The past few weeks have seen quite the upheaval in terms of gaming news. Aside from the death and rebirth of MMO gaming site Massively as Massively Overpowered, most of the Landmark and Everquest fans out there were likely surprised by the announcement of Sony Online Entertainment being sold off to investment firm Columbus Nova, and then being renamed Daybreak Game Company.
It’s still a bit of a strange transition for me, as I worried about what a name change might do for the company’s prospects. Analysts seemed to think the transition was worthwhile, though I remained unconvinced.
After doing some Googling, I found myself worrying slightly less because Daybreak Game Company appeared to have an interesting history with names and whatnot.
A message from Brad McQuaid
Before Daybreak was SOE, it went by Verant (and possibly Red Door). I expect most of the long-time gamers on the site will likely have some recollection of this, but I found a post on Graffe.com that purports to be from Brad McQuaid discussing the history of the pre-SOE days.
For posterity’s sake – this comes from a 2004 post – I’ll be quoting the statement below:
At the time, 989 (then Sony Interactive Studios America) was split into two main studios, sports and non-sports. John Smedley was the Executive Producer (and later Director of Development) of the non-sports studio. Both studios worked primarily on Playstation 1 (and later Playstation 2) games.
But John was heavily into online PC games (mostly pay-for-play games like Cyberstrike). He also really wanted to work on some, so he started development of Tanarus (a non-persistent online tank warfare game) as sort of an experiement and technology proving ground.
Some time later he felt he was in a position to get additional funding and start an online RPG, and the EverQuest project was approved (not that it had that name yet (Steve Clover named EQ), nor even a team). He also didn't really have a lot of PC-oriented developers, much less RPG-types, so he looked around for local developers.
He saw the WarWizard 2 demo Steve, I, Kevin Burns, and Bill Trost had put together. He then noted that Milo Cooper (then at 989, working on the Gameday series) had done the art for WarWizard 1, and talked with him about us.
So John hired Steve and I to being work on EQ, and I was later able to bring on board Kevin, Bill, and many others.
The online games group grew and grew until we pretty much were our own studio in addition to the sports and non-sports studio. But then when PS/2 was announced, 989 management needed to expand to keep developing PS/1 titles and expand to the new platform, and so we (the online studio) spun off into our own company (Verant Interactive).
We'd by then started work on many titles (the game that would become SW:G, EQ expansions, Planetside, Sovereign, etc.), and found another Sony company (Sony Online Entertainment) to fund those titles.
Even later, after EQ launched and was extremely successful, SOE ended up buying Verant, and the rest is history.
Not a good fit for Sony?
Based on this, it would appear as if name changes, while symbolic, shouldn’t be a cause for concern.
I still worried, however, as it would royally destroy my day to see Everquest Next shelved a second time (they originally changed the first direction of Next, so a symbolic shelving of the original idea, so to speak).
GamesIndustry.biz, in its filing of the Daybreak Game Company report, updated with speculation from analysts regarding the shift, and surprisingly, they appeared to be somewhat positive about the switch, though hesitant to claim total optimism given some unknowns.
For the most part, the analysts reasoned that Sony wanted to focus more on the aspects of the business that could sell more of their consumer electronics. This would make Daybreak, however profitable, an odd fit for their company.
Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter explained, "I think that Sony Online is profitable, but not particularly strategic for Sony. Remember, they are a consumer electronics manufacturer, so to some extent, owning movie and television studios makes sense in order to drive Blu-ray player and TV sales. However, owning an online gaming company isn't a great fit, particularly as games are shifting increasingly to a free-to-play mobile model.”
Depending on how much it sold for, either Columbus Nova or Sony got a good deal out of it. The question left would be, what now? MMORPG.com columnist Ryahl Smith was trying to suss this out without any fulfilling answers, though he recknoed that Daybreak’s biggest assets were likely going to be in the tech they made – SOEmote and Player Studio – rather than the games they shipped.
I’m hesitant to be 100% sunshine and roses for the change. My personal leanings do not trade well with changes to things I felt were immutable.
Still, until we found out in Sony’s next earnings report how much Daybreak was sold for, I’m inclined to hope for the best and welcome Daybreak Game Company to the roster of game acronyms I have to get used to.
In the meantime, I’d like to welcome Daybreak Game Company. Hopefully their transition from their old name won’t be too difficult so they can get back to the important work ahead of them: making fantasy worlds a reality.