An EverQuest III Announcement?

Over at Massively the question is being asked: Will SOE announce EverQuest III at this year’s E3?

My guess is that they might. On the one hand, I think that EQ2, and even EQ, have a lot of life left in them. But both are PC (or Mac) titles, and are therefore both high maintenance and target a subset of the market which caps their potential. I think there’s a big money reason to push the EQ franchise fully into the PS3 market, and the console itself easily has the stones to support a full-blown MMO. I also would expect a different financial model than we see with the two existing games, although I’d suspect it’d be some variation on a subscription.

But here’s the thing with console MMOs: the culture of MMO gamers is such that we invest considerable time into the games, and we (as a group, perhaps not as individuals) expect that investment to continue indefinitely. And consoles have a limited lifespan. PCs can be upgraded, and the software itself can stay pretty much as-is, changing slowly in response to gradual shifts in hardware and operating systems. When a new console comes out, it’s a whole new machine, and back-compatibility may be dicey. The lifespan of a PC game is effectively indefinite – even if you change out the whole computer, the new one will run very much as the old one did. On top of that, the MMO business model is all about revenue over the long term, rather than a big rush at launch.

But although the console lifespan is finite, it might also be long. The PS2 is the best-selling console on the market, many years after it launched, beating out the much-touted Wii. While the PS3 is now the marquee system, the PS2 remains the workhorse.

Maybe SOE will announce EQ3 when Sony announces the PS4, and EQ3 will be pitched as the initial ‘killer app’ that the PS3 kind of lacked when it launched. And my guess is that the EQ3 pitch will in that case sound extremely ambitious. It might be exciting enough to get me to be a PS4 early adopter, but if so, I’d better start saving my money now, given what the PS3 still costs.

I have no inkling if the rumor mill is saying that Sony will announce a PS4 at E3, or this year at all, since I’m an MMO guy and consoles don’t really have any MMOs that I’m interested in, even on the horizon. My guess is no, since such an announcement might cut the legs out from under PS3 sales that still have lots of room to grow. That wouldn’t stop SOE from announcing EQ3 anyway, of course, but if the PS4/EQ3 link is real, announcing one early and the other later would suck away some of the marketing drama.

But given that the PS3 does have a lot of life left (in my opinion it’s completely supplanted the erratic X-Box 360 as the must-own console,) maybe EQ3 will indeed shoot for that console, and the brain trust at SOE is predicting a life for the box as long as the PS2 has had, which isn’t unreasonable. But it does imply that we wouldn’t see another 5 years of development on it; probably it’s be released by the 2010 holidays at the latest, further implying that it’s been in the works for some time.

I think the possibility of a PC-only EQ3 is virtually nil. With SOE now formally a part of Sony Computer Entertainment, that would make absolutely no sense from a business perspective. Although, of course, different divisions of big corporations work at cross-purposes all the time – just ask General Motors. Or better yet, ask the people who work for General Motors, or for one of the many companies that support GM, virtually all of whom realize that doing something like standardizing parts between, say, Chevy and Pontiac and Saturn would have saved maybe billions of dollars against the bottom line. Instead we have bankruptcy and the government taking over 60% of the company. I have the impression that the SCE/SOE relationship is tighter than that, but I could be wrong.

At any rate, I expect an EQ3 to eventually be announced, whether it happens this year or not. I for one will be very excited by that.

5 responses to “An EverQuest III Announcement?

  1. MMOs that start on one console don’t have to stay there. FFXI started on the PS2, and is now on the 360. I suspect that EQOA never got ported to the PS3 because it wasn’t popular enough. Some version of Everquest for the PS3 could live on in the next iteration of a hypothetical PS4.

    And there is almost no way in hell Sony is going to announce the PS4 at E3, that would be a blunder of NA Saturn launch proportions. They have yet to get the PS3 down to a mass market price. The only rumor that I’ve heard is of some sort of new slim PS3 coming out soon (1up covered it a few weeks ago).

  2. As to the arguments of the 360 “dying” or the PS3 supplanting it..(I keep seeing that…weird)
    I instead think the 360 is our next PS2. It will continue to have developers “develop” for it, as a way to get out games, and with such a large market share right now, it will hold out (especially with the Halo thing..I mean, my son still plays, and it always is the top online game…)
    So, with the new TV evolution of the 360, Netflix being solely on this console, and many a game galore …it is far from gone.

    Cheers

  3. @Edge: I would welcome a lower-priced PS3 – it might get me to buy one. Moving an MMO from PS3 to PS4 is certainly possible, but there’s no infrastructure in the existing online console space to do that kind of thing right now. But nothing says it won’t happen.

    I do suspect that EQ3 might launch as a PS3-exclusive, and it might even stay that way. I think SOE has to be wary of undercutting their own audience like they did with EQ/EQ2. A console exclusive would be targeting a significantly different market.

    @Yeebo: I did not mean to suggest that the 360 is dead, nor that it’s a big pile of crap. Rather, it seems to me that, price aside, the PS3 is by far the superior machine, with at least as good a selection of titles available, which was not the case for quite a while. The 360 is a commendable machine with the unfortunatue tendency to become a boat anchor without warning. Were that not the case, the 360s considerably lower price would make it the more attractive console – the PS3 is more powerful, but you can play pretty much all the same stuff on the 360, at lower cost.

    I think the PS3 has the edge right now, but can’t keep it unless the price goes down to something more in line with what the 360 costs.

  4. I think the console MMORPG market an unprofitable niche … casual PUG multiplayer games with only voice chat suit the console, but MMORPGs? If I need a keyboard and mouse I can’t play on the couch, if I have to play at a desk I might as well play on a real computer.

    As for hardware cost and time needed to get everything to run … most of us could buy a decent car if we had put all the hours we put into MMORPGs into flipping burgers, some of us a luxury car. With that much time invested I don’t think the cost of running a PC are relevant.

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