Microsoft drops Vanguard like it's hot
Hoo boy. The folks at SOE and Sigil waited till TenTonHammer was travelling to E3 in sunny California to let this one loose. Stand back!
- Sigil Games Online and Sony Online Entertainment In Talks To Co-Publish Sigil’s Ground-Breaking New Game -
May 5, 2006 – Carlsbad & San Diego, CA – Sigil Games Online and Sony Online Entertainment LLC (SOE), a global leader in the online games industry, today announced that Sigil is working with Microsoft Game Studios on an arrangement to acquire the rights to its highly anticipated massively multiplayer online (MMO) game, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. These efforts have resulted in a tentative agreement for Vanguard to be co-published by both Sigil Games Online and SOE. All three companies will be showing the game at the upcoming Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) as they work closely together for a successful transition. Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is scheduled to launch this winter.
I promised myself I wasn't going to play up the antagonism between the Vanguard fan base and SOE. The jaded types over at the Vanguard forums are doing plenty of that, and the devs are doing a great job diplomatically responding. Much of the anger is centered around SOE's buyout of Verant's "EverQuest" and how the perceived downhill effect the change of hands had on the game.
Here's the best post I could find on the argument:
Originally Posted by Irenicus
Any reassurance is moot.
SOE takes care of customer support. They are publishing the game. Sigil might have launch covered, but do you think SOE will not change the input after the launch. Sigil is the small potatoe, SOE is the massive coporation (and an atrocious one at that), who do you think is really going to decide on the expansion content, updates, etc. Microsoft jumped ship as the backer. SOE is now backing this operation. We all were assured that at some point this year Vanguard would come out, after all, it has MS money. Now, who knows?
No - you're completely wrong. SOE owns distribution, marketing, data center operations, and *technical* support (ie - when you have trouble installing the client, or a scratched disk from the retail box).
Sigil owns everything related to development, in-game customer service, live teams, and on-going content development.
And the relationship is setup, both organizationally and financially, to reinforce those roles.
VP, Biz and Legal Affairs
Sigil Games Online
If true, it's something of a win-win. No doubt SOE has spare support assets, and Sigil gets to stay true to its vision (which could be a good or bad thing... as soon as they lift the NDA, I'll letcha know!). But why would SOE want a game that's a direct competitor with their other titles like the still-kicking EverQuest and EverQuest 2? Competitive intelligence, perhaps? They could set up EverQuest 2 as a dyed-in-wool WoW clone and capture the hardcore niche with Vanguard. Diversification is good for the genre.
Sigil and SOE are at loggerheads on other concept-level. Vanguard has a stigma against goldsellers so strong it's almost diagnosable under the DSM-IV. EverQuest 2's "Station Exchange" experiments with the secondary market daily. There are more... call them "divergent philosophies" at hand here, but to me, the biggest question is this:
Why did Microsoft let go of the IP in the first place?
Boomjack can tell you something of how the punctilious pinheads at Microsoft feel about deadlines, and apparently the Vanguard crew wasn't going to meet the original June 2006 deadline, no way, no how. When this became an issue, according to Sigil, they bought back their rights to Vanguard from Microsoft and entered into a co-publishing deal with SOE. It's a pat answer, and I kind of doubt Microsoft would let go of a winnah before launch for so simple a reason (they held on to Asheron's Call through launch and an expansion before handing the reins over to Turbine when the game was arguably past its prime).
In the all-important eyes of the fans, this a shocking move. Of all the game companies to partner with, SOE is the least like Sigil, from all appearances. Surely there was a better way to let this particular cat out of the bag. It's all about the first impression, and given how we all love to chat this stuff up (and how forum communities love to play the martyr) the damage to Vanguard may already be done. And some games never recover from word-of-pottymouth (just ask Funcom and Anarchy Online).
Anyway, check out the official press release by clicking |HERE|.