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 EverQuest II Extended  A Unique Take On Free-To-Play
EverQuest II Extended A Unique Take On Free-To-Play
July 27, 2010 | By Kris Graft

July 27, 2010 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

After five years years in service, Sony Online Entertainment's MMORPG EverQuest II is going free-to-play -- but not in the same way as other MMOs have done in the past.

Instead of turning EverQuest II into a completely free-to-play MMO powered by virtual item sales, SOE is introducing a "parallel" free-to-play version of the game, EverQuest II Extended. The new version, whose beta launches this August, will generate revenue through microtransactions, while the subscription-based version will continue to operate separately.

EverQuest II producer David Georgeson told Gamasutra that SOE made the move to spark growth in a "stable" yet stagnant subscriber base that's held back by a steep learning curve and a monthly subscription fee.

"What we needed to do was open it up to a large number of people who have never seen [EverQuest II] before," Georgeson said. "And the obvious way to do that was to break down the walls between the game experience and the players that might want to check it out."

The idea behind EverQuest II Extended arose recently -- just before June's E3 convention this year, Georgeson said. The game will include free access to all EverQuest II game zones through The Shadow Odyssey. Players will be able to buy power-up potions,‭ ‬armor,‭ ‬classes,‭ ‬races,‭ ‬weapons,‭ ‬mounts and and other items through the game's marketplace.‭

While players of the free-to-play version and subscription version don't interact within the game, EverQuest II Extended players do have the option to upgrade to a $15 per month "gold" membership. SOE is also taking steps to continually improve EverQuest II and EverQuest II Extended's user-interface to make it more newbie-friendly.

Having to retrofit virtual item buys into a game that was not conceived with that model in mind could present design challenges. Georgeson claimed that EverQuest II: Extended, however, is an easy fit for microtransactions.

"Believe it or not there were very few [problems], actually," he said. "We had to figure out what we wanted to restrict, what we wanted people to purchase. You know, if we made it completely free it wouldn't be a very good business decision."

He added, "Our biggest concern was not alienating the existing subscribers, and that's why we wanted a completely separate service." Georgeson said that SOE did consider taking EverQuest II completely free-to-play.

"Our players told us many times that they didn't want 'shortcut convenience-style items' in their marketplace," he said. "They didn't want the feeling that people could empty out their wallets and succeed inside the game. We're not exactly like that on [EverQuest II Extended] either, but it's a very emotional thing for our existing players."

Georgeson said he hopes the new service will encourage growth in the aging yet respected franchise. "Our subscription numbers have not been dipping. In fact, they've been holding pretty stable. But stable isn't really where we want to be at."

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andrew ogle
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why would anyone pay for everquest then if they could play it for free?

jayvee inamac
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If i move from free-to-play to paid, will my progress(items, skill, levels,etc) be carried over?

Ragnarok Online did something similar to this (for Philippines, not sure about other countries though), but i don't think they actually believe that people will move from free-to-play servers to the paid ones. i think its more of maintaining the community rather than serving as their primary business.

Aaron Truehitt
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Ragnarok Online did do this for America. However, the F2P server had lower drop rates, full of bots, lower exp, etc. The F2P did have more people, but many were bots. The P2P was much smaller I believe, but you did get an increase in stuff. I don't know if you transfered to paying if it would carry over though. So I don't know if having seperate servers for F2P and P2P is a good idea. It makes more sense to combine them all and people who do pay get better drop rates etc. Maybe not. It's hard to decide.

Douglas Rae
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F2P is a bunch of rubbish. They will always say they will be different but will instead be like any other F2P model: there will be boosting items and your wallet weight will make a massive difference, otherwise, where is the barrier between the choice of F2P and Subscription to stop the subs going to F2P?

"We're going for a F2P model, but we're going to do it differently" - Yep, you will be unique.. just like everyone else. Your giving your main revenue stream a get out of jail free card. Like BT going fully SIP and removing call charges - optionally.

DDO - Turned from a decent little game that died after the first 10 levels - causing people to not resubscribe and just leave. It now has turned into one big advertisement... where is the RPG in that? Ill role play a consumer in real life that is receptive to advertisement aimed at me; I want to get away from that shit in a game. I pay for entertainment; not for advertisement.

Some of you really need to pull your head's out of your asses and realize that your making games; not billboards. Want people to play your game? Build a good one; stop retro-shitting more out of the same pile.

The article basically just said it all - we're moving to a different way for people to pay us money, fooling them into thinking it will be more accessible ... but they haven't committed to the last part - its a piss in the wind compared to the money side!

"Hi you can now afford to buy this BMW with our low monthly payment plan.. oh yeah we might improve it so it drives better" - Money first; entertainment later.

Chris Proctor
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"Unique" is the wrong word, considering that the idea of running parallel subscription and free-to-play servers has been done before.

The one that springs to mind is Puzzle Pirates, which started doing it years ago. Seems to have worked out very well for them . . .

"EverQuest II Extended: A Repeat of Three Rings' Take On Free-To-Play"

Maybe not :D