I am finally catching up on things that happened a month ago at this point. In this case there was a change at Enad Global 7 that saw Ji Ham, who was heading up Daybreak, become the acting CEO of the company, displacing the well liked Robin Flodin.
This led to an interview with Ji Ham, posted to YouTube, where most of us not only saw him for the first time, but heard his voice for the first time as well… which is a bit odd for somebody who has been CEO of a video game company for six years, but hardly the most unusual thing about the Daybreak era.
So I finally sat down and watched the video.
I haven’t seen much written about the video, and that which I did see dismissed it as a whole lot of nothing.
And, I will attest, if you were expecting some detailed information about the company, its operations, or its games, there wasn’t much to chew on.
That said, the 27 minute video was not completely devoid of information.
Ji Ham’s ascension to the CEO role, which was again stressed as an acting position and that he will not be moving to Stockholm, was attributed to the change in the business model that EG7 is now pursuing. Having grown through acquisition, the company now has a number of live products generating substantial revenue, meaning a different outlook may have been needed in the leadership position.
There was no mention of Robin Flodin’s interview gaffe, so the party line is apparently this was planned and completely normal.
But, while live games are now part of the mix, the company is still seeking more acquisitions to fill what it sees as holes in its offerings or that would fit well within their portfolio.
I have mentioned in the past that growth through acquisitions is a popular choice for publicly held companies as any asset they buy is always assumed to be worth what they paid for it so there is no hit against margins; writing your own code costs, buying somebody else’s’ code is a wash.
No acquisition targets were mentioned, but I suspect that if you looked at what is missing from their current ecosystem that keeps them from being self-contained you might at least come up with some potential segments.
Which isn’t to say that they are giving up on developing their own titles. Once again a triple-A title was mentioned, but no specifics were given. However, I think some of us just assume it is going to be a Marvel version of DC Universe Online. We shall see.
Long time followers of Daybreak will no doubt be amused that Ji Ham said both that communication from the company had been lacking and that titles in their portfolio had not seen much in the way of investment during the Daybreak era, something EG7 would like to rectify. Whose fault might that be?
I guess at least he didn’t blame it on Smed.
Acknowledging that the Daybreak portfolio was old… most of the titles are over a decade old, with H1Z1 being the young one in the bunch, having only passed the six year mark back in February… one wonders where they might throw some resources.
He did mention two titles specifically when it came to targets for investment, DC Universe Online and Lord of the Rings Online.
DCUO is the most popular title in the Daybreak lineup, claiming more than 400K monthly active users last year and bringing in more total revenue than any of its siblings according to last December’s reveal. (Though EverQuest still beat it for net earnings.)
DCUO has a lot of players on consoles, and was at one time the top earning free to play title on PlayStation, so worth keeping up to date. One of the investments it needs is to get it onto the latest generation XBox and PlayStation 5 hardware. Also, it would totally make sense to invest in it if you were going to make a Marvel version of the game.
As for LOTRO, it was singled out because, in his words, it is the only Tolkien online world currently available. True enough, that statement. The problem is that I am not sure EG7 has the resources available to make LOTRO into a viable, competitive title fourteen years down the road. While the world is beautiful in game, character models, responsiveness, and the general interface was poor relative to the standards of the industry in 2007. While there have been a few graphical upgrades over the years, the UI and the character models are still garbage and all the more so on any monitor over 1920×1080 in resolution. And that leaves aside the layers of monetization piled onto the game, where every dialog wants to sell you a short cut to get around whatever effort game play asks of you.
There is no financially viable road forward that fixes all of its fundamental issues… and I am not even going to go into garbage mechanics like legendary items, which they’re kind of hand waving a fix for because they can’t get rid of it as the grind is so horrible that it likely leads more players to the cash shop than anything else… when it made maybe $15 million tops last year.
I know, that sounds like a lot of money. But Tolkien Enterprises gets their cut right off the top I bet, then there are the servers and infrastructure to maintain and keep up to date, and the staff needed to keep things going as they are, and then the amount needed to keep Jason Epstein and Ji Ham in the lifestyles to which they have become accustomed. And now the whole thing is owned by a public company, so the pressure to earn is even higher. The time to invest and fix things is when you’re private and can get away with a few quarters of loss without the market calling for your head.
I’ve spent a lot of time with LOTRO and cherish those memories, but the wide appeal of its theme is held back by the raggedly old mechanics of the title. Such is life.
Not mentioned, much to my surprise, was H1Z1. Robin Floodin used to bring up H1Z1 every time he spoke about the titles that EG7 held, promising its player base that they were looking to revive the title. I guess it is the newest title in the bunch and, for a brief stretch, was the flagship battle royale title, a position in managed to squander and is unlikely ever to recover. (NerdSlayer has a new Death of a Game video about H1Z1 that covers all the main fumbles.)
But perhaps Ji Ham, who was the CEO when H1Z1 flailed, flamed out, and ceased to be a force in the market, knows better than most what its value now is.
Anyway, those are the bits that stuck out for me. There was more in the interview, including a caution on earnings, but I was mostly interested in the product related side of things. The YouTube page has bookmarks in the description that divide up the whole thing into the various topics discussed.
The next thing we hear from EG7 is likely to be Q3 earning in about a month.