Before Minecraft, CityVille and World of Warcraft, there was another gaming sensation that we gathered over for our massively-multiplayer experiences: that game was EverQuest. My dad played the game from its beta in March of 1999 and for its time, it was an incredibly fun experience that also looked really good, too (it was one of the first PC games that required a 3D accelerator). Well, it seems that in light of the fact that Sony Online Entertainment never found a suitable replacement for the franchise, word is going out that three of their five studios and two hundred jobs are being nixed.
EverQuest was popular, so a sequel landed five years later (although it lacked the imagination or success of the original), but SOE also built out a plethora of games along with it. Their next big effort was Star Wars: Galaxies, which was not only a monumental failure out of the gate, but scared away many of their loyal players with a game-gutting update that removed many of its classes in an attempt to mimic WoW‘s success. PlanetSide was a noble attempt to make a massively-multiplayer FPS (think Battlefield, but on a much grander scale), but it never caught on big, either. Sony footed the publishing bill for The Matrix Online after Ubisoft bailed on it, but it was neither a great game nor success for the publisher – who shut it down a few years later. Recently, they cancelled The Agency, which was touted as a spy themed MMO for PS3 and PC while their recently-published DC Universe Online has also failed to ignite imaginations.
SOE was one of the first companies to have a ‘Pass’ to all of their MMO games in one $29.99/month subscription, but this is implied value: many weren’t worth playing. While it’s sad to see jobs lost in the gaming industry, SOE simply lacked the imagination of their contemporaries. Blizzard released World of Warcraft in late 2004 and as one game, it has done more business than all of Sony’s online ventures combined and then some. For now, they’re pushing forward with EverQuest and PlanetSide games and some day they’ll get it, but it’s too late for some now. NCSoft, you’re on watch.