Category Archives: Lord of the Rings Online

What Does LOTRO Need?

Yesterday Massively OP reported that Standing Stone/Daybreak/Enad Global 7 had announced a new expansion bundle for Lord of the Rings Online which allows one to purchase the six expansions between the base game and the current War of Three Peaks expansion for one… price…. that is lower than buying all of them individually.

The headline at Massively OP declared that the bundle “smashes its huge barrier to entry,” a suggestion that made me grimace.

The LOTRO Expansion Trove if you’re were interested

While not exactly a “people aren’t wearing enough hats” level of analysis, if I were to make a ranked list of problems that keep people from playing the game, buying all the expansions would be far down the list, as it is something I suspect never becomes an issue for the vast majority of the people who bother trying the game.

The problem there is that, as with my list about EVE Online from a few years back, there are lot of things that are simply outside of the scope of reality to address.

Yes, thanks to EG7 giving us a peek behind the curtains, we know that LOTRO is a viable, money making concern, but its income is more in the range of “sustain the status quo” rather than “rebuild and revamp.”

Page 15 – Year to Date numbers as of Sep. 30, 2020

That number is only through Q3 2020, so we might be able to assume that the game brings in maybe $13 million a year.  That is sustainable, but there is no bonaza of cash for updates in that number, and it falls well short of the estimated $100 million the game was reported to have made back in 2013.

I was honestly a bit surprised when SSG decided to upgrade the client to 64-bit, though that was more of a long term survival plan than something that would make things better.  At some point in the not too distant future Windows will stop supporting 32-bit apps, so better to get that done before it is a critical item for survival.  Certainly that move did not improve the client’s actual behavior in any noticeable way.

And I fear that anybody who is holding out hope now that EG7 is running the show that they will pour a bunch of money into the game is going to be disappointed.  The idea of there being a console version seems so far from reality that the only answer could be a completely new game build for modern consoles, which would leave the current game out in the cold.

So LOTRO is likely going to stay pretty much as is, a cranky old fantasy MMORPG from 2007 with a difficult to read UI (at just HD resolutions, don’t get me started on how it looks on my new monitor) and a lot of mindless repetitive game play.  Has anybody ever counted how many bears, board, and wolves you slay following the quest chains to level cap?

What can they do?

They are stuck because at their current revenue they clearly cannot make any large changes to the game.  And they are even more restricted than some comparable MMORPGs because they have to stick with approved Tolkien lore and have a game that tells a linear story so the expansions are not independent.  EQ could copy Blizzard’s parallel expansions idea is they had the mind and the budget, but would LOTRO be allowed to even tinker with having Moria and Rohan as parallel experiences on the way to Mordor?

The EQ version would have 26 parallels

Without something dramatic… and I have my doubts about what would even qualify… making money off of new players seems unlikely, so they’re left with the MMORPG standard policy of farming the installed base.

One way to do that is via expansions.

The SSG team can’t simply crank out more expansions for revenue.  I mean, the are trying, but they have trouble keeping up their current pace, have made some customers wary due to lightness of the Battle of Three Peaks expansion, and they’re running out of places to expand into in any case.  They do have another expansion coming this year, but the next thing needs to be in planning.

The other way to farm the installed base is special servers.  LOTRO has played this card once already, and successfully so far as I can tell, with the LOTRO Legendary server of late 2018.

They can always just play that card again.  I am sure there would be a decent response to a fresh start.  But if they want something different, I have an idea.

I’m grabbing this idea from something Star Wars: The Old Republic did a few years back.

I call this the LOTRO Epic Storyline server.

Turn off the side quests… if possible… and tune the xp output/curve so that players can level up through the story just running the epic quest line.

Maybe you don’t even need a special server for that.  Maybe you just have players buy a token for a character on a live server that boosts xp for the epic quest line.  It would be a nice way to catch up and get past some of the less inspired content that lays astride the path to level cap. (Looking at you Siege of Mirkwood.)

There are problems to be solved with the idea.  You would have to have a mechanism to keep player gear up to level along the way.  And then there are the special mechanics like legendary weapons or mounted combat that players would need to be guided through.

But it seems like a possible, reduced if not low effort way to attract some players and boost revenue a bit.

Or is there something else they can do?

Addendum: I mean, besides irritating their installed base by making the awful legendary system even worse.

A Timeline of SOE and Daybreak Games

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.

Firiona and friends at launch, 1999

At some point around 1996 John Smedley, working at Sony, managed to get Brad McQuaid, Jeff Buttler, 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.

  • 1999
    • Mar 16 – EverQuest launches, servers are quickly overloaded and a long series of new servers kicks off
    • Jul 28 – MMORTS Sovereign announced
  • 2000
    • 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
  • 2001
    • Apr 17 – Cosmic Rift launches
    • Dec 4 – The Shadows of Luclin, EQ expansion #3
  • 2002
    • Oct 29 – The Planes of Power, EQ expansion #4
  • 2003
    • 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
  • 2004
    • 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
  • 2005
    • 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
  • 2006
    • 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 RoEQ 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
  • 2007
    • 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
  • 2008
    • 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
  • 2009
    • 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
  • 2010
    • 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
  • 2011
    • 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
  • 2012
    • 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
  • 2013
    • 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
  • 2014
    • 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
  • 2015
    • 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
    • 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
  • 2016
    • 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
  • 2017
    • 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
  • 2018
    • 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 launched 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
  • 2019
    • 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
  • 2020
    • 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

  • Sources

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.

Looking Back at 2020 and Trying for Highs

2020.  What a year.

Every year I try to distill a bit of the world I focus on into highs and lows.  There is a history of posts here.

Sometimes I include a “middling” category, but usually not.  This year though I have had enough lows.  This year I am going to make a list of highs.  And I am going to try… though I make no guarantees… not to include sarcastic highs that are back handed jabs to highlight actual lows.  Your mileage may vary.

Video Games Overall

  • 2020 has been a banner year for video games.  SuperData Research has reported every month since the pandemic began in earnest that sales have been up over last year by double digits.  Lots of new releases, lots of good games, lots of revenue to keep the industry going.

Blizzard

  • The Shadowlands pre-patch events went well.
  • Shadowlands launched to big numbers.
  • WoW Classic remains strong despite the pull of the retail expansion.
  • The instance group’s return to WoW via WoW Classic has kept on rolling throughout the year.
  • Bobby Kotick says WoW is a billion dollar a year franchise.
  • Shadowlands and WoW Classic combined have revived the fortunes of WoW… though the pandemic helped some too.
  • The retail WoW level squish clearly did not drive too many people away and made getting into the latest content less of a chore.
  • It seems likely we’ll at least get some news about a classic The Burning Crusade server.
  • Had a fun run through Diablo II, which still plays pretty well 20 years down the line.
  • Blizz has been quietly fixing Warcraft III Reforged after its bad launch.
  • We got some scraps of information about Diablo IV.

Daybreak Game Company (now including Standing Stone Games)

  • The games are set to be run by EG7, a company optimistic about being in games.
  • The company actually makes money.
  • The games they still have all actually make money too… well, maybe not H1Z1, but most of them.
  • The mystery of who really owns Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online was finally revealed.
  • EverQuest and EverQuest II both got updates and expansions this year.
  • EverQuest was able to play the special server card successfully yet again.
  • We learned that DC Universe Online has what would have been considered a huge player base in the pre-WoW era.
  • LOTRO got a 64-bit client.

CCP

  • The EVE Online franchise is a resilient part of the Pearl Abyss portfolio.
  • EVE Echoes, the mobile version of the game, has grabbed a lot of new players, and took less time to get out than Diablo Immortal.
  • The pandemic helped boost the PCU over 40K for the first time in a couple of years.
  • Hilmar said at the Youil Fireside that 1.9 million new people logged into EVE Online this year, more than the past three years combined.
  • World War Bee got enough players together organically to set two Guinness World Records.
  • Andrew Groen delivered Empires of EVE Vol. II, another great installment in the history of the game.
  • That Triglavian event wrapped up with an epic finale that tore systems out of New Eden to create a new Triglavian region.
  • CCP seems really, really serious about fixing the in-game economy.
  • PLEX for Good ran for both the Australian wild fires and pandemic relief.
  • Tech II salvage drones.  At least one person got their Christmas wish.
  • CCP finally rolled out the replacement for the old fansite program.  I did not make the cut, but a lot of streamers now how free accounts and extra PLEX to spend.
  • CCP still has hopes for an EVE Online based shooter game.
  • The CSM15 election saw a peaceful transition of power and nobody has been kicked off the council… yet.  Seriously, it is a rare CSM when somebody doesn’t get voted off the island.

Pokemon

  • Pokemon Sword & Shield launched at just the right time before the pandemic to become a staple of play.
  • The new Pokemon model on the Switch is expansions after the main game drops, and Pokemon Sword & Shield had The Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra this year, which helped keep the game a hot property.
  • Pokemon Home showed up to provide a link to bring Pokemon forward from the DS era and transfer them in from Pokemon Go.
  • Niantic changed up Pokemon Go to adapt to the pandemic, giving us things like remote raid passes to keep us playing when we had to stay home.
  • Niantic also raised the level cap on Pokemon Go in a way that didn’t toss your accumulated xp by tying levels 41-50 in with both xp and special tasks.

Other Areas of the Video Game Industry

  • TorilMUD carries on for another year, making it a total of 27… and even added a new class this year.
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons landed just in time to give many a shared virtual experience as we stayed home for the pandemic.
  • Minecraft got a big update to make the nether a more interesting place to explore.
  • Minecraft Dungeons launched, and was a nice, if somewhat simple, clicky ARPG.
  • EA managed to ship another decent Star Wars title, Star Wars: Squadrons, which is supposed to be quite good in VR.
  • Microsoft Flight Simulator had an excellent launch.  Again, another title that was supposed to be good in VR.
  • There was a Half-Life game.  That almost never happens.  And, one more time, Half-Life: Alyx was good for VR.
  • Crusader Kings III gave people the medieval royal soap opera simulator that they didn’t know they needed.
  • GuildWars 2 has an expansion coming.
  • A two year old game, Among Us, suddenly exploded onto the scene thanks to streamers.
  • New consoles!  The Xbox Series X/Series S and PlayStation 5 came out!

Blogging and the Like

  • Hey, the blog is still here!  Both of my blogs.
  • This blog is also experiencing a bit of a revival… or a dead cat bounce… as traffic has been up a lot over last year.  It is still a far cry from the heady peaks of 2012, but I guess the pandemic didn’t just boost video games.
  • I wrote a lot of posts in 2020.  This post number 403 for the year.
  • I actually got close to 800 followers on Twitter… and then they purged a bunch of bots and I fell back down.  Also I strayed into the political with the election and no doubt scared some people off.
  • We had a double event year with Blapril and Blaugust.
  • Lots and lots of plumbing related spam comments this month… like tens of thousands. If your comment got stuck in the spam filter I probably never saw it due to that.  Hrmm, that wasn’t a high, was it?

Television, Books, and the Media

  • I watched a LOT of television this past year.  There is probably another post on that coming, though I have done those Pandemic Binge Watching posts along the way.  While not everything was great, there were a lot of good shows available.
  • My reading routine was disrupted by the changes the pandemic brought.  I have to find a regular time in my schedule for that or it won’t happen.  But still I managed to read a lot of books in 2020.
  • I spent a lot more time reading the news… and I do not shirk on that front on a normal year.  No doubt this is some attempt to foster a feeling of control in the world, but I suppose I learned a lot.
  • Podcasts and YouTube content kept me going at times, with new faces popping up like Julie Nolke and Sarah Cooper.

Personal Life

  • We’re in the back half of December and I still have a job and haven’t caught COVID-19.
  • I have somewhat adapted to my new life where I spend 23 hours a day, seven days a week inside at home.  Nothing tests your introvert status than forced isolation from the world I suppose.
  • Daughter made it through her first semester of college living on campus and came out with both good grades and good health still.
  • I bought an exercise bicycle for home and have been very good about using it regularly… except over the holidays when my now weak grasp of time fell completely apart and I only know what day it is when I open up the blog.
  • I started depositing checks via my phone.  This was largely because my credit union finally added that feature to their mobile app.
  • Let me reiterate; family still healthy and safe.

This ended up being a somewhat shorter list than past years.  In part that is because the scope of my game knowledge has been funneled down to a few titles of late.  But mostly it is because I am better at writing negative entries I bet.  The post would be more than double in length if I let go on that front.  But we’ll let sleeping dogs lie, for now at least.  There will be plenty of time for that in 2021.

But if you’re dying for some 2020 sick burns, Honest Trailers has you covered.

Take that 2020!

Reviewing my 2020 Predictions

It is that time of year where I go back to my post from the first of the year where I have generally thrown out some rash ideas as to what might come to pass over the next twelve months.

2020 banner by my daughter

There is a long history of this around here:

I am generally wrong on most of my predictions, though I usually excuse/rationalize those predictions as just a thought experiment as to what might happen.

This year however, I ended up being more wrong than usual, and that is in part because I failed to predict the global pandemic.  COVID 19, the Cornavirus, has done me in, figuratively if not yet literally.

Anyway, it is still that time of year, so I’ll go through the predictions and see if I managed to score any hits at all and where I was thwarted by the ‘rona.

Each prediction is worth 10 points if correct, unless otherwise noted, and partial credit is available.

1 – Daybreak Up

When your predictions don’t come to pass… well, maybe you were just ahead of your time.  So I am going to recycle this one.  By the end of the year Daybreak Games won’t exist in its current form.  New owners, new acquisitions, new partners, or just spun out into a couple smaller studios built on geographical locations (San Diego and Austin being the basis), there will be drastic changes.

Not so much.  I mean sure, they did their little internal studio division thing, and tried to declare them “indies,” so now we have Darkpaw, Rogue Planet, and Dimensional Ink “studios,” but they’re all effectively the same company.  Daybreak even acquired another studio this year.  No parts were sold off… individually at least.  We’ll get to the who shebang later.  But otherwise they seemed to hang on.  Did they even have a layoff in 2020?   If not I suspect that was due to the ‘rona boom in video games.  0 points.

2 – Norrath Forever

Pessimism about the company overall aside, I expect the EverQuest franchise, fresh off a couple of big anniversaries, to continue humming along as before no matter where it lands.  There will be the usual content updates mid-cycle, a special server launch for each, and then the standard end-of-year expansions for each game.  You don’t mess with things that are working.

This one on the other hand pretty much came to pass.  I guess I covered myself both ways, but I have to have a gimme or two so I don’t completely zero out.  10 points.

3 – Struggling Royales

H1Z1 and PlanetSide Arena will both be toast on the PC platform.  I wrote this before we got the word on PSA.  I won’t take half credit up front.  The burden will just be on H1Z1 or Z1 Battle Royale or whatever it is called now, to prove me wrong.

How is H1Z1 still alive?  I guess it is still rolling okay on PS4, but I can’t even take some partial credit for the PC side getting shut down.  More ‘rona bonus?  0 points.

4 – PlanestSide Promises

Daybreak has been telling people they will have a big PlanetSide 2 related announcements in the new year.  But no matter what they announce, it will fall flat.  Daybreak has another game in decline and cannot figure out what to do about it.  I guess when your only answers in your bag are “battle royale” and “retro server,” you are kind of stuck.  What else do they have?  PlanetSide 2 on the Switch?  Expect little and you won’t be disappointed.

PlanetSide 2 seems to be rolling along under the Rogue Planet banner.  It got some updates over the year.  I don’t think there was anything that qualified as a big announcement. I mean, they were hinting that PlanetSide Arena would lead to PlanetSide 3 and we’re nowhere close to that.  Do outfit wars and shattered warp gates get there?  I think the biggest surprise was how many people actually play the game… and how few pay.  I’m giving myself 5 points here as it was just business as usual.

5 – Unexpected Party

Standing Stone Games will take a page from their… well… we still aren’t sure how Daybreak and SSG are connected so lets just say “partners” for now… partners in San Diego and roll out a new special rules Lord of the Rings Online server.  Like Blizz, SSG needs something splashy for LOTRO for its non-expansion years and the 2018 LOTRO Legendary server went pretty well for them.  However, rather than just replaying the nostalgia card once more they will make up a much more convoluted rule set for this new server.  It will go badly.

Nope.  SSG just goes on and on telling people that they can’t make a real retro server while they let the current one languish.  Instead they wrapped a game update and a quest pack with a $99 bow and called it an expansion.  0 points for me, though we do know how they are connected to Daybreak now.

6 – Avatar’s Shroud

Lord British has washed his hands of the whole thing and the new company (Catnip Games, no doubt because you’d have to be on drugs to think things are going well) has already reneged on more promises, a sign that times are bad for this strange, very much not for everyone title.  I expect that online play will be shut down before the end of the year, leaving backers with local single player as their only option.

Once again I see the hand of the ‘rona here saving another title that seems to be slipping into oblivion.  Lord British is still long gone, but the servers still seem to be up.  This will probably be the last time I ever mention this game in a post, unless it falls over dead.  0 points.

7 – Shadowlands Forseen

I am calling an August 18th launch for the next WoW expansion, Shadowlands.  That month has become the Blizz sweet spot for WoW launches.  Not a lot else tends to launch in August, there is the summer for pre-expansion events, and things tend to settle down by BlizzCon when the company likes to start talking about the next thing.  2 points lost for every week I am off the date.

Not even freaking close.  Who knew back in January that Blizz would decide to break the “time between expansions” record for the franchise?  Not me.  I can’t even blame the ‘rona for this… much.  I guess work from home might have slowed down progress.  Still, 0 points.

8 – BlizzCon Announcements

Read my lips: No new games.  Just reworks, remasters, and expansions of the current games and franchises.  Maybe a mobile version of something… a tablet version of StarCraft or a watered down phone game with a Warcraft theme… but nothing new.  Need more pylons.

No BlizzCon, no BlizzCon announcements.  My cynicism was wasted as the ‘rona did for this event.  0 points.

9 – Diablo Before

At BlizzCon there will talk about Diablo IV, along with some art and a bit of game play video.  What there won’t be is a release date announced in 2020.

Again, no BlizzCon, 0 points.

10 – Wait of Immortals

For reasons that will not be disclosed, Diablo Immortal will fail to ship again in 2020.

Hah!  Cynicism pays off this year at last!  10 points.  Booyah!

11 – Classic Future

At BlizzCon, and not one minute before, Blizzard will announce a very conservative, no dates given save for maybe with a hint towards summer of 2021, plan for a classic server based on The Burning Crusade.

No BlizzCon… have I said this enough already?  0 points.

12 – Activision Encroachment

By the end of the year the Battle.net launcher will feature the Activision logo more prominently as it becomes the Activision-Blizzard launcher.  No need for the team in Santa Monica to roll out their own launcher when the team in Irvine already has one.

No logo change yet… but there are FOUR freakin’ Call of Duty titles on the launcher.  I’m giving myself 2 points for that.

13 – New Eden in Decline

As mentioned before, CCP has gone into a very tactical phase of development with EVE Online.  That isn’t a bad thing.  The game needs it.  But there is no vision for the game, no future path being sketched out, and space nerds require optimism and forward motion.  Retaining another percent or two of new players won’t help much if the old guard can’t pass on enthusiasm to them.  I expect the 2020 PCU and MER numbers to show a slow, consistent decline.

It was looking this way… and then came the ‘rona surge and the PCU popped through the 40K mark for the first time since 2017.  0 pointsEVE is dying, but not any time soon.

14 – The Eternal POS

CCP will fail to remove the storied Player Owned Starbase from New Eden yet again.  They are growing exceedingly rare, but they are still out there.

I’ll be going on POS shoots until I retire it seems.  With the war on they aren’t even all that rare.  10 points.

15 – CSM XV

The usual round of CSM election nonsense will carry on.  In the end, it will be eight null sec representatives dominating the council again, with any null sec incumbent that runs getting returned.

Well, seven null sec representatives dominating the council in any case, and one incumbent, Sort Dragon, didn’t make the cut, though he was an alternate and only got on after Killah Bee dropped out.  3 points for being somewhat close.  I don’t think the ‘rona had any influence here, except for increasing voter turnout.

16 – HyperNet Relay End Point

CCP will shut down its HyperNet Relay within a  year of it launch due to issues related to local gambling regulations, which will be spurred by the situation in the next prediction.  It is always a risk to chain predictions together, but I’ll go there yet again.

Nope.  The in-game gambling mechanism has turned into an in-game scam machine where the people listing buy most of the tickets, get their item back when they win it, and make some ISK from the few suckers who bought in.  There is nothing EVE players cannot corrupt.  0 points.

17 – Gacha Movement

After predicting no movement on lockboxes and gambling for a few years now, the pot seems to have heated up enough that the frog might be in trouble in 2020.  My assumption up to this point has been that the industry wouldn’t be dumb, that the ESA would promise that the industry would police itself with a few concrete proposals while dumping a lot of contributions on key political players.  But the industry has been greedy and dumb and arrogant and even antagonistic, what with “surprise mechanics” and trying to upstage hearings on the subject by loudly announcing a set of empty promises.  You have to look contrite and helpful in order to give politicians the cover they need to roll over and take your bribes contributions.  Also it is a presidential election year in the US, so politicians will be looking for softball issues to champion, and when the NRA is telling you that video games cause violence…  Anyway, the industry is going to have to actually put up something real to avoid regulation beyond Belguim.  Look at what happened to Juul when politicians decided it was a safe vote getter to jump on vaping.

Turns out politicians have better things to do during a global pandemic that worry about video games.  The ‘rona strikes again.  The world was distracted enough that EA thought it was a good idea to put a lockbox ad in a kids toy catalog.  Way get attention back on the topic.  Still, nothing really changed.  I should have kept betting against Gevlon on this.  0 points.

18 – Guild Wars Decline

With the contractions and departures at ArenaNet, Guild Wars 2 will potter along with small updates, bits of content dressed up as living story seasons, and replays of tried and true things like the Super Adventure Box.  The game won’t be in “maintenance mode” the way Guild Wars is, but it will be clear a year from now that its heyday has passed.

Everything got a boost during the ‘rona, but then Mike O’Brien left to form a new company called Mana Works and… well, I don’t pay close enough attention.  I know the Super Adventure Box came back for another visit.  But there was also that End of Dragons expansion thing, so I guess that was a “no.”  0 points.

19 – City of Villains

NCsoft will finally make a public announcement about the City of Heroes servers out in the wild using the original code.  It will come from a lawyer and will include the words “cease” and “desist.”  NCsoft will attempt to stomp out these servers and will force them to be much lower profile than they have been in 2019.  But they won’t go away.  Software, once freed, is very difficult to contain.

Nope.  Can’t even blame the plague.  0 points.

20 – New World Order

Amazon’s New World will be delayed past May to launch in the fall.  Once launched it will be… fine.  An Ark: Survival Evolved kind of game, probably what Smed wishes H1Z1 had been like at launch.  It won’t break any new ground and after a flash at launch will fade into the crowd, successful but not headline worthy.

I actually thought about starting to write this post back when New World was delayed until fall.  I seemed to be right on the money.  And then the can got kicked down the road again, this time into 2021.  5 points for being right for half the year.

21 – Won’t Ship Yet Again

The following titles won’t go live or otherwise be available to customers in any way that we would agree on was complete.  Early access, open beta, or eternal alpha states do not count.  Two Points per title.

  • Camelot Unchained
  • Crowfall
  • Torchlight Frontiers
  • Dual Universe
  • Anything at all from Chris Roberts

I’ll go negative points on that last one if he ships two things.  But I think we all know that isn’t going to happen.

I could argue that nothing called Torchlight Frontiers shipped, but there is that pesky, and apparently mediocre Torchlight III running around.  Still, the others were not a tough call.  This is sort of me annual “I dare you to ship!” category.  8 points.

22 – GameStopped

The only way GameStop is going to be around a year from now is if they shed enough weight to make it into the Christmas season.  Black Friday might as well be “life or death” Friday for them.  But I don’t think they will make it that far unscathed.  In order to get the freedom of movement required to get that far they are going to have to declare chapter 11 bankruptcy.  That will let them get out of store leases and give them the breathing room to carry on.  But even then they will be a shell of their former selves by the time I write up the results post come December.

I thought this one was a freakin’ shoe-in back in January.  GameStop looked to be on its last legs.  And then the ‘rona hit and video games became essential toward maintaining our sanity.  GameStop, like gun stores, was on the essential businesses list.  And now Microsoft has invested in them.  They live to fight another day.  0 points.

23 – Steam Engine

Life as usual for Steam.  The four usual seasonal sales.  Epic will keep sniping away and trying to get people to pay attention by throwing free games at them while most people will still see Steam as the default source of PC games.  It is the post office of gaming.  Steam will continue to revise their game acceptance policy, but otherwise carry on as always with no big changes in 2020.

I guess.  This gets back to the idea that predictions, like team goals, should be measurable.  Maybe if I paid closer attention I could make a hard call one way or the other, but I am going to just go with the fact that it feels like this happened and give myself half credit.  5 points.

Bonus Prediction – Guild Wars 3 Announced

Sure, why not?  Guild Wars 2 is slowly ebbing, NCsoft needs something to keep fans in that area happy, and I am sure there is a crew around that believes they have learned enough from GW2 to do it RIGHT this time!  They don’t have to ship anything.  At most they have to do some hand waving about another monuments thing for specific achievements, which will get people grinding away again.  Give me 10 bonus points if this comes to pass, though it is so out there that I ought to ask for more.

Ha ha ha ha… no.  0 points.

Super Double Bonus Prediction – PA buys Daybreak

This one came up a couple months back when Daybreak was registering new names for itself and CCP announced that EVE Vegas was going to become EVE San Diego.  The obvious (to me) conclusion was that Pearl Abyss MUST be buying Daybreak and then merging their fan events together.  I left this as a comment and it became a post over at Massively OP.  I figured I ought to codify it here as a prediction.  Have a couple of drinks and say it three times fast and it sounds pretty logical.  And if it comes to pass I want 20 bonus points.

It was a wild conspiracy theory when I made it, but I still had a hope that it might come to pass.  But no, Pearl Abyss did not bit.  But then EG7 came along and bough them!  I am going to give myself 1 Point for at least being right about them being acquired in 2020.

That gives me 59 points out of a total of 230 possible, not counting bonus points against me.  That gives me a 26% correct ratio, which is pretty bad considering how many of those picks I thought were gimmes back in January.

But it is still a tiny bit better than my 2017 picks, so not my worst year ever.

And now to consider what 2021 will bring.

Will the ‘rona boom continue for a while?  What will happen if the vaccines are a success and we can all go back to work, school, travel, and the other activities we’ve been denied over the last year or so?  Are video games going to take a hit when we can all go out to eat and see movies again?  Will there be any theaters operating in 2021?

Daybreak Revealed in Enad Global 7 Presentation

As I mentioned yesterday, we did not know much about Daybreak Game Company over its close to six years of existence.  It was a privately held firm and was reluctant to be straight with outsiders as to who even owned the company.  And before that, when it was SOE, its details were hidden within a giant conglomerate where it was such a small piece of the pie that it did not even get its own line item.

So having Daybreak purchased by a small public company, where it will be a large part of the pie and which needs to disclose details to the public means that we’re learning more about the company this week than we have known for ages.  Roll on Enad Global 7.

Enad Global 7

Yesterday’s press release about the acquisition gave us some fresh information and confirmed things we suspected, like the fact that Daybreak owned Standing Stone Games.  But there is more to be seen.  Over on their investor relations page you will find a presentation by EG7 about the state of Daybreak and its games that is stunning in its clarity after all these years.

It is so meaty that I downloaded it immediately lest it be posted in error and disappear.

The presentation starts by introducing EG7’s strategy and execution of their plan so far, which is an interesting read showing their acquisition pace up to this point.  And then there is the About Daybreak section, which starts with a nicely summarized history of the company.

Page 12 – a Brief History of SOE/Daybreak

Just enough detail I think.  A few side ventures are missing, and there is a whole book to be written about the strange path of H1Z1 over the last five years, but otherwise the basics are laid out.

They mention the licensed IPs the company has, as well as the valuable IPs Daybreak has created.

Page 14 – Valuable home grown IPs

EverQuest has booked about a billion dollars in revenue over its life.  Not bad.  A lot of games never come close to that number or 21 years of longevity.  The H1Z1 notes are a bit sad… inspired actually successful titles.  Sad enough that they stop mentioning H1Z1 after that.  And I still have a retort to that PlanetSide 2 world record which was a planned event and not any sort of organic player surge.

Cool stuff so far.  And then we get the real dirt!  Actual numbers about earnings and players.

Page 15 – Year to Date numbers as of Sep. 30, 2020

There are some surprises there, though not many.  We had been told that EverQuest was still pretty strong and it was implied that it was doing better than EverQuest II.  But now we know where EQII ranks in the overall lineup, which I guess is ahead of H1Z1, which doesn’t even get a mention.

And then there is DC Universe Online.  Smed, back in the day, told us that it was the top free to play game on PlayStation, and I guess it has held on to a solid base of players.  But if you want that all in chart form, there is a page for that.

Page 16 – Revenue and Earnings compared YTD through Sep. 30 2020

DC Universe Online has the highest revenues, but when it comes to earnings after expenses EverQuest is out in front.  That’s the joke.  A 21 year old game brings home the bacon.

Years ago Michael Zenke had been to SOE and was asking them about why they kept on with EverQuest when you could argue that EverQuest II was a better, or at least more up to date game.  He told me that EQ was so cheap to run that it was going to be profitable to keep going for a long, long time.  And here we are.

That DCUO isn’t at the top of the earnings is likely an indication that it remains strongest on the PlayStation, where it has to give Sony a cut of the revenue from the cash shop.

The presentation digs into further detail.  While the games still attract new players, a majority of the player base has been playing their game of choice for more than three years.

On the money front, the average monthly revenue per paying user for 2020 so far looks pretty strong.

Page 17 – ARPPU YTD through Sep. 30, 2020

Some whales out there spending money.  Of course, that is just the count among users that pay, and the conversion to paying user is important.

Page 17 – Payer conversion rate – YTD through Sep. 30, 2020

For EQ and EQII that probably translates largely to subscribers through the All Access program.  EQ just beats EQII on revenue because it has a lot more players.  Likewise, DCUO has the most players by far, so even at a much smaller conversion rate it makes more money.

I think the lesson here is more players is better if you want to survive.

The presentation also has some plans for the future.  They want to do an upgrade for DCUO to make it look and play better on the new generation of consoles by this time next year.  They also want to spruce up LOTRO as they see a possible boon in Amazon’s upcoming Lord of the Rings TV series.  There is even an unannounced new project.  Maybe it is related to the Marvel IP license Daybreak apparently holds.

The plans and view of the combined company are something as well.  As far as revenue goes, EG7 buying Daybreak pretty much doubles the size of the company in staff and revenue.

Page 27 – YTD revenue for EG7 groups

That is a big bite.  Daybreak’s ongoing success will very much influence EG7’s success.  They aren’t buying the company to neglect it.

While the era of the Jason Epstein Daybreak will end on December 31st, Daybreak will continue to exist as an entity withing EG7.  Within the corporate structure the Daybreak stuff will have its own area.

Page 28 – The Daybreak Structure

I am curious as to whether or not that was the actual structure within Daybreak today simply being grafted on to the EG7 tree.  I know Jen Chan let slip at one point about working with the SSG team on some things. (No location for Cold Iron Studios on that chart though, so no idea still if it was part of the sale and too small to mention, was folded in with Dimensional Ink due to the Cryptic background of both groups, or was retained by Jason Epstein.)

As for why keep that structure, that is certainly the best plan for the short term.  When you have an asset that needs to keep performing you do not introduce chaos as your first step in integrating.  Things will likely change over time.

Daybreak itself will likely remain a legal entity for a long time.  Having been through many mergers and acquisitions over the last 30 years… on average that has happened in a way that involved me directly about every three years over that time… there are a lot of reasons to not simply dissolve a corporate entity.  There are a lot of contracts and agreements made in the name of that company that have to be transferred over time, and the other side of the agreement doesn’t care about the change.  So you wait until a contract comes up for renewal and then you transfer it to the new owning company.  That can easily take a decade to work itself out.

And Daybreak, for all its foibles over the last six years, remains the unifying identity for the teams under it.  That is who they are in the EG7 ecosystem.

Page 24 – EG7’s world wide organization

That big owlbear eye that is the Daybreak logo will be looking out at us for a while longer.

Related posts:

Daybreak to be Acquired by Enad Global 7

Enad Global 7 (EG7) announced in a press release earlier today that would be purchasing Daybreak Game Company for $300 million in a structured payout deal. ($260 million up front, $100 million in shares and $160 million in cash, plus another $40 million in cash if Daybreak makes its projected 2020 numbers.)  A bunch of news items have popped up about this today and I will link to them and other reactions at the end of the post.

Enad Global 7

That will get them the following games according to the press release:

  • EverQuest
  • EverQuest II
  • H1Z1
  • PlanetSide 2
  • DC Universe Online
  • Lord of the Rings Online
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online

Not mentioned was Cold Iron Studios, which Daybreak was said to have acquired back in August.  But maybe that was Jason Epstein or Columbus Nova who actually bought it.

And I am not really kidding with that.  The nearly six year history of Daybreak has not been characterized by a close relationship with the truth when it came to the business, so a surprise twist or a revision of history would be right in line with past behavior.  Even now we’re just finally getting confirmation that Standing Stone Games was owned by Daybreak… or Jason… or Columbus Nova… after being told that Daybreak was merely going to be SSG’s “publisher.”  So I guess EG7 is buying Standing Stone Games as well.

The press release is also interesting as it lists out some of the Daybreak financials that were part of its due diligence.  We could barely find numbers about the company when it was part of Sony and never saw a thing since it was Daybreak.  For example, Daybreak has 178 million registered users of its games.  I’m sure they’re not all active, but that database alone has some value.

Anyway, the first question to leap to mind for me was, “Who the hell is EG7?”

The press release echoes the info on their web site which says:

EG7 is a group of companies within the gaming industry that develops, markets, publishes and distributes PC, console and mobile games to the global gaming market. The company employs 170+ game developers and develops its own original IP:s, as well as act as consultants to other publishers around the world through its game development divisions Toadman Studios, Big Blue Bubble and Antimatter Games. In addition, the group’s marketing department Petrol has contributed to the release of 1,500+ titles, of which many are world famous brands such as Call of Duty, Destiny, Dark Souls and Rage. The group’s publishing and distribution department Sold Out holds expertise in both physical and digital publishing and has previously worked with Team 17, Rebellion and Frontier Developments. The Group is headquartered in Stockholm with approximately 270 employees in 10 offices worldwide.

So, a Swedish company, something confirmed over at Bloomberg, without much more to add, though their summary is much more succinct:

Enad Global 7 AB operates as a game development studio. The Company develops, markets, publishes, and distributes PC, console, and mobile games. Enad Global 7 serves customers worldwide.

The company, founded in 2013, says it is a game developer and has very recently purchased a few small studios, but its biggest claim to fame seems to be that its marketing department has helped out with some famous brands, likely just for the Swedish market if I were to make a guess. (Though their online presence is pretty week. They discovered Twitter just this year.)  And now they’ll have a bag of MMORPGs to play with.

As for what it will mean for the games and employees of Daybreak, that remains to be seen.  The press release has the usual rosy optimism in its quotes, as all such press releases do.

I am thrilled to be welcoming Daybreak into the EG7 family today. Daybreak is a studio I have the utmost admiration for, not only for their games but the teams behind those games and services. Together we have bold and exciting plans for the future, and I look forward to making those dreams a reality for gamers all over the world.

Robin Flodin, CEO and Co-founder of EG7

This could be a boon for the company, or they could get the Gamigo treatment like Trion did when they were acquired.  Or EG7 might just want the data for the 178 million registered Daybreak users for marketing purposes… that actually gets a mention in the press release. (Bad news for them, at least three of those users are just me.)

But that will all come later.

We’re still in the phase where the deal isn’t done yet and both sides of the transaction are invested in keeping to the status quo going.  Expansions for EverQuest and EverQuest II will launch this month (Dec. 8th and 15th respectively, the latter being announced today along with the acquisition).  Updates will keep coming out.  Nobody is going to lose their job just yet.

But the deal is expected to close by December 31, 2020, so the real situation likely won’t become apparent until next year.  Some people will no doubt be redundant and get laid off.  Plans may change.  And maybe the individual studios that Daybreak created earlier this year will end up being used to distinguish the groups.  But come the new year Daybreak, announced back in February of 2015, will likely cease to be a thing.

Related posts (Those with info beyond the press release marked*):

LOTRO War of Three Peaks Launches Today

The Standing Stone Games experiment to see if they can get somebody to pay $99 for a mini-expansion begins today.

That is $33 a peak

Okay, you don’t HAVE to pay $99.  There are three price levels.  But you COULD pay $99 if you really wanted to.  The problem is that SSG has been pretty slow explaining WHY you would want to pay $99.

Weeks ago they announced that this adventure pack would be made available at three price levels:

  • Normal Edition – $20
  • Collector’s Edition – $59
  • Ultimate Edition – $99

However, they have since been quiet… and deliberately so… about what you would get for your hundred bucks.  There were hints that it involved boar mounts, but they simply were not going to tell us what was in the box until it was available for sale.  This has not filled people with confidence.

But today is the day.  The Update 28 Patch Notes say so.  And now their expansions purchase page has the big reveal, and even includes a comparison chart to let you know what you get.

A peek at the Three Peaks loot

They  list out the key features as:

  • Elderslade: Missions
  • New Six Person Instance: Shakalush, the Stair Battle
  • New Raid: Amdân Dammul, the Bloody Threshold
  • Exciting Bonus Items in Collector’s and Ultimate Fan Editions!

And you get the first three with the $20 option, so the more expensive options are just the fluff.

But that is always the way.  You cannot sell much more with special editions without breaking balance or making people feel obligated to pay for the more expensive option.

They tried it before

So the question is whether or not you’re into all the extras.  Some people will be.  I’ve gone in on a few extra cost packages in my time.  But for my current commitment to LOTRO… which is essentially nil right now… I will probably wait until they make it available on the in-game store for LOTRO Points.

Addendum: Did I say game update or quest pack or mini-expansion?  SSG says it is just an expansion.

Others on this launch:

Wide Screen

A very astute reader of the blog might have noticed that, recently, some of my screen shots included in posts were a bit… wider… than normal.  That last screen shot on my post about WoW Classic alts was different that the rest.

And some screen shots in the post about the battle at 46-U6U in EVE Online featured some screen shots like that as well.

This is because I recently was able to borrow a Dell U3415W monitor.  The “34” refers to it being 34″ diagonal in size.  It is a big monitor.  Perhaps the biggest one I have ever worked on, at least when it comes to screen resolution.

It displays at 3440 x 1440 resolution.  That is a lot of pixels to push.  My main monitor, a 24″ Dell U2412M was just 1920 x 1200 for comparison.

But the first thing was to find room for it on my desk.  The monitor is big enough that it is curved slightly, so that the whole screen stays in your peripheral vision.  I was able to squeeze it in there and still keep my little (1600 x 900) secondary monitor on the side, so I can play full screen and still be able to see IMs or pull up maps or quest info or whatever.

It fits there

The main problem is what to do with my Snowball microphone.  It used to sit off to the side of the old monitor, but cable reach and space constraints now mean it has to it somewhere in front of one of the monitors.  Unfortunately, it is just tall enough that it blocks something no matter where I put it.  So it moves around at need for the moment.

And once I had the monitor hooked up… well… let me tell you, your perceptions about desktop space and what windows need to be opened up full screen change.  It was kind of crazy, having that much room for stuff on the screen.  I wondered how I would get used to it… and then about an hour later I was.

You certainly don’t need to expand most things to take up the full screen.  Web sites, text documents, chat windows, they can all live in much smaller spaces.  Spreadsheets though!  Now there is some full screen magic.

But first I was on to games.

I wanted to know what games would actually support a 3440 x 1440 resolution.  What could I play full screen?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, World of Warcraft was totally fine with the big screen.  In perhaps a bit of a surprise though, WoW Classic is also good with that much real estate.

A Plaguelands panorama

The UI scales fine, nothing is awkwardly out of place, no bits are stretched, everything is anchored in what feels like just the right spot, and playing in a world that extends to the edge of your vision is actually pretty cool.  I got used to that very quickly.

EVE Online, my other much have, likewise seemed fine with a big screen, though the client has been somewhat resolution agnostic for a while.  It will size to whatever screen you want.  The UI does get pretty small and things you need to click on… and you need to click on many things in EVE Online… can seem pretty far apart until you move around some of the UI, but it works.  And the view can be breathtaking.

In the slow motion scrum of battle

Games that are screen size agnostic, games like RimWorld, had not problem with the bigger monitor.  You just get to see more real estate.  I was a bit surprised to find that Age of Empires II HD was good with the resolution.

An RTS panorama

The awkward bit is that the game anchors the mini-map and the build controls at the lower corners, which are way far apart and distant from whatever you are likely doing on the main screen at any given moment.  Not so bad if you have memorized the key controls.  But if you’re like me and need to click, the sheer distance will slow you down.

Other games worked with varying degrees of success.  EverQuest II seemed good with the screen size overall, save for the experience and control bar at the bottom of the screen, which only scales to about half that width.

I guess it anchors on the left size of the screen

However, the view of the landscape, in the newer zones at least, was very nice.

It’s older sibling, EverQuest, gamely tried to follow suit.  Launching the game, the windows seemed disinclined to stretch and just stayed their usual defaults.  Once in the game, things opened up as it tried to accommodate the wideness of the new reality.

Let’s get wide in Norrath

The UI ended up getting stretched across the screen as things tried to remain relatively spaced. The UI settings acknowledged the screen size, but the view into the world felt a bit stretched across the horizontal plane.

Likewise, Lord of the Rings Online started up fairly awkwardly. As it started up windows were stretched, controls were stretched, and the signs looks bad. But once in the game, things settled down. The UI had a few quirks… when you open up your bags they all have unnecessarily space between them… but otherwise looked good.

From middle to wide earth

I was at least covered on some of the older games I play. I haven’t dug through them all yet, and some are up front about not supporting anything wider that 2560 x 1440. Diablo III falls in that category, not that I have played it recently.

Probably the only downside I’ve seen so far is Minecraft. It runs just fine and scales up to the right size without issue. And when looking out on the world it is quite a sight. But the moment I turn left or right, the way it handles motion blur at the edges of the screen starts to give me a bit of motion sickness. (I get the head ache sort, not the nausea sort.) That might be something I could get used to, but it was unpleasant so I stopped playing around with it pretty quickly.

And then, of course, there is my video card. When I built my current system about two years back, I went with an EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB video card. That was a decent choice as it appears to be just about able to handle the big screen when running some of these games. When I used the GeForce Experience to optimize my graphic settings for the new monitor, it did turn down the detail on some titles. Even with WoW Classic, which I had been running max settings on, needed a couple of settings dialed back a bit.

Of course, I immediately started looking into new video cards, but the timing is bad. Not only is there the whole “kid in college” level of expenses to deal with at the moment, but nVidia just announced a new lineup, but the older cards haven’t seen a price break yet. Maybe by Christmas time there will be a decent upgrade at a good price.

That assumes I’ll get to hang on to the monitor for a while, though it might be one of those things where once you have had this much screen space you can never go back.

[This post was written in WordPress.com’s new “block editor,” about which I will complain at a later date. It is not only awkward to use, but makes the post look different from other posts if you look closely. WP.com deployed the block editor while I was writing this, and I thought I was trapped with it, but I have since figured out how to continue to use the “classic” editor going forward.]

Friday Bullet Points on a Tuesday just to Catch Up

Basically, the month slipped by and ends tomorrow and there were several things I think I should have mentioned, if only to set their place in the timeline of what happened this month.  So on to summaries and links and bullet points.

  • LOTRO Planning a “Mini” Expansion

Standing Stone Games announced that Lord of the Rings Online will be getting a mini expansion pack titled War of the Three Peaks next month.  SSG will be treating it like an expansion in that it will be available in three different versions:

  • Normal Edition – $20
  • Collector’s Edition – $59
  • Ultimate Edition – $99

SSG has been less than forthcoming as to what players will get for the extra $39 or $79, aside from the possibility of boar mounts.  Reaction to this mini expansion has been mixed.

I’m holding my own opinion on value until SSG comes out with more details, but my past experience with Adventure packs, an idea that shows up at Daybreak every so often, only to be disavowed, places my expectations low.

  • EVE Online Mineral Redistribution Plan

CCP put out a dev blog on Friday about the next steps in their economic work, calling it a “redistribution” plan.  However, it reads much more like a continuation of the “starvation” plan that they have been working on so far, with more things being removed from various areas of space and reducing yields on what remains.  The forum thread regarding this change exploded, which was no surprise.  Likewise, the chat in the live stream discussing the changes blew up as several devs tried not to pour gasoline on the fire and failed. (You can watch a re-run of the live stream or read a transcript if you’re that interested.)

Cutting through much of the general rage about the changes, it seems like CCP is trying to solve super capital proliferation via minerals.  However, supers use the same minerals as T1 subcaps, so T1 stuff is going to feel the same resource squeeze.  Updates that are all pain for no gain never fly well with the base.

The changes are supposed to come mid-October, so look for people to be mining heavily until that happens in an effort to try and insulated themselves from the already spiking mineral prices.

  • EVE Online Ship Models

CCP has a deal going with Mixed Dimensions to make models of EVE Online ships that players can buy, who have just added more hulls to those available.

I have always been a bit dubious about the ship models thing since the battleship models from more than a decade ago, not to mention the floating Nyx model that was a bust.  But maybe this time enough players… who always say they want these sorts of things… will actually pony up and buy them.  For me, however, the prices are a bit rich.  And I have that Rifter model from the 10th anniversary special in any case.

  • Microsoft buys ZeniMax Media

Microsoft agreed to pay $7.5 billion to acquire ZeniMax Media.  That name might sound familiar as they own id Software (Doom franchise), Arkane Studios (Prey, Dishonored), MachineGames (Wolfenstein franchise), Tango Gameworks (The Evil Within), Bethesda Softworks (Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises), and ZeniMax Online Studios (The Elder Scrolls Online).

While there will be no immediate change to any of the studios or their titles, it does raise the question as to what in the future will be exclusive to XBox and what will be available on other consoles or even on the PC.

  • Sony PlayStation 5 Pre-Orders Open Up, Hilarity Ensues

As foretold by every similar experience in the past, the pre-order process was swamped by people looking to get the new PlayStation 5 console, slated to ship in November, and by people looking to grab one to scalp on eBay to take advantage of desperate consumers as the holiday shopping season begins.  If you Google what happened, the word “fiasco” seems to be a common thread in much of the reporting.  Some of the confusion was caused by retailers putting pre-orders up for sale a day early.  Sony apologized for what happened and promised to do better in the future.

  • Microsoft XBox Series X and S Pre-Orders Open Up, Hilarity Ensues

Later in the week Microsoft opened up pre-orders for the coming XBox Series X and S consoles, slated to ship in November, leading to another rush to get in first to claim a unit, either to own or to scalp later.  While things were less chaotic (the news stories rank the event somewhere between “mess” and “debacle,” which is better than a “fiasco” I think) there were still issues and all units were quickly sold out.

The added dimension here is that the XBox One X, a previous generation console, saw a spike in orders at the same time, so it is quite possible that at least a few people are going to be very disappointed to find out that they were duped by Microsoft’s naming scheme into ordering the wrong unit.

  • Foreclosing on your Farmville

Zynga announced that they will be shutting down Farmville at the end of the year.

Farmville, the big break out game for Mark Pincus and Zynga and the poster child for Facebook “social gaming,” which at its 2011 peak had more than 80 million players, was also the standard bearer for annoying garbage games that made you pester your Facebook friends or straight up pay cash to advance and help define the whole genre as spammy pieces of shit.

Of course, that is what you get when your founder doesn’t even really like games all that much.

The surprise here isn’t so much that the game is shutting down but that it was still up and running.  Then again, literally the most profitable thing that Zynga has done during its entire existence was buy property in the SF Bay Area.  I am told that selling their building earned them more than all of their games combined over the last decade.  And, as they lucked into the social gaming on Facebook trend, they managed to luck into the peak, pre-pandemic real estate market in SF.  Good for their investors I guess.

I expect I will come up with a few choice words for the game, the company, and the genre to mark the final passing of the game in December.

  • EA Secretly Craves Lockbox Regulations

Electronic Arts – Fun is Made Here

I’m throwing this one in here at the last minutes just to keep me from writing another two thousand word screed on the self-destructive behavior that greed drives this industry towards.

According to a story over at Massively OP, EA decided that advertising their FIFA 20 lockboxes in a children’s toy catalog (Smyths’ Magazine) was a good idea.  My bullet point for this section is obviously sarcasm, but only just.  The only other reason I could imaging EA thinking it was a good idea to effectively throw some red meat in front of legislators keen to declare lockboxes gambling targeted at children is that they believed that the current pandemic and political unrest would provide sufficient cover for their plan… their plan to target lockboxes at children.

This is so dumb, like a dumb sandwich with a side order of dumb and a 16oz cup of dumb to wash it all down level of dumb, that I had to stop and check other sources to make sure this wasn’t a hoax because somewhere in the back of my head something was saying that even EA could not be this dumb.

And yet, here we are.

I mean sure, I guess that the ESA declaration on lockboxes last year, who among the signatories you will find EA, didn’t specifically say that targeting children was bad. But I guess I didn’t think that needed to be said.  As I wrote a year ago, this is how you get your industry regulated.

Quote of the Day – Retro MMO Ideals

As for the ‘give us an old version of LOTRO’ thing – my answer is the same as always: why unfix all those bugs? You think it was perfect back then, but I remember our bug queues at the time and I can assure you it was not. Thirteen years of bug-fixes just disappearing? Yikes!

-Master of Lions, LOTRO Dev team, LOTRO forums

There is in some of us, myself included, a longing for the “good old days” of a particular game.  That isn’t so hard to find when it comes to single player games.  I have enjoyed a return to Diablo II on its 20th anniversary.

Back with Cain and his tales again, basically unchanged in 20 years

But when it comes to MMORPGs, which are as much a service as a game, a service that must exist within a complex and changing ecosystem, and which host players in a shared world that is being constantly fixed and updated, it becomes problematic to reach a state where the “good old days” can be achieved.

SOE, and then Daybreak, have been playing the nostalgia card for well over a decade with EverQuest by rolling out servers where the content is restricted and unlock by expansion and where they have tinkered with the xp curve and mob difficulty.  But purists rightly argue that this doesn’t get you back to 1999 as so much has changed in the game since then.

LOTRO likewise experimented with that a couple of years back.

Even with WoW Classic, where Blizzard spent time and resources creating an experience very close to a point in 2006 gets criticism for some of the compromises they made in order to ship a product that would be viable in 2019.  It is very close to the 2006 experience, but it is not perfect.  Even I can spot a difference here and there.

Creating the exact early game experience, while maybe technically possible, does not seem practical and, in some ways, problematic.  As the quote at the top asks, do you re-introduce bugs, some of which can be quite annoying, merely to get that first day feel?  Does fixing those bugs invalidate the experience?  And how does all of that interact with current operating systems?  In the case of LOTRO I was running on Win XP when it launched, an OS that was already starting to get a bit long in the tooth and, even skipping Vista and Win 8, I am personally still two operating systems down the road.

And what is the experience true to in any case.  I’ll bring out another salty old quote:

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.

Heraclitus

The problem is two fold.  Due to changes in technology and the infrastructure around games, it isn’t likely you can set foot in exactly the same game you did back in 2007, or 2004, or 1999, or whenever.  Too much has changed.  If a company with all the resources that Blizzard has cannot get there without making compromises, small studios like Daybreak or Standing Stone don’t have much of a chance.

But you too have changed.  Even the forgetful, like myself, cannot be surprised anew at everything in a game.  There are too many memories of what happened before, too many blog posts, too much information on wikis and news sites to possibly be able to approach a game as you did back in the day.

The best you can hope for is a good time that in some way reminds you of how you felt back in the day, an experience that revives memories and makes you feel good.