The more this Sony/SOE thing stretches out, the more I’m just absolutely fascinated and boondoggled. I’m certainly not dancing on SOE’s grave or delighting in the frustration and uncertainty of its players — after all, how would any of us feel if our MMO suddenly got shut down for an extended period of time and its future became uncertain due to a fallout of customer trust? As I’ve said before, most of us operate under the illusion that our online games will persist indefinitely, that they’ll always be there. Suddenly, SOE folks are confronted with their games’ mortality, and real or imaginary, it’s got to be unsettling.
And while I certainly sympathize, as a blogger, journalist and generally curious amateur historian, I’m really curious how this will all play out. To my memory, we’ve just never seen a situation like this in the MMO industry, ever. Sure, we’ve seen individual games crash or studios spiral downhill, but never like this and never as widespread as this.
So the future is up in the air, and the blogosphere is thick with speculation. I’ve noted that some of the more level-headed bloggers are expressing strong doubt that SOE can even pull out of this at all, and even if it does, it will be hobbled. To quote Tipa:
“But I worry. I worry about SOE and their games. SOE just recently had some pretty massive layoffs. After a strong start, their latest MMO, DC Universe Online, tanked on the PC. That can’t be good with such an expensive IP. Now that game is looking at a month and a half of nobody being able to play it. PC players have already abandoned it, and PS3 players will be playing some other game. So, DCUO is likely dead now. Vanguard’s handful of players can’t be expected to stick around, so that game is dead. SWG only had until SWTOR came out to live, anyway; ironically, pre-NGE SWG might have been different enough from SWTOR to co-exist. Anyway, SWG – dead.”
Honestly? Your guess is as good as mine. I think any crystal ball that tries to predict what happens next is going to shatter from the numerous possibilities that are out there, such as:
- SOE comes back online, business as usual, SOE is merely out a month or so of subscription fees but the players are loyal enough to stick around.
- SOE bounces back better than before, thanks to all of the free publicity this generated and the hunger to play on the part of the fans who’ve been forced into fasting the past couple weeks.
- SOE kills some of its titles, merges servers with others.
- SOE lays off more staff to recoup costs.
- SOE becomes a much smaller operation whose AAA days are long past, and perhaps refocuses in a different direction.
- SOE is forced to put PlanetSide Next and EverQuest Next on indefinite hold or cancel them outright, just like with The Agency
- SOE throws all its chips into the PS Next/EQ Next basket and all but abandons its underperforming titles
- SOE moves to grow and expand its most recent successes, Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures, at the exclusion of all else
- SOE sells some or all of its MMOs to other studios
- This is the death knell for SOE, and they will close up shop eventually because of it
Again, no personal ill will toward the company or its players. I’d really hate to see this come to a bad end, if nothing else than it would upset a lot of players who love these worlds, people depend on these games for their livelihoods, and I never am happy when a studio folds. It’s certainly not a good year for this all to happen in terms of the strength of SOE’s competition, but stranger things have happened than a studio coming back from a bad hit like this to regain its former glory and then some.
What say you? What’s the most likely outcome?