It was a bad call, Turbine, a bad call!

AliensBurke“A bad call?  These people are unsubscribing, Turbine! Don’t you have any idea what you have done here? I ‘m gonna make sure they nail you right to the wall for this, you’re not gonna sleaze your way out of this one. Right to the wall.”

I mean, what else do you call springing an announcement of a one-month delay a WEEK before a major content patch/game overhaul is due to go live?

But that’s exactly what Turbine’s done today — they’re delaying the release of DDO:EU (aka “free to play DDO”, aka “Module 9”) from next week until September 9th.  They cite the following as the reason for the delay:

“While we are very pleased with the performance of the game and are excited about the response from the players, we are committed to delivering a high-quality experience. We feel that more time is needed to deliver on this commitment.”

In other words, “something is very much broken in the lands of DDO”, whether it be the store or the new high-level content, and Turbine considers the fallout from a one-month delay to be a better alternative than releasing it next week and suffering a potentially greater fallout from angry players dealing with broken content.

Still, other than the clever 9/9/09 date, this is a PR failure for Turbine, and a pretty dumb move all around.  Andrew over at Teeth & Claws notes that the nerd rage for this is already insanely high, and that’s putting it lightly.  Current subscribers have had their patience tested and stretched to the near-breaking point by the better-part-of-a-year wait since the last content patch, and all you have to do is utter the words “mod 9” on the forums to see wound-lickers emerge in great hordes.

Even more than that, the timing of this announcement couldn’t be worse.  First of all, you don’t pump up the hype for a major relaunch of a game and then pull the plug on it — albeit temporarily — a mere week before it was supposed to go live.  A delay announcement a month ago, sure, that’s understandable.  But a week before?  Seriously?

Plus, you have to consider that in one fell swoop, Turbine’s thrown away one of the biggest thing DDO:EU’s launch had going for it: it was the only major MMO release slated for August.  It would’ve had a whole month to bring people on board and for the media to spill fountains’ worth of ink over talking about it.  Now they’re going to put it smack in the middle of September, right when both Champions Online and Aion releases.  Guess which of the three games is going to get squeezed out of the big press announcements when that happens?

Personally, I’m a little cheesed.  I was going to unsubscribe as of August 14th and continue playing as a F2P title, but now I have to consider ponying up for another month.  I was also really looking forward to the new systems, content and the store, which by all accounts from the beta, are really well-done.

Again, this just might not have been avoidable on Turbine’s behalf, but it ranks up there with Mythic’s “Oh we’re going to yank four capital cities and four classes from the release that’s coming in a month-and-a-half” announcement as a textbook way of shooting yourself in the foot when you should be sprinting.

Update: Turbine community rep Patience released a bit more info on the why’s of this delay: “I just wanted to step in and address the issue of the announcement coming only a few days before launch.

The LAST thing anyone here wanted to do was delay the launch we’ve all been working so hard on. Our players aren’t the only ones who have been looking forward to this and even planning their lives around it. Earlier this week we were sure we were on track for the August 4th launch date, had advertising purchased for it, shifts scheduled, etc. Smiles all around, sighs of relief.. and then the flood of players during Monday’s live event on Lamannia showed us that no, we’re not ready. We need to add more capacity, we need to fix some late-breaking bugs, and as much as we hated to do it, we need to delay the launch date. The past couple of days have been spent investigating what needed to be done so we could have a release date we were confident in, because we have a new last thing we want to do, and that’s slip the date again.

Until we were confident in our new date, we didn’t say anything, and we’re really sorry if that gave the impression that we were hiding something – but it was preferable to having a few days of panic with an unknown date. Stay tuned for news on how we’ll try to make this up to you!”

13 thoughts on “It was a bad call, Turbine, a bad call!

  1. James July 31, 2009 / 12:40 pm

    wow, this sucks!

    I was going to drop my WAR account for F2P DDO….things aren’t going THAT badly in beta that they need to postpone it a month!!

    Guess I’ll be doing only the Champions beta for a few weeks!

  2. Andrew July 31, 2009 / 12:49 pm

    Given the lag I’ve experienced in the beta, it is the right call from a purely technical perspective. If, under loads tightly controlled by Turbine, the game is running slowly at peak hours….. then imagine when ANYONE can make an account an log in. First impressions being what they are, a laggy relaunch would be the final nail in the game’s coffin.

    Further, I think that the people waiting for the F2P are not (generally) the same people waiting on Aion or Champions…. they are instead people who want to casually play something rather different. That won’t change even with a pushed release date. (I admit though: August would have been IDEAL.)

    As a purely speculative exercise, I’ll bet that turbine’s internal development staff identified the performance issue early but thought they had a good handle on the solution, implemented the change, and rolled it onto the beta server last week. The solution failed (or wasn’t as effective as necessary) and that only became apparent in the last few days that further optimizations were required. Much hand-wringing ensued, and someone made the hard decision to push back the date a day or two ago, and then spent the remaining time until today trying to figure out how to put a positive spin on it.

  3. Werit July 31, 2009 / 1:16 pm

    I have a mind to subscribe and then cancel in disgust! Yay Friday 😉

  4. Sven July 31, 2009 / 1:24 pm

    I saw a couple of “tweets” going to @turbine a few days ago mentioning an exploit in the store which could be used to get “free credits”. I dismissed it as someone just looking gain some followers. But with this news I starting to rethink that.

    Whatever the reason is, this is BAD for Turbine.

  5. Thunder July 31, 2009 / 1:36 pm

    There were some folks online bragging about how they had figured out how to get 10,000 free credits for the store. I’m guessing some things came up in the beta this week that drove the announcement.

    Potential bugs in the money source can do that.

  6. Capn John July 31, 2009 / 2:14 pm

    I’m still curious as to whether or not you need to buy a retail copy of the game, or at least an activation code, in order to gain access to the F2P content.

    Will Turbine just let any old Tom, Dick & Harriet download the client, create an account & play for free (a la “Runes of Magic”), or will you need to pony up for a copy of the game first?

  7. Syp July 31, 2009 / 2:23 pm

    You don’t have to buy a copy of the game at all — it’ll be a free download. Also, they’ve made it so that it lets you create your character while the game continues to download in the background, instead of having to have it completely finished before you log in.

  8. Green Armadillo July 31, 2009 / 2:34 pm

    Given how many games launch in miserable condition, I’m prepared to applaud them on principle for actually admitting that it’s not ready to go yet.

  9. Capn John July 31, 2009 / 2:35 pm

    Syp, that’s awesome, and perfect timing, as my two W101 subs expire in a couple of months as well. I don’t reckon it would take long to get my son interested in DDO, even if he is just 9. Of course he enters 4th Grade in September so maybe he doesn’t need distractions, or, this could be exactly what he needs to get off his duff and get his homework done in a timely manner.

    “Son, the sooner you’re done here, the sooner you can play DDO. So get cracking on that algebra!”

  10. Pete S July 31, 2009 / 2:45 pm

    Well that explains why the Turbine folks were in the offices early and then so quiet all day.

    I’m disappointed but can’t find it in me to get that bent out of shape over it. I have to assume it wasn’t a trivial decision for them, and if they’re willing to take the punch in the face that this is giving them, they must have a good reason.

  11. Victor Stillwater August 1, 2009 / 1:26 am

    Better a good game arrive late than a bad game show up way too soon. 😀

  12. skarbd August 2, 2009 / 3:35 am

    If it’s not ready then it’s the right decision to delay. It makes more sense to annoy a few rabid fan boys, than to annoy the newer wider population.

    It’s very very hard to change a first impression, nay on impossible. So anything that can be done to make that first impression as sweet as possible, needs to be done.

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