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EQII Extended: Will it save or ruin EverQuest II?

Posted by on July 28, 2010

Carefully avoiding the words “jumping” and “on the” and “bandwagon” here, is it true that the “freemium” business model can save the ENTIRE MMO INDUSTRY? Aside from WoW, the only MMO that doesn’t need saving?

A couple of years back, you had your free to play MMOs (AKA “cheap Asian games”) and your subscription MMOs (AKA “Western games we like”). Then Wizard101 comes out with their two tier free/subscription plan, and then Turbine saves Dungeons & Dragons Online by making their game free-ish. DDO, a game most people had written off as a good try, suddenly became the belle of the ball and the industry Took Notice. It was only a matter of time before other marginal MMOs tried something similar.

And in this modern era, the only NON-marginal MMOs are WoW and EVE Online. I’d have thought Lord of the Rings Online would have been above this fray… until Turbine announced their flagship MMO would also be going “freemium”.

Someone at Sony made a call to John Smedley, I’m sure, asking why SOE wasn’t getting with the freemium program and making those megabucks for which they’ve been waiting. (SOE’s Free Realms already has this plan).

Yesterday, it happened. News of EverQuest II Extended spread through Twitter and the blogerati like ebola in a monkey convention.

There’s a twist. Where the other freemium games let subscribers and freeloaders mingle, EQ2 will be setting up a walled garden with the subscribers in their vast playgrounds, and the freeloaders in their ghetto. To even the odds up somewhat, players new to EQ2 will be encouraged to choose the EQ2 Extended option by virtue of the subscription game no longer having a free trial.

Aside from refer-a-friends or opting for the subscription version of EQ2 up front, people new to EQ2 will find themselves in the ghetto, and it’s not at all clear if they will be able to take their character to the subscription servers.

There will be four levels of players — the truly free players won’t be able to equip the best items, won’t have much inventory space, won’t be able to have much coin, won’t be able to have the best skills or spells, etc. They will be hitting the limits VERY quickly. As a fairly experienced EQ2 player, I imagine life for the free players will be… challenging. Hey, that’s not necessarily bad, if they know what they’re getting into.

Silver level loosens but does not remove some of those restrictions. Gold is a $15/month subscription which is more or less equivalent to the standard subscription and is the lowest tier with broker access. Platinum is a $200/year subscription which lets you access Sentinel’s Fate content and levels without having to buy the box (the other levels only give you up to The Shadow Odyssey for free, but you can buy Sentinel’s Fate separately).

To be honest, I don’t have a problem with this, EXCEPT…. for the separation between the standard subscription game and the freemium version. I don’t understand why new players aren’t encouraged to be in the vibrant servers that so desperately need fresh meat players ALL THE TIME. Make all the current subscribers Gold-level members, and just add in the other three tiers — free, silver and platinum.

Sure, we can copy our characters (at $35) to the freemium servers, but that wall is still there. In the end, SOMEONE’S going to be in the ghetto, and I just can’t help thinking it’s the people who have been faithfully paying their $15 every month for these past six years.

21 Responses to EQII Extended: Will it save or ruin EverQuest II?

  1. Bryzon

    One of the problems with Gold membership is you cannot access the newest expansion or get past level 80. Only the Platinum members will be able to see endgame, if they’re willing to shell out $200 at once, and again each following year.

    I agree with you that this is going to keep new players from the Legacy servers. Maybe thats the goal? To force everyone to move, or to move this F2P model to the Legacy servers?

    I really don’t like how this just happened. They could’ve gotten some feedback from the community before doing it.

  2. Brian 'Psychochild' Green

    Yeah, I agree with your last statement. They focused a lot on the “you don’t have to play with freetards!” angle in the announcement. But, it seems like the most likely outcome is that this stems whatever small trickle of newbies were coming to the existing servers. We’ll see if this strategy works, but my crystal ball doesn’t show it working too well.

  3. Tipa

    @Bryzon actually, every player can see Sentinel’s Fate — they just have to buy it themselves if they aren’t Platinum members. From the FAQ:

    “Additionally, free adventure access is limited at character level 80. You can play all the way up to level 90, the highest level available in the game if you purchase the Sentinel’s Fate expansion. You have access to eight of the game’s 24 character classes, and four of the most popular races in the game from which to create your character.”

  4. Sente

    I am quite happy to do a fresh (re)start on new servers – I think the highest I got with a character was mid-40s and most of them were on one of the old Euro servers (are they still around?).

    But I think you are right in that this will hurt the old servers. At some point they will probably drop or lower the horrendous $35/character transfer fee when people have leveled up a bit on the new servers.

  5. stargrace

    I have no issue with their new .. although weird .. model for subscriptions or even the fact that you can purchase some truly amazing things from their new “robust” marketplace on the EQ2X servers.

    I do have a problem with them letting the “live” servers start to become neglected population wise while they focus on advertising for the new servers. A few servers are already in dire need of a population increase, and spreading the players between even MORE servers is a horrible idea.

  6. Sisca

    One thing to note, as a subscriber I can play on the current, subscription only servers, or the new F2P servers. Subscribers will automatically have gold level membership on those new servers so most of the worst restrictions will be gone. If I don’t like the race/class choices I can either buy the ones I want to start fresh or copy an existing character. And this is a COPY not a move, so the existing character will still be available on the original server.

  7. Green Armadillo

    Quoth Tipa: “As a fairly experienced EQ2 player, I imagine life for the free players will be… challenging. Hey, that’s not necessarily bad, if they know what they’re getting into.

    Silver level loosens but does not remove some of those restrictions. Gold is a $15/month subscription which is more or less equivalent to the standard subscription…”

    The “if they know what they’re getting into” part is concerning. The “Gold level” subscription does NOT include 20 of the 24 playable races for standard subscribers. If you don’t pick one of the 8 free classes, your characters will also be locked down when your subscription lapses (and you have to wonder how hard it will be to find the non-free classes). In return, you get to have perma access to characters where you do have the appropriate race/class unlocked.

    Will this be a good deal for a certain specific demographic of player? Absolutely. However, like your story about your second W101 account, I’m suspicious that there are going to be people who try the extended service and realize that they’d be better off with the traditional sub only after they spend money unlocking things that come standard on the subscription service and time leveling a character they can’t take with them to the sub service.

  8. stargrace

    @Sisca – sure it’s a $35 copy. $10 more then it would cost you to move on the live servers.

  9. Lars

    I would have liked it better if they had changed all the servers.

    I have two problems with this:
    1) the $15 gets you less than you do today
    2) if I want to move to the new servers (if only because that’s where all the new players will be going and the old servers are just going to die a slow and lingering death), I have to reroll and throw away years of progress or pay $35 a pop

    When DDO changed, I got to continue the same character I had progressed back when I subscribed, and could pay $15 to get the same thing I got back when I subscribed. I was hoping SOE would do something like that. Oh well.

  10. Lars

    Oops misspelled my website.

  11. Pai

    @Lars: I believe you can copy existing characters onto the EQ2X server if you want.

  12. Pai

    EDIT: Oops, you were complaining about the cost, not the lack of ability to transfer. That’s what I get for skimming…

    35$ is really steep, I agree.

  13. Bhagpuss

    Bronze level players won’t have a particularly “challenging” experience, in my opinion. They’ll have a lot of fun.

    Gearwise, they can make and use Mastercrafted. Right up to the level cap they have (80th), Mastercrafted is already the preferred option for most players. It’s better than most of the Legendary they are ever likely to see and most of the older Fabled that drops outside of raids.(For that matter, even the Treasured gear in recently revamped zones like Lavastorm is better than most old Legendary).

    Bag space sounds like an issue until you realise that it is easy in EQ2 to get bags that hold in excess of 40 items. The basic starting allocation of two of those already gives you more potential free bag space than some F2P games give AFTER you spend money on bags from the cash shop. With two slots in the bank that’s pushing 100 storage slots, and that’s not counting your House vault which could more than double that.

    I’ve spent a brief time in the Alpha, playing as a Bronze account (you get the option in Alpha to upgrade but I waned to see how Bronze might play when the thing goes Live). I haven’t had time to check what housing is available for Bronze players but I’ve read nothing about restrictions so presumably you can live in a mansion if you choose, which gives you the best part of the entire game for free!

    I was a little dubious about the Bronze and Silver schemes when Isaw them on the comparison chart, but once you get into the game and see what they mean in practice, both look hugely attractive. For the average casual player who will never raid, there’s pretty much nothing beyond Silver that they’ll ever need.

  14. Bhagpuss

    Oh, and on the topic of races, its a cheap cash shop unlock for packs of three races at a time. I don’t see that as a problem. The more I think about it, the more I prefer the EQ2X option to my current sub.

  15. Bryzon

    @Tipa Sorry, didn’t realize that.

    I think Turbine is doing F2P correctly. You’re not limited to the point that you can’t stand to play, you can still do a whole lot. I’ve been playing LOTRO beta for the free accounts and I’m loving what they’re doing. DDO also did it correctly. I’m not a fan of micro or macro transactions, but if SOE is going to go with this model, do it on all servers and don’t limit the experience for new players.

    Turbine wants us to have fun with the game so we’ll buy it, SOE wants us to buy it so we’ll have fun.

  16. We Fly Spitfires

    I think it’s a pretty dodgy and muddled implementation of what could have been a successful and popular F2P model. Aside from the server segregation thing, I really take issue with that fact that upgrading to Gold or Platinum as a EQ2X player will utlimately cost you more than a normal EQ2Live subscription. Darn shame.

  17. Thomas

    I will check out the new F2P model, it sounds interesting. I want to see how far I get without spending any money.