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EQ2 goes free to play (sorta)

EQ2 LogoIt 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.

EQ2 Extended FAQ

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!

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23 Responses to EQ2 goes free to play (sorta)

  1. Spinks says:

    I’m going to assume you can pay for a transfer to the subscription server if you try F2P, decide you like the game, and want to go play with your friends (or get the better rate).

    Because if not, this is bizarre. I wish them luck with it, but I don’t really like the vast separation between players.

    • Maesyn says:

      They have indicated there is no way to transfer a character from the F2P server to the existing live servers. This basically ensures all the work they’ve done to “enchance” the new user experience was for this F2P server, and will not result in increased populations on the current live servers. EQ2 as we know it is done. Live servers will slowly loose players to EQ2x, and with barely any new players coming into the current live severs, the non-F2P future of EQ2 looks grim.

    • Ferrel says:

      I’m not sure. Nothing I read suggested you can go from EX to Live. My guess would be that you can’t. The whole idea of separation was so that you couldn’t buy a lot of “power.”

      I’m with you. I think there should be a smooth way to convert someone from Ex to Live.

  2. Yookai says:

    I very much doubt any live player would move over …by the time you get going and invested into the character, community, and guild… no point in leaving all that to what? Play a limited version of eq2?!

    No thanks…I do see F2p players going over to enjoy it…and maybe just maybe a small percent going live cause they like it a whole lot. Many may dwell on F2p and have their own community and events going much like live.

    Don’t see anything wrong with it…just find it odd Sony is doing this is all.

  3. Ryan says:

    Very strange way to do this. Just created a character on EQ2 a few days ago, with their 14 day free trial, for the first time playing that game ever… and have to say it was a lot of fun. Much better game (at least in the newbi zone) than I thought… so I’m actually a little disappointed in this, given that I was even thinking of subbing. It almost brings to mind “Separate is not equal.” If they want to go F2P, they should just do it.

  4. Ranzal says:

    I get what you’re saying about attention being brought to the game, and that’s great… However, I personally have a feeling this will backfire in SOEs face big time. Lets remember, a good amount of people still do not like the F2P model being implemented seemingly everywhere. This is where I think they got this right and didn’t just swap over the entire game to this payment model (alla LOTRO). Also, lets remember the attention brought to the game may or may not be positive. People may come over, try the game, hate it, not spend any cash and SOE will say to themselves, “Hey, we have a product that isn’t working here… Lets remodel our game mechanics to fit these new players so they can bring in the big bucks”. If this happens it’s only natural that BOTH versions will be remodeled and the game you’re currently playing will be changed forever. However, if they only remodel one version, isn’t it natural that whichever version brings more cash in will get preferential treatment? Chances are this will be the F2P Version. I just have a feeling this is SOEs way of gradually transferring over to a more casual, noobie friendly type of experience. And wouldn’t this be ironic considering the game has survived almost entirely on the subscriptions of players who want to experience a truly unique PvE raiding experience. This just has the same feeling to it as when SOE said they will never implement a PvP Battlegrounds system, and then proceeded to throw unlimited resources into it. It almost seems that their development team asks the community what they want and does the exact opposite.

    I know personally, I will never touch a F2P game. The model in itself is innately flawed. It’s simply not fair to allow player A with cash flow up the wazoo to “be better” than Player B with limited capital.

    I guess only time will tell…

  5. kyraine says:

    I’m not a doom and gloom person, but without the option to xfer off the ex servers, having the community (forums), servers, and players separate, it is like an entirely new game. Once you are invested in the community (because that is a big part of eq2) you don’t want to leave that community to go to an established server. I just can’t help but feel disappointed that this may do nothing for the existing servers and may even hurt them more. I think the death blow may come in a few months/next year when newer mmos start hitting the market, and veterans get tired of not being able to fill raids.

    • Ferrel says:

      That is an extremely valid point. I’m with you. I don’t see any real help to the live game here other than theoretically bringing more money too it by association.

      • Ryan says:

        Well, SoE’s always had a knack for screwing up good things. /sigh

      • Kyraine says:

        Unfortunately I am already having guild members canceling accounts they have had enough of SOE. Maybe I might submit that to you and karen as a question :P “What do you do when your already struggling guild looses its core members due to f2p” :D just kidding.

    • Yeah, I’m not sure what the motivation here is. EQ2 is definitely a game that needs the “newbie hose” as the Elder Game blog put it. This will definitely enhance the newbie hose to the new servers as it’ll encourage people to play, but it’s likely going to take away from whatever trickle was going to the current servers. I have to expect that the numbers have been run and SOE has calculated this into their numbers.

      I’ll reserve final judgment for the limitations for now, but it definitely looks like they expect you to pony up for all the good stuff. I mean, no Kerra or Ratonga unless you pay up? Blah.

  6. If this works, it is nigh inevitable that they will merge the two models. They can deny it all they want for now (this is the company that turned official RMT on for the existing Vanguard servers), but there’s just no way that it makes longterm sense to maintain the two separate models. The only reason for the denials today is so that, if the F2P service bombs, they can offer the F2P players transfers back to the real servers instead of switching on the “robust” version of the cash shop for everyone else.

    • Additional observation: if I’m reading the chart correctly, non-subscribers cannot equip any legendary (or fabled) gear, even if they purchase the premium “silver” membership. If the F2P model is successful, group content in EQ2 will be a niche within the niche of the market that chooses to subscribe. That would bode very poorly for the continued addition of large amounts of dev-time-intensive group content.

  7. Pingback: Everquest 2 goes Free to Play (sort of), and keeps the rabble out « Welcome to Spinksville!

  8. Ohnos says:

    Some kind of F2P model is an interesting idea, but as usual SOE has opted for a terrible implementation. The path they are following now inevitably points to a clear intention …

    1) Choke off the Live servers by completely killing the free trial to those servers, and instead force all new players onto their new “microtransaction” Extended server.
    2) Offer one-way copies / transfers from the Live servers to the Extended servers, but no options to go the other way.

    Both of the above will end with one result – the death of the current Live servers as populations on them dwindle. Understandable from a “bottom line” perspective, as F2P / RMT models do tend to generate more revenue, but this is a big slap in the face to their loyal customers that have supported them for so long and invested a lot into the game (both in terms of time and money).

    To me this seems rushed and SOE could have found a far better compromise. For example, they could have added a restrictive (but time-unlimited) F2P experience on current Live servers (more akin to an extended trial). People could then purchase game features “a la carte” or upgrade to the normal subscription for the full feature-set.

    What most current players are opposed to, is SOE’s push on micro-transactions through their MarketPlace, and they seem to be using this new “Extended” service to peddle their new stat and (eventually / inevitably) overpowered items, that people will need to buy just to stay competitive. And with SOE diverting all new players to this new (isolated) server, it is clear where their priorities lie.

    It is not a F2P / subscription hybrid model that current players are opposed to, as long as the price of it is not a massive expansion of the SOE marketplace into items that do actually affect gameplay. Keep it to fluff items, or if you have to offer armor with stats, then don’t encroach on the current tier (i.e. no armor / items / rares above level 80).

    Should SOE wish to offer overpowered “must-have” items through the marketplace, then by all means, but keep it to Bazaar / Vox / Livegamer servers, where you already have a captive audience. The F2P experience (without the massive MarketPlace expansion) must, however, be offered to all servers.

  9. Jason says:

    Can someone please qualify for a non-EQ2 player what exactly we’d be missing out on by not subscribing “Gold” or to the live server?

    Without knowing more about the game, the subscription matrix reads about as clearly as a car dealer’s extended warranty packages.

    • Ferrel says:

      Glad to do so. Here are the key points by not going gold:
      -You have access to only eight out of 24 classes.
      -You cannot reach the max level of 90.
      -You only get 3 character slots.
      -Your spells do not progress past expert. This is a BIG deal on character power. Master is the top tier lootable spell level. Master spells improve on experts in most ways. More damage, more healing, more buffing etc. A player with all masters vs all experts would be at a big advantage.
      -You’re restricted on legendary and fabled gear. Depending on what restricted means you may only be able to wear treasured gear. This means you will be weak as a character. Generally speaking treasured and low tier legendary gear is for soloing and easy instances. You will not raid or do the hard instances with this gear.
      -3 bag slots is not very many. Six is easy to fill.
      -20 GOLD per level. The game’s major currency is PLAT. At the most you can hold 1600 gold which is not much money at all.
      -You cannot send in game mail.
      -Auction house use is restricted.
      -Limited support.

      Basically, Bronze and Silver status are for the ultra casual who play a few hours a week only. Everyone else will need Gold and Gold is a TERRIBLE deal compared to EQ2 live subscriptions.

      • Jim says:

        But maybe that’s the whole idea. I mean, they’ve only opened up a single server at the moment, and I bet it’s driving people to the live subs or even getting them to pay for silver, dare I say gold, subs. Fact is, players have proven themselves to be more than willing to shell out mom and dad’s or their own hard-earned money once they’re attached to their char.

      • Rob says:

        But remember they’re all together. They will be playing with the same type, 80 is the max, same money, same classes, same type armor etc. So in Essenes they are as powerful as the next guy.

  10. Jonathan says:

    This post was mentioned (along with several others) here:
    http://forums.station.sony.com/eq2x/posts/list.m?topic_id=4483

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