On July 27, SOE announced the impending launch of a free to play version of EverQuest II. Unless the timeline has changed, this will happen as soon as tomorrow. While I'll definitely be watching to see how it goes, it has already been interesting to see the scope of reactions to the news.
Some have brought up and offered their opinions on thought-provoking questions. For example, in light of the company's position that a primary goal in taking this step is to expose more people to the game, how well will EQ2X serve this purpose? The standard 14-day free trial offer will only be available to friends referred by subscribers. For anyone else, will being able to play for an unlimited amount of time prove more attractive?
My guess is that it will, although not to tidal wave proportions. One reason is the game's age. While being several years old does mean it's mature and has plenty of content, the "new and shiny" allure is long gone. Quite possibly a larger factor, it's not especially well geared to casual players, who comprise the major growth segment in today's MMOG market.
On the other hand, it seems reasonable enough to view EQ2X as a potential next step for those who have enjoyed Free Realms and are thinking of trying something more serious. Now, they won't have to make the leap into a subscription title. They can also stick with the same publisher. This may only seem important to those players who have Station cash, but might carry some significance for the rest too; after all, we're not talking about veterans of the genre who are prepared to spend the time necessary to inform themselves before making a choice.
Another question of interest involves the degree to which the composition of the overall player base will change. Some observers have expressed the fear that the proportions will quickly become very heavily weighted toward the F2P side, which will be so profitable that the P2P version will completely or at least effectively wither and die. This seems curiously contradictory beside the position expressed by other pro-subscription types who maintain that their favored business model is dominant in the western hemisphere. If so, then shouldn't it take a lot more than merely offering EQ2X in parallel to kill or even meaningfully impact the original?
In addition, I've yet to see anyone propose what seems like a pretty obvious solution, offering to pay more in order to restore the balance of profitability even with fewer players. If I felt it were a matter of life or death for my game of choice, I'd be willing to shell out more - within reason of course, but subscriptions are cheap anyway, especially on a per-hour basis, so while it wouldn't be my preference to pay say $25 or $30 per month, those rates wouldn't make me quit either. I'm sure there will be claims this would be exorbitant. Speaking for myself, if $10 or $15 were truly difficult to afford, I'd surely have higher priorities in my life than playing an MMOG in the first place.
A third topic, perhaps the one that has piqued my curiosity the most, is whether EQ2X is just an experiment or actually a step in a larger plan. I have no indications either way, so all I can do is speculate. My feeling is that it's the former, but that SOE is prepared to go the same route with other games. If not, why try this? Furthermore, I'll guess the result will be successful enough that we will see more of the same.
And maybe the biggest question of all - what about WoW?
This week's MMOG trivia
Today's question is another name the game highlighting a notable F2P offering. This one is PvP-oriented with a significant castle siege element. The two sides in the conflict are named El Morad and Karus. Humans and barbarians populate the former, while the latter is home to the orc-like Tuareks. The four player classes are Mage, Priest, Warrior and Rogue. An interesting market note is that this title gained exceptional popularity in Turkey.
Developed in Korea by Noah System and MGame, Knight Online launched in the western hemisphere toward the end of 2004. Published by GamersFirst / K2 Network, this version, now called Knight Online World, quickly took hold in Turkey, where multiple sources, albeit unconfirmed one, have said its revenue rose to more than $1 million per month. It is also available in Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia and other parts of the Far East.