During a conference call on Monday, Sony Online Entertainment’s Dave Georgeson let the world in on the fact that Everquest II will officially go free to play in early December. “It’s what’s best for players playing the game,” Georgeson said. What it boils down to is a rebranded Everquest II. Gone will be the separation between Everquest II and Everquest II Extended.
According to Georgeson, the industry isn’t going the way of subscription titles anymore, what he calls the “pay and hope” revenue model. Under “pay and hope”, companies announce that a new expansion is coming out or a new game is in development. By utilizing a subscription model, players are forced into paying for the game/expansion and hoping that it will be good, meeting their expectations.
SOE wants to be in the forefront of innovative companies taking the F2P revenue model to new places. They have done their homework, Georgeson told us. They have done a lot of research. “We really like to give players lots of ways to pick how they want to play or pay.” By going F2P, Georgeson believes that the development of EQII will be better and more intriguing than ever. “If developers don’t keep quality up, they don’t make a dime. We’re excited about this.” Georgeson said. “We haven’t been this excited in a long time. We’re breaking the ‘rinse and repeat’ development cycle and will be more flexible in what we can do.”
To that end, Everquest II players will have lots of ways to play and/or pay for the game. The change, according to Georgeson, amounts to a “semantic difference, but little real difference” for current players of any stripe. Players already on the Gold Subscription will stay there. Silver subscribers will stay there. Free players who choose to stay cost-free will remain there as well. Silver and Gold members have a couple of important caveats, however: Gold level players will have access to all races and classes now. But SOE is going one step further to make subscribers happy.
If, for instance, a player has purchased a race or class pack in the past 60 days, half the purchase price is being refunded. This is equally true for members on the Silver subscription plan. Currently, the Silver subscription comes in at $10. Those who have opted into that particular plan will have half the cost refunded if they subscribed in the last 60 days.
Another imaginative feature that SOE is offering to subscribers is what they are calling “non-recurring” subscriptions. Basically, players can subscribe for 3, 6 or 9 months with a firm end date. At the end of the subscription period, players will either need to re-subscribe or their access beyond the F2P aspects will cease.
The F2P players will be under the same restrictions that currently exist on the Everquest II Extended server. Players will be able to purchase races beyond the four they are allowed and classes beyond the current eight. They will also only have two character slots, bag limits and gold maximum levels as well. (You can check out what is currently offered and what the currently limitations are on the Extended server that will be applied to free players here.)
The Marketplace will be unified as well. It will be modeled closely on the Live Marketplace and certain power items such as the Wand of Obliteration that have been available to Extended players will be removed from the store. Players who have purchased these items will not have them taken away but since they are consumables, they will eventually disappear.
SOE also plans to involve its player-base in more of the decisions coming into the game. Power items, for instance, might make a comeback in Everquest II but only at the behest of the players. Developers have plans to actively employ polls and other ways of tracking what people want to see included.
As if this isn’t enough excitement, Georgeson also spent time talking about the upcoming release of the Age of Discovery expansion. There is a lot of new ‘stuff’ that makes this a very attractive expansion to Everquest II. It’s less about content than it is about features. One of the most exciting aspects of AoD is the Dungeon Builder. Players will be rewarded with Dungeon Builder “pieces” (monsters, triggers, items, etc.) as they are adventuring around the game world. Finding and unlocking these features allow builders to place them in their own dungeons. Player created dungeons will be released to everyone and other players will be able to rate these dungeons and score terrific gear. Builders are rewarded through the rating system. Build a great dungeon, get a great rating. Pretty awesome stuff. Add in the much-requested Beast Master class and you have a surefire recipe for success.
SOE doesn’t want F2Pers to feel left out, however, so the Freeport overhaul will be released on or near the same date as Age of Discovery. The entire zone has been reworked, reimagined, retooled, and more. In short, it’s a brand new experience with new quests and a more “alive” city for players to explore. Next summer, Qeynos will receive similar love from the development team.
SOE has plans for a Livecast later this week and are actively seeking player input about today’s announcement as well as questions for the team about Age of Discovery, Freeport, Beast Masters and anything else that strikes a chord. Players and fans can post questions on EQ 2’s Twitter or Facebook page or on the official EQ 2 forums.
Lastly, today marks the seventh anniversary of Everquest II. What better way to celebrate than with a giant gift from the developers to the community than with the F2P announcement?