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Along Came a Merger

Dan Fortier Posted:
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MMOWTF: Along Came a Merger

Weekly Column by Dan Fortier

Editor's Note: This is an edition of a weekly column by Staff Writer Dan Fortier. The column is called "MMOWTF" and will look at some of the stranger or more frustrating events in MMOs as seen by Mr. Fotier. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of MMORPG.com, its staff or management.

How could I pass up an opportunity like this? While mergers are becoming more and more common as we spiral toward Cyberpunk, the most recent amalgamation between Crowd Control Productions (CCP, creators of EVE Online) and White Wolf Publishing (the second largest pen and paper RPG maker) made me stop and think. What other companies who might want a slice of a related industry would be looking to join forces with (or swallow whole) another company with a strong history and tools in the field? This week in MMOWTF I'm going to dig up some details behind this deal and speculate on the next big corporate fusion.

This whole business came out of left field, but it was all started when CCP contacted White Wolf at Gencon last year to get them to team up on the new EVE collectable card game. Apparently mums the word on the specifics of the deal but with White Wolf becoming a 'wholly owned subsidiary' and Hilmar Petursson becoming the CEO of the combined companies, it is pretty obvious who is running the show. If you would have told me yesterday that one of the foundations of pen and paper throughout the 1990's until today would be owned by a group of upstart MMO devs from Iceland I'd have called you crazy. Now it's a done deal...

Neither company has shown any indication of financial woes so at first glance this deal looks like a simple marriage of convenience for both parties. CCP just recently jumped into the card game business with their 'Second Genesis' collectable card game, which is a market White Wolf knows well. The press release also mentions the creation of a pen and paper RPG based on the EVE universe, but it remains to be seen which rule system the game will use. White Wolf can use their resources to bring EVE to an entirely new fan base while rejuvenating their own product line which, as far as I'm concerned, has been going downhill with the new versions of their core settings.

On the other side of things, CCP can offer a lot of assistance and a wealth of experience in the online gaming arena. It looks as if they are planning to bring the World of Darkness into some form of MMO as well. Activision did a pretty good job in creating faithful conversion of Vampire with Redemption, so I'm curious to see how CCP fares without a proven terrestrial RPG engine to work with. Luckily, it looks like they're getting some practice as they work at adding "walking on stations" to EVE. Overall this merger will probably help both companies expand their products into new markets so I don't see a downside. Good luck CCP/WW.

Considering how off the wall this deal seems we might as well open the floodgates of speculation and see what other crazy mergers might become a reality in the near future. To be clear, in case the sarcastic tone below doesn't tip you off, I'm just speculating here. Read at your own risk!

  • Avalon Hill/NCSoft - Yeah, I know AH was bought out by Hasbro a while back, but I can dream. Wouldn't it be great to have one of the great historical war-game makers team up with the masters of the almighty treadmill? Imagine Stonewall Jackson giving you a quest like, "Please kill ten Yankees and I will give you some great loot!", spending an hour getting a group of Allies together to go fighting Nazis only to have your machine gunner lag out or grinding for weeks on end swinging your 'nasty pointy thing w/panache' (ala Tales of the Floating Vagabond) to get to level two. Maybe, I'm glad we'll never know what could have been.
  • Blizzard/Chaosium - Want to see one of the darkest RPGs ever turned into a cartoon wonderland? How about the Great Old Ones transformed into respawning puppets for forty... er twenty five man raids? If so, then this merger is your dream come true! If anyone could suck the fun and terror out of being in Lovecraft's sick imagination, it's definitely Blizzard. Maybe they could package it together with a copy of Starcraft: Ghost 2008.
  • MindArk/Games Workshop - Who needs EA Mythic when you can have the self declared kings of innovation cranking out your product? MindArk has been charging gamers real money for every single one of their possessions for years and not even Larry Probst can claim that. If you want to do a giant land grab in Bretonnia or wander through the empty streets of Nuln then I can't think of anyone else better suited to the job. Want your Trollslayer to have pink spiky hair and lots of tattoos? You better stop by the ATM on the way to the barber fella!
  • Square-Enix/Palladium - Rifts was one of my favorite pen and paper RPG games when it came out and I can think of no better way to tarnish its memory then to let it be 'Squared'. Before you know it the Coalition States would be riding Chocobos into battle and Moogles would have wiped out the Vampire kingdoms simply by virtue of their cuteness. Of course, Palladium could then counter by designing a Final Fantasy RPG based on their system so I could shoot Cloud and Sephiroth with a Wilks laser pistol. I can hardly wait.
  • Microsoft/Sony - Now obviously this is not a PnP/MMO pick but given the troubles that Sony has had with the PS3 launch and their dwindling profit margin they could be ripe for the picking by monopoly-maker himself Bill Gates. I'm sure there is nothing the digital overlord would like more then to have a stranglehold on the console industry too. If you're going to laugh at the thought like I did, do me a favor and knock on wood please. Then again, it won't be much of a strangle-hold if the Wii sneaks in and takes the whole market over!
OK folks, your trip on the MMOWTF express has concluded for the week, please exit the vehicle and don't forget to pick up a gimmicky T-shirt at the vendor on your way out. The forum topic is now open so drop us a line. Till next week.


Dan Fortier