You may or may not have heard that Marvel Heroes is coming out soon. June 4th is the launch date. Live. Similar to what Neverwinter did, there are founder’s packs available. $200 gets you every character, a few bucks in game and access 7 days early. More on that in a bit. $60 gives you 5 characters, less bucks and 4 days head start. $20 gets you 1 character, pennies and 2 days head start.
A lot of people harp on Neverwinter since it’s in open beta and not truly “launched”, even though it’s taking in money. The advantage to this model is that you can take down the servers daily to patch things up – which they are still doing. The first few days were a mess but now, the game is quite playable.
Marvel Heroes on the other hand…they’ve been up a total of maybe 20 hours out of 72? They are down right now and have been extending the downtime since 6AM this morning. When you promise access to a “launched” game on a specific date and are unable to deliver, this causes problems. People, for some weird reason, take time off work and other duties on launch day to play the game like maniacs. It’s pretty textbook OCD if you ask me but hey, to each their own. When you say you’ll do something for money and then YOU DON’T, then there are going to be issues.
This reminds me of when UO launched and the servers were horrible to start. There was plenty of downtime and for a few years, daily maintenance. The box the game came in said 24 hours available, so out came the lawsuits. EULA’s since then prevent that from happening. That being said, today word of mouth is much more deadly than a lawsuit. If the vibe out of the gate is negative, the game is going to tank hard. RIFT has a positive beta and (ok) launch, did great for a long time. DCUO did not and tanked. TOR isn’t much different here.
Maybe from this point forward there is no early access. Maybe it follows Diablo 3’s concept of staggered entries (which itself had bad PR due to length). Maybe you just soft launch and if people want to buy founder’s pack, sell them non time-sensitive features. It’s obviously harder from a buy-to-play perspective, but in the F2P model, soft launch the crap out of a service to make sure there’s quality.
Launch day can break a company. It’s impressive that companies are still repeating the same mistakes from 15 years ago today.