As is wont to happen, the recent news about SOE's layoffs sparked a flurry of speculation about the fate of the various games in the studio's portfolio. In fact, it's not terribly unlike the the speculation after the unveiling of EverQuest Next. Will EQ Next/SOE layoffs kill off my beloved *insert game title here*? In the case of EverQuest II, I feel fairly confident that the answer is a resounding no. I've even said as much before. Unfortunately, I can't confidently say the same for other titles, even though I'm pulling for the success of them all.
If anything, I get the impression that SOE is circling the wagons around its flagship IP, solidifying its attention on the franchise that started it all. Where do I get that idea? Well, keep reading to find out!
Now, while I firmly believe that EQII isn't in any danger of folding, that's not to say that I think it's safe from any staff reduction. Even before it became public that specific staff from our neck of the portfolio-woods were hit, I knew that it was likely EQII would feel the pinch in some form. Of course, I am saddened to see it came to that (and I seriously wish all the affected the best and much luck in future endeavors), but of all the teams, EQII was one of the larger ones and could more easily adapt to the loss of a few without adversely affecting development too much. Think about it: If one of the smaller teams lost a couple of people, that would be much more crippling.
Despite what doom-and-gloomers lament, layoffs do not denote The End; they are a natural part of business, and the ebb and flow of hiring and layoffs has happened before, yet the game is still here. If you don't believe me, since the game is free-to-play, you can log in for yourself right now -- minus any download and patch time needed.
I saw the signs
So what are the signs that point me to the conclusion that all members of the franchise will remain alive and healthy for a long while, despite the incoming addition of a newer and shinier EQ title? For starters, it is the extent of the content still being added to both EverQuest and EQII (just look at the updates and expansions over the last year as well as the new ones coming this fall).
Added to that is the way that the devs -- from the top on down -- speak about the games. And by "speak," I mean in person, not necessarily in print. I was there at SOE Live for the last two years and got to sit down with the bigwigs both times and hear them talk about EQII. There is a deep-seated passion for and pride in the IP that is so palpable, I honestly think the entire SOE ship would have to sink before the studio let go anything on the PC with an E or Q in the title (other than EQOA, which I'll get to in a minute). As Franchise Director Dave Georgeson has said, "It should be EverQuest." He may have been specifically talking about what game should be the one to change up the genre, but I think it also points to what should just plain be in the industry, period!
Admittedly, SOE has shuttered a few titles, but let's look at the most notable ones that have been offloaded. Discounting Star Wars Galaxies (which couldn't continue without a renewed license from LucasArts), we know the games that are MIA from portfolio are ones that SOE just published rather than created: Pirates of the Burning Sea (which sailed away) was created by Flying Lab Software, and The Matrix Online (which has sunsetted) was created by Monolith. The one big exception was the closing down of EverQuest Online Adventures, the console entry to the fabled franchise.
Some of you might be disputing these last two paragraphs by pointing out that EverQuest II Extended also had the plugged pulled on it. However, Extended wasn't a separate game so much as EQII with a free-to-play ruleset, which became unnecessary when the full game joined the F2P ranks, so I didn't include it.
EQN is boosting EQII
I've noted in the past that the chances of die-hard, multi-year veterans leaving their favorite games for the next EQ incarnation is not phenomenal. Sure, a number of them have expressed the desire to check it out, but a good portion of people who have put 8+ years in any game are unlikely to permanently leave all their hard work behind. Trust me, I've tried! So I firmly believe EQ Next will not kill off EQII by means of a mass migration of players abandoning the latter for the former. And what's been really interesting to see over this past month is how EQN is actually bolstering EQII right now.
Following the excitement of the upcoming version of Norrath, there are a number of old veterans and new players alike delving into EverQuest II. I've been (pleasantly) surprise by the number of names lighting up on my friends list again, folks who have been gone since before the server merges all those years ago. I also bump into so many more players in the starting zones and field plenty of newbie questions about the game and its features.
Sure, this evidence is anecdotal -- I don't have any hard data numbers from SOE -- but it is very visible and very real, at least on my server. And the influx gives a morale boost to other players as well. We're glad to show off the game we love, and I've heard anumber of new folks express their new-found fondness for it. Will some of these players remain with EQII even after the next game comes out? It's possible! Even if they leave for newer shores, there's still a year of EQII gaming ahead of them, if not more. And a lot can happen in that time, from forming bonds to starting projects, things that might very well tie them to this title even beyond the EQN launch.
I think EverQuest Next has been and will continue to be good for EverQuest II. And unlike the infamous ring, there can be more than one! Heck, I myself will be playing the new game, but I'll also keeping my roots in the old. There are features in the one that aren't in the other (as far as we know right now), so I can certainly enjoy both. It's two customers in one! In the end, I think the EQ franchise is healthy, even amid layoffs. To borrow (and slightly mangle) the motto of the postman: Neither rain nor layoffs nor new titles nor gloom of night will stay this title from providing entertainment to EverQuest fans.
EverQuest II is so big that it takes two authors to make sense of it all! Join Jef Reahard and MJ Guthrie as they explore Norrathian nooks and crannies from the Overrealm to Timorous Deep. Running every Saturday, The Tattered Notebook is your resource for all things EQII and EQNext -- and catch MJ every 'EverQuest Two-sday' on Massively TV!