What a week it has been for Daybreak.
First they get caught in a pretty big lie. And it was a lie nobody expected so when they said it people immediately questioned it.
There is absolutely no question they were lying, it is just a matter of what they were lying about.
Either Columbus Nova was part of the purchase of Daybreak back in 2015, or the company has been misrepresenting that material fact repeatedly for the last three years. Either there was some financial benefit for them lying over and over for three years or they have chosen to start lying now as a measure of expediency due to sanctions against Russian oligarchs.
And honestly I can’t decide which is correct, mostly because I can’t figure out who they might have tricked by lying for three years. (As a side note, somehow the same “mistake” was made with Harmonix back in 2010 when press releases announced Columbus Nova was purchasing them, but now they also say it was Jason Epstein all along.)
And Daybreak can’t manage to fully close the door even with its own definitive, we’ve said all were going to say statement posted to all of the forums. Quoting for truth, since they’ve gone in to edit this statement already like it was on Wikipedia:
Dear Daybreak Community,
There has been some confusion concerning Daybreak’s ownership and rumors about the state of the company that have circulated from a few online game websites, and we want to set the record straight. We assure you that these rumors are entirely false and that there’s no impact on our business or games in any way whatsoever.
From the get-go, Daybreak has been primarily owned by Jason Epstein, a longtime investor who also has investments in a variety of media properties. Jason acquired Daybreak (formerly SOE) in February 2015 and has been the executive chairman and majority owner of the company since that time.
We’re well aware of prior statements from Daybreak indicating our company was acquired by Columbus Nova. We have since clarified that the company was acquired by Jason Epstein when he was a partner at Columbus Nova, which he left in 2017. We’ve also taken steps to clarify those facts on our website and on third-party internet sites to ensure that all of the information currently made available is consistent and accurate.
We apologize for the previous miscommunication and hope that this clears up any confusion. As always, we greatly appreciate your continued support for our games, and we’ll continue to work hard to bring the best experiences to you.
So that settles it, right? Maybe. I just trip over the first sentence of the second paragraph:
From the get-go, Daybreak has been primarily owned by Jason Epstein…
When you feel the need to throw in the word “primarily” it does suggest that there were other owners. Maybe it was Columbus Nova! Maybe that was the bit Sony held onto. Maybe it was a couple old ladies from Sheboygan. We don’t know and Daybreak doesn’t seem in a mood to offer anything beyond a lame understatement of their actions over the last three years.
By the way, after Daybreak edited their Wikipedia article to take out any mention of Columbus Nova, somebody went back and added this:
Evidently wanting to distance itself from Columbus Nova, Daybreak started claiming in April of 2018 that the original press release was in error and that Jason Epstein purchased the company personally. It is not clear when exactly Columbus Nova, Daybreak, and Jason Epstein severed ties.
So yeah, their efforts haven’t exactly born the fruit for which they were likely hoping.
And the kicker is that it probably doesn’t matter. Lying to us is futile and, as you can see, even counter-productive. A wasted effort. If the FBI wants to know who bought them they’ll find out. I am sure they can subpoena Sony to see who signed the check and where the funds came from. So the lesson here is, if somebody asks you if you’re going to be affected by sanctions on Russia, just say, “No.” Don’t use that moment to bring up a tale about how you’ve never been owned by the company you’ve been telling everybody was the owner for the last three years. It clearly will not turn out well.
That was enough silliness on Tuesday and I figured once Daybreak got their story straight and stopped trying to gaslight the internet we’d all wander off to fret about lockboxes or whatever the next story of the moment turned out to be.
But then yesterday another blow landed as we found out that Daybreak had a significant layoff, with a reported 70 or more people being let go. Sure, that probably had more to do with how the company has been doing rather than anything related to Russian sanctions, but could the timing be any worse? We’ve never been owned by that Russian company, Russian sanctions won’t have any effect on us, but we’re laying off a huge chunk of our staff.
And MMORPG.com threw a bit more fuel on that fire with a rumor about Daybreak possibly being acquired by another company… at which point Jason Epstein would drop out of the picture… maybe… he might be there as well. That story felt really thin, and given that the author also said that Daybreak acquired Standing Stone Games, I wouldn’t give it much credence. After all, we know that it was Jason Epstein who acquired Standing Stone… erm… no… Daybreak got into a deal to be Standing Stone’s publisher, a deal that seemed to bring almost no benefit to Lord of the Rings Online or Dungeons & Dragons Online so far as I could tell. But Daybreak didn’t buy them. I don’t know who actually owns Standing Stone Games though. It could be Jason Epstein though. I wouldn’t cross him off the list. He is a busy guy.
Anyway, it was enough to make a long time fan of the Norrath feel more than a bit defeated.
I mean, I am used to having the weight of SOE and then Daybreak’s foibles drag me down. To be a fan of theirs is to suffer. So instead of posting a piece I already had written about the EverQuest Agnarr server launching the Planes of Power expansion and how that is the centerpiece of their locked-in-time plans for this retro server, I am spewing out text about yet another bad turn in the life of this company and its games.
What is going to happen? What does the future hold?
My gut says that there is value in the EverQuest franchise and that, run properly, EQ and EQII could be a nice little niche money spinners wherever they end up. I had been feeling that Norrath was doing better than anybody had a right to expect under Daybreak, with yearly expansions and content updates in between. But with layoffs is that at an end?
I guess DC Universe Online is safe, being that it is said to bring in a reliable revenue stream. But PlanetSide 2 has been troublesome in the past and H1Z1… or whatever name it has now… was looking pretty good, right up until the point that it got trampled in the fight between PUBG and Fortnite over the battle royale space. Now it is going onto the PS4, but will they bother bringing it to China? And it feels like Just Survive just won’t.
And this one-two punch of lies and layoffs has brought up all the old resentments and recriminations in the rather close knit world of MMORPG gamers. So it seems to be the time for some to replay every grievance from the past, from the NGE and the fall of SWG to the false hopes of The Agency to the replay of false hopes and the faked demos of EverQuest Next to the early death of Landmark and every foible big and small in between.
There is a lot of resentment and feelings of betrayal when you look back down the road the company has traveled. Every game shut down, every bad decision they had to reverse on after announcing, every upbeat demo or announcement followed by months of silence, every update that didn’t meet expectations, every bug that lingers for year after year, every nutty side project that ate up dev time only to be abandoned… it all adds up. Also, that ProSieben thing. How could I forget that?
Games don’t last forever. Mistakes happen. Bad decisions get made. Every feature, no matter how bad, is somebody’s favorite. You’re always going to piss somebody off no matter what you do. But Daybreak over the years feels like it has done more than its share of all of that, and it isn’t a big company like EA or Blizzard where they can piss people off and get past it by launching another Battlefront title or WoW expansion that will sell millions of copies.
It feels like we’re getting to the end of the story of SOE and Daybreak. Maybe not today, or even this year, but things are headed in that direction. They’re maintaining the old titles, but the only hope from the new was H1Z1 and it seems to have fallen by the wayside in the genre it helped spark. There might be a new title in the works, but having to lay off so many people is going to impact something.
What do you do? Do you cut back on supporting the old base? No more expansions for EQ and EQII? That brings in money and keeps the old base there. But if you don’t work on something new then the future is set as an ever dwindling player base will lead to an every smaller staff and an eventual shut down.
Not a good week to be a fan of any of Daybreak’s remaining products.
Maybe I’ll feel better about all of this tomorrow and put up that Agnarr post.
- Massively OP – The fiasco begins
- Massively OP – Daybreak Chief Publishing Officer leaves
- Massively OP – Covering layoffs and further updates
- Massively OP – Their podcast talking about covering the story
- Massively OP – a poll about Daybreak
- Massively OP – Speculating on where Daybreak is going
- MMORPG.com – Daybreak acquisition rumor
- MMO Fallout – The change of ownership clarification
- Ars Technica – Questions Daybreak’s change of owner story
- Venture Beat – Layoffs and skepticism
- Inventory Full – Everything you thought you knew is wrong
- Keen & Graev – What happens now?
- Endgame Viable – Part of the weekly summing up
- Inventory Full – Putting out the fire with gasoline
- Massively OP – Does Daybreak own Standing Stone Games?
- Massively OP – Assessing what Daybreak has said about the layoffs
- Massively OP – More Daybreak to Columbus Nova to Renova Connection Questions