I’m going to share a thought that may sound like a conspiracy theory but so be it. I think that EA-Bioware is intentionally making the early access process slower than it needs to be. Full disclaimer: No, I’m not in the game yet, but yes, I fully understand and, as a matter of fact, endorse the staggered launch concept; it sounds like people are having a great time with it. I question intent for two simple but related reasons: 1) this is the EA hype-machine we’re talking about; and, 2) the invite process has been prematurely ended each day it’s been live. That opens the door for questions.
I’ve thought about how things are going over the last two days and, internally, things seem to be going nicely. Players aren’t overcrowded, lag isn’t bad, queues are, as of this afternoon, still non-existent. Bravo for that, guys, it’s a nice feather in your cap. Although, then I look at the invite process and it starts to become clearer. People who pre-ordered the game five months ago were lucky to get in yesterday. Not all of them did. Today, it looks like we got up to September in invites, if the forums are to be believed (a big if).
Then we look at how invites have been distributed. Yesterday, if you didn’t get your invite by 3PM EST, you didn’t get one. Today, if you didn’t get yours by 1:30 EST, you weren’t getting one. Um, what the fuck? Okay, we’re staggering. Sure, right on, maybe they invited 100,000 people in the four hours the doors were open. It’s doubtful to the point of wishful thinking, but hey, maybe 100,000 people pre-ordered in the first few months.
But something doesn’t add up there. This is the biggest video game project ever. In the history of video games, this is the pinnacle. You mean to tell me Bioware is on a 9-to-5 schedule when they’re finally ready to show it to the world? No wait, you also mean to tell me that keeping servers on low-to-mid load at peak hours is necessary to keep things running “smooth”? Please don’t buy into that. It’s a lie. Anyone who has ever played through a launch should be able to tell. A server can function fine when the population is “high.” As a matter of fact, a server can function fine when the population is “full.” If you don’t believe me, please explain what the purpose of a queue is if not to ensure “things run smooth.” But there is no queue, because waiting in line with the promise of playing that day is worse than waiting in line not knowing if you’ll play at all.
Now if they did invite 100,000 people this morning, maybe we could see how they’d need the afternoon to keep things in line. Except, yeah… no. Not unless EA-Bioware is totally and completely inept should that be believed. Trion let everyone in and regulated through queue limits. So did Blizzard when Cataclysm came out. So did Aion. So did LotRO. You get the picture. I refuse to believe that things are so tough as to prematurely cease invites unless there’s a second motivation.
Hype. What’s happening this week? The launch of TOR. What’s a good way to keep it a #1 Google search? Keep a lot of people in anticipation. Everyone NOT in the game, rapidly writing blog posts (like this one), tweets, and forum rants ensures the game stay on the forefront of MMO player’s minds. It keeps us chomping at the bit until we can join our friends in the fun. You can be sure that EA wants this to be as big a deal as possible. This type of marketing is nothing short of viral… except insidious is probably a better word.
And it’s worked. People are going bat-shit crazy that they’re not playing yet and gamer’s everywhere are turning to take notice. Win for EA – and a great way to be a douche on the first day your product is out. EA being EA. Bioware being influenced by their main corporate backer… not unexpected.
That’s all okay, though, because they told us this would happen. You remember, back when they pressured everyone into buying a game they were still being tight lipped about. It was the Faith Pre-Order and be wary ye’ of little faith. Everyone playing the game right now fell easily into the “give us money now” camp for whatever reason and are being rewarded for it. That’s good for them but, again, it’s a pretty lousy thing to do as a company.
For what it’s worth, I didn’t expect to get in. My “official” pre-order went through Sunday, so I’d have been crazy to. That said, the true story is, they stole $5 from me, messed up my order, and precluded me from early access because I wasn’t going to sign up for them to do it again. Origin, taking $5 pre-orders, holding $65 for the next week, and then forgetting the whole thing happened. That’s why I’m not in – I figured, hey, they kept my $5, they must charge when the game actually releases. Nope. Friday evening, I opted to ask for it for Christmas and be done with it. (What, you can be 25 and still get Christmas presents from Mom and Dad!).
Anyways, I am a little bitter that their system messed up, but whatever. This isn’t a post to say that they’re some evil company, out to get us, and laughing as they count their bills. I just think you have some clever marketers who think we’re sheep and too dull to see what they’re doing. Sheep who will pay for a product on “it’s the next big thing!” alone. That kind of makes them marketers. Then again, meh. We’ve waited this long, another few days won’t kill us!
You know what I so vainly hoped? That Bioware would keep up it’s reputation of respecting their players. If there is any truth to my theory, they’ve thrown that out the window. That lack of respect for our intelligence, expectations, and our money, is what leads MMO companies to make major mistakes. It’s what leads Blizzard to cockiness at one Blizzcon and apologetic fan service at the next. It’s what leads to suits who know little if anything about video games directing business strategy. Tell me, does that sound too unlike the EA you know?