30 months seems like a nice round number for a review.
I was thinking about Daybreak over the weekend. It has been about two and a half years now since they ceased to be SOE and began living the “indie” lifestyle as Daybreak. Freed from the shackles of their PlayStation overlords there was the promise of being able to do new things… mostly on XBox.
First though, they had to clean house. That started with staff cuts. They cut games, Dragon’s Prophet, PlanetSide, and Legends of Norrath, though they had already cut some games as SOE to get ready for the deal. Then they killed off the long suffering EverQuest Next project and released Landmark, only to close it down less than a year later. That left them with a tidy array of games.
DC Universe Online
Profitable on PlayStation, DCUO was the beneficiary of the whole “we can develop for XBox!” plan, getting an XBox One client last year along with the promise of being able to play on servers with Windows players. I can’t recall if that ever happened. The game does get regular content updates and likely continues to be profitable.
EverQuest and EverQuest II
The foundation of the company. I remain of the opinion I expressed on a podcast a year and and a half ago, that these two titles are in the strongest place they have been in a long time. Both games get yearly content expansion and regular updates and Daybreak has continued to successfully play the nostalgia card with both titles, rolling out fresh servers focused on old content. Those are consistently the most popular servers though even I, a big fan of the idea, wonder how long these titles can live largely on that sort of thing.
H1Z1 – King of the Kill
The surprise break-out battle royale aspect of the H1Z1 saga, it still hasn’t managed to exit Early Access despite Daybreak’s parent company considering the game launched 30 months ago. And there is a question as to how long its reign of success will last now that PlayerUnknown’s Battleground is now the darling of battle royale titles and Twitch streamers. You cannot live on selling $5 in-game hoodies when a new game is stealing your audience.
Having to differentiate yourself from your new competitor… which has sold 10 million units already… is never a good sign. Meanwhile, the promised ports to PlayStation and XBox have never materialized.
The aptly named twin of King of the Kill and once the main focus of the plan. Then the battle royale idea proved more popular, the game was split into two titles, with Just Survive mostly neglected for the next year and a half. The biggest announcement during that time was that Daybreak was removing the “H1Z1” prefix from the title. That came with the promise of a big revamp, but I don’t know if that will be enough to undue the damage from the time of neglect, which has left a recent legacy of “mostly negative” reviews for the game.
The successor to PlanetSide and Smed’s favored child, it is hard to gauge how well it is doing in the post-Smed era. It continues to get balance changes and updates. On the other hand, almost two years back the Daybreak was saying that the title was having problems on the revenue generation front. When you’re giving it away for free and not charging to play the core of the game, people will take advantage of that, a business model that remains the same today. Has this gotten any better?
The above is just the way things go with titles that are on the market and have to survive over time. Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you.
What differentiates a going concern from a company just riding out its end days and milking its current titles is ongoing development of new games. And I haven’t seen any of that from Daybreak. Moving one five year old title to XBox was nice, but hardly a substitute for new work.
All six titles in the Daybreak lineup come from the SOE era. H1Z1 might have gone into early access shortly after the Daybreak deal, but it was announced and work was in progress well before then.
The only thing new under the sun for Daybreak has been a deal with Standing Stone Games to handle some aspect of LOTRO and DDO operations. But that is hardly a substitute for new work, especially since SSG is a company clearly riding out its own end game scenario. No matter how much money Daybreak is getting from that deal, it clearly has an expiration date.
So is this what the Daybreak experience is going to be? A long ride into the sunset shepherding an ever dwindling stable to titles onward until the last one drops?