The Future of Vanguard

John Smedley, on the next steps for Vanguard, at the recent annual meeting of the Syndicate, a huge multi-game guild (courtesy Ten Ton Hammer.)

We’re thinking about specific next steps for Vanguard, but we’re not shutting it down or anything like that. We want to add more stuff to it. Will we change the business model? That’s the question people keep asking me. Will it go free-to-play? I don’t know – we’ve discussed it. What we’ll decide? I’m not sure yet. We’re going to see where EverQuest II Extended goes. But certainly if we make a decision like that, it won’t be without deciding to add more content to the game.

It’s odd that with the current wave of major titles going to a microtransaction model, this is the first we’ve heard anything substantive (in my hearing, anyway,) about Vanguard doing it. Odd because it’s an obvious move to bolster numbers for a title that isn’t doing very well, and because SOE already has much of the needed infrastructure in place (Vanguard already has a working cash shop with gear and much else.) And because SOE elected to try out free-to-play on EverQuest II first, which has a reasonably healthy player base.

Personally, it’s something I’d like to see – I’d play Vanguard here and there if it were free (and assuming that it wasn’t screwed up by the change to that model,) and I suspect that some lapsed players and new players would find their way back. With the right array of microtransactions, revenue could go up significantly… and there’s a lot of room upstairs of where Vanguard is today. The trick would be not eroding the core concepts of the game in so doing. Which might be tricky, given the nature of the appeal of microtransactions.

I’m thinking that playing up the RP element of the game in much the same way that City of Heroes and LotRO do might be the best approach – but ramp it up. Have the microtransaction store be almost entirely cosmetic items – garb, weapons, mounts, hats, house items and the like – maybe even new house skins. Drop in multiple costuming slots and a wardrobe, which you’d make exclusive to those who paid Station Cash. And maybe consumable teleport tokens. Telon is already a great world for immersion and RP – there’s just not enough population there. Double or triple the number of players in the world and you’d improve the quality of the play experience tremendously, even if the vast majority of those people never paid a cent. The game becomes more attractive, and draws more still more players until it reaches a nice, comfortable, sustainable plateau.

At least that makes sense on the surface. The issue is likely to be breaking the inertia for what appears to be a game on serious life support.

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4 responses to “The Future of Vanguard

  1. Vanguard is in the same place, if not worse off, than DDO was before it went FtP. It seems like SOE has almost nothing to lose by trying it. The only downside I can see from their standpoint is that they’d actually have to put some development5 resources into it to make the switch.

  2. Yeah, that’s what I meant when I said that Vanguard would need to overcome its development inertia. Without any numbers to back me up, I suspect that Vanguard has fewer subscribers than DDO did by a fair margin – but then, there’s already an in-game cash shop, so just the number of subscribers isn’t the whole picture.

  3. I love Vanguard. I have it on my SA account and I still play it. It’s extremely heartening even to hear Smed say they are thinking about Vanguard at all. I think even most of the remaining handful of players would have expected the next move to be closure.

    I’d love VG to go F2P. I’d like nothing more than to start over on a server busy with new players and new guilds. I have two level 50 characters, both levelled when that was the cap, and I have not the slightest interest in taking them to 55th. I’d happily take another class or three to 50th on a vibrant F2P server, though.