MMORPG.com Reacts to SOE Going Independent
I'm most curious about the name choice, right now. Does Daybreak mean the team felt it was oppressed under the thumb of Sony? How much will their future direction change now without a larger corporation on top? At the same time, this investment firm is going to have designs of its own, and how will it change what work they're doing on EQN, Landmark, H1Z1, and other titles?
The release means business as usual, which means All Access and current games will remain unchanged. It seems like they're going to keep everything SOE had in terms of accounts and account management, just under a different branding. But I wonder if this also means we might see some dead games come back? Could Vanguard be "risen" under the new flag, or did that decision to close the niche game come from SOE itself?
In any case, I'm really curious to see what the future holds for SOE now, and how things will change. 2015 should prove to be revealing in many cases.
If you pick up a recent copy of the Wall Street Journal you’ll see that merger and acquisition activity is happening all around us in different industries. Last year, pharmaceuticals happened to be extremely active. I doubt we are seeing the start of a trend of investment firms buying up entertainment software development companies but the news that this sort of thing finally happened shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise.
I know the powers that be are claiming only good things will come of this. After all, they say, changes mean they can now work on X-Box and mobile platforms. But it needs to be remembered that investment companies such as Columbus Nova typically don’t operate with a hands off approach. Columbus Nova is in business to seek consistent returns for their investors with an emphasis on capital preservation. We may never see that invisible hand that will help steer the Daybreak ship but I can guarantee they will make their presence felt. I just hope it doesn’t end up with a bunch of mobile aps on the app store and Google Play exploiting Daybreak’s IP library similar to what we saw happen with Mythic at the end.
SOE's acquisition by Columbus Nova is fascinating for a number of reasons, but the two that stick out most prominently are the potential for MMOs on new platforms and the shifting priorities of Daybreak Game Company as an independent entity. We've already seen DC Universe Online on PS3/PS4, with PlanetSide 2 on the way for PS4, and it will be interesting to see if the studio's transition paves the way for these titles and more to find their way to the Xbox One.
More importantly, the acquisition may allow for a shift in priorities for Daybreak as a studio, perhaps allowing them to focus on more niche genres of MMORPGs, dabble in areas such as mobile development, or pursue other paths that would not have been supported by the wider Sony community. I'm not going to say that their newfound independence from Sony is the catalyst they need to develop Vanguard 2, but...OK I am going to say it, it's EXACTLY the kind of thing they need to make the next Vanguard.
It’s easy to want to look at today’s news and paint the canvas with ‘doom and gloom’. While there is something to be said for the fact that parent company, Sony, unloaded SOE, it’s unlikely that it’s the end of game development for the San Diego crew. Sony has been bleeding money for a long time with regard to games development and it's possible they are making a return to the more lucrative field of electronics only. It seems less a factor of SOE's inability to turn a profit and more likely that Sony needs to recenter its business ventures.
What all of this seems to spell is the expansion of Daybreak’s development options, something that can only been seen as a good thing if dollars aren't thrown down the drain on silly mobile and tablet games/tie-ins. Everyone wants to see their favorite SOE titles continue as they are at present. Still, I am quite certain that the newly-independent studio is hoping is that they can pull a “Blizzard” and come up with a mega-hit like Hearthstone.
What I am most keen to see is how staffing will be affected by the changing of the guard in ownership. As Rob said, investment companies don’t choose projects that will lose money and the new leadership will ensure that all fat is trimmed away to make Daybreak a lean, mean game making machine.
One of the strongest potential weapons SOE had up its sleeve was the fact that Sony is so willing to work with MMO developers and independent development studios to allow access to the PlayStation networks. Letting console and PC players play together on the same server is a feature my friends and I have wanted to see expand for years. With Microsoft's general reluctance to open its network, SOE had a special position as a Sony company, to see its games released on console. We can argue the design merits of console MMOs all day, but I wonder now how the console MMO market might potentially be affected by this new ownership going forward.