SOE: Fog of War

I have to ask: What’s going on over at SOE these days?

I always feel like I need to put a clarification with any SOE posts that go along the lines of “I don’t personally dislike this company, although I don’t play any of their games and have never really been attracted to the attitude and products that this company puts out.”  You know, a really wishy-washy stance.  Backhanded compliments mixed with forehanded insults.  That sort of thing.

I guess I’m just puzzled when I glance over at SOE, because I really don’t “get” them.  I’ve tried quite a few of their games, and they’ve rolled off me like oil on a duck.  Maybe that’s water (scientists out there: conduct some experiments now!).  I am personally put off by the visuals in EQ2 and SWG and Vanguard, and think that they’ve gone a little too over the line with the money-grubbing that goes with their shameless Station store.  But that’s just me and my perspective, and I certainly wouldn’t foist that on you.

But what I think us as a community needs to be doing is to ask SOE what the heck they’re doing as of late.  It’s just been a weird year for them all around.  LOTRO announces that they’re implementing a F2P mode, and before you know it, EQ2 shows up to the same party, puffing a bit as if it was out of breath running to catch up — nevermind a couple months earlier, when they quickly jumped on the super-expensive microtransaction mount bandwagon that Blizzard started.  They fling out a third iteration of EverQuest — EverQuest “Next” — with such vagueness that every fanboy and fangirl has been transplanting their personal hopes and dreams onto it.

The company is all about showing off The Agency at E3, and then completely sweeps it under the rug to the point where it’s anyone’s guess if this title is barely on life support or already vaporware (it’s not a good sign when CMs haven’t even talked on the forums for two months).  SOE completely skips PAX, and now — a mere month before its launch date — delays DC Universe Online until early next year.  In a weird coincidence, yesterday morning I was just asking some people in chat and on Twitter what was going on with DCUO, seeing as how the marketing team has been low key to the point of being comatose, which isn’t something you normally see for a major title this close to launch.

Even if you take all of this separate incidences that aren’t connected, these still paint a picture of a company that isn’t really offering its players a sense of security so much as an octopus flailing wildly because it’s found dry land and is attempting to figure out what to do next.  Change is part of the MMO field, sure, but every time I hear something from SOE lately, it doesn’t seem the good kind of change.

Other than observing all this and my gut telling me that something is awry, it’s all speculation past this.  Is SOE in trouble, somehow?  They’ve been reeling from a lot of layoffs, of course, but it’s not all bad news from the company, after all — Pirates of the Burning Sea released an expansion, EQ2X seems like it’s doing decently, and Clone Adventures is ripping up the charts.

I do feel bad for those who were really excited about DCUO — this announcement couldn’t be timed worse, especially with Blizzard-the-MMO-turtle finally committing to a Cataclysm release date.  I might’ve tried DCUO in 2010, but in 2011?  Man, there’s going to be so much to play next year that I may have to actually clone myself.

10 thoughts on “SOE: Fog of War

  1. Wilhelm2451 October 5, 2010 / 11:00 am

    I think we’re still seeing some shake-up from SOE moving from Sony Pictures, which seemed to let them wander about as they pleased so long as they made some money, to working for the PlayStation people, a group who definitely have a strong agenda.

    So you can draw your own parallel I suppose between SOE jumping on every item shop trend and PlayStation Move, a clear jump on the Wii bandwagon.

    As for The Agency… they were hyping that up back in 2007 like it was going to ship that year. And then it didn’t and we didn’t hear anything for ages. Then it was back, then there was a Facebook game to help hype it up. And now we’re back to nothing.

    We speak of The Agency and, from somewhere of late, a hollow voice says, “Tabula Rasa.”

  2. Sharon October 5, 2010 / 11:16 am

    I agree with you completely. I just don’t *get* SOE, and the recent Massively interview with Dave Georgeson had me wondering if any of the folks making the decisions actually play their own games (or anyone else’s).

    A couple of months ago, I walked away from a Station Account and skipped back to LotRO, not because I was disgruntled about EQ2 (I supported it going F2P), but because I didn’t like the unsettled feeling of not knowing where my game, or the company running it, was going.

  3. We Fly Spitfires October 5, 2010 / 11:25 am

    I know exactly what you mean. I’ve always been frustrated with SOE due to their lack of clarity. They – in my opinion – produce some great games yet always seem to get let down by their marketing and communication.

  4. PeterD October 5, 2010 / 1:04 pm

    Sadly I think the company is just mismanaged and is making some bad decisions. The fact that they’re now run by the playstation people makes me wonder if the PC release was pushed back because it wasn’t done, or was pushed back because the PS3 version wasn’t done and the playstation people insisted on a simultaneous release.

    An early November release would have been ideal for box sales due to a complete lack of any MMO competition. They would have lost subs in December though, no doubt. Unfortunately, by releasing in 2011 they’re likely to have reduced box sales AND lose subs when games like GW2 and SW:TOR come out. Yay?

    If it’s truly because the game was unfinished, then good on SOE for making the hard choice. If it’s just because the PS3 version isn’t ready and they want a simultaneous release (to avoid losing more valuable PS3 sales to less valuable PC sales) then shame on SOE for being so stupid and blind.

  5. RPG TITLES October 5, 2010 / 2:01 pm

    It does seem odd how they are going about things these days. They seem to be more of a follower than a leader in the gaming industry. I find the stores to be a little much.

  6. Efithor October 5, 2010 / 3:44 pm

    Perhaps what the modern MMO developer needs is transparency. We want to know what they are doing, and I devour any kind of developer blog that is issued. If the community can get a good look into what the company is working, our reaction should be an excellent barometer for any game company.

  7. Utakata October 5, 2010 / 9:54 pm

    In fairness though…from the just released DCUO beta footage I saw this afternoon, this game is far from being ready. It was a good thing they decided pushed back the date. Just saying…

  8. gazruney October 6, 2010 / 2:58 am

    I certainly feel that SOE see’s customers opinion as an annoyance and not possible helpfull feedback. In fact they can be downright arrogant at times in my opinion.
    I don’t think I personally will ever understand how and why they operate the way the do /shrug.

  9. Isey October 6, 2010 / 7:23 am

    I vote for merger/acquisition/selloff.

    I mean, having two highly anticipated titles not yet released definitely holds more cash value than two flops/underperformers, right?

    I started with SOE in EQ beta, and ended with them at Planes of Power expansion. I’ve dabbled with their releases since, but yeah, they definitely lack (the) Vistion ™ (pardon the pun) and seem less like a game making machine than a corporation seeking profits. Reminds me of Wal-Mart. Everything is cheaper there, and the quality reflects the price.

    EQ Next will be a defining moment for the company a a whole, if it’s still around to release it.

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