Is it common to play games on a service / server outside of your region? I should qualify this question with “where there is the same or similar gaming service available with a different company in your region”, but that would make it a very long question.
I’m preparing to write a combat comparison post comparing GW2 (when I’ve actually played on live), Tera and Vindictus. I’m not labelling this as ‘action combat’ as that’s a rather contentious term. But GW2 does, from what I have read, take combat somewhere a bit different from the standard ‘tab and auto-afk’ model that has been present in many WoW style MMOs for years. Anyway, before we get distracted too much on definitions, this post is not about combat per-se, it’s about regions.
In considering the seven day trial for Tera to research the above-mentioned article I found out that there isn’t such a trial available from the European service provider GameForge (was Frogster until earlier this year). Digging deeper it seems there are a number of differences between the En Masse Entertainment service in the USA and the Euro equivalent. This includes a complete lack of in-game events on the Euro service, the lack of free trial, and the lack of an PVE-RP server in the Euro region. So for the trial I am forced to play on a US server, no problem I say, but given that I’ll have leveled a character perhaps 1/3rd of the way to the level cap during this time, and that I can play there on a RP server, would I really want to start again on the Euro service? The simple answer is no.
There’s a potential pattern here of regional inequality; I tried Aion at the start of the summer, which is also hosted by Frogster/GameForge in Europe. The game didn’t excite me enough to even blog about but I played to level 15ish and got out of the starter zones and to the main city. I follow the forums and news on the game still though and have read that the 3.0 mega-update, which launched in the US on 11th April 2012, is *still* not deployed on the Euro servers. Europe had free to play slightly earlier than the USA, but is now seriously behind on content updates. Version 3.0 is a major update to the game, including player housing and vehicles. If I’d have gotten into playing Aion I’d be seriously annoyed now!
This has parallels with DDO back in the Codemasters days, Turbine would launch a new patch and generally the European service would lag behind by 6-8 weeks. So you pay the same amount or near as much and get delayed access to content, or in many cases less content. The egg-hunt event in Tera US still has no scheduled date for the Tera Europe servers.
I’ve posted a lot about my annoyance over the Alaplaya deal with SoE affecting EQ2, Vanguard and other games. This isn’t about content as the servers remain the same for now, but Euro players do get less for their money as they can’t have an all-access plan on the same terms as SoE’s customers in other regions.
On balance many of these MMOs are developed in Asia so perhaps the US and Euro regions both suffer from this same issue to some extent – the original Tera in Korea (K-TERA as players call it) has been out a year longer than even the US version. But from my perspective it has never been advantageous to be an Euro player on a Euro service when compared with the US equivalent. Having played LoTRO and DDO as a direct customer of Turbine, and comparing this to when I was a Codemaster’s customer instead, it’s a no-brainer. It’s always better to be as close to the developers home-region as possible. The North American market is simply bigger, and less fractured language-wise than the European market. This simple truth shows in patch release timing and the amount of value-added content (such as developer run in-game events) that US players get to see, and often Euro players do not.