We are entering a new era for the games of Daybreak which made me think it might be a good time to review the story so far. We’re around the 25 year mark for when the seeds of the company were planted and, with the Enad Global 7 purchase, the time seems ripe.
- The House that EverQuest Built
First there was EverQuest.
At some point around 1996 John Smedley, working at Sony, managed to get Brad McQuaid, Steve Clover, Bill Trost, and a host of others together to create a 3D online multiplayer fantasy game loosely (or not so loosely in places) based off of Sojourn MUD / TorilMUD.
Launched on March 16, 1999, a variety of Sony organizational names were connected to the game at different times including Sony Interactive Studios America, Verant Interactive, 989 Studios, Sony Computer Entertainment America, Sony Pictures, and Sony Online Entertainment. My original disk and manual both display the 989 Studios logo prominently and names a couple others in the fine print. As I mentioned in my 20 year anniversary reflections post about EverQuest, one magazine referred to the company running the game as Sony, Verant, and 989 in different parts of the same issue. It was a confusing time.
Clarity came eventually though when EverQuest exceeded all expectations for success. That was a bit of a surprise. March of 1999 pre-dates the age of influencers and social media. The internet wasn’t seen as a serious news source, though Matt Drudge breaking the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal had at least made a few start paying attention. But a lot of us were still getting our gaming news via glossy monthly magazines where full page ads at the covers were the best way to gain attention.
I don’t recall any such ads for the game back in early 1999. I only knew about the game because almost everybody then active on TorilMUD got invited to beta, usually by Brad McQuaid’s Aradune character in game. I declined the beta invite, but came for the opening.
Not only were ads scarce, there wasn’t a lot of background to draw attention to the game. Compare that to what most see as its direct competitor of the era, Ultima Online. The Ultima franchise had been rolling along for more that 15 years when UO launched in late 1997. The series spawned a studio, Origin Systems, that created other well known games. And then there was Lord British, who ended up living in a castle and going into space on the proceeds of his Ultima empire. UO had the fame, reputation, and lineage that EQ lacked.
And yet, at their respective peaks, EQ would have more than double UO’s subscribers.
EQ seemed to spread by word of mouth. After buying it at Fry’s on my way home from work on launch day, I came into the office and told a bunch of people about it. They all went out and bought copies and we ended up playing together. And they told people and I told more people and others who played told people and soon the people I was telling already knew about it and there was a song “Has anybody seem my corpse?” being passed around and the whole thing had become something of a minor social phenomena.
And its success cemented the idea of online gaming at Sony so that the plethora of names was eventually pared down to Sony Online Entertainment. 25 years down the road from Smed collecting a team to get the ball rolling, this is all still the house that EverQuest built.
- A Timeline of Events
This is not an exhaustive list, and I am not going to try to piece together things that came before March 16, 1999 or betas for various games. Early access though, that is another story. I am also going to try not to editorialize, which won’t be easy for me. If I have missed anything important, drop me a note or a comment and I’ll update the post.
- Mar 16 – EverQuest launches with a base monthly subscription is $9.89 a month; servers are quickly overloaded and a long series of new servers kicks off
- Jul 28 – MMORTS Sovereign announced
- Apr 24 – The Ruins of Kunark, the first EverQuest expansion, launches
- Oct 5 – SOE acquires Infantry
- Dec 5 – The Scars of Velious, EQ expansion #2
- Apr 17 – Cosmic Rift launches
- Dec 4 – The Shadows of Luclin, EQ expansion #3
- Apr 25 -The subscription rate for EverQuest increased to $12.95
- Oct 29 – The Planes of Power, EQ expansion #4
- Feb 11 – Sovereign MMORTS officially cancelled
- Feb 11 – EverQuest Online Adventures launches on PlayStation 2
- Feb 25 – The Legacy of Ykesha, EQ expansion #5
- May 20 – PlanetSide launches
- Jun 24 – EverQuest Macintosh Edition launches
- Jun 26 – Star Wars Galaxies launches
- Sep 9 – Lost Dungeons of Norrath, EQ expansion #6
- Nov – Star Chamber: The Harbinger Saga launches
- Nov 17 – EverQuest Online Adventures: Frontiers expansion launches
- Dec 1 – Lords of EverQuest, a single player Windows RTS, launches
- Feb 10 – Gates of Discord, EQ expansion #7
- Feb 10 – Champions of Norrath launches on PlayStation 2
- Mar – EverQuest subscribers hit a peak of 550K
- Sep 14 – Omens of War, EQ expansion #8
- Oct 27 – SWG Jump to Lightspeed expansion
- Nov 8 – EverQuest II launches
- Nov 12 – A second round of EQII servers are launched to absorb the surge of new players
- Nov – SOE introduces the Station Access plan that gives players a combined subscription to EQ, EQII, and Planetside for $22 a month
- Nov – EQII subscribers who opt for Station Access get two extra character slots on their account and access to the EQII Players stats page
- Dec – EQII is down for almost two days as an update breaks the live servers
- Jan – SOE Announces SWG is being added to Station Access
- Feb 7 – Champions: Return to Arms is launched on PlayStation 2
- Feb 8 – EQ server consolidation starts with the four PvP servers being combined into the single Zek server
- Feb 15 – Dragons of Norrath, EQ expansion #9
- Feb 17 – SOE temporarily adds the /pizza command to EverQuest II as a cross promotion with Pizza Hut allowing players to order a pizza from within the game
- Mar 21 – The Bloodline Chronicles, the first EQII adventure pack launches
- Mar 22 – Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade, a PSP title, launches
- Apr – SOE begins a series of EQ server merges to bolster the populations, which runs on until the end of June
- Apr – EverQuest II – East, developed for China, Taiwan, and South Korea, launches
- May 5 – SWG Rage of the Wookies expansion launches
- Jun 28 – The Splitpaw Saga, the second EQII adventure pack launches
- Jul 20 – EQII gets new servers, Shadowhaven, The Bazaar, and The Vox PvP under the Station Exchange program, which allows players to sell in-game items for real world money; players are allowed to transfer characters there from other live servers
- Aug 15 – SOE takes over operation of The Matrix Online
- Sep 13 – Depths of Darkhollow, EQ expansion #10
- Sep 13 – Desert of Flames, the first EQII expansion
- Nov 1 – SWG Trials of Obi-wan expansion launches
- Nov 8 – SWG New Game Enhancements update lands, changing character progression
- Nov 9 – The “SOGA” character models from EverQuest II – East become an available option in EverQuest II
- Jan – SOE announces they will be merging 10 low population EQII servers into 10 medium population servers because players are “too spread out” on the low population servers.
- Feb 17 – Shadowhaven Station Exchange server is merged into The Bazaar server
- Feb 21 – Prophecy of Ro, EQ expansion #11
- Feb 21 – Kingdom of Sky, EQII expansion #2
- Mar 28 – Untold Legends: The Warrior’s Code, a PSP title, launches
- Mar 29 – EverQuest II – East is shut down, with all Chinese accounts transferred to the Mistmoore server, all Taiwanese accounts to the Najena server, and all Korean accounts to the Unrest server
- Jun – EQ launches the first progression servers for the game, The Combine and The Sleeper, which let players play though all of the game expansions in order
- Jun 14 – The Fallen Dynasty, the third EQII adventure pack launches
- Sep 19, The Serpent’s Spine, EQ expansion #12
- Nov 13 – Echoes of Faydwer, EQII expansion #3
- Nov 15 – Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom, a PSP title, launches
- Jan 30 – Vanguard: Saga of Heroes launches with SOE as publisher
- Feb 13 – The Buried Sea, EQ expansion #13
- May 9 – Legends of Norrath collectible card game is launched, running within EQ and EQII
- May 15 – SOE takes over operations for Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
- Mar 21 – The Sleeper EQ progression server is merged into The Combine server
- Apr 30 – The EQII Darathar– UK PvP, Gorenaire– FR PvP, and Talendor– DE PvP servers are merged into the Venekor – RP PvP server
- Jul 11 – The Agency is announced
- Jul 19 – EQuinox, the official print magazine of EverQuest II is announced with issue #1 featuring Rise of Kunark information and beta access
- Oct – Station Access pricing peaks at $30 a month for subscription access to all SOE titles including The Matrix Online and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
- Nov 13 – Secrets of Faydwer, EQ expansion #14
- Nov 13 – Rise of Kunark – EQII expansion #4
- Dec – SOE is caught after moving the level 60 Unholy Trinity guild off of the test server to a live server, an action against stated company policy and not something ever made available to the average player, causing a fierce reaction from players
- Dec – A false rumor spreads that Zapak Digital Entertainment is planning to purchase SOE and its games for $300 million, an amount close to what the company will sell for in December of 2020
- Jan 22 – Pirates of the Burning Sea launches with SOE as publisher
- Feb 14 – EQuinox issue #2 is announced, featuring Legends of Norrath cards
- Apr 16 – LiveGamer is brought in to run financial transaction for the Station Exchange RMT servers The Bazaar and The Vox PvP
- ~Sep – EQuinox issue #3 is cancelled and the magazine idea is scrapped
- Oct 21 – Seeds of Destruction, EQ expansion #15
- Oct 24 – The EQII Venekor– RP PvP is merged into the Nagefen, the final remaining PvP server
- Nov 18 – The Shadow Odyssey, EQII expansion #5
- Dec – SOE introduces Station Cash, a virtual currency, and an in-game cash shop in EQ and EQII
- Jan 23 – SOE games become available on Steam starting with EverQuest and EverQuest II
- Apr 28 – Free Realms launches
- Jul 31 – The Matrix Online is shut down
- Dec 15 – Underfoot, EQ expansion #16
- Feb 16 – Sentinal’s Fate, EQII expansion #6
- Mar 4 – The Combine EQ progression server is merged into the Druzzil Ro live server, ending the first retro server run for the company
- Apr – SOE tries a new EQII Passport subscription plan where for just $5.00 a month you can play for three consecutive days during a single month
- May 5 – SOE announces The Agency: Covert Ops, a free to play title on Facebook
- Jun 10 – Tanarus, a title that predated EverQuest was shut down
- Jun 22 – EQ server merges come again, paring down the server count by ten as low population servers are merged into more populated ones
- Jul – EverQuest II Extended, a free to play version of EQII launches
- Aug – Plans for EverQuest Next announced at FanFest
- Sep 15 – Star Wars: The Clone Wars Adventures launches
- Oct 12 – House of Thule, EQ expansion #17
- Jan 11 – DC Universe Online launches on Windows and PlayStation 3
- Feb 15 – The Fippy Darkpaw EQ time locked progression server launches, with the Vulak’Aerr server being added soon thereafter to handle the crush of players (I have a whole timeline for those servers)
- Feb 22 – Destiny of Velious, EQII expansion #7
- Mar 31 – The Agency is officially cancelled
- Apr – Flying mounts introduced into EQII
- May – SOE games are down for almost two weeks as part of the PlayStation Network security breach in which personal data from a reported 24.6 million accounts were compromised
- Jun – At E3 SOE announced that pricing for Station Access, now called SOE All Access, would drop from $30 to $20 a month, but extra character slots for EQ, EQII, and Vanguard would no longer be part of the plan
- Aug – SOE finally gets a unified server status page
- Nov 1 – DC Universe Online goes free to play
- Nov 15 – Veil of Alaris, EQ expansion #18
- Dec 6 – Age of Discovery, EQII expansion #8, which also ushers in the free to play era of the game as EverQuest II Extended is folded into the live server list
- Dec 15 – Star Wars Galaxies is shut down
- Dec 18 – The Vox PvP Station Exchange server for EQII is merged into the Nagefen server
- Dec 21 – The Bazaar Station Exchange server for EQII is merged into the Freeport server ending the Station Exchange program
- Feb – SOE announces it is selling its EU customer accounts to a German media company, ProSiebenSat.1
- Mar 16 – EverQuest goes free to play
- Mar 29 – EverQuest Online Adventures shuts down on PlayStation 2
- Mar 29 – Infantry is shut down
- Mar 29 – Cosmic Rift is shut down
- Mar 29 – Star Chamber: The Harbinger Saga is shut down
- Aug 7 – Vanguard: Saga of Heroes goes free to play (a week earlier than planned)
- Aug 7 – SOEmote is introduced to EverQuest II
- Sep – SOE introduces Player Studio for EQII, which allows players to create cosmetic items to sell in the in-game cash shop, for which they will be paid a cut of the sale
- Nov – SOE introduces Krono for EQ and EQII, an in-game item that can be redeemed for 30 days of subscription time, which users can purchase for real world cash and sell at the broker to other players for in-game currency
- Nov 13 – Chains of Eternity, EQII expansion #9
- Nov 20 – PlanetSide 2 launches
- Nov 28 – Rain of Fear, EQ expansion #19
- Jan 30 – SOE publishes the import Wizardry Online as a F2P title
- Jan 31 – Pirates of the Burning Sea ceases to be published by SOE
- Aug – A new vision/plan for EverQuest Next is announced at FanFest, which includes the involvement of Storybricks
- Aug – The FanFest presentation mentions a dev tool EverQuest Next called Landmark
- Sep 23 – SOE publishes the import Dragon’s Prophet as a F2P title
- Oct 8 – Call of the Forsaken, EQ expansion #20
- Nov 12 – Tears of Veeshan, EQII expansion #10
- Nov 13 – SOE starts selling early access packs to EverQuest Next Landmark
- Nov 15 – DC Universe Online launches on PlayStation 4
- Nov 18 – EverQuest Macintosh Edition is shut down
- Jan – Station Access/SOE All Access pricing drops to $15 a month, the price of a single game subscription, but keeps the 500 Station Case stipend after the forums erupt when Smed suggests they may remove that benefit
- Jan 24 – SOE announced they will be shutting down Free Realms, Star Wars: The Clone Wars Adventures, Wizardry Online, and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, which is seen as the reason they have cut the price of SOE All Access
- Mar – EverQuest Next Landmark becomes just Landmark
- Mar 31 – Free Realms is shut down
- Mar 31 – Star Wars: The Clone Wars Adventures is shut down
- Apr 10 – H1Z1 is announced, a zombie horror title oddly dedicated to SWG players
- Jun 18 – The ProSiebenSat.1 experiment ends and all EU accounts are transitioned back to SOE
- Jul 31 – Wizardry Online is shut down
- Jul 31 – Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is shut down
- Oct 28 – The Darkened Sea, EQ expansion #21
- Nov 11 – Altar of Malice, EQII expansion #11
- Jan 15 – H1Z1 releases as early access
- Jan 22 – The class action suit for the PlayStation/SOE security breach of May 2011 is resolved, awarding the lawyers $2.75 million and each affected player 450 station cash… but only for US players and only if you filled out a form and could prove you were affected
- Feb 2 – Sony announces it has sold SOE to Columbus Nova and the organization will be known as Daybreak Game Company going forward
- Apr 28 – The Rum Cellar, the fourth EQII adventure pack launches
- Apr 30 – Daybreak acknowledged and blessed the existence of the Project 1999 EQ retro server being developed by a private group, with the P1999 team and the Daybreak EQ team coordinating updates so as not to overlap each other
- May 22 – EQ opens the Ragefire progression server, the start of a regular run of special servers that help boost the game’s popularity by pulling back many lapsed players
- Jul 24 – Daybreak announces that long time studio head John Smedley is leaving the company, Russel Shanks steps up to take over his role
- Jul 24 – EQII launches the Stormhold progression server and Deathtoll PvP server, the first retro servers for the game
- Aug 21 – EQII announces the Drunder server, where rule breakers will be sent to play and no customer support will be available
- Oct – Nine of the lower population EQII servers, including the final PvP server Nagefen, are merged down to three PvE servers, all with new names (Maj’dul, Halls of Fate, and Skyfire), while the Antonia Bayle server remains unto itself
- Nov 16 – Dragon’s Prophet is shut down
- Nov 17 – Terrors of Thalumbra, EQII expansion #12
- Nov 18 – The Broken Mirror, EQ expansion #22
- Feb 8 – H1Z1 King of the Kill the battle royale game and H1Z1 Just Survive, the co-op zombie horror game, are split into two products, both remain in early access
- Mar 8 – The EQII Deathtoll PvP retro server is shut down
- Mar 11 – EverQuest Next officially cancelled, leaving Landmark the remaining active part of that project.
- Apr 29 – DC Universe Online launches on XBox One
- Jun 10 – Landmark leaves early access and goes live
- Jul 1 – PlanetSide is shut down
- Aug 17 – Legends of Norrath is shut down
- Nov 15 – Kunark Ascending, EQII expansion #13
- Nov 16 – Empires of Kunark, EQ expansion #23
- Dec 19 – Daybreak acquires Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeon & Dragons Online from Warner, setting them up under the name Standing Stone Games, never mentioning in public that they are the actual owners
- Feb 21 – Landmark is shut down
- Jul 31 – LOTRO launches the Mordor expansion
- Sep 22 – The Vulak’Aerr EQ time locked progression server is merged into the Fippy Darkpaw server
- Oct – H1Z1 King of the Kill renamed H1Z1 again due to a desire to release the game in China, where having “kill” in a game name is frowned upon by government censors
- Nov 28 – Planes of Prophecy, EQII expansion #14
- Dec 12 – Ring of Scale, EQ expansion #24
- Feb 28 – H1Z1 leaves early access and goes live
- Apr 24 – In response to a question about Russian sanctions Daybreak issues a statement declaring it was never owned by Columbus Nova, in open contradiction to three years of information, and was always solely owned by Jason Epstein
- Apr 24 – Daybreak removes all references to Columbus Nova from its web site and attempts to edit the Wikipedia page about the company to hide any Columbus Nova connection
- Aug 7 – H1Z1 launches on PlayStation 4
- Sep 4 – The EQII progression server Stormhold is merged into the Antonia Bayle server, ending its run
- Sep 6 – Daybreak announces a deal with NantWorks to create NantMobile G which will take over H1Z1 on PC with a plan to revitalize it, starting by rebranding it as Z1 Battle Royale
- Sep 6 – NantMobile G project also proposes mobile versions of Z1 Battle Royale and EverQuest
- Oct 24 – H1Z1 Just Survive is shut down
- Nov 13 – Chaos Descending, EQII expansion #15
- Dec 11 – The Burning Lands, EQ expansion #25
- Dec 14 – Planetside Arena is announced, an attempt to bring battle royale to PlanetSide 2, with pre-orders for early access for sale
- Dec 18 – Daybreak offers 4,000 lifetime subscriptions for sale at $299 each
- Dec 24 – Daybreak announces that they have sold out the 4,000 lifetime subscriptions
- Dec 28 – Daybreak puts 6,000 more life time subscriptions up for sale through Dec. 31st
- Feb 18 – PlanetSide Arena launch is delayed until summer, allegedly to have a simultaneous launch on PlayStation 4, all pre-orders are refunded
- Jul 11 – After over a year being offline, Daybreak announces that Player Studio for EQII has been shut down
- Apr 6 – NantMobile G hands Z1 Battle Royale back to Daybreak having failed to revitalize the game, after which little is heard about the PC version
- Aug 6 – DC Universe Online launches on Nintendo Switch
- Aug 30 – A PlanetSide Arena roadmap is released with plans for early access soon, with an official launch in 2020, PC only
- Sep 19 – PlanetSide Arena arrives in early access just barely making the declared “summer” launch plan
- Oct 21 – A PlanetSide producer’s letter states that PlanetSide Arena is a stepping stone towards PlanetSide 3
- Nov 5 – LOTRO launches the Minas Morgul expansion
- Dec 14 – Daybreak announces that PlanetSide Arena will be shut down in January
- Dec 17 – Blood of Luclin, EQII expansion #16
- Dec 18 – Torment of Velious, EQ expansion #26
- Jan 10 – PlanetSide Arena is shut down
- Jan 21 – Daybreak announces a series of sub-studios, with Darkpaw Games responsible for EverQuest and EverQuest II, Dimensional Ink handling DC Universe Online, and Rogue Planet Games handling PlanetSide 2
- May 20 – The Fippy Darkpaw EQ time locked progression server ends its nine year run as it is merged into the Vox live server
- Oct 20 – LOTRO launches the War of Three Peaks expansion
- Dec 1 – Enad Global 7 (EG7) announces plans to acquire Daybreak
- Dec 2 – EG7 presents an unprecedented array of previously private information about Daybreak to its board, shareholders, and the general public proving, if nothing else, that the company made money
- Dec 8 – Claws of Veeshan, EQ expansion #27
- Dec 15 – Reign of Shadows, EQII expansion #17
- Dec 23 – EG7 completes the acquisition of Daybreak Game Company
And that brings us up into the new year. We shall see what 2021 and beyond holds for the company
The joy of me blogging the way I do is that I have a blog post that corresponds to most every item on the above list that happened in the last decade. I considered linking to each and every one, but decided against it. You can use the search box at the top of the page if you want to find posts here about things like EQII Passport.
Before 2010 I was more chaotic in my blogging and, of course, before September 2006 there was no blog, so nothing to reference. Fortunately, I had done a post about SOE and its MMORPGs back in 2016 where I had recorded the status of their games, and had researched a bunch of other items in the past. This blog isn’t all just about Blackrock Depths and World War Bee.
And, where that failed, Wikipedia remains a wonderful source. There are well maintained pages about most of the games and lists of all the expansions for both EverQuest and EverQuest II that helped me quite a bit. And over at Daybreak there is even a server merge page for EverQuest and another for EverQuest II servers deep in their site. There are some errors, but the dates seem solid.
As for what to include, I am obviously biased towards the games I play or played. I did try to include every paid expansion for games, as those were generally pretty easy to find. Game content updates are more obscure, though somebody has charted all of the episode drops for DC Universe Online on that Wikipedia page. I just wasn’t that dedicated to the post. I started getting into special servers, but decided once they became an annual thing in 2015, I declared them as such and moved on.
Fantastic work! I’l be using this post as a primary resource for some time to come, I expect.
As well as the sources you mention, Allakhazam has a pretty-near complete archive of patch notes. I’ve used that often to dig out details I think I can remember but can’t find on a Google search.
Almost everything on your list was familiar to me except one thing that floored me. Did SOE really announce EQNext in August 2010? Not only do I have no memory of that, I can’t recall anyone mentioning it three years later when the big reveal was all anyone was talking about. Except, naturally, when I use your search facility to find and read the post you wrote about it at the time, what do I find but a lengthy comment from me! So it seems I did know about it. I just don’t remember that I knew.
Also, I’d totally forgotten how much the All Access sub used to cost. We paid for two of those from the day they were available. I stil have mine runing and Mrs Bhagpuss didn’t cancel hers until she hadn’t used it for about five years after she moved to GW2. These days it costs me about $80 a year.
Just one correction I spotted – Lords of EverQuest is a single-player RTS, not an RPG. I have the box in front of me and it says so on the front. I wish it had been an RPG!
@Bhagpuss – In looking up things for this I frequently found additional items to add to the list. I wish I had been a little more diligent with blogging about the Station Access stuff. At some point it went from $22 to $24 and I only vaguely recall when. Also, at some point it simply replaced all individual game subscriptions which I think happened when they made it $15, but I am not sure.
I will go fix the Lords of EverQuest entry… and maybe go fix the description over at Wikipedia. And now that you say it was an RTS I wonder if it was built off of whatever they had done for Sovereign, their cancelled MMORTS? Hrmm….
I too had Station Access for a couple of months at some point, I think it was pretty shortly after they added SWG to it. I was playing EQII at the time and grabbed the opportunity to peek my head into SWG once more.
I believe it cost around 18€ in Germany back then. Still ok if you played at least two of the games somewhat seriously, but definitely on the expensive side, yeah.
Of course, having fiddled around with the post for over two weeks, now that it is live I have suddenly come up with a half a dozen things to add. I forgot about Station Cash, Players Studio, Krono, and a couple other things. This post might be a work in progress.
“…declaring it was never owned by Columbus Nova, in open contradiction to three years of information, and was always solely owned by Jeffrey Epstein” – surely you meant to say Jason Epstein. Daybreak is sullied enough as it is, let’s not add to the pile.
@Roland – Fixed. I have caught myself making that mistake a few times. I have never accidentally referred to him as Brian Epstein though. And I did consider, during the Columbus Nova denial event, writing an “Epstein’s Mother” note for him, but I was afraid that reference was too old to do without then explaining it.
Great content! I will refer to this site when I write a post about the timeline of Everquest.
Pingback: Everquest timeline - Dreamcast.nu
Pingback: Everquest: 20+ år av expansioner - Dreamcast.nu