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.