Big news yesterday, as SOE announced that EverQuest Next Landmark was starting to sell pre-order packages, I’m sorry, Founder’s Packs. This was paired with the news of test schedule dates, with alpha being “on or before” 2/28/14 and closed beta “on or before” 3/31/14. So alpha for a month, closed beta for a month, and presumably open beta in April.
Lots of excitement and debate over these pre-order packages, especially since one of the big selling points is getting that alpha or beta access. For some folks, paying for alpha/beta is a win-win scenario for studios (“they’re paying to test our game!”) at the expense (literally) of the playerbase. Of course, this sort of thing is nothing new; Ultima Online sold beta keys back in the 90s, and just about every Kickstarter MMO out there right now has early access/alpha access/beta access as part of their reward tiers. And those might not even come out at all — at least Landmark is a pretty sure bet, right?
Hey, I’m not going to tell you how to spend your money. Heaven knows that I usually go a little bonkers with pre-orders and collector’s editions (can’t wait to see what WildStar’s is!). But this is making me contemplate.
First of all, I am still trying to get a feel for what Landmark *is*, and I don’t think I’m the only one. It’s something a little bit different to the point where SOE is struggling to sell it clearly. It’s both a toolset and a full MMO. It will have many of the same features of EverQuest Next but it also won’t. It’ll have multiple worlds and ways to sell your creations for real money and I don’t know what else. Honestly, if EQN and EQNL came out at the same time, I’d probably go straight to EQN without apology just for the clarity of it all.
That’s not to say that Landmark doesn’t look intriguing. I’m hearing really, really good things about its toolset, its ease of use, and I think the potential could be incredible. And the fact that it’s coming out first means that even if Next is your thing, you can either get a taste of what Next is like with Landmark or just wait. I don’t think gamers are generally patient enough to wait.
MJ told me yesterday that even though there will be alpha and beta wipes, you will be able to save your creations via templates, so there’s some persistence that will happen. This kind of changes my approach. Normally I’m not that keen on betas, but a beta that allows me to carry some progress forward is a different story.
Then there are the packages. The lowest tier is $20 for closed beta, a banner, and a fancy pickaxe, but once beta ends that’s not a lot that you’re going to retain for the live game. For me, if I’m going to buy into one of these, I might as well either go for the higher-priced packages. Increased inventory, a fancy vault, bonuses to gathering and crafting, cool outfits (which you can see in videos), and that alpha/beta access. The $100 package has the most bells and whistles, including a two-day head start in the open beta to stake your claims and get the best plots before everyone else comes in.
I think this last perk won’t be as big of a deal as some think it is. The worlds will be large and undoubtedly SOE will be releasing new worlds (and virgin territory) as time goes on.
So far I haven’t bought anything. I might wait until after Christmas to do so, if I do at all. It’s important to remember that Landmark, like Next, will be free-to-play. These packages are just niceties, not necessities.