In an announcement that surprised me so much I remained sitting in my chair, DC Universe Online has been delayed until Q1 2011. There was an indication that things weren’t going swimming given the lack of marketing build-up before launch, but now the November launch is off and has been replaced by a November public beta period.
The exact reasons for the delay are couched around allowing time for public beta testing: “this extra time will allow us to address community feedback in a meaningful way”. That it was Sony Online Entertainment President John Smedley making the comment (or: a PR person who wrote the words attributed to him) indicates there have probably been some interesting discussions between SOE, DC Entertainment and / or Warner Brothers Interactive.
It’s on this note I’m most surprised that DCUO was delayed – given that partnership, I was certain that there would have been too much forward momentum to delay DCUO’s launch. Advertising has been created, marketing plans approved, dollars spent, journalists arranged to preview the title. Obviously not. It’s also a reason why I find comments that the game is “super fun” as is a touch unbelievable. Who delays a super fun game for several months for player feedback?
Pay For Beta
The announcement and SOE posts on this delay are very pre-order focused:
“SOE will give anyone in North America that has preordered the game or reserves it before November 15 guaranteed beta access by November 30th. Gamers preordering after November 15 will gain beta access a week prior to DCUO‘s launch date.”
In short, if you want to guarantee your access, please pre-order the game ASAP (and move to North America). If you don’t pre-order right now, you may not get a chance at beta testing until some time around March 21, 2011.
This announcement has also left a lot of people who did pre-order wondering how they are going to get into that beta, given they only have a receipt claiming proof of pre-order. SOE indicates that more information on this topic will come out this week, which is a sign of some scrambling behind the scenes to deal with the delay – it is a pretty obvious question, but not one that had a pre-prepared answer. Asking for a photo of that receipt as proof is open for abuse, given EA’s recent experience with players faking them to get free games, but there probably isn’t a fail safe alternative either.
Dodging A Bus Only To Get Hit By A Train
There’s a theory that this delay is partly motivated by Activision Blizzard’s announcement that Cataclysm is going to launch December 7. This theory only works if DCUO was only borderline launching November 2 anyway – big companies don’t turn on a dime.
However, in avoiding World of Warcraft’s expansion launch, DCUO would then also put itself into potential launch conflicts with Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic on the PC, or PS3 MMO launches such as Final Fantasy XIV and SOE’s own Free Realms (plus any PS3 non-MMO titles that may grab people’s attention). The launch dates for some of those titles aren’t fixed either, but it would be difficult for DCUO to find a clear window to launch in at any time.
I’m all for public testing of a MMO – you need players to ‘test’ a title as closely as possible to live play in order to get accurate data and feedback – but everything around DCUO seems odd.
I’m not sure they’re dodging a bus only to get hit by a train. They may have Q1 2011 pretty much to themselves. SWTOR doesn’t seem that close (comparing with other hype cycles like War and WoW). GW2 also. I think if these titles were launching in March they’d be talking more about beta access.
You don’t need to miss the bus by much. Darkfall launched about 3 months after Lich King and it proved to be perfect timing. It didn’t get huge take-up because it’s so niche but I don’t think anyone was stopped from playing because of a competitor releasing. (I was in WoW and just beginning to get bored at the time).
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