Daybreak buys Cold Iron Studios

A press release went out from Daybreak on Tuesday announcing that they had purchased Cold Iron Studios.

It follows you as you move about the room!

To preserve it, since Daybreak has shown a willingness to re-write history at times, here is the body of the press release:

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – August 11, 2020 – Daybreak Games, global publisher and developer of large-scale multiplayer online games, today announced it acquired Cold Iron Studios, the San Jose based studio of veteran MMO, action and shooter developers currently working on a PC and console game set in the iconic Alien universe.

Cold Iron Studios co-founder Craig Zinkievich will continue to lead the studio and the development of the Alien game, reporting to Ji Ham, CEO of Daybreak Games. The game promises to deliver an action-packed, sci-fi shooter experience unlike any other game on the market.

“We’re incredibly proud and excited to be part of the Daybreak family,” said Zinkievich. “Daybreak and Cold Iron share the same passion and long history for delivering action-packed multiplayer games for audiences worldwide. In combining our decades of experience developing and launching globally successful multiplayer titles, we’re destined to make great games together.”

“We are delighted to have Cold Iron Studios join the Daybreak Games family and accelerate our next generation of growth,” said Ham. “Strategic investments in highly talented and proven teams that have outstanding leaders and a track record of developing awesome online games is an important part of our growth and strategy for Daybreak.”

Cold Iron Studios was established in 2015 by the creators of City of Heroes, Star Trek Online and Neverwinter. Under the new ownership, Cold Iron Studios will operate independently with Daybreak acting as publisher providing marketing, tech and operational support.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

There is nothing particularly startling in the text.  The terms were not disclosed because neither were publicly held companies, so what goes on is viewed as none of your business.  I guess we can confirm that Ji Ham is still the CEO, though I am sure Jason Epstein still owns the whole thing.  Or Columbus Nova.  Or whoever.

Cold Iron will operate independently, with Daybreak acting as the publisher the way they do with Lord of the Rings Online, a tidbit that once again brings up the “do they or don’t they” around who owns Standing Stone Games.

As the background image on their web site strongly suggests, Cold Iron is working on a licensed game based on the Alien franchise.  There isn’t much in the way of details on the site, save for a brief description of the company.

Cold Iron Studios was founded in 2015 by three industry veterans who had a goal of creating games they want to play and building a team they love working with. Since then, the team has expanded to 30+ awesome developers and we’ve moved into a downtown office in the heart of Silicon Valley. We’re a diverse group of passionate gamers with decades of experience developing and launching award-winning MMO and action titles. Currently, the team is working on a new PC and console shooter based on the Alien franchise.

So it is a shooter for PC and consoles based on the Alien franchise.  Oddly, when you click on the careers or apply links, they resolve to another game studio, Scopely, and to the Marvel Strike Force page specifically in one case. Scopely acquired the 20th Century Fox gaming studio Foxnet Games, which published Marvel Strike Force, earlier this year.  Cold Iron had apparently been a part of that deal, having been acquired by Fox previously.  Scopely has now turned around and sold them to Daybreak.  Four owners in five years is very Silicon Valley.

More interesting perhaps is the connection to another company, Cryptic Studios.

Cryptic, which made City of Heroes for NCsoft and Champions Online, Star Trek Online, and Neverwinter, has been part of Perfect World Entertainment since 2011.  It still has an office in Silicon Valley, over in Los Gatos just around the corner from Netflix. (The Cryptic sign was still up when I drove past a couple months back anyway.)

Cold Iron was founded in San Jose in 2015 by a group of former Cryptic employees.  That is close enough to Cryptic as makes no difference.

Meanwhile, over at Daybreak, Cryptic co-founder Jack Emmert now runs the Austin based studio for the company that runs DC Universe Online and operates under the name Dimensional Ink Games since the studio split announcement earlier this year, though he reports into Daybreak in San Diego, so their independence as a studio remains to be proven.

But the connection, a Cryptic founder being in place at a company that purchase a studio built on former Cryptic devs does incline one to try and draw a connection.  Yes, it is a small industry with a lot of cross-pollination, but Daybreak and/or Jason Epstein haven’t exactly been visibly keen to open the wallet and invest in anything.  Layoffs and shut downs and cancelled plans have been more the legacy of the last 5+ years.

But now they’re spending?

And Dimensional Ink Games, of the three Daybreak sub-studios, is the only one who has even hinted that they have a new title in progress.  Is Cold Iron going to be used to back that plan up?

Yes, I know the press release says they will be operating independently.  I also know that when somebody owns you, you’re exactly as independent as they say you are at any given moment.  I worked for an independent start up at one point and spent a few months working on things for another independent start up because the VC who bankrolled both companies liked their idea better than ours for a brief stretch of time.

Anyway, Daybreak spent some money, we know very little, and there is plenty of room for speculation and wild conspiracy theories.  Go crazy.

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3 thoughts on “Daybreak buys Cold Iron Studios

  1. bhagpuss

    I nearly emailed you about this and I also nearly posted about it myself but it’s so humid here right now I can barely think so mostly what I’ve been doing is sitting around staring into space with not much of a thought in my head. I don’t do well with humidity.

    When I read the Gamesindustry piece the thing that most surprised me was that Daybreak were buying something. As you say, shrinkage has been their theme for years now, not growth. Dimensional Ink, though, has been particularly lively since the restructuring. If any of the minicorps was going to act rather than just give out vague hints it figures it would be them.

    That Alien game seems to have been in development a long time now. Not an IP that much interests me and I don’t generally play shooters either but still. I can see where something like that could have a market. I wonder how close to having something they can show us they are?

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  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @bhagpuss – You know me, I’ve taken a vow to cover all things Daybreak or something.

    The overt message is that they’re buying a studio to expand their success or some such pablum. But that goes counter to their past behavior.

    Do you think Daybreak buys a company, to become its fourth owner in five years, which is developing a shooter based on a licensed property that has a spotty record in video games because they see success? Or do you think that the co-founder or Cryptic thinks he can get something cool done if he gets his old City of Heroes team back together and managed to talk Epstein into the deal?

    Sure, the former is possible. Maybe the price was right. But the latter, that seems to have more merit. And, of course, it could be some mix of the two.

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  3. Yeebo

    In favor of scenario one, that Alien game of the Atari Jaguar was amazing. It would have been a smash hit on any other system. I think the franchise has untapped potential.

    However, my money is on two. Both the layoffs and sudden reversal to actively acquire a studio really smell like normal (or so I assume) shenanigans, where employees get win or get screwed depending more upon the whims of whoever is in charge and investor pressure for short term gains than than anything resembling a sound business strategy.

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