A Standing Stone Gathers No Momentum

Well, today’s big announcement in the MMO world has to be this bombshell about the development teams formerly part of Turbine.

All it does is spin...

All it does is spin…

I am going to quote the text in full lest the site disappear next week.

Today we have some momentous news! The game teams responsible for The Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) and Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO) are now moving from Turbine to Standing Stone Games, a newly formed indie game studio. In addition, we’ve partnered with Daybreak Games to provide global publishing services. They’ve had a long, successful history developing and publishing MMOs, and we’re happy to lean on their expertise.

With the announcement out of the way, I wanted to talk to you about what all this means.

We’re embarking on an exciting adventure as Standing Stone Games, a newly-independent studio staffed by people who have been working on DDO and LOTRO for many years. The teams remain very much committed to both games and are thrilled to continue development and operations of these games as an independent studio.  This is an opportunity for us to bring about our dreams while still working on two of the biggest licenses in video games. It’s a huge honor, and for you this means your games will continue to grow and improve. We love to focus on games with a high level of depth and scope, and we can’t wait to show you what the future brings.

Although a great many exciting things are happening on our end, you’ll be able to continue playing the game(s) you enjoy with as little interruption as possible. Our development continues on track, and the plans we have already announced remain firmly in our future view. Again, although we are a new studio, we are also the same developers who have been and will continue to work on our games.

Our success has always been possible because of your support. As we move forward, this is more important than ever. The ultimate goal of our new studio is to continue to bring you amazing experiences. We are excited for the future, and we’re thrilled to have you with us on this journey.

Here’s to great games, epic adventures, and memorable times with friends!

~Sev

Momentous news indeed.  That is a lot to take in, so let my try and parse it out into bite size pieces, for my own benefit at least.

  • Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online are no longer part of the WB owned game studio known as Turbine.
  • Those two remaining money making online properties from Turbine will now be part of a newly formed studio known as Standing Stone Games. (SSG? Like the Strategic Studies Group?)
  • The studio is alleged to be “independent,” but doesn’t really describe what that means.  I am pretty sure Warner isn’t just letting them go without any financial interest or compensation.
  • SSG is partnering with Daybreak Games Company, our favorite lovable band of west coast cowboys, to provide global publishing services.

There is a whole FAQ that goes with this, which I can summarize as “Don’t Panic!” as it doesn’t really add much in the way of details.  We won’t know what all this really means until some time passes and things shake out.

What it sounds like WB is doing is getting LOTRO and DDO off the books the way that EA did with Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot when they handed over to those two properties to Broadsword, a studio that they probably had a hand in creating.  Rather than having the headcount and servers and what not counting against margins… and Wall St. is obsessed with margins, so if you’re a public company you are as well… the whole things becomes a licensing deal that just generates income.  And the fact that “Standing Stone Games” appears to be a trademark of “Standing Stone Games, LLC” certainly makes it sound like it is fully spun off.

All of which probably means that we are pretty much done with any big investments in either game.  They have to survive on their own.  But they just got new servers and upgrades over the last year, so they should be set there.  Now the team will slowly move towards Mordor in the case of LOTRO, and something else in the case of DDO, getting bug fixes and updates so long as the money keeps coming in.

In the end, this is probably a good thing for both games.  They seem much more likely to carry on over time than they would in a company where accounting is looking to chop under performing assets.  Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 however are probably going to disappear for good.

The strange bit is the Daybreak tie-in.  Why would you go to a company that has no significant presence outside of the US for your “global publishing services?”  Didn’t SOE/Daybreak spend a couple of years trying to ditch their European customers by selling them off to ProSiebenSat.1 before finally giving up on the whole thing and bringing as many resources back to the US as possible?

What does a deal with Daybreak bring to the table?  Unless the SSG team didn’t get the billing department for the games and needs somebody else to charge credict cards for them, I can’t see the logic.  Will Daybreak be running their data centers?  Or will SSG be moving into Daybreak’s data centers?  What else could Daybreak do for them as a “publisher” for a game you download directly?  They can’t even run their own physical game card sales without problems, why would you go to them?

We shall see.

I don’t think this is going to mean LOTRO and DDO will end up on Daybreak Access, but stranger things have happened.

Addendum: And, as predicted, AC and AC2 will soon be gone… or sunsetted… or whatever the current term of art is.

Others on this bit of news:

9 thoughts on “A Standing Stone Gathers No Momentum

  1. bhagpuss

    This is the most surprising MMO news since the day Sony sold SOE to Columbus Nova. What the connection is I hesitate to speculate.

    On what DBG bring to the table, it clearly isn’t server capacity or service. The FAQ specifically says SSG will continue to use their own Data Centers:

    “Will the servers be changing?

    We’ll continue to operate out of our existing data center, and there are no plans to change servers in any way.”

    Billing on the other hand is a very obvious omission form the FAQ. If my credit card details were with Turbine I’d be particularly interested in who they were going to be passing them to next but although that FAQ is soothing over “Account” details (“Your account login information remains the same.”) billing doesn’t get a mention. Maybe DBG are going to handle that.

    As for DBG’s “global publishing support”, maybe that’s something Columbus Nova have in their remit? To be fair to DBG, it was Sony that kept trying to farm out the European customers, first to Ubisoft and later, far less successfuly and acceptably, to PSS1. SOE were always against it as far as could be read between the lines and Smed pretty much admitted he was bounced into it by Big Sony.

    Speaking of Smed, his start-up looks to be running into financial difficulty itself, according to Massively. Maybe DBG/CN will pick that up in a fire sale too…

    This all looks like a highly entertaining soap opera in the making and I’d love to see LotRO and DDO end up as part of the All Access offer – lord knows that offer could use some plumping up!

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  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – All of this has clearly been in motion for a while, who knows if Turbine chose to host in the same locations as Daybreak when they were doing their cut over. Probably not, but I don’t know either way. And the FAQ is so geared towards the usual post-change attempt to relieve anxiety by simply repeating “Nothing has changed” that I wouldn’t bet on anything said there in the longer term.

    Yeah, I was beating up a bit on Daybreak there, but I still can’t see them as the “go to” partner for this sort of thing.

    As for Smed… Keen has a post up about this being an example of what is wrong with early access, and I only disagree because I bought a license for Hero’s Song as part of the Indiegogo campaign and I think what they initially released to backers was so lacking in features that that was a bigger killer than anything. You have to give people some fun to hang their enthusiasm and support on… unless you are Chris Roberts.

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  3. Jeromai

    Considering that the alternative was probably LOTRO and DDO going the way of the City of Heroes/NCsoft saga, plus “more Turbine layoffs,” this is as positive spin as it gets. At least it demonstrates enough unity in the teams to reform as an independent studio, and communication/organization/willingness to accomodate from all parties involved, rather than fleeing in all directions from a sinking ship.

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  4. Warsyde

    So if LoTRO and DDO are moving to another company and AC and AC2 are shutting down . . . what does Turbine have left?

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  5. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Warsyde – Crappy, third tier mobile knock-offs of other games based on properties that WB has licensed? So far they have Batman: Arkham Underworld for iOS, with Game of Thrones: Conquest in the works.

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  6. Pingback: LotRO, DDO, Turbine, Standing Stone Games - Endgame Viable

  7. tsuhelm

    A great and thorough breakdown of the situation from the meager sources available. Will be watching this space keenly. I really hope LOTRO keeps on going :)

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  8. tothebreach

    I still occasionally play Asherons’ Call, I will miss it when it’s gone. I just cant get myself to play a WOW Clone. AC had a great innings and can retire to the stands with it’s held high.

    Like

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