I’ve been sitting on this post for a week because, well, I don’t currently play any SOE games, so who am I to make a judgment? You know what, though? This is my blog, a place to share my observations, so why be so vanilla as to hold something back I’m thinking on. That’s something I’m going to change around here. My thought today is this: SOE is mightily floundering.
That’s the image they’re putting forward. EQ2X has an ass-backwards approach to F2P gaming. One of the worst, most divisive ways they could have done it. Seriously. And frankly, it only speaks to a “get money where we can get it” Allod’s Online Plus Some Segregation mentality.
Then they have this $65 vampire race. And we thought the $25 horse was expensive. SOE: pushing the bar in calling their players stupid. How full packages did they really expect to sell? That whole debacle just tells me that Sony must not have much respect for their player base. Respect would mean reasonable pricing. Assuming their customers have too much money and too little smarts means $65 races packages.
Then there’s DCUO. Call me crazy but I don’t think it’s too smart of them to bank on this game. By most reports, it’s fun. Let’s be realistic, though. The whole “$15 a month for a PS3 game” thing isn’t going to fly in the long-run. You don’t confront console expectations with service fees and then provide your action-gamers with action-MMO combat. The two do not fill the same niche. Take Giant Bomb’s review. What’s good for action-MMO combat makes for bad console-action gameplay. Different standards. In the long run, either the PS3 will drop the subscription fee or dwindle into the nothingness of low-playerbase, low-consciousness MMOs that “could have been better.” The PC version will probably do alright in that “we’re in an over-crowded genre with an over-crowded theme” kind of way. Who knows.
Do you think Free Realms will have a subscription fee? Gotta make that money somewhere. Except, well, that won’t. The PS3 isn’t a casual machine (though casuals certainly play it) and your average console fan will scoff at the idea of paying for teeny-bopper mini-game online.
Then there are the mythical non-MMO MMOs like The Agency – more real in Facebook form than any “real” game. Or Star Wars: Clone Wars Online. A virtual world, or moneymaker, therein there’s not.
The whole public perception is that Sony’s biggest game is on it’s way out and, honestly, has been out of all but a niche audience for the past two years. EQ2 doesn’t look or function like it should and won’t be earning many more customers than it has now. Everything that surrounds it is overshadowed or perceived as dying. Who will be talking about Star Wars: Galaxies when The Old Republic comes out? Massively, maybe, once or twice a month as servers merge or expansions whimper out of the gate. Vanguard, Pirates of the Burning Sea… Planetside? Those games aren’t blowing minds anytime soon, apart from their continued existence despite being publically forgotten – and I like those games. Except for Planetside, before my time, that one.
You know what needs to happen? A complete graphical overhaul of EQ2. A complete performance overhaul of EQ2. The game needs to look like it released in 2009 and play like it came out in 2001, instead of the other way around (and that’s being generous, EQ2 runs HORRIBLY for how it looks). Vanguard needs to go F2P and get some extra developer support to back it up because, frankly, that’s an underappreciated game if ever there was one, and Sony is squarely to blame for its currently dwindling state – people should not be surprised to hear that the game is still functioning.
So, yeah, I don’t play Sony games. That’s not because I have something against Sony. Quite the contrary, actually, because I think their theoreticals are right where they need to be. They’re a company that has the ideas for a kick-keister, old-school, next-gen MMO. I don’t play Sony games because, frankly, every single thing is sub-par or on life-support. That’s the public perception. Free servers full, paid servers empty. No cross-over. That should send a message.
Instead, what they’re getting is “DCUO is the new black.” For now. In six months, it will settle. The honeymoon will end. Worse, I have serious concerns that DCUO will cause the industry to doubt the longevity of a console MMO. When it gets put by the wayside for the next multiplayer action game – because that’s what most console players will expect – there’s a great chance those players will never come back and see those MMO trappings as hindrances rather than selling points. For all the excitement and hoo-rah going on right now, what message will investors get when the next Call of Duty comes out and people realize there’s great, long-term gameplay for the low, low price of nothing one box over in their game cabinet?
That’s the gamble Sony is taking, so pleased to not be selling us a bill of goods or believe in your own hype, Mr. Smedley. I have a lot of respect for you – the you that brought us games like EQ2 and Vanguard. Not the one who lets those same games waste away like yesterday’s long-term plan.
Revision. Realism. And something worth getting excited about again. That’s what it’s going to take to change the public perception of Sony Online Entertainment.
That’s one gamer’s take, anyways.