Join us after the cut for a revealing discussion about Everquest II's new F2P flavor, the state of the Live servers, comparisons with Lord of the Rings Online's recent business model conversion, class manifestos, and a possible dungeon finder.
Dave Georgeson: It's doing really well, I don't know whether you've played it or not. One of the things that is particularly cool about our F2P product is that there's so many people trying it all the time that the early zones never die. One of the typical problems with an MMO is that your early zones get so empty and stale because there's never anybody there, but there's so many people checking out the game on a regular basis that they fill in the gaps. There's still about the same percentage of people that come in and play, but so many new people are coming in to check out the game, it's just been really fun. It's doing well, I've really enjoyed it. It's a good business experiment, a good game experience, everything's good with it and we're really happy with it.
Jumping right in, how to do you feel about the population on the Live servers, given the F2P success?
The Live servers haven't really dipped at all. We don't usually release numbers, but a very small percentage of people transferred over to EQ2X. We can watch everybody's account, we know where they go, we can check out who's going where with what credit cards, we know where our population is drifting and whether they're leaving or not, and only a small percentage of people have gone across to Extended. This was predictable because some of the people had guild halls, circles of friends, well-established communities and all of that stuff. They don't want to leave that. An even smaller percentage of people quit in a blue funk about it. In general, the populations are still very stable.
I hate saying stuff like that because everybody thinks "oh he's a company hack and that's what he's supposed to say," but in this instance it's actually the truth. [laughs]
It's really cool, we predicted that some people would drift over; some people like to buy stuff on the marketplace and some people like the by-product of the F2P experience and the fact that there's so many people on the servers all the time, but in general it was pretty predictable. If you spend two months decorating your house, you're not just going to bail on that to start on a new server.
Exactly. You're committed. On the F2P side, is the demand what you expected and anticipated?
It's doing real well considering the only thing we've done up until now has been one press release.
That is pretty good.
The word of mouth, I know we had a bunch of people come back and check it out again that had played EQII or EQ1 before, and weren't currently playing it. Again we're dancing around the actual numbers, but fully half of the people that have come to check out the game and have stuck with it are completely new, which is great, and that's really why we did it. I knew from having done F2P stuff before, that there's a lot of people out there who just won't commit to it. Not only the $50 upfront cost for the game, but the monthly subscription cost, they just won't do it. There's too many other F2P options out there they'd rather go dabble with. I knew if we gave them something that was a really high quality product, and gave them the opportunity to try it out for free, we'd get a lot of people that are like, "Oh my God, this is awesome. I'll stick around for awhile." A certain percentage of those people will want to pay for something on the marketplace or subscribe to a membership, but honestly most of them don't pay us a penny. The cool thing is, the game is so much more fun because there's so many more people playing it that it ends up being successful across the board.
Are there plans to expand beyond the one F2P server?
We're letting the population decide when we launch more F2P. We're just about to do the marketing thing where we launch and take the beta tag off of it, and we're thinking that's going to bring in a lot more people. As the population fills up on the server, we have new ones sitting there waiting and we'll start activating new ones as we need them.
You're actually leading into the next question a little bit. EQ2X looks to have much more content than LOTRO since it's a much bigger, older game with a ton of update history behind it. That said, I'm not sure many players are aware of that fact. What kind of marketing plans do you have to address this?
We're trying. I tell everybody and their brother that MMOs don't get old, they get better. The longer the game is successful and the longer you can keep people around, the richer the game gets. I really like our subscription matrix. People have compared it favorably or unfavorably to LOTRO and things like that, but I love that we don't have any content locks on it, you can play it all the way up to the latest expansion without paying a dime, and that's huge. That's like 80 levels of content and a huge, gigantic world. So yeah, I really like what we're doing.