«

»

SOE Floundering – Painful Observations From the Outside

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.

16 comments

1 ping

Skip to comment form

  1. We Fly Spitfires

    I’ve always had a soft spot for SOE because I loved Everquest and EQ2, enjoyed that they brought to live my Star Wars dreams in SW:G and even saved the dying VG from utter oblivion. The problem is that they have a tendency to make really stupid decisions. I don’t know what they’re doing with EQ2X but it’s putting me off the F2P model in its entirety. If they’d just mimicked Turbine then we’d all be sitting around praising EQ2 for being so accessible. Instead they seem to just keep pushing things a little too far and its incredibly off putting.
    We Fly Spitfires recently posted..I’m Not Sure I’d Want My Kids Playing MMOs

    1. Chris

      I know exactly what you mean. There is a part of me that really wants to love SOE for what they’ve done for the genre. Here is the company that brought MMOs to the people. WoW aside, it was Everquest that started this thing and without SOE who’s to say any of us would be here right now? I have a ton of respect for that ghost of yester-year that I just keep hoping will come out and say “alright, this is how you do it” and give us the NEXT Everquest (Everquest Next?). I held out those same hopes for Vanguard because, honestly, I had and still have doubts that anyone else would have looked at that game and took the risk with buying it up. But then they left it like a kid in the middle of a grocery store, looking around for its lost parents. Now I wonder how the game would do if someone else HAD picked it up. Maybe it would have gotten the support it needed.

      Or maybe not.

      Either way, I’m with you. Despite how this post might sound, there is and probably always will be a part of me that really wants to love Sony Online.
      Chris recently posted..SOE Floundering – Painful Observations From the Outside

    1. Chris

      Good post, Stabs, and adds more insight than what I, a non-SOE player, can offer. Thanks for responding with that.
      Chris recently posted..SOE Floundering – Painful Observations From the Outside

  2. UnSub

    I think the SOE game that is getting the graphics and performance overhaul is Planetside, which is the Planetside Next that Smedley is talking about.
    UnSub recently posted..The Trials of UnSub- Realm of the Mad God

    1. Chris

      And by that token, Everquest 3 is getting the love EQ2 should be getting. Agreed.
      Chris recently posted..SOE Floundering – Painful Observations From the Outside

  3. KalibreOnline -Games, Life and Ent

    I agree with your points Chris. Strangely enough the “F2P” client of EQ2 runs better in my computer than the actual retail version. I have no idea why. As of right now I am one of the most casual MMO players out there. Heck, I am casual at anything right now. Making DC Universe Online Subscription based was not a good move in my opinion. Yes, I have played both version of the game and while the game is very fun, this kind of game would benefit from a a “No Subscription” (like Guild Wars) market. Vanguard is a very interesting MMO that’s currently under a minimal (if any) development.

    It’s just a shame. And I personally have nothing against Sony but whoever is making these calls needs some help. I did wrote about my experiences with DC Universe over at SR (http://slightlyrelevant.com/2011/01/25/pick-your-side-dc-universe-online/)

  4. KalibreOnline -Games, Life and Ent

    I agree with your points Chris. Strangely enough the “F2P” client of EQ2 runs better in my computer than the actual retail version. I have no idea why. As of right now I am one of the most casual MMO players out there. Heck, I am casual at anything right now. Making DC Universe Online Subscription based was not a good move in my opinion. Yes, I have played both version of the game and while the game is very fun, this kind of game would benefit from a a “No Subscription” (like Guild Wars) market. Vanguard is a very interesting MMO that’s currently under a minimal (if any) development.

    It’s just a shame. And I personally have nothing against Sony but whoever is making these calls needs some help. I did wrote about my experiences with DC Universe over at SR (http://slightlyrelevant.com/2011/01/25/pick-your-side-dc-universe-online/)

    1. Chris

      I agree. The game should have been F2P or at a reduced rate, at least. Action MMOs automatically fall short compared to traditional games like WoW or Rift because of the very nature of their combat. And Vanguard, as awesome as that game is and could be made to be, is on maintenance mode. They’re doing tiny patches on a regular basis but my understanding is that endgame content has been brought to a halt.
      Chris recently posted..SOE Floundering – Painful Observations From the Outside

  5. Gazruney

    EQ2 runs badly because it was developed on and for a line of tech that unfortunately hit a dead end just as EQ2 released, I’m not defending it just stating a fact.
    SOE are in this position because A,They just can’t leave well enough alone with thier games and continue to meddle with in game systems and B they constantly fail to realise and respect that current and veteren players count as much as new players.

    I’m still playing EQ2 to be honest although I don’t expect Velious to knock my socks I’ll have fun for a couple of months and see where it all leads.
    Ultimately I agree that SoE are floundering, they just took on too many projects at once and the recession has hit them hard it seems. They MUST work on thier advertising and marketing presence and start treating existing customers with a better attitude to continue to compete in the current economic environment. Whats the point of having all these cool games, and they are cool in my opinion if you do not advertise aggresively ?
    Gazruney recently posted..Hello’s!!!

    1. Chris

      I’m getting an almost apologetic sense that you’re playing. Man, don’t ever feel like you need to justify having fun with something. If you like it, love it, and to hell with everyone else.

      I know what you’re saying, though. The advertisements they’re running for DCUO are the first I’ve seen on TV in a LONG time (scratch that, FR had some too). Where’s the presence for Velious? Where is it for Pirates or Planetside or Vangaurd or SWG? Better yet, where is there ANY kind of support for their “backup” stable of games, meaning NOT EQ2, Free Realms, or DCUO? I get that there are business decisions to be made here, but the image I get from that lack of support is a falling profit line.

      Good Comment, Gaz!

    2. Starseeker

      I agree with you Gazruney. I was a long time customer of the EQ franchise, what finally broke the camels back was the treatment that veterans got when eq2x hit back in july. It was weeks before any answers came, and then it was just “well you asked for this”. They did nothing to entice their longtime loyal customers back. I played eq2 40+ hours a week. Now, I play it maybe 4 hours a month to keep in touch with a few friends who still play it, and when Rift comes out, it will be canceled. And I will most likely be very unlikely to purchase another SOE game, I just feel as a customer I am treated very badly. Even if my opinion or concerns don’t matter, all they need is some communication, and stop looking like the shady guy on the corner selling counterfit goods.

      A few years ago, they used to advertise more, they used to have alot of information about their up coming projects, they used to have developer Q&A for eq2…now, it’s like looking into a black hole that the occasional bad screen shot comes out of. Then they flash velious at us, with hardly any info and want us to pay 60 bucks on nostalgia. Most of the people I know who played eq velious know that buying that box and what is inside will be nothing like the velious they knew except there will be some snow.

      I am not sure of SOE can change their mind frame, but they need to. They need to look at other companies *cough* Trion *cough*, how they deal with customer support and communication and take a lesson. I am sold on Rift, if they offered a lifetime sub I’d take it here and now, even if the game has a less than spectacular launch, even if they had a horrible launch, I trust the Devs. I feel like I matter over there and that they have my back. I have not had that feeling with SOE since the very early eq2 days.
      Starseeker recently posted..RIFT &8211 Rogues in Beta 5 &8211 My response

  6. Cindy

    Oddly enough the game that really makes me lose my patience with SOE is Free Realms. I don’t understand their many ass backwards decisions they’ve made there either. Making combat more simple, destroying the pet class so it’s just fluff tricks and their in your face cash shop drives me crazy. And here’s my points as to why:

    - Children learn that obnoxious advertising gets you money, because SOE sure as hell got theirs pretty fast (my daughter gets an SOE allowance once in a while, I’m happy to say that she’s learning the value of spending and you can’t have everything.. )
    - Children aren’t stupid by any means, dumbing systems down for ‘the kids’ doesn’t actually help them. A game should have a goal and some sort of challenge at any age. Kids pick up things so fast let’s not under challenge more then we have, this as fantastic an idea as inventive spelling..

    DCUO is another example of why I’m shaking my head at SOE, product wasn’t done months ago and it’s still not done. It’s not a bad game however it COULD have been a fantastic game. I’m getting a sense of rushing to get money and recover from their losses and why this strategy may work in the short term I wonder if they are not setting themselves up for eventual breakdown. I’m sure Square Enix would love to buy them out.. O.o And no that’s not as crazy as that may sound.. :p
    Cindy recently posted..Party Play

    1. Cindy

      Actually that is crazy, if anything SOE would be divided and studios/titles given or sold in part to ‘partners’ like SE. Or I’m full of it, yeah.
      Cindy recently posted..Party Play

  7. Bhagpuss

    I’m a longtime SoE Gamer. I’ve played SoE MMOs for over a decade and I’m tabbed-out from EQ2X as I type this.

    The “floundering” SoE is doing is, in fact, just what they do. They’ve been doing it as long as I can remember. They are like a gang of hyperactive gnomes. They have more ideas than they know what to do with and they want to show you all of them at once.

    They start project after project, release them all before they are finished, tinker about with them for a while, lose interest and forget about them, moving on to the next bright idea. I love it.

    How it can actually make them money, I have no idea, but they seem to stumble along.

    From my perspectiive, the EQ2X business model fine. I have the free versions of DDO, LotRO and now CO on my desktop, but the only one that gets any money out of me EQ2X. It also gets played about fifty times as much as any of the others. I also love DCUO. I have a Station Access account, though. I wouldn’t pay a monthly sub for it and I think it should used the Guild Wars payment model.

  8. Evalissa

    Haven’t liked SOE since they ruined SWG, although despite promising never to touch a sony product again i keep giving them the benefit of the doubt since i loved EQ1.. of-course eq1 was not their game.
    I played eq2 and it was rather drab, I loved Planetside but they ruined it, SWG was my favorite game ever but they ruined it, Vanguard had such potential but they ruined it, PotBS could of been an epic but they rui…. yea.

    Id not trust Sony to make anything but a quick buck

  1. /AFK: Classy Edition « Bio Break

    [...] Game by Night — SOE floundering “Worse, I have serious concerns that DCUO will cause the industry to doubt the longevity of a console MMO.” [...]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge