Aimless and Nameless: Did SOE Pull a Fast One on Landmark Founders?
What's in a name? To some people, quite a bit, apparently.
When SOE decided to drop the “EverQuest Next” part from Landmark's title, it seemed like a reasonable move. “EverQuest Next Landmark” was a long, bulky name that invited confusion with the “real” EverQuest Next. A rebranding/renaming was all but required.
But dropping the iconic EverQuest name from the title didn't sit well with everyone, as evidenced by a lengthy thread on the Landmark forums. The tl;dr conspiracy theory is that SOE effectively crowdfunded the game through EverQuest fans who were excited about taking part in the development of the next chapter of the franchise, and then yanked the EQ-ness out of it once their financial goals were met and they decided that it was time to make the game more appealing to a wider, less EQ-savvy audience.
While the number of Landmark alpha testers who are only interested in an EverQuest-branded game are in the minority, they're not inconsequential, either. And with some of them having been invested in the franchise for a decade and a half, they're certainly not going to be quiet if they feel they've been slighted – especially if money's involved.
We'll never know exactly what SOE's process was behind this decision, but from the start, gamers have expressed confusion between the similarly titled EverQuest Next and EverQuest Next Landmark. Some kind of name change made sense. It may have seemed obvious months ago, before the games were revealed at SOE Fan Faire, but decisions that seem great in meeting rooms and focus groups often don't carry over into the real world.
Why not at lest keep “EverQuest” in the name and go with “EverQuest Landmark”? While I think this would have been the most prudent move, I can understand SOE's decision not to. At its core, Landmark is a freeform building tool, with players creating all sorts of things that have nothing to do with the EverQuest franchise, or even fantasy gaming in general. In alpha, I saw a “cowboys & aliens” build that was a western town with a train and a couple of spaceships. Norrath it ain't.
There's something else to consider too; storied as it is, if you were to put it up against other franchises right now, the EverQuest name wouldn't fare all that well. EQ was king back in the day, but there's been no totally new entry in the franchise for nearly 10 years. EverQuest topped out at less than 500,000 subscribers and it, combined with EverQuest II, probably has around 100,000 players today, at most. That's a small drop in the very big pond of MMOs, and many current MMO players have probably never even played either title. SOE knows this and wants to make sure those players don't feel that they need to have a background in EverQuest-ology to enjoy Landmark.
Those are three good, non-conspiratorial, reasons for the name change. But even if one (or more) of those is the “official” reason, and might even be what SOE staff believe, could there have been a nefarious plan in place from the beginning, conceived and approved at the highest levels, to wring EQ fans' nostalgia from them, one $99 Founder's Pack at a time?
I think that's highly unlikely. A while back, John Smedley offered refunds to Founder's Pack recipients who were unhappy with Landmark. I reached out to SOE to find out if refunds were still available and got this response:
Yes, refunds are absolutely still available for Founder’s Pack purchasers.
Generally player response to the name change has been quite supportive. Over the last few months there has been a good deal of confusion about how EverQuest Next and Landmark are different games. If changing the name helps more people understand the products are connected in some ways, but still absolutely different games, then that is a good thing. Clearly this doesn’t mean it’s always possible to please everyone, but that is one of the reasons we’ve have such a flexible refund policy since the very beginning of Alpha.
Offering refunds is a lousy way to scam people (and goes firmly against the First Rule of Acquisition).
Finally, there's the fact that Landmark is still the exact same game as EverQuest Next Landmark. There's no reason to believe the content, monetization plan, art assets, or anything else has been “de-EverQuested,” at least no more than it would have been originally. If your heart truly is broken that it doesn't have the EQ name attached to it anymore, get your refund and wait until EverQuest Next comes out. Unless you think they're just going to rope you in again and rename that game “Next.”
About the Author
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.
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