Monday, July 11, 2011

Incorrect EQ2 Expansion Predictions Ironically Were Vaguely Correct

In my post of incorrect summer 2011 convention predictions, I actually got a few points right about EQ2's forthcoming expansion.  The game will indeed be getting Beastlords, and there was no increase to the level cap, but the expansion will arrive in November 2011; way earlier than my May 2012 prediction. I correctly assumed that SOE could not possibly finish the promised Velious content updates and also create as much additional content as they have shipped in previous expansions anytime sooner than May.  It just never occurred to me that they would go ahead and release a paid expansion anyway, without additional content and a mere nine months after the last time they hit players up for $40. 

Producer David Georgeson has a roadmap for the game which actually includes a fair amount of content and features between the February 2011 launch of DOV and the presumptive launch of the expansion after Age of Discovery in November 2012.  Georgeson says that he would like to transition the game to quarterly updates with new features and content arriving in smaller chunks as it is ready, rather than saving it up to bundle together in a large box.  The material he is proposing is well suited to this model, but his publisher does not appear willing to take the chance that players will decline to pay for stuff they don't want. 

I might be okay with the business model decision, except that it creates pressure to pick the flashy sports car that does not have enough seats for your family over the less exciting car that actually gets you where you need to go.  Reaction to the new class, which Wilhelm nailed years ago apparently, seems positive, but consider the opportunity cost.  Developing an ambitious pet system, with taming, talents, loyalty, and advancement is going to take a large amount of time, as will attempting to find a niche for the new class amongst EQ2's crowded field of 24 existing classes.  Meanwhile, the benefits will be confined to a new class that no one currently plays, at the expense of the twenty four classes that represent 100% of existing characters. 

I don't think this makes much sense as a development strategy for a seven year old game, but SOE apparantly thinks it's a good strategy for selling expansion boxes.  And, if that doesn't work, there's always the increased AA cap to force players to pay for the annual expansion, even if the new AA's are just passive increases to DPS that further inflate the time it takes for new players to prepare for endgame.  As someone with no interest in re-rolling as a Beastlord and limited interest in NPC Mercenaries who will probably lack the AI needed to help with the heavily scripted instances of the last three expansions, I'm not feeling especially excited about paying for the features in this "feature" expansion. 


Stabs said...

The focus in MMO planning over the last few years has shifted towards enticing new people rather than entertaining people you've already got.

People who don't play EQ2 won't start playing it if they hear about some new raid zone (because there are already lots of raid zones they've never played). They might look in to try out a Beastlord.

flosch said...

In a weird twist, that reminds me of marketing like mobile phone providers and similar areas do. They provide lots of benefits (no base fee for X months etc.) to people to get them as customers. At the same time, their current customers don't get any of these benefits, because they're already there anyway, and it's quite a bit of work to change your phone provider, so most people will stay.

With MMO's, it's not so much that the change itself is a chore, but you tend to grow attached to the things you'll have to leave behind to go for another game: equipment of all sorts, and not least of all, friends. So in a way, I guess it makes sense to cater more to new players instead of your current player base, as long as you don't go overboard.

Magson said...

I've noticed that for me, the expansions that don't increase level cap I tend to not do much with. I'm not real big on simply repeating instances over and over for tokens for gear to do the next instance. As a result, I canceled my account during TSO, resubbed for Sentinel's Fate, then canceled again at DoV.

This new expansion. . .the only reason I'd want to play it is to try out a Beastlord. I didn't play EQ1, so I don't understand the draw as much as someone who had one in that game, but it sounds interesting, so I'd give it a shot.