A post over on MMO Voices asks whether EQ2 is dying. Karen at Massively (and also of Shut Up, We’re Talking and Journeys With Jaye,) uses Destiny of Velious as an example of how not to promote an expansion.
Anecdotal evidence from in-game varies wildly. It seems clear, though, that the lone EQ2X server, Freeport, is still hopping – I can vouch for this myself, as I dropped in the other day and there were plenty of folks in Butcherblock. As for the Live servers… well, like I said, reports vary wildly, but the population is clearly very top-heavy. Top-heavy is bad when it comes to getting new players into the game, and all the mentoring in the world won’t help new players find people that match their, and their character’s, experience levels.
SOE pushed EQ2X pretty hard for maybe a month after it launched. But after that, we’ve seen very little word from them. And we also, as both cited articles point out, have seen very little press for Destiny of Velious. Part of this is outside of SOE’s hands, as titles with releases on the horizon, like Rift and SWTOR, tend to hog the spotlight. Internally, DCUO is SOE’s Big New Thing, so their marketing resources are going toward that instead. Smedley himself has been tweeting about it.
I like SOE as a company. I like their games. But there definitely appears to be a disconnect between SOE and the community. A lack of communication even to how well their games are doing. Turbine switches DDO and LotRO to a free-to-play model and a couple of months later we start to see press releases. SOE makes a (roughly) similar move with EQ2, in my opinion the strongest game in their arsenal, and we don’t hear so much as a squeak publicly. Smokejumper says EQ2 is doing really well, but that’s buried in a forum post, and most sensible players follow my practice of avoiding MMO forums. So what’s audible to the public is silence, and folks are naturally apt to take that as a sign the game is doing badly.
It may not be, I hope it isn’t, and anecdotal evidence suggests that it isn’t. But the public perception right now is that EQ2 is a game in its twilight years, slowly declining in population. While there may be some truth to that, the problem is that the notion is self-perpetuating – who the hell wants to get into a game that’ll be empty for the first 79 levels anyway? SOE needs to get out there and challenge that idea, to get folks to take some notice of one of the strongest MMOs on the market, and one that really does have a ton going for it. A big push behind an expansion might do it, but we’re not seeing that, about a month before one launches.
Such a push isn’t necessarily the same thing as making huge, news-making changes or pouring dollars into marketing, by the way. An aggressive lead developer or community manager can do a lot for a game without spending a cent, by giving interviews, talking to people, running promotions with in-game prizes, and so forth.
What would I do? Phase out EQ2X and put free play into the live servers to liven up the sub-cap population and make the game newbie-friendly. Cap F2P characters at level 30 and let people buy cap increases in 10-level increments via the in-game store for $10 a pop. Run sales in that store constantly. Run contests every month that get people involved, with in-game prizes. Set fires under the community managers to get them to actually get out there and engage the community outside of the forums and in-game channels. Monthly developer letters and interviews with major MMO news sites. Give the individual devs blogs, like CCP does, and vet the articles if you have to. Put a team member into every third-rate podcast (like mine!) with even a peripheral interest in EQ2. Involving the community will at least give people the impression that’s you’re listening to them.
Is EQ2 doomed? No. It’s a strong enough game to mount a comeback. It’ll never make a million subs, but there’s no reason it can’t become one of the major players in the MMO market again, and it’s really not all that far away even now. All it’ll take is a little love rubbed on the community and the public by SOE.