Tag Archives: DCUO

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 Doomsaying

Since the announcement last week that Daybreak would be shutting down Landmark, there has been quite the hum of doom and gloom and wondering what other titles in their catalog might be headed for the chop.  Over at Massively OP they turned this into two posts, one asking if you’re worried about any Daybreak titles and then a poll as to which game people think is next.

It follows you as you move about the room!

It is watching you

The articles themselves are not big thrills, but the comment sections of both are rife with wild speculation and what I would consider unfounded and counter-factual claims.  All of that got me to mentally stack ranking the titles based on what I perceive as their viability based on what we can all see in the news and the occasional rumor that has come my way.

Given that, here is my list, from least to most vulnerable.

EverQuest – Bedrock

Emotionally I am tempted to say that SOE/Daybreak without EverQuest is a ship without a rudder.  EQ is the cornerstone on which the empire was built, so widely popular and wildly profitable in the days before World of Warcraft, it spawned a port, a sequel, two false starts at a second sequel, and likely represents the most valuable IP the company holds.

Also, a lot of people still play it.  And they pay to play it.  Two of the three most popular servers require Daybreak All Access subscriptions.  Every time Daybreak stands up a nostalgia server it gets swamped, to the point that they had to write a login queue and take the zone instancing tech from EverQuest II in order to keep from having to put up overflow servers.  And as the pre-WoW subscription champ, it has a lot of former players to pitch nostalgia at.

And it isn’t just nostalgia.  The game still gets an expansion every year, which is something you don’t bother doing if people aren’t buying enough copies.  Expansions would have to stop before I would consider the game was closer than five years from being shut down.

DC Universe Online – Profit

This is sort of a blank spot for me.  I don’t play the game, not liking it on Windows.  However I have heard, throughout its life, that it is profitable… at least on PlayStation, where at one point Smed said it generated more revenue that any other F2P option on that platform.

It is also unencumbered by Station Cash/Daybreak Cash, at least on consoles, which makes its accounting all the more simple.  And DCUO is the only game to actually expand during the Daybreak era, having been ported to XBox.  I have heard that did not go as well as it could have, but a game has to be doing okay to expand its base.

EverQuest II – Stalwart

The other game that gets people to subscribe to Daybreak Access.  Never the star and not as successful selling nostalgia as its older brother, EQII still has a solid following.  It must have been doing okay for a long stretch, as it seemed to be the focus of SOE’s oddball science experiments with things like SOEmote.  And, of course, it does get an expansion every year, which I think marks it as pretty safe for the near future.

Still, I can’t mark it as solid as EQ, and I roll my eyes every time somebody in the comment sections assumes that it has many more subscribers than EQ merely because of their relative ages.  EQII also remains the one Daybreak game I play regularly so, strictly speaking, I am not even picking my favorite as safest.

H1Z1: King of the Kill – Wunderkind

I hesitated to put this below EQII as it is Daybreak’s darling, the star of Twitch, and is getting its own currency in order to break it free of the burden that is Station Cash.  But it is the new kid as well, so that decided the ordering.  Safe so long as it remains popular, it seems to be getting all the development resources when it comes to the H1Z1 duo.

PlanetSide 2 – Struggling

The favored child of former Chairman Smed, the seemingly simple sequel to the original PlanetSide has had a whole host of issues over the course of its career.  It managed to get all the aim-bot and hacking problems of its predecessor while not having as much draw as $60 shooters like Call of Duty.

The executive creative director said the game was “really struggling” a little over a year ago, unable to get people to subscribe to Daybreak All Access just to play.  The game has been shut down in South Korea and China, hasn’t come close to Smed’s old feature list, and there hasn’t been much in the way of news about the game, a danger sign at a company where silence leads to closure.

H1Z1: Just Survive – No News is Bad News

Not done, not loved, and not very high in the queue for resource, Just Survive doesn’t need a blood red mark the size of a doubloon on its cheek to cement its position at the bottom of the safety list.  SOE/Daybreak have a long tradition of neglecting titles, failing to mention them, promising some news “soon” in the run up to the point that they are canned.

Not a bad game, this base building zombie survival variation, but you have to play with a regular group on a server where there are other players but where you are not overwhelmed.  But if somebody at Columbus Nova showed up and said that their research indicates that Daybreak should only have five games, I have no doubt this is what would get cut.

Not Candidates

I keep seeing Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online come up as doomed in the dystopian  Daybreak future.  However, while we still don’t know the full extent of the relationship between Daybreak and Standing Stone Games, I doubt the team in San Diego is going to be able to shutter either title of their own accord.

Furthermore, WB isn’t spinning those games off out of the goodness of its heart and a love of the player base.  WB expects to get paid over time, and it wouldn’t have bothered setting them up as an license revenue income source if it didn’t think it would at least pay back the lawyers fees needed to setup Standing Stone.

When?

While I may have picked H1Z1: Just Survive as candidate for closure in my 2017 predictions post, I don’t think we’re going to hear anything about the game for a while, if we do hear bad news.  Its code connection with King of the Kill may be close enough still for it to get some attention.  Eventually though Daybreak will either need to do something with the game or stop wasting resources on it.  The more time that passes without any real change, the more likely it seems to me that closure will be the end result.

And then there is PlanetSide 2.  I am still stuck on that “really struggling” statement.  Then again, it is linked to King of the Kill in its code base and does seem to be getting some attention.  If Smed were still around I wouldn’t even consider PS2 for closure, as it was his baby.  Without him around and the harsh realities of being an “indie” studio nothing is strictly safe any more.

Anyway, that is my outsiders opinion on the subject.  We shall see what 2017 brings.

Smed Tweets that DC Universe Online Doing Well as Free to Play

John Smedley,President of Sony Online Entertainment has been active on Twitter again, this time giving updates on how DC Universe Online has been doing since the transition to a free to play business model.

QFT – You never know when a tweet will face a delete:

Really happy with how DCUO is doing. Here are some interesting facts

DCUO’s playerbase is growing at 6% a day.. great to see all the new players!

700% increase in daily revenue (47% PC / 53% PS3)

More than 85% of daily log-ins are returning players.

Additional character slots and the Vanguard of the Heavens character skins are the two most popular marketplace items

The change in business model appeared to have lured blogger Green Armadillo of Player Versus Developer into the game, and he has been posting about it quite a bit.

Have you joined the rush into (or back into) DCUO since the business model change?

SOE – What Other Titles Will Go Free to Play?

With last week’s announcement that EverQuest II is going free to play on all servers, and DC Universe Online having just made the transition to free to play, Sony Online Entertainment feels like it has turned a corner.

The company has gone from being a subscription MMO company with a few free offerings to a free to play focused company with a few legacy subscription games hanging around.  The weight of games… and the absolute weight of most of their popular titles… has tilted towards free to play.

The SOE Options for New Players

Technically, the title line up will shortly be five free and five subscription, if you consider EverQuest II to be a single merged game now, and you count Star Wars Galaxies.  But new players cannot join SWG, and it will be going away on December 15th in any case.

And the lineup definitely looks biased towards newer, more popular games going free to play.

Okay, Pirates of the Burning Sea isn’t popular by any stretch.  But EverQuest II is arguably the flagship game for the company.

While the subscription only lineup looks pretty long in the tooth.

Those are some old titles in terms of video games, and the only one that still draws a crowd is EverQuest, the one time champion of the subscription MMO world.

So what happens to subscription titles at a company that appears to see free to play as the future?  Will any of the remainders join the free to play bunch?

EQOA, peaking at ~30K subscribers, has never been a big title.  It is only for PlayStation 2 and hasn’t seen any new content for almost five years.  It is being sustained as long as it remains profitable to run, but its days are numbered.  I think the era of benign neglect will continue until the subscription base dwindles to the point that SOE turns out the lights. (You can read more about EQOA over at Massively or, as Harbinger Zero suggested, check out Stoney’s EQOA Blog.)

PlanetSide, also something of a dormant title, down a single sparsely populated server.  PlanetSide will remain until PlanetSide 2 launches and that will be that.  PlanetSide 2 will, of course, have a free to play subscription model.

Vanguard is probably more popular than Pirates of the Burning Sea, which made the move to free to play, so it seems like it might have a chance for a move as well.  But PotBS is not actually an SOE title.  SOE only hosts and publishes the game.  Flying Lab Software is responsible for development and apparently are able to sustain themselves on its meager population.

Vanguard though, appears to be in a maintenance only mode, with no devs assigned to it.  A transition to free to play requires an investment of resources.  Previously SOE opted to add in LiveGamer, a system that allows players to buy and sell from each other with realm money; sanctioned RMT.  However, LiveGamer is going away, so perhaps the door is open to some change on free to play front. (Though LiveGamer seems to be doing okay without SOE.)

But somehow I doubt it.

There are only two groups of players that are going to be more prickly about adding in a cash shot with enough viable items to make money, and one of them is Vanguard players.  And for a game that is not generating enough revenue to get more than bug fixes slowly over time, the possibility of annoying the player base has to be viewed as a serious risk.  My guess is that SOE will just leave Vanguard on the subscription model and keep it around as long as enough people are willing to pay.

And then there is EverQuest.

Here is the one game on the list that has the population and the name recognition to making going free to play a viable option.

But EQ players are the second group of prickly players when it comes to cash shop items.

On the other hand, SOE has actually been working on the UI in EQ.  One of the features of the latest expansion, Veil of Alaris (which goes live today), is improved hot bars which, from the description, sound like they are going to try to make them work the way they do in most current MMOs.

That makes me wonder if SOE is planning some sort of free to play option for EQ in the next year or so.

What do you think?  Will EverQuest get a free to play option?  Will Vanguard?

And will it matter?

While the free to play option is out there, the subscriptions still exist if you want to play without some of the more onerous restrictions on a free account.  And with the new and attractively priced SOE All Access available if you play more than one SOE game, is free to play anything more than an unlimited trial at SOE?

Do you still have to subscribe to “really” be playing any of these games?

The Hazards of Console Gaming…

Somebody else might come along and want to use the TV.

The computer, though, is safe from intrusion.

At least that is the way it goes at my house, where computers out number TVs 3 to 1.

Smed Speaks on DCUO and Planetside Next

John Smedley has a blog.

It doesn’t get much of a work out, and I wish he hadn’t chosen a free LiveJournal account, since it puts up video ads every so often, but he has one.

Today, after more than a year lying dormant, he saw fit to put something up about the DC Universe Online beta and Planetside Next.

Certainly DCUO is getting a lot of attention right now, but I am really interested to hear how they plan to redo Planetside.  This is all he had to say on that front:

In other news – early next year we will have announcements about Planetside Next followed by a beta. I can say this – it’s coming along awesome. I can also say that the first beta testers are going to be current Planetside subscribers. I’ve gotten a lot of email from current players offering to help test the game and we’re going to take them up on it.

Grist for the New Years prediction mill if nothing else.

It is odd… if you read his blog, he does seem to favor Planetside.

And it isn’t the first time he’s mentioned the next version of the game on his blog.

What does it mean?