Making EQ2X a Real Choice

Written by Feldon on . Posted in Free-to-Play (EQ2X)

The announcement of EverQuest 2 Extended (EQ2X Free-to-Play) to the world was not a complete surprise to everyone. In addition to the various individuals within the EQ2 team and SOE involved in its planning and implementation, a few players were notified and their feedback solicited. What would be the community reaction? Should the services stay separate? There were many questions.

At last year’s Fan Faire, once the EQ2X cat was out of the bag, I spoke to Dave “SmokeJumper” Georgeson about the future of EQ2 and EQ2X, and how the latter might choke off the former. My feedback was simple:

  • If the website promoting EQ2/EQ2X gives the two services equal weight, and if players are given a REAL choice between the two games, then I think your best bet is to keep the 2 services separate.

Georgeson assured me and many others that both EQ2 and EQ2X would be equally marketed, with a ‘fair’ choice between the two games. On that representation, having the two services separate made sense. And yet, when EQ2X went live, this is the first thing I noticed on EverQuest2.com:

Once I passed the splash “choice” screen, these buttons on the left side of EverQuest2.com were even more damning:

The graphics shown above didn’t put the paid and free EQ2 games on a level playing field. Only a fool would click on a small ‘Subscribe’ button when presented with a much larger, more attractive button labeled ‘Play Now!’ When I saw these graphics, I and many others cried foul. At the very least, I felt that the two services be differentiated akin to cell phone service:

  • EverQuest 2 – Low Monthly Rate, Experience thousands of hours of content and all that EverQuest 2 has to offer!
  • EverQuest 2 Extended — Pay-as-you-Go, Experience a ton of EverQuest 2 content for free, only buy the features and content you need!

I also made a point that players should be able to transfer off of EQ2X to EQ2 as otherwise, there would be no new players coming to EQ2 (the announcement of EQ2X coincided with the discontinuation of the Free Trial.

Fast forward a few months and I waited for the promised ‘advertising blitz‘ to begin, which would supposedly benefit both EQ2 and EQ2X. Well, fooled me once, shame on me. Fooled me twice, shame on Marketing. The advertising which eventually appeared steered visitors to the EQ2X website, completely bypassing the already unbalanced EverQuest2.com ‘choice’ screen. When we brought this to SmokeJumper‘s attention, he admitted that budget priorities had changed and EQ2X was the first push with EQ2 advertising to ‘come later’.

It’s one year after the introduction of EQ2X, and maybe the realization that EQ2X is cannibalizing rather than supporting the EQ2 subscription game has finally dawned. The following quote from SmokeJumper suggests that we may finally see the EverQuest2.com website take a more egalitarian approach to both games in the future. For all those players who never gave up the fight for EQ2 to retain its downloadable Free Trial, today’s note brings some small vindication as well:

The Trial is coming back very soon. There are also some good revamps of the website coming that will help steer people to the Live side (by pointing out the advantages of playing here).

and:

I think, at this point, both communities are pretty happy where they’re at. I’m not saying nothing will ever change…but at this time, I have no idea why they would change.

The Trial will be back soon now and I think marketing did a great job of making web changes to show a player why they would be interested in starting with Live (vs. EQ2X).

Both sides of the “fence” are nicely healthy. There’s no reason to redraw property lines.

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Comments (17)

  • Chris

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    My guess is that in the future you’ll see EQ2 phased out and the only version is going to be EQ2X.

    SOE already realized there are more people playing EQ2X and they’re making more money from that version of the game then they are making from live servers.

    As I stated before, the game is going under and going free to play is their only option to keep it a float. They’ll need to phase out the live servers and focus all of their attention on where they’re making the majority of their money if they plan on entering the market as a major MMO contender.

    Reply

  • Steve

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    SOE chasing the short term customer and running off their long term loyal ones. This rarely works for any business for long.

    Reply

  • Shane

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    So true. When I first signed up I did not realize the difference between the two. Saw FREE, clicked it and ended up on EQ2X :)

    Reply

  • Katz

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    @Chris – provide your data. How many subscribers are on EQ2X? How many active subscriptions are on EQ2 live?

    How much money do they make from EQ2X and how much from EQ2 live?

    Reply

  • Chris

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    @Katz

    I’m not going to look it up for you. Go look up the information yourself.

    if I remember correctly it was Smoke Jumper that stated (not to long ago) that EQ2X is their most populated server, more-so then all the live servers combined.

    Then I also saw someone posted a link on the forums not to long ago that was linked to an interview by SOE talking about their income and how they’ve seen a huge increase in revenue coming in from EQ2X and that it was topping the money that was coming in from live servers.

    Why do you think they’re putting so much emphasis on EQ2X rather then EQ2 Live?

    Reply

  • jasonmicron

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    just combine the services and make eq2 free to play like almost every other game out there.

    the eq2 and eq2x stuff is already confusing enough.

    it’s done great things for lotro. wow is on the same path now with the “free to level 20″ deal.

    i see no reason to keep the two services separate. combine them, free to play for everyone, folks that pay $15 / month get access to the entire game, free players have restrictions (like certain zones being part of a “pack” they can purchase to access).

    seriously. go look at lotro’s model. it’s pretty much the definition of how it should be done.

    Reply

  • Neihn

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    @Chris what did anyone expect when you choke of a supply of fresh players to the live servers where you get everything for one price rather then nickel and diming the players. And that was exactly what they did when they removed the free trial. Now that they have a bunch of players willing to be nickel and dimed they are throwing the live servers a 1/4 bone in the fact ok you can now have your free trial back. To little to late to save the live servers. Eventually all servers will be F2P.

    Smokeblower knew all along they were going to starve the live servers of fresh players and push players towards EQ2X. That is the only logical explanation when live did not get the same advertising as EQ2x, Live was relegated to a little subscribe button vs a big play now button. Smokeblower can try to spin it all he wants he knew very well what they were doing from the start and was just blowing smoke to try to cover their tracks.

    Reply

  • Murfalad

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    @Chris

    Smokejumper has gone on the forums and mentioned several times that the EQ2X making more then Live isn’t true, and while Freeport is the largest server its not larger then the rest of the EQ2Live servers combined for sure.

    If the EQ2X was making much more money then Live then I think we’d have seen DCUO launch with that payment model. While EQ2X has a place, as Feldon points out it can harm the revenue from the Live servers. I’d also say that if EQ2X was so big a runaway success as to dwarf the live servers then they would have gone ahead with the extra servers to purchase – instead they brought them for live.

    Looking at the two servers I would say both should be profitable, but a player on Live is guaranteed to be paying ~10$ a money + they will be as likely to buy a virtual item. The extra items on sale on EQ2X have to make up the missing $10 a month in that case to even make a EQ2X player as equally profitable as a EQ2 Live player.

    Personally I think they should do some sort of extended trial for live, and play on the idea that once people invest enough time into their characters they will want to keep going. That and fix the lower level itemisation+spice up with PQ’s and fix mentoring.

    Reply

  • Gazruney

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    Sony fully intended to go F2P on ALL servers but the vocal forumites at the time screamed bloody murder that they did not want free to play players in their backyard. Hence the Freeport server was born and became a perfect example of the phrase ‘be careful what you wish for’.

    Reply

  • sam

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    @ Chris
    reading comprehension FTW.
    Smokejumper said eq2x is the largest server, he did not say it was larger then all of eq2live servers combined.

    Smokejumper said eq2x has increased eq2′s revenue and the service is doing well. He did not say it was making more money then all of eq2live.

    Reply

  • Jivin

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    “EverQuest 2 Extended — Pay-as-you-Go, Experience a ton of EverQuest 2 content for free, only buy the features and content you need!”

    This is not true if we cant buy platinum limit unlockers!

    Reply

  • Green Armadillo

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    I maintain that they should have bit the bullet and taken the existing servers free to play. Live server population is unsustainable with the newbies funneled to the extended service, but the extended model has also suffered from the need to stand alone – solo tourists need not pay to see the content, raiders can get by for one-time unlock fees plus 50 cents per gear drop (no one replaces 30 pieces of raid gear per month), and I can’t imagine that it’s fun to look for a DOV PUG with 2/3 of the classes trapped behind the paywall.

    I have a level 90 crafter and basically all my plat comes from selling rare harvests, but if SOE wants to sell foolish people rares and mastercrafts to keep the game from going under, I’ll take that deal any day. Other than that, the cash shop offerings are pretty darned similar, most people who would have ragequit if the live servers had gone F2P have already gone off to Rift anyway, and I don’t see any other benefit to the separation a year out.

    Reply

  • Kruzzen

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    The only reason that they had to separate the two is because smokeblower was hired to bring micro transactions to eq2 and the live servers did not want the servers ruined by what he was trying to do. It never had anything to do with new players, and totally about promoting SC.

    Reply

  • Viviane

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    I have a lifetime subscription to LoTRO and when the game went F2P I was very upset. Now almost a year later I am very happy with the state of the game.

    6 months ago I started a new character on the Extended server and bought a silver subscription, now I am Gold. I’ll regret my friends on Splitpaw (well, the few ones that are still around) and some of my toons but I really enjoy my playtime on Freeport (more $$ – 20$ so far – but less farming = more fun).

    Reply

  • Jack

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    All I know is what I’ve seen. In a guild of 600+ toons with over 300 accounts, it’s rare to see three people online now, and they’re usually new to the guild. Just a year ago 30+ would’ve been typical with occasional spikes.

    I’m sure it doesn’t mean anything though.

    Reply

  • Mike W

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    If the marketing was fair the first thing they’d do is not assign any color theme to either or of the games. It is a marketing fact that people are drawn to warmer colors, or actually they get noticed much more than the colder/cooler colors.

    The fact they have EQII Live on one side with a cold icy theme, and Extended on the other with a flame theme, if you’ve ever done any marketing or advertising, you know that EQII Extended is getting top billing.

    My 2cp.

    Reply

  • Mike W

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    @ Chris – If you really think for a fraction of a second that SOE thought that they were not making any money on live that they wouldn’t just merge the remaining players into Extended and say “sink or swim” you would really be showing a far inferior state of intelligence than most people that play the game.

    Reply

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