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.