SOE Details EverQuest Next Landmark's Free-to-Play Business Model
David "Smokejumper Georgeson, Director of Development for the EverQuest Franchise at Sony Online Entertainment (SOE), outlined SOE's five-phase plan for EverQuest Next Landmark, the "world-building" portion of free-to-play MMORPG EverQuest Next. Landmark is currently in Phase 1, which Georgeson refers to as the "Founder's Pack" era. The game is currently in Alpha, but the only way to gain access is to purchase either the $99.99 Trailblazer Pack or $59.99 Explorer Pack.
Phase 2 is going to start "in the latter part of Alpha," and kick off SOE's microtransactions. SOE plans on starting small with just character outfits and resources. Outfits are merely cosmetic, while buying resources will essentially be a "time shortcut to let people build more easily." The latter is already stirring controversy amongst players who would rather resource gathering remain solely a gameplay mechanic.
Phase 3 is where the real "time shortcut methods" are added, and is intended to be an ongoing phase, with the start also being around the end of Alpha. As a "theoretical example" of what a time shortcut would entail, Georgeson explained, "Let's say you have to craft a recipe in order to make a 'power up my pick' potion so you can gather resources more quickly. The time shortcut option would be available as a button on your Collections sheet, so you could just buy that potion effect immediately instead of needing to craft it first." He ensures us that shorcuts will not affect game balance and they can always be avoided if you want to spend the time and effort.
Phase 4 is where Landmark's real selling point (no pun intended) begins – the introduction of SOE's Player Studio. Player Studio is SOE's marketplace for player-created goods, allowing players to buy and sell templates. Georgeson also later stated that resources will not be able to be sold via Player Studio because of "nasty international tax laws," though you can still sell them out of in-game Market Stalls. Player Studio should be introduced "early during Closed Beta."
Lastly is Phase 5, occurring at the end of Closed Beta, which will involve the addition of some "bigger-ticket [microtransaction] items." These will include "cosmetic pets, sound/music packs for your claims, name/gender changes, extra claim flags, and more." However, in a later reply, Georgeson explains that almost everything can be earned within the game, with only a few cosmetic items (like outfits) being microtransaction-only.
So there you have it – the five-phase business plan for EverQuest Next Landmark. However, everything is of course subject to change, and Georgeson is clear that there will likely be additions and subtractions as it moves forward. Georgeson explains that SOE is fully invested in the free-to-play model and understands that it means the studio has "to entertain you before you decide whether to pay [..] or not."
Source: Official Forums