Darkfall The Game might be an attempt to bring back the glory days of pre-Trammel Ultima Online and Asheron’s Call Darktide for the veteran MMO gamer, but the developer of Darkfall, Aventurine, looks to be trying out a new model for releasing a massive online game.
There is a standard modus operandi for the opening day of a MMORPG, one that’s been tried and tried again from the early days. This method is to make as much noise for as long as possible, sell as many copies and pre-orders as is humanly possible, and hope the servers cope on release day.
Then what we normally see is a server stress test that no beta testing could possibly hope to emulate as thousands of players all cram into limited server space. The newbie areas of the game get swamped with more players than they have been designed to handle. It’s no wonder that servers crash, or that we have players waiting in queues to get into the game.
So it comes as a bit of a surprise to hear that Aventurine is limiting the number of pre-orders, and by extension, the number of players who will be allowed into the game on opening day.
The reasoning is, that by limiting the number of players, the game won’t experience the release day blues that most other MMORPGs have experienced. The developers then have the chance to see how their game handles the expected load and fix any problems before they spiral out of control. Players then have a much better experience and tell the world that Darkfall had a great release, rather than saying how terrible release day was and scaring off potential subscribers.
There might also be some marketing benefits to staggering the release.
Limited pre-orders also force a customer who is sitting on the fence about pre-ordering to make a decision so that they can play at release. Pre-orders become rare and it’s more than likely the available seats will sell out before the big day. It’s even been suggested that we might find some Darkfall pre-orders popping up on eBay at somewhat ridiculous asking prices.
And it seems like this is exactly what is happening. Apparently Aventurine is reporting that the demand for Darkfall has exceeded expectations by a large margin. There’s nothing like a little scarcity to drive up demand.
So now we wait.
Darkfall will be released in just a few more days. If limiting release day subscriptions turns out to be a successful strategy, then who knows, maybe we’ll see this model adopted by other MMORPG developers.