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.