Sony Online Entertainment has come a long way since the launch of the original Everquest MMO several years ago as the game developer and publisher has released title for the PC, PS2, PS3 and PSP platforms. On Wednesday night at Sony's corporate headquarters in New York City, the company held a press event where they outlined some of their plans for the future. The press event included the announcement of a number of new projects as well as an overview of the company's six development studios.
One of the new products shown at the event wasn't a game at all but a new program that all players of Sony Online's PC MMO titles will use. Station Launcher is an upcoming PC client that will consolidate all of the company's PC MMO games into one simple to use product. We got a demo of Station Launcher during the event which has been in the works for the past three years. Basically the program will show what Sony Online MMO games you have installed and subscribed to on your PC along with any expansion packs for those games. If there is an update for the game Station Launcher can sit in the background and download it for you before you decide to launch the game. If there are any paid expansion packs that you want to download the Station Launcher will allow you to pay for those expansions and download them. The user interface is very simple to understand.
Station Launcher isn't just a client device designed for games, however. The program will allow players of Sony Online's MMO titles to keep up with each other with a universal friends list that will span all of Sony Online's titles along with a chat client that will support a number of popular PC chat services (ICQ, AIM, Yahoo, etc). People will be able to keep track of not only what game their friends are playing but also what character they are using as well. While it won't launch when the program is first released, Sony Online has plans to also allow the downloads of music, movies and TV shows. Everquest guild members could download a film and watch it together and even chat with each other about the movie a la Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Station Launcher is scheduled to begin open beta testing this summer and the official launch of the program is scheduled for later this summer.
PS3 Downloadable Games
Sony Online developed the Playstation Network for Sony's Playstation 3 console handling the Playstation Store, user registration and more from Sony Online's San Diego offices. Sony Online has also been the leader in offering downloadable titles for the PS3. As of this writing the company has released six downloadble games for the console, ranging from porting classic Midway games like Gauntlet and the newly released Rampart to original titles like Guns Cash Chaos. Sony Online said they have had about 300,000 downloads of their PS3 games so far and the company has plans to release several more downloadable games for the PS3 in the next several months, including what is sure to be a popular title, High Stakes On The Vegas Strip Poker Edition. This new game, unlike Microsoft's Xbox 360 downloadable poker game, will contain full 3D character avatars and other graphical features that make it stand out.
The presentation then moved onto looking each each of the company's six internal studios. The first was Sony Online's main headquarters in San Diego where Everquest and Everquest II are still expanding after eight years and two 1/2 years respectively. For the original title, the decision has been made to keep expansion packs down to just one per year in order for the game's players to fully explore the new content that will be introduced. This fall, the whopping 14th expansion for the game will be released, which will be titled Secrets of Faydwer and will raise the level cap in the game to 80 along with new zones, creatures and another new content.
For Everquest II, the game's third anniversary in November will be the time for the game's fourth expansion pack to be released, Rise of Kunark. The expansion will include a new playable race, the dragon-like humanoid called the Sarnak. The level cap for players will also be raised to 80 and there will also be a new starting area along with new zones to explore, hundreds of new quests, a bunch of new monsters and a bunch of other content. Everquest II: Rise of Kunark will be released in a new retail package that will include the base game and all of the previous expansion pack (it will also be available as a digital download as well). In other Everquest news, a new print magazine titled Equinox devoted exclusively to Everquest was also announced at the press event. The first issue is due to be released this summer.
We also got an update on Gods and Heroes, the upcoming Greek-Roman mythology themed PC MMO that is being co-published by Sony Online and the game's developer Perpetual Entertainment. We have seen this game in action several times over the past couple of years and on Wednesday night we got a chance to play with a new build of the game. It looks like Gods and Heroes is coming along nicely with its emphasis on its fast paced combat and its control of NPC minions on display as well as its unique (for MMOs anyway) art design of fighting classic mythological figures such as gorgons, medusas, giants and more. We hope to be able to go into more detail on Gods and Heroes as it enters its final development and gets ready for its official launch, which is currently scheduled for late summer 2007.
Mention was also made at the press event of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, the recently launched fantasy MMO from developer Sigil Games, formed by a number of former team members of the original Everquest. The presentation was brief saying only that the team at Sigil was pleased with how players of the game have embraced new features such as the player dipomacy system and that there are plans to expand the game with additional content. There was no mention made of the recent message board post by Sigil co-founder Brad McQuaid on the talks on the future of the game (which might include Sigil being purchased by Sony Online). Sony Online PR officials will not officially comment on the situation at the press event except to say that the talks with Sigil are still ongoing.