Daybreak 30 Months In

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.

Daybreak Lineup – Fall 2017

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.

Yeah, who owns Battle Royale now?

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.

Just Survive

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.

PlanetSide 2

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?

Something New?

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?

3 thoughts on “Daybreak 30 Months In

  1. Bhag

    The whole thing is weird. It was weird when it happened and it hasn’t gotten any less weird over time. After two and a half years there’s still no clear picture of why Columbus Nova bought SOE or what they expect to do with it. Most of the changes made in the first eighteen months were sensible and it probably took an unsentimental outsider to make calls that really should have been made before. In the case of EQNext probably about five years ago, preferably before anyone outside Smed’s ircle of intimates ever heard about it.

    As a regular EQ2 player and occasional EQ dabbler the ground has felt much more solid under my feet since DBG took over. The games are better maintained, less buggy, enjoy constant attention and basically look like something the company sees as an asset not an embarrassing legacy liability. Yes, resources are tight and dev-player communication sometimes shows the strain because of it, but I feel there’s been a significant and sustained improvement.

    The same is probably true of DCUO, which I play sporadically, but DCUO always seemed better managed even under SOE.

    I think the problem with PS2 is it’s too good at what it does. Most reports I hear suggest the gameplay is pretty good, particularly for F2p, and people enjoy it without needing to spend any money on it. Nice for them, not so nice for DBG.

    I still haven’t played H1z1, either version, but obviously they will have been making a ton of cash from it and now they’re making less with the prospect of maybe soon not making much at all. Or PUBG could implode. Still, H1Z1 did a whole heck of a lot better for several years than any of us thought it would when Smed made his deranged pitch for it as the new home for disgruntled SWG players.

    As for the future…

    Weren’t they hiring recently? And didn’t they acknowledge they were working on at least one secret project? They also did say, when they cancelled EQN, that they weren’t done with the EQ franchise. I think they said that. Or something.

    Who knows? I thought CN would get the whole thing in shape and then sell it on, probably in pieces. There must be other MMO houses who’d like a chance to run any or all of the stable (into the ground, most likely, but I can think of one or two candidates who might offer a safe berth to the EverQuest twins for another decade or so). Now it looks less like they plan to do that and more like they are actually going to just keep on keeping on. Maybe the portfolio as a whole does make a tidy profit on that original investment and CN just want to milk it as long as it keeps flowing.

    I just count myself lucky the games are still up and running, particularly EQ2. EQ would be fine if the official servers died – P99 and all the other established emus will keep the doors open to Old Norrath longer than I’ll be around to need them, I’m sure. As yet, though, there has never been a successful EQ2 emulator and from the research I did it seems that hasn’t been for the want of trying. Apparently it’s a particularly hard nut to crack and I’m not confident that, if DBG were to give up on it, anyone else would be able to pick up the baton.

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  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – Yes, they have hinted at something new a couple times if I recall correctly. However, here we stand, 30 months in, and the only net gain is really DCUO on XBox.

    I went and looked at their job listings, and there is an opening there for technical director for “unannounced game title” so they must be working on something, or planning something, but who knows where it stands, when they’ll talk about it, or if it will ever see the light of day.

    Of course, not hearing things early might be a good thing for them. I think Smed was a bit too eager to talk about stuff before it was really ripe. And now that they don’t really have a well known individual who speaks for the company, nor do they have whatever you would call SOE Live after the change, maybe they will wait for things to mature a bit before trying to bang the hype drum. No repeats of The Agency or EverQuest Next would be a good thing in my book.

    I am somewhat bummed that I am just not “feeling it” for EQ or EQII now… or any fantasy MMORPG if you get right down to it… because, as I said, they seem like they are in a good place for now. This might be the next golden age of Norrath or something. Or, more likely, just the last golden age.

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  3. Izlain

    I loved our conversation on the Podcast. We are clearly some of the few who actually played EQ2 and enjoyed it, but regardless it has been a fascinating journey. Clearly none of us thought the company would still be going, let along getting by on a bevy of old games. Still, it’s nice to see that some of my favorite MMOs of days past are still going strong, and it would be interesting to see something new. H1Z1 has sat unplayed for me for a very long time, but I might check it out again if it’s ever done so to speak. It’s honestly not what anyone thought it was going to be so it will likely not see much play time from me.

    I do want to play EQ2 and even EQ from time to time. You and Bhagpuss keep the torch lit and keep the games on my mind. Perhaps a return to Norrath is in order soon. However short that visit may be.

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