This started as a comments discussion on The Ancient Gaming Noob’s page about EQ2’s move to F2P, and is quickly expanding. And my general rule is: your blog, you get the last word. Its a reasonable assumption, and I think Wilhelm made his points well. But I want to continue to expand my thoughts on the subject. And here, I get the last word! Bwahaha!
@HZ – But you’re missing the point. That there is little in the way of downside is nice, but there is no real pay off likely for investing in Vanguard. And without a pay off, what is the point?
Do you really believe that if Vanguard went to this new model, that it would attract enough new players to not only pay for all the work and additional overhead, but would also make a profit on top of that.
…Vanguard, like a lot of games, has a small, loyal following, but it is never going to have more than that. Be happy that SOE keeps it alive at all.
……The game is not poised for success, lacking only in customers. It is a basket case and, having gone back to play it again in April, it still feels about like it did on day one.*
I don’t really care at this point whether or not Sony keeps it or tosses it, because I’m not a subscriber, and I won’t be unless something changes. Not that I hate Vanguard (there’s few, okay, maybe no MMO’s that I just plain hate) but its not worth $15 a month – primarily because of the lack of playerbase. This was, as I see it, the same problem that DDO faced before it went F2P.
Basically the quote above makes three assumptions to reach its conclusion. We’ll take them one at a time:
Assumption #1: Transitioning Vanguard to F2P requires a significant investment of time, money, and energy.
I believe this is a false assumption. What resources are needed to make Vanguard F2P? We can be reasonably certain that Sony did not decide to make the jump to F2P for EQ2 until they saw the success of DDO. And DDO’s success was not certain until signaled by Turbines willingness to move LotRO to F2P. That move came less than two months ago – and EQ2 F2P is already up and running as an Alpha, with Beta coming in 3 weeks time. If Sony can roll out an entire reboot of EQ2 in that time period, there can be no real argument for what little work would need to go into Vanguard. Even with far less developers supporting it!
Assumption #2: Sony would only undertake this venture if it guarenteed profitability for Vanguard
The game is on the ropes, and we all know that. Current players on the official forums have noted that the game has even less developer support than Matrix Online did before they axed it. It looks like there may soon be a server merge down to one server, etc. But Sony – well, say what you will about them, they have a long history of keeping games afloat long after their profitability has passed as a gift to gamers. A good example would be EQOA. The PS2 variant of Everquest that I cut my MMO teeth on in 2003 is still up, running, and live. You cannot in any way convince me that there are enough people there for the game to be profitable, yet it trudges onwards. So what does Sony have to lose in Vanguard by making a change? Is it somehow possible that Vanguard would make *less* money if it went F2P? I can’t imagine that it would. And even if it did – Sony is already losing money on it, so, what’s the big deal?
Assumption #3: Vanguard is still only a half-completed game, without the polish and content of DDO
Whew. I’m not sure what to do with this one. It was buggy at times when I last played, which was GU #4, but that was over two years ago, and even then, it wasn’t buggy enough that I cancelled my sub because of it, and I CTD more often in EVE than I ever did in Vanguard…
As for content – the one thing I never lacked for in Vanguard was content. Our little group of three actually was divided for awhile on what content we should be tackling because we had so many choices. Some of the dungeons, in particular the outdoors one for level ~15 on Qalia, was magnificent. And you already have prebuilt avenues for revenue in the game – player owned housing, player owned boats, flying mounts, etc. Each continent is really self contained for quests, etc. So you could even limit the game that way as well.
So I cannot in any way characterize the game as a basket case. It works, it works well, and its fun to play and gorgeous to look at. Furthermore, I can’t imagine that DDO was “poised for success” when it went F2P. The complaints about DDO were numerous and serious enough that its one of the only major MMO’s that I’ve never tried even on a trial basis! Amazing isn’t it how those complaints were reduced in light of opening the gates for free play? We can easily blow downsides out of proportion when we can’t find ways to work around them or live with them – and that can only happen if you are playing the game. With Vanguards content and player options, I would think there would be enough upside there to entice players into at trying it – not unlike many people’s feelings about DDO when it made this transition.
Bottom Line: I don’t buy into the assumptions.
I think there are some reasons why Sony decided not to go F2P with Vanguard – probably biggest among them being whatever Live Gamers contract they had for the Exchange in Vanguard. Perhaps they are still thinking that the games hardware requirements are too steep to intice a large audience. This may have some truth to it, but I think the game’s requirements are no longer as steep as they once were, given the advances in graphics and core processors in the last couple of years. But I could still respect that as a legitimate concern in the process.
I think another reason is that Sony didn’t feel like they needed to test the waters, because they felt Turbine had already done this for them. So they went ahead and jumped in the deep end of the F2P pool. That may come back to haunt them later on. Ultimately though I think that this is an issue of corporate shortsightedness. There is nothing to be lost really by making Vanguard F2P, but they don’t think they will lose anything from EQ2 either. That too, may be problematic. Why?
From my viewpoint this is kind of a loss for Sony. Their flagship game, that I have spent over $100 on this year just made a move that will insure that I don’t spend any money on it next year. While their game that I would enjoy shelling out for a silver membership + some cash shop upgrades continues to remain out of reach. The loss for Sony is our gain though, for the time being. I fully intend to play the heck out of a free EQ2 this fall. And who knows, maybe if successful, it will entice them to open up Vanguard as well.
* TAGN is one of my favorite bloggers. I’ve used his comments as a jumping off point for this post, but I have respect for him and do not intend this as a personal attack.