There’s been a little discussion of late about the nature of Everquest 3. Tipa has been proposing that EQ3 will use the client/server model that seems to work so well for Free Realms. This model works by streaming data as the user plays, not by downloading a single large patch before playing. Ogrebears has taken the opposite viewpoint in that a hypothetical Everquest 3 would have a much larger data footprint than Free Realms which would make a streaming data model impractical (for a number of reasons.)
So why are we talking about Everquest 3?
Well, it appears that SOE have a new project in the works, and that this project has been the destination for a couple of high profile members of the EQ:OA and EQ2 teams. (Sorry, I read this the other day and can’t find the article.) This would seem to suggest that the new project is something at least related to Everquest.
However, I’m going to disagree with Tipa’s premise. I don’t believe that SOE are developing Everquest 3. I think that the effect that EQ2 had on EQ1 is reason enough for them to go for a new IP.
Everquest 2 had a big impact on Everquest: Online Adventures. Players left for the new game and didn’t come back when EQ2 wasn’t what they had hoped for. (Some did come back, true, but WoWs arrival a few months later siphoned off a lot of disillusioned EQ2ers.)
So with both Everquest and Everquest 2 now seeing a measure of stability — a player base that seems fairly healthy and consistent — why would SOE jeopardize this by releasing another sequel?
But if the potential for destabilizing the existing playerbase is an issue, the other is lack of freedom. If SOE decide to go the EQ3 route they are constrained to follow the existing lore of both games closely. The alternative is to risk alienating the players who love the world and lore of Norrath. The big advantage of developing a new IP is that the developers can pretty much do anything they want, go in any direction they want. And the players get something fresh and new.
Finally, as has been pointed out before, there’s a perception that MMORPG sequels don’t tend to do all that well. Having said that, there have been precious few sequels to be able to validate this, and (as I believe) it has more to do with managing expectation and execution rather than the fact of being a sequel. But, there’s a perception of greater risk with sequels, and I’d have thought this would have been taken into account by SOE’s marketing department.
So I just don’t think the new game will be EQ3 set on Norrath. I’m expecting something new.
Of course, I also don’t see how Hollywood can justify doing sequels and remakes of old movies and TV shows out the wazoo either.
As just an aside, developing a new project is expensive. Given the current recession, perhaps this is a big part of why SOE have canned The Matrix Online, to open up some funds for whatever it is they are developing.