it has failed to honour and I'm afraid they may find, as Blizzard has done, that reputation is the number one factor in launching new products in this sector. Unlike Blizzard they don't have a positive reputation.

Straw Fellow said...

I recall hearing rumors about Sony taunting hackers, but I can't remember where.

Regardless, SOE does not have a good reputation to begin with and this is a serious hit to their credibility. I'll agree with you on the downward slope thing when DCUO was released. Content being pushed back, promises being broken...honestly, there were just some things in that whole situation that an amateur company would have made, not a company with several MMO titles on the market already.

tagn said...

I had to give up on the side bar counter, as with today's announcement it looked like I might have to keep making them for a few more weeks.

To Sony, "Soon" rhymes with "June."

celmare said...

Sony gets everything it deserves. It came out with a product that was full of bus, but also great potential, and then let it slowly die by not banning exploiters and hackers. Much of the remaining community today is comprised of exploiters. And not only were they exploiting, which was patched later but new exploits have arisen, but those that exploited were able to earn their rewards much faster as a result. So exploiting= better gear much faster & no punishment.

Worst offenders
Most Wanted (villain group) from Public Enemies
Explode (hero group) from Cry for Blood, and now Death & Glory too)
Ninjaboy (player) from Public Enemies.
Sledeau (player) from Death & Glory

Beware these cheaters, and keep reporting them as much as possible. Sooner or later SOE will have to ban them anyway...