Friday, April 17, 2009

Limited Release Schedule

One of the games I've been keeping my eye on (when I haven't been busy with EverQuest II or City of Heroes) is a relatively obscure one called Alganon. One interesting thing they recently announced is that they will be selling keys in a limited fashion at launch. I believe Darkfall did this as well, to such an extent that there is a huge backlog of willing buyers who can't get in.

Although I know I would be irritated if I was trying to buy the game and couldn't get in, I still think that is a very smart move. I'm wondering if this should become a more standard practice in the industry.

In many games, there is a huge spike of interest at launch, but most of those players are just there as tourists. Many of them won't end up liking the game. Some people just want to try something new but won't want to dedicated themselves to it. To handle the initial rush and ensure a smooth launch, companies have to set up a lot of servers. This is rarely done perfectly, and you inevitable end up with lag, server instability, and/or queues. Then the tourists leave, and the servers end up deserted. Which means you end up either having the annoyance of server merges soon after launch, or you end up with deserted playgrounds.

Since our enjoyment of the game depends so much on other people, adding a little more management to the process sort of makes sense. It seems more likely to me that someone would buy an account, try the game at launch, quit because its unplayable and not come back than the alternative: that someone would simply decide not to try the game because they couldn't buy the game right when it launched. Therefore, limiting access to the game at launch and adding servers as necessary would be the best approach. What do you think?

1 comment:

Tesh said...

There's always the danger of not maintaining the critical mass of players that MMO designs often rely on. Maintaining demand for the game, even through the tourist phase, is key to making limited access work.

That said, yes, it does have good advantages for stability and scaling. If demand remains high over a quarter or so, more servers can be added a lot easier (from a PR angle, anyway) than shutting them down like WAR did.