SOE dropped a sizable bombshell last Thursday, announcing that the benefits of PlanetSide 2 Premium Memberships would change from 500 Station Cash a month to a selection of items with a value of up to 2000 SC.
In a follow-up post to Reddit on Monday, John Smedley went into great detail regarding the changes, why they were being made and, most importantly, what they mean for the future of SOE’s games. Smedley explained that the $14.99/month plan would eventually extend to all of SOE’s games, letting you “subscribe” to all of them for one fee and providing the same benefit – a free item per month – in each game.
The catch? You have to log into each game, at least once per month, to claim your reward. Between that and the perceived lack of choice, some players – many loyal subscribers – were up in arms about the changes.
And so Smedley announced a change to the the changes Tuesday afternoon, effectively lowering the price of SOE’s All Access plan by $5 while keeping the 500 SC monthly stipend instead of the “monthly item” bonus. This is probably a better deal for PlanetSide 2 players but, in my opinion, hurts the overall SOE fan base.
I suppose that your view of these proposed changes are largely dependent on two factors: how much you play PS2 (and other SOE games, once they’re added to the mix) and whether the value of the new reward would have equaled or exceeded the value of the old. Addressing the second one first, all we can say about that is: who knows? We know what 500 SC is, and what it can buy, but we don’t know what kind of value you’d have received for your mythical “up to 2000 SC” item. Replacing a known with an unknown is the surest way to get people to panic, even if the unknown is unquestionably better.
Indeed, most of the negative feedback seemed to come from people who played PS2 exclusively or who claimed to be very occasional players and would have trouble meeting the monthly login requirement. Smedley referred to an issue of people who purchase a sub and then never log on again, letting their SC accumulate. The exact accounting issue is pretty complex, and I invite everyone to read the first Reddit post before jumping to a conclusion as to whether this is good/bad accounting – and I’m not sure I understand it all myself. People spending money they don’t ever use is apparently a bigger deal than it seems like it should be. #FirstWorldProblems
So when the reversal was announced, that appeared to lead to another backlash – a back-backlash? – from people who liked the idea, especially the notion of getting a free item in all of SOE’s games. This sounds good if you play, or plan to play, more SOE games than PS2, and can at least be bothered to check in on them every month, but I think the plan was torpedoed by subpar communication of the plan and its long-term goals.
Which brings me to, I think, SOE’s big mistake in all this: not the policy itself, which was probably discussed, re-discussed, and hashed out over several hours’ of meetings, and seemed to be the best fit, but the announcement of the policy in a brief, rather non-explanatory post on the PlanetSide 2 forums.
This is a major change, potentially affecting all SOE games, and should have been given the gravity and attention it deserved. The thread in question already received 40+ pages of replies before Smedley took to Reddit. It should have probably had an entire FAQ page in line with what’s on the All Access page. If such details aren’t ready to be announced, then the policy change as a whole shouldn’t be announced. In essence, you don’t announce a change to how people will give you their money and not expect a million questions and widespread speculation.
(Also, can we please put an end to the “we are excited” verbiage in announcements and press releases, and not just in the video game industry? Nobody’s buying it any more. The consumers will decide how exciting something is, not the companies.)
As a “dabbler,” I’d say I would have been happier with the multi-sub and per-game item as originally proposed, especially once EverQuest Next and Landmark come out. Heck, I might have even taken another peek at EverQuest II or logged in a little more often to DC Universe Online or Free Realms. I think this is a case where the hardcore minority got their way; while there were some valid concerns regarding the plan, I think tweaks, and not a wholesale change, would have been satisfactory.
But that’s just my view. What do you think? Did you like the old proposal? Or the new one? Or is there something else in between that you would have liked.
P.S.: Just as I finished this article, Smedley made one more post to Reddit to talk about his company’s decision-making process and prioritization of gameplay over profits. Give it a read.