Since the release of the EverQuest Next Landmark alpha in February and all the surrounding hoopla it seems that everyone is in the alpha. To be honest, I can’t think of a Twitch.tv streamer that is not in the alpha. Many of them are giving away free alpha accounts and codes for in-game items. Rumor has it that there is an unpublicized SOE “insider” program where a select number of websites and superstar Twitch.tv streamers get to dole out free promotional goodies on behalf of SOE.
To their credit, SOE has run a masterful and rather ingenious promotion campaign. With all the positive press surrounding Landmark, maybe it’s time for a different perspective. So let’s take a brief time out and dispense with the hype and cheer-leading that has emanated from SOE and their sycophants in the gaming media. For a few fleeting minutes, let’s go off the script and challenge the official narrative and dare to talk frankly about what it’s like not to be in the alpha.
First though, let’s acknowledge the passion of those of you who are in the alpha. I applaud your dedication, commitment and financial resources. And for some of you, it must be awfully nice to have connections with SOE. I really wish I could be there in the alpha with you. However, this article is not for you. This missive is for those of us both new and old EverQuest fans who have been mercilessly tantalized by videos and screenshots for the past two months and are impatiently waiting for the closed beta to arrive
A Reality Check
There’s an old adage the goes like this: “good things come to those that wait”. In the case of EverQuest Next Landmark closed beta, I sincerely hope that is the case. As an established MMO critic it might seem strange that I have not purchased an alpha account. Like most EverQuest fans, I’m here on the sidelines viewing the astounding progress of Landmark like a spectator looking from the outside in.
If I may be so bold, let’s have a reality check: the reality is that most people just cannot afford to spend $100 and $60 to test a game. We live in the real world. At least here in the United States, funds are tight due to an overly long and unrelenting economic recession. In light of these circumstances, spending $100 on an alpha version of a video game just seems irresponsible.
Unreciprocated Loyalty from SOE
Any discussion of what it’s like to not be in the alpha can’t go forward without mentioning the plight of the steadfast fans that attended SOE Live in 2013 in Las Vegas. Myself and a couple thousand other loyal EQ fans who attended the SOE Live 2013 event in Las Vegas should be in the alpha but someone at SOE decided against it. Instead attendees were eventually told months later they were getting closed beta access — all $19 worth of it.
The only rationale that I can deduce is that they figured we’d pony up the money to pay for the alpha anyways. Why else would you not show some proper respect to loyal EverQuest fans that were lured to SOE Live with the promise of a history and big announcement concerning EverQuest and not give them alpha access?
The Diminishing Value of Alpha Access
Given all the flurry of excitement and daily activity that surrounds Landmark and seeing all those amazing creations, I wanted desperately to be in the alpha. Many times I eventually made it to the EQN Landmark order page with mouse pointer hovering over the “order now” button but for some reason I could never quite press the button and make the purchase. Something kept holding me back.
Another concern for me and maybe others is that, as the closed beta draws nearer — it is now scheduled to take place on March 26th of this year — both the Trailblazer and Explorer packs continue to lose perceived value due to the limited amount of time left in the alpha. At this point with the closed beta commencing in less than 2 weeks, why not just wait it out and save $80 or $40? I don’t understand why SOE would not offer an incentive to alpha holdouts and give a discount on two products with a limited shelf life and diminishing returns.
Landmark Pricing Missteps
It is my opinion that the pricing strategy for EQN Landmark was a miscalculation. Studies on pricing models have shown, that there will always be people who choose the higher price ($100) when given an option. Fair enough. However, the median price of $60 for an Explorer pack was just too high with no lower alpha alternative.
If they would have offered a scaled back $40 alpha option combined with the existing $100 and $60 options, more people would have been able to afford it and they would have made more money in the long run.
Beta Access Pricing Suggestions
I think SOE has really missed a great opportunity for failing to offer tiered closed beta testing packs. They could have easily replicated the 3 alpha packs, converted them to closed beta and priced them at $39, $29 and $19 respectively. Instead they are left with $19 closed beta, leaving the early adopter alpha testers to carry the burden of financing the development of EverQuest Next Landmark.
It is still not too late for SOE to offer tiered beta access if they are smart.
Why Beta will be Good for Landmark
All of my concerns aside, I think the closed beta will be good for EQ Next Landmark. The first good thing is that will be more inclusive as more rank and file gamers will be able to actually test the game.
The second advantage is that the feedback will be of higher quality due to the higher sample size of testers and resulting more objective feedback. Naturally most the fanboys, true believers and early adopters have already probably purchased alpha. They are invested both financially and emotionally into Landmark. I wager many of them have rose-colored glasses with regard to their opinions which have been so far very positive. When people spend a lot of money on a purchase there is a tendency to justify and validate that decision; that is human nature.
With the arrival of the great unwashed masses of closed and then open beta testers SOE will be in for a severe reality check as many of these testers will not suffer fools gladly and hopefully give SOE a more accurate appraisal of Landmark. Enjoy the alpha honeymoon while it lasts SOE.
Lastly, the arrival of the beta phase will guarantee that more features will be introduced into Landmark which means it will be a more complete experience. Alpha testing is not for everyone and can be a chore given the primitive nature of features and all the disruptive changes that result during a product’s development stage.
Patience Will be Rewarded
One last thought, could you imagine what it would feel like to pay $100 to test a game that you end up not liking? I realize it is heresy even mentioning that Landmark might not be everyone’s cup of tea but there is a real possibility that some folks may not like it. To be honest, most EverQuest fans I know here are because of the original EverQuest not an EverQuest version of Minecraft.
In closing, to all of you out there waiting in anticipation for the Landmark closed beta: hang in there, your patience will be rewarded and you too might be creating something magnificent. Even better, you’ll have the satisfaction that you didn’t pay the exorbitant fee of $100 to test a video game that you instead paid $20 to test.
Is it end of the world that many of us are not in alpha? Of course not. Put in its proper perspective, this is just a mere annoyance in a life full of twists, turns and hard knocks. Landmark is just a video game after all. But it did feel good to get some of this off my chest.