It was just announced by Dave Georgeson that EverQuest II will be going “free to play.” This is absolutely no surprise what so ever to me. A huge amount of resources have been poured into the “early game” so that it is more engaging for new players. EQ2 is also getting a new UI and a few other MMORPG developers have had a lot of success with the hybrid F2P/Sub model. All of these factors made it clear which direction we were going. Truth be told I think this is a pretty good deal for current EQ2 players.
There is no denying that when a big name publisher with a big name product goes free to play it gets a LOT of attention. That attention and the fact that the game is free brings a lot of new players in and generally speaking that is great for the game. Now having said all of that, SOE has taken a really weird approach to placate the current subscribers. The Free to Play EQ2 will literally be a separate product. They will have no intersection at all…
EverQuest II Extended is a completely separate gameplay service from the EverQuest II live subscription service. The server lists are not shared, it has completely separate forums, and if you don’t want to be around the community that plays in the free adventure service, then there is no reason for that to ever occur. However, if you want to go try out Extended, feel free to do so. Active EQII live players can create a new account on EQII Extended for free or copy over a version of an existing EQII live character for $35.
That actually concerns me. How many of those EQ2Ex players will move over to the main game? My guess is very few. After all, why would you leave EQ2Ex and start over in EQ2? I don’t think you would unless you were getting the short end of the stick (more on that soon). I think that is the point though. Get players in, get them hooked and move them over to the live game. SOE might also try to entice live subscribers to the extended game. You’ll note that those of us who are in the “Live game” can copy a limited version of our characters over for a fee. In short, move all focus from Live to Extended. Since the games are essentially the same we’ll still get the content. We’ll still see our expansions. We just won’t see a lot of players coming our way and may well lose some to the lure of freemium.
To keep our fears at rest Dave tries to make it clear that we’ve been heard and that we (live subscribers) will be able to live our lives as normal. That is quite true. We’ll live in the 1950s while the rest of the world go by. Make no mistake, EQ2Ex is the new “real product.” That is where the money is likely to be and will be the driving force of the two. Is that a bad thing? Honestly, I don’t think so. Anything that brings more attention the game is good. Any actual content they get we’ll get. We will just lose out on all those crazy market place items. No sweat there. Based on that fact I am somewhat questioning the total segregation of the worlds.
Why keep them so far apart? To keep us happy? I suppose so. We certainly don’t want people to buy gear and get ahead of us. This is pretty extreme though and it could back fire easily as well. Perhaps SOE wants to keep the EQ2Ex players in the dark about what they’d be missing in live. Take a look at the subscription level matrix for the “free to play” portion of the game. If you’re not buying gold level you’re barely going to be playing the game. The limitations are literally huge. Essentially EQ2 Ex is a TERRIBLE deal compared to the live servers. You will be paying out the nose for far less. Which may lead players to joining the live servers or turn them off as their wallets are depleted and send them on their way. Of course if you’re churning through thousands of players quickly and getting a few bucks from them all that is just dandy.
I’m certain a lot of players will claim gloom and doom but ultimately I think this is healthy for EQ2. It puts it back in the spot light and if it starts to bring in more money the live game will benefit greatly. My only honest concern is that this looks like the furthest thing from “free to play” ever. It just isn’t a good deal. I’d never trade my live subscription for a Gold One. Dave tries to point out that they’re equivalent but they’re not. They’re just not… but then that is the price of freemium. You think you’re liberated, you think you’re getting a better deal than a subscription but honestly there is only one winner, the company. Despite knowing that I have to say, “Awesome! Show my game the money!” My subscription is safe and secure!