Daybreak Doomsaying

Since the announcement last week that Daybreak would be shutting down Landmark, there has been quite the hum of doom and gloom and wondering what other titles in their catalog might be headed for the chop.  Over at Massively OP they turned this into two posts, one asking if you’re worried about any Daybreak titles and then a poll as to which game people think is next.

It follows you as you move about the room!

It is watching you

The articles themselves are not big thrills, but the comment sections of both are rife with wild speculation and what I would consider unfounded and counter-factual claims.  All of that got me to mentally stack ranking the titles based on what I perceive as their viability based on what we can all see in the news and the occasional rumor that has come my way.

Given that, here is my list, from least to most vulnerable.

EverQuest – Bedrock

Emotionally I am tempted to say that SOE/Daybreak without EverQuest is a ship without a rudder.  EQ is the cornerstone on which the empire was built, so widely popular and wildly profitable in the days before World of Warcraft, it spawned a port, a sequel, two false starts at a second sequel, and likely represents the most valuable IP the company holds.

Also, a lot of people still play it.  And they pay to play it.  Two of the three most popular servers require Daybreak All Access subscriptions.  Every time Daybreak stands up a nostalgia server it gets swamped, to the point that they had to write a login queue and take the zone instancing tech from EverQuest II in order to keep from having to put up overflow servers.  And as the pre-WoW subscription champ, it has a lot of former players to pitch nostalgia at.

And it isn’t just nostalgia.  The game still gets an expansion every year, which is something you don’t bother doing if people aren’t buying enough copies.  Expansions would have to stop before I would consider the game was closer than five years from being shut down.

DC Universe Online – Profit

This is sort of a blank spot for me.  I don’t play the game, not liking it on Windows.  However I have heard, throughout its life, that it is profitable… at least on PlayStation, where at one point Smed said it generated more revenue that any other F2P option on that platform.

It is also unencumbered by Station Cash/Daybreak Cash, at least on consoles, which makes its accounting all the more simple.  And DCUO is the only game to actually expand during the Daybreak era, having been ported to XBox.  I have heard that did not go as well as it could have, but a game has to be doing okay to expand its base.

EverQuest II – Stalwart

The other game that gets people to subscribe to Daybreak Access.  Never the star and not as successful selling nostalgia as its older brother, EQII still has a solid following.  It must have been doing okay for a long stretch, as it seemed to be the focus of SOE’s oddball science experiments with things like SOEmote.  And, of course, it does get an expansion every year, which I think marks it as pretty safe for the near future.

Still, I can’t mark it as solid as EQ, and I roll my eyes every time somebody in the comment sections assumes that it has many more subscribers than EQ merely because of their relative ages.  EQII also remains the one Daybreak game I play regularly so, strictly speaking, I am not even picking my favorite as safest.

H1Z1: King of the Kill – Wunderkind

I hesitated to put this below EQII as it is Daybreak’s darling, the star of Twitch, and is getting its own currency in order to break it free of the burden that is Station Cash.  But it is the new kid as well, so that decided the ordering.  Safe so long as it remains popular, it seems to be getting all the development resources when it comes to the H1Z1 duo.

PlanetSide 2 – Struggling

The favored child of former Chairman Smed, the seemingly simple sequel to the original PlanetSide has had a whole host of issues over the course of its career.  It managed to get all the aim-bot and hacking problems of its predecessor while not having as much draw as $60 shooters like Call of Duty.

The executive creative director said the game was “really struggling” a little over a year ago, unable to get people to subscribe to Daybreak All Access just to play.  The game has been shut down in South Korea and China, hasn’t come close to Smed’s old feature list, and there hasn’t been much in the way of news about the game, a danger sign at a company where silence leads to closure.

H1Z1: Just Survive – No News is Bad News

Not done, not loved, and not very high in the queue for resource, Just Survive doesn’t need a blood red mark the size of a doubloon on its cheek to cement its position at the bottom of the safety list.  SOE/Daybreak have a long tradition of neglecting titles, failing to mention them, promising some news “soon” in the run up to the point that they are canned.

Not a bad game, this base building zombie survival variation, but you have to play with a regular group on a server where there are other players but where you are not overwhelmed.  But if somebody at Columbus Nova showed up and said that their research indicates that Daybreak should only have five games, I have no doubt this is what would get cut.

Not Candidates

I keep seeing Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online come up as doomed in the dystopian  Daybreak future.  However, while we still don’t know the full extent of the relationship between Daybreak and Standing Stone Games, I doubt the team in San Diego is going to be able to shutter either title of their own accord.

Furthermore, WB isn’t spinning those games off out of the goodness of its heart and a love of the player base.  WB expects to get paid over time, and it wouldn’t have bothered setting them up as an license revenue income source if it didn’t think it would at least pay back the lawyers fees needed to setup Standing Stone.

When?

While I may have picked H1Z1: Just Survive as candidate for closure in my 2017 predictions post, I don’t think we’re going to hear anything about the game for a while, if we do hear bad news.  Its code connection with King of the Kill may be close enough still for it to get some attention.  Eventually though Daybreak will either need to do something with the game or stop wasting resources on it.  The more time that passes without any real change, the more likely it seems to me that closure will be the end result.

And then there is PlanetSide 2.  I am still stuck on that “really struggling” statement.  Then again, it is linked to King of the Kill in its code base and does seem to be getting some attention.  If Smed were still around I wouldn’t even consider PS2 for closure, as it was his baby.  Without him around and the harsh realities of being an “indie” studio nothing is strictly safe any more.

Anyway, that is my outsiders opinion on the subject.  We shall see what 2017 brings.

3 thoughts on “Daybreak Doomsaying

  1. Bhagpusss

    So good to see a rational examination of the situation. The whole “what will they close next? Is YOUR game safe in their hands?” hype train that M:OP has been running had my finger hovering over the “remove feed” button in my Feedly this last week. (Metaphorically – if only removing a feed from Feedly was that easy…).

    As a longtime (since last century!) SOE/DBG player and customer I can only say that I feel both more secure and optimistic about the future of the MMOs I play than I did before the sell-off. I’ve gone over that at some length in my replies to comments to you and Aywren at my own blog so I won’t re-hash the details but seriously…does no-one remember PSS1? Or the closure of Free Realms et al? The days of SOE being the Resting Home for Old MMOs ended the best part of a decade ago.

    Reading the runes on Columbus Nova is a bit like Kremlinology in the 1970s. No-one really has any idea what their plans are; all we can do is try to project forward from what we see them do. It looks to me as though they are methodically going through the assets they acquired, assessing their value and disposing of them accordingly. While Smed, and probably while his erstwhile right-hand man Russell Shanks, were in charge that would have been an obtuse and opaque process, obscured by networking and sentiment, but now there’s a straight-up CN guy in charge I think it’s safe to assume the main issue is whether something makes money or could be made to make money reasonably quickly.

    As a player of three of the four DBG MMOs that most likely either make money now or will make money when they get the miserable accounting procedures they inherited straightened out, I feel as confident as I can be that EQ, EQ2 and DCUO will carry on for a while. I wouldn’t put a number on “a while” because, as i said, we know so very little about CN’s intentions, short, medium or long term. I can’t really think what they could plan on, though, other than running the games as a profitable ongoing concern or getting the portfolio into a sufficiently stable and profitable state to be able to sell them on, at a profit, to someone that would want to run them.

    Either of those futures seems to me to be hugely more appealing to a potential player of those MMOs than where we were under late-period SOE. If I have any negative feelings about all this it’s that I allowed myself to be suckered by Smed, Smokejumper and their cronies into believing, even if only for a while, that EQNext was a viable product. With hindsight it’s absolutely clear it never was anything more than smoke, mirrors and a very great deal of wishful thinking. Brad McQuaid, making Vanguard with Sigil Games, looks like a model of propriety, sobriety and rectitude by comparison. At least he got a game out – and a damn good one for all its technical flaws. What did the EQNext team achieve? A faked video and a bunch of wannabe stand-up comedy videos? Oh, and Landmark. Time and money well spent!

    Anyway, I just hope the dust can settle now and the doom and gloom merchants can move on to try and drag down the next straggler from the herd. Carbine seem to be being remarkably uncooperative about laying down and dying and Turbine have managed to sidestep the entire problem by getting out of the MMO business without the trouble of closing any. If CCP can find a buyer they may do the same. Blizzard just gets bigger and so does SquareEnix while Trion seem content to lose face and affection in order stay in business so they’re out. Funcom is hanging on by a thread but the thread hasn’t snapped yet. Who else is there?

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  2. Simon

    I have about 1000 hours in PS2 since it’s launch, and I still go back to it from time to time.
    My take is that it will always have a core audience simply because there is nothing else like it. You can judge this for yourself from the PS2 reddit which is full of in-jokes, memes, call-outs and the kind of pie-in-the-sky brainstorming that only people completely immersed in a game can make.
    That core audience though is just not that big. Is it enough for a F2P game to remain profitable in maintenance mode? (Though I suspect the playerbase would probably be happy with getting new weapons and vehicles once or twice a year).

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  3. Mika Hirvonen (@Hirvox)

    I have slightly less than 1300 hours in PS2. I think there’s only been one new vehicle since I stopped playing about two years ago. There has been plenty of new cosmetic options, but I think most of them have been made by the players themselves.

    Personally, I simply got bored. Second-to-second and gameplay did not get any worse, but the battles did get repetitive, and it was clear that the whole continental lattice plan was never going to be finished. Content creation was so slow that by the time Hossin was finally released it was already due for a revamp.

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