We learned a little over a month ago that The Burning Lands, the 25th EverQuest expansion, was slated to go live today. And so it has. We knew it was coming, but we were finally getting some detailed information. Also, pre-orders were open. You could start giving Daybreak your money.
The high level points of the expansion seemed to be about on par with what we have come to expect annually from the Norrath team. Some new zones around a hub, new raids, new quests, new abilities, and a new mechanic.
- Luck Stat – A brand new stat that influences just how lucky you are! This stat will randomly increase the amount of gold in your split, the amount of critical damage you do, your chance to succeed at a trade-skill combine, and much more!
- 6 Expansion Zones – You’ll adventure throughout the grand and fantastic environments and architecture of the Planes of Fire, Air, and Smoke!
- New Raids, Quests, and Missions
- New Spells, Combat Abilities, and AAs
- New Collections
There is nothing on that list that is going to drag anybody new into the game, but that was to be expected. MMORPGs beyond a certain age become more about tending to the installed base than trying to grab new players. Anybody proposing otherwise is fighting history and wasting money. Once you’ve launched and gone free to play there isn’t anything left to attract new players in anything like the quantity needed to support any radical change.
So a normal autumnal expansion release for EverQuest. Maybe a couple weeks later than we might have expected… November is more the norm… but close enough. All seems normal in Norrath.
Or would seem normal if Daybreak hadn’t just laid off a big chunk of their staff on Friday.
Daybreak, not being a public company, doesn’t have to tell us about layoffs. But in the age of social media, word of layoffs get out quickly and this round was no exception, with John Smedley echoing what he had heard on Twitter Friday morning.
Once the press had been alerted Daybreak issued an anodyne statement about optimization while refusing to mention any details.
We are optimizing our structure to ensure we best position ourselves for continued success in the years to come. This effort has required us to make some changes within the organization and we are doing everything we can to support those impacted in this difficult time. As we look to improve efficiencies and realign resources, we remain focused on supporting our existing games and development of our future titles.
That statement is an example of one trying to have ones cake and eat it too. Reports say that between 60 and 70 people, or roughly one third of Daybreak’s staff, was given their notice on Friday. When you are down by a third it will be difficult to both support existing games and develop new titles.
Of course, what even are the existing Daybreak titles at this point? EverQuest and EverQuest II, holding up the fantasy end of the catalog, were merged into a single shared group some time back. DC Universe Online is the superhero game and reportedly the most consistent revenue generator, the PlayStation 4 version being the breadwinner there. And then there is PlanetSide 2, which has been problematic in the past, though it is still getting updates.
H1Z1 Battle Royale went to NantG Mobile as part of the joint venture between NantWorks and Daybreak announced back in September. NantWorks had the money and Daybreak had the IP I guess, though Daybreak apparently held on to the PlayStation 4 version of H1Z1. So if there was anybody left working on H1Z1 or the esports league, they were probably seen as expendable.
Word is that the layoffs were concentrated in the Daybreak Austin office and were related to a new project being developed there around a “top IP.” Daybreak said that the Austin office was not being closed, but I guess that they are no longer working on that “top IP” if they’ve been mostly let go.
People working on the new thing are gone and people working on the old stuff were already spread a bit thin. Where does that leave Daybreak.
Back in May there was a post on Reddit alleged to be by a former Daybreak employee about plans for the company. I summed that up in a post here, and a good thing too as it was removed from Reddit by the author not too long later.
The removal led to it being declared a fake, but some key details certainly ended up coming to pass.
Sure, Just Survive sunsetting was hardly a reach. Even I predicted that back in January. But the whole Z1 Battle Royale was alluded to, something we didn’t end up hearing about until September. And the trajectory for PlanetSide 2 seems to line up.
So, in looking at the rest of that post, you have to ask if we are looking at the end game for EverQuest and EverQuest II, if Daybreak is holding out for one last anniversary update for each of them (they turn 20 and 15 respectively next year) before moving on to the alleged EverQuest 3 and its plan for PvP focus anchored on a fantasy battle royale feature.
If that is the case, my prediction would be to prepare for disaster and a belated attempt to return to catering to the installed base once EverQuest 3 flops, because PvP has never been much beyond a distraction in Norrath.
But, the word has come out that we might be hearing about something new from Daybreak on Thursday. Bets on what it will be? PlanetSide 3? EverQuest 3 PvP? PlanetSide Mobile? EverQuest Mobile? What else have they got to work with?