The SOEpocalypse is upon us

Have we ever seen a studio announce the shutdown of four MMOs all at once?  To my recollection, no, although sometimes these foreign studios do wipe out a bunch of tiny ones in one go.

But man… this is a huge event that SOE decided to cushion itself by (a) waiting until end of business on Friday to announce and (b) mix in some good (if not new) news with the All Access changes.

So we’re going to be saying goodbye to Vanguard, Clone Wars Adventures, Wizardry Online, and Free Realms come this March and July.  CWA and Wizardry don’t surprise me, especially the latter, but the other two do.  SOE poured in a lot of money and effort into a free-to-play Vanguard and to my knowledge Free Realms was doing just fine.  I guess the beancounters either saw that these properties were losing money, not likely to gain much more money, or would be better off not dragging the studio down as it looked to soar with DCUO, PlanetSide 2, and the EverQuest titles.

So Dragon’s Prophet made the cut?  Huh.  I mean… really?  Huh.

As many people have noted, this kind of puts an end to seeing SOE as the studio that champions and sustains MMOs that would have faltered elsewhere.  Maybe it’s just done with that, having cast off EQOA, EQMac, Star Wars Galaxies, and (most likely) PlanetSide, not to mention sending Pirates of the Burning Sea away.  It also lessens the value of the new All Access pass because fewer games.

It’s not the end of the world, of course.  Of some worlds, but not the world.  For most players, it won’t be a blip, as these aren’t the most populated and played games out there.  Maybe pruning the SOE tree of dead weight is needed to create a stronger company in the end.  But it’s still a little bit of a shock to see something like this hit all at once.

Guess it’s time to go update the Timeline page once again!

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13 thoughts on “The SOEpocalypse is upon us

  1. This event is a timely reminder that gaming is driven by the same financial imperatives of any other business.

    As the old adage states, there’s no sentiment in business.

  2. My gob, it is smacked. Just now Bhagpuss was talking up Vanguard and making me want to go play it some more and get a feel for how it works when it’s actually working! Now? Guess not.

    Also my daughter loves Free Realms. So this matters for my house!

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  4. I’m not sure I know why people would play Planetside now. It doesn’t seem as much like an EQ thing where the first game serves a rather different audience than the second. Though to be fair I’ve only got about a dozen hours in each of the two games…

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  6. I’m more than a little sad about Wizardry Online. That had such great promise. On a positive note, I suppose I don’t have to worry so much about the permanent death there now since the world will be ending! :P

  7. I can understand Wizardry Online (it was basically a translated Asian game, and while I actually like it, it doesn’t have that much players), Free Realms and Vanguard came as a surprise especially with Vanguard having gained so much extra work lately.

    It seems to me that the diversification in games in the SOE stable has taken a hard hit.

    Argueably that was already the case however : while Vanguard had the best low-level/World content and immersive race-dependant Quests, it drifted away to producing Raid content and forcing people to level fast and easy, making subscribing unappealing (you got double XP and extra Loot and Rep gains for subscribing at Vanguard, which is anathema to an ‘oldskool’ experience). So while I first subscribed for a yearly recurring program the day I started playing after it went F2P, I ended my sub and was ‘unable’ to play till it ended because what set the game apart was taken away from subscribers.

    Note that others and I already said so when they implemented that discouragement-to-subscribe, if we wanted an end-game foccussed railroad game we could stick to WoW.

    And you’re right about the sunsetting-and-SOE thing, it at least deals a blow to my incentive to invest in a MMORPG.

  8. Some of Smed’s replies in the Reddit thread are instructive. The infrastructure cost of keeping all these games up wouldn’t be a problem, apparently; it’s keeping up to date with security protocols and platform changes that raise the costs to unacceptable levels. Given the countless times I’ve had issues with MMOs when moving to a new version of Windows or even a new graphics card driver that does sound plausible.

    Then there’s his comment that SOE will not be doing any more kids’ MMOs because it turns out kids don’t spend much and are very mean to each other. The duty of care and customer service issues in running a game for minors must be orders of magnitude above running one for adults, or even teens. If the kids (or their parents) also don’t spend enough then that’s a very unattractive commercial prospect.

    Vanguard is a work of art and it’s a tragedy it has to end, but it’s impossible to imagine it’s been anything other than loss-making for most of it’s life. Last time I was playing regularly I would estimate the peak population on line was measurable in the hundreds not the thousands. It has been a bit busier since F2P but there was never any prospect of it growing to any significant degree.

    To Athie above and anyone else who might have been thinking about trying Vanguard or trying it again, there’s still six months left. You can see a lot of Telon in half a year. I’d bet that it will be boom-time for a while, too, as people come or come back to say their goodbyes or sight-see before the sun goes down for the last time.

    Someone asked Smed about open-sourcing SWG, which obviously would never happen given the LucasArt factor. No-one asked him about Vanguard, though. I’m sure that won’t happen, but I would hope SOE do consider donating the code under some kind of license either to an academic or cultural repository such as a gallery, museum or university archive. As I said, Telon is a work of art and should be treated as such by those currently responsible for what is, after all, a shared cultural asset.

  9. Bhagpuss, someone in the Reddit Q&A did ask who potential buyers of Vanguard should contact. Smedley said it was impossible.

    Good point on there still being some time. I put a couple of hours in last night. It’s really a remarkable rule set and I’m interested to see more of the world before it dies.

  10. I wonder if SOE is angry with Brad McQuaid? He’s been using Vanguard as a selling point in the comments for the Pantheon Kickstarter, telling people to go play that and get a sense of what the new game would be like. It could easily be a coincidence that SOE announces the game’s sunset immediately after McQuaid said that, but I guess I wonder anyway.

  11. Thanks Bhagpuss for to skinny on the reddit.

    Regarding the ‘Brad factor’ : it appears that he himself asked Smed wether he or anybody else could purchases Vanguard ( Tweet posted at http://hzero.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/gutted/ ) which was ‘no’.

    The security protocols etc. thing makes it more understandable but considering older games are still running does bring it back to ‘too few customers”.

    I can see kids being an extra issue with F2P games, also because in many legal systems they can’t actually make binding purchases. As F2P no doubt also needs ‘impulse shopping’ to make the bottom line, having to combine that with a target audience that can’t make those purchases would be tricky.

    Still, I do hope this will not kill-off diversity of games and settings for SOE completely, also because of the possible implecations for the hobby.

  12. Hi Syp and everyone!
    My first time to post on the vaunted “Bio Break” blog! This is a definite hot topic and shall be at least the rest of this month. As for vanguard it is interesting that it is apparently “impossible” to sell the source code or whatever it is that is the essence” of that mmo. I wonder what constitutes the word “impossible” in Smed’s vernacular?
    Additionally, the “Brad Factor” is very interesting. Isn’t it close to ironic that this purging of old games at SoE began after BM’s introduction to his Kickstarter for “Pantheon”? We’ll keep “this space open” for this aspect of the current SoE news!
    All in all though this is shaping up to be a yhear we will all be following SoE to some extent with the eventual release of “EQ: Landmark”.
    Alyn

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