I believe there’s an argument to be made that, from a market perspective, when LE launches as a “complete” game, it’ll be poised to become the “accessible” alternative to Diablo 4. This post is about the idea that a simple, optional multiplayer matchmaking system to make multiplayer play in LE vastly more accessible and less clunky than the current solution of “LFG channel + Friend lists” to find players to group up with.
Don’t get me wrong, the current party-up solution is great for group play with existing friends. However, the current process of making new friends by going to LFG channel, making a post that often gets no responses, eventually finding someone to play with who is around your level of progression, and finally adding each other to friends lists, just to get started, and then, if you don’t want to play with that player again, you have to go back into your friends list afterward to remove them so your flist doesn’t get unwieldy over time. New players will feel this clunk the most, since they’re less likely to have existing friends in game. And frankly, I would imagine a significant portion of new players just won’t want to go through the struggle. I’m not a new player and I still don’t enjoy it, even though I like playing with others.
Getting back to the market positioning, I know some get upset when people compare LE to D4 or POE/2 but if you’re going to have a conversation about LE’s positioning in the ARPG marketplace, which is at the heart of this suggestion, its hard to deny that D4 and POE 2 are the big dogs and will likely be top 3 within the ARPG space once they launch, and lets face it, probably the top 2.
That said, here’s my take on the market opportunity EHG will have at release…
Diablo 4 is undeniably going to be a juggernaut at launch as evidenced by the 935k peak viewership they had on Twitch during its beta weekend and, from what I’ve seen, most of the feedback has been positive on what’s been released but some of the biggest question marks remain: will there be enough depth to the endgame to keep players interested in the long haul? Will it feel too much like an MMO? How many people will its relatively aggressive monetization drive away? And how responsive will Blizzard be in responding to player feedback? The answers to these questions will have significant impact on D4’s player retention. My guess is that, no matter how good the game turns out to be, D4 will fail to meet a lot of people’s inflated expectations and a sizeable portion of its mammoth player base will be looking for another game within 6 months of launch. I’m not saying I expect D4 to fail, and I hope it doesn’t. But either way, there will be ample opportunity to pick up droves of D4 players when LE launches.
While we still won’t know the release details for POE 2 until Exilecon in July, in the grand scheme of things it’ll be coming out shortly after D4, within a year I would wager, maybe even by Christmas. And while a lot of D4 players will likely bounce to POE 2 to check it out upon launch, player retention will hurt simply because POE is just not that accessible to new players. I can speak to this from trying to get many friends into it over the past decade or so, with low conversion rate. While GGG will no doubt strive to make POE 2 more accessible to new players, in the end it will still be the more complex, more systems-heavy alternative to Diablo 4 in peoples minds. That is, unless they surprise us and compromise heavily on the complexity of their network of game systems and sheer volume of changes to the core game they make on such a frequent basis. I can’t see them doing this to a significant extent without receiving a lot of flak from their own community. So while I don’t think there will be as much opportunity to snag the POE player base, I do expect that a lot of D4 players who bounce to POE 2 will feel stuck between the two games, with one feeling too simplistic and the other too complex.
The opportunity for LE exists in the middle ground. This is already LE’s strength as it strikes a beautiful balance between accessibility and depth, at least in single player. Multiplayer, new as it is to LE, still needs some work to in the accessibility department, particularly when it comes to new players (because they don’t have a friends list yet). I know there are those who’ll respond that the devs need to be working on more important stuff for launch but I would just say that matchmaking in some form should be considered pretty high on the list, especially given the market dynamics at play. Otherwise, that giant funnel of new players at launch will be expecting to play Multiplayer only to find out the small print: “must have friends to play multiplayer; friends not included”.
To be clear, I’m not saying LE needs D3’s matchmaking system, or any other games, for that matter… Just that there should be something more than throwing people to the wolves with a bare bones LFG channel. Even POE has bulletin boards in towns so that people without friends can find parties in game and make new friends.