Tag Archives: H1Z1

Daybreak and NantWorks to Put H1Z1 and EverQuest on Your Phone or Something

Too much has been announced today for me to fully process this tidbit of news about Daybreak, long a topic of study around here, and NantWorks, about which I can find little to nothing about on the web.  They are a holding company of some sort with a variety of ventures, all of which have the “Nant” prefix as part of their name.

It follows you as you move about the room!

So the two companies have announced a joint venture, a term that takes me back to the Gorbachev era and my Soviet Studies class… crap, this is Daybreak, I shouldn’t bring up Russians… but which has meaning outside of that context.  It is just where my brain goes.

Anyway, the press release has a lot of fluff and misdirection, but I think the upshot is that they want to join forces, each bringing their alleged expertise to create NantG Mobile, which will, if I am deciphering it correctly, end up with new mobile and Windows versions of H1Z1 which will now be called Z1 Battle Royale, because they haven’t changed the name enough already?

You will need to update the shirt

Do they want to take back the market from Fortnite, which ate PUBG‘s lunch after PUBG ate H1Z1‘s lunch by creating a new esports league complete with physical location?  Also, the LA Times will start covering esports in their sports section, because newspaper coverage was what was holding back esports all this time I guess.

Oh, and a mobile version of EverQuest as well.  Because reasons?

Anyway, the press release quoted for posterity:

NANTWORKS MAKES STRATEGIC INVESTMENT IN DAYBREAK GAME COMPANY AND ESTABLISHES VIDEO GAME PUBLISHING JOINT VENTURE, NANTG MOBILE

NantG Mobile to Co-Develop Next Generation Game Publishing Platform

LA Times Center and NantG Mobile to Establish E-Sports Leagues Across Multiple Games Beginning with Z1 Battle Royale, the Revitalized H1Z1 Battle Royale Game

Los Angeles – Sept. 6, 2018 – NantWorks, a diversified holding company, today announced that it has made a strategic investment in Daybreak Game Company, a leading developer and publisher of multiplayer online games. In connection with the investment, NantWorks has obtained a controlling interest in a new joint venture with Daybreak, NantG Mobile, LLC, which has been formed to develop and publish mobile versions of Daybreak’s current games – H1Z1 and EverQuest – and to build and publish video games across all platforms. In addition, the JV will now assume control and management of the current PC H1Z1 Battle Royale game. Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, CEO and Chairman of NantWorks and Owner and Executive Chairman of the Los Angeles Times, will join Daybreak’s board of directors.

Daybreak Game Company is the developer and publisher of the highly popular, first-ever standalone battle royale game, H1Z1®: Battle Royale, which is currently available on PC and has amassed more than 12 million players on PlayStation 4 to date. Its games portfolio includes the EverQuest MMO franchise, PlanetSide 2, DC Universe Online, The Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online. The San Diego-based gaming studio is privately owned by Jason Epstein, who serves as Chairman of the Board.

“Daybreak Games is pleased to have NantWorks as our investment partner to support and accelerate the growth of our company,” said Epstein. “Working with NantWorks, NantStudio and Dr. Soon-Shiong will allow us to maintain our cutting-edge development in the video game industry and to benefit from Nant’s technological expertise and reach as a resource.”

“I am delighted that our software capabilities at NantWorks, together with the creative expertise and infrastructure at NantStudio – which includes our low latency fiber network, will help accelerate the development of the platform at Daybreak, a company with history dating back to its origins as Sony Online Entertainment,” said Soon-Shiong. “Their achievements in the development of gaming technology have contributed greatly to this emerging field of virtual sports and we view this medium as an important media engagement engine.”

“Daybreak’s well tested game engine currently running Everquest and H1Z1, combined with the proprietary next generation mobile game engine which we will develop and launch in the joint venture, are platforms which will enable unprecedented scale and provide enjoyment to millions of simultaneous players,” said John Wiacek, NantG Mobile’s Head of Game Engine Development.

NantWorks is currently planning construction of an LA Times Center adjacent to the new Los Angeles Times headquarters in El Segundo. The LA Times Center will include an event space, LA Times production studio and e-sports arenas with fiber inter-connectivity at a global scale. The LA Times Center will serve as a convening hub for the community and a venue where NantG Mobile will establish e-sports leagues for multiple game titles, starting with Z1 Battle Royale, a revitalized PC-based version of H1Z1: Battle Royale.

Separately, the Los Angeles Times will soon be adding coverage of e-sports competitions in its Sports section.

“The growth of virtual sports has been explosive,” said Times Executive Editor Norman Pearlstine. “We look forward to covering all the major games companies, including Daybreak.”

So what does all that add up to?  What does it mean when they refer to Daybreak’s current games as just H1Z1 and EverQuest? (Though elsewhere they mention other games, including the ones they “publish” for Standing Stone.)  What does a “revitalized version of H1Z1″ mean?  And what are they talking about, this well tested game engine that runs both EverQuest and H1Z1?  Are we talking about the same EverQuest here, the one from 1999?  Or the one from 2004?  Or some new, as yet unannounced EverQuest that might be new enough to share engines with H1Z1?

And is this new esports league going to be different than the current esports league that Daybreak is doing so well with?

I do see that they very specifically got in that Daybreak is privately owned by Jason Epstein, a point they have been very unclear about in the past.

Anyway, we shall see if there are any follow up explanations or clarifications forthcoming, because it all seems about as clear as mud to me.

Hat tip to the esteemed Feldon, late of the EQ2 Wire, for spotting this.

Other coverage:

Just Survive Doesn’t

Daybreak Games announced today that the rather aptly named game Just Survive won’t survive though to the end of the year.  It is set to close down on October 24, 2018, after which it will be just another entry on the list of SOE/Daybreak games that once were.

The night is dark, I think I’ll go to bed

The message from Daybreak, quoted here since the site it is on will no doubt disappear with the game itself.

Dear Survivors,

After careful consideration, we’ve made the difficult decision to sunset Just Survive on Wednesday, October 24 at 11 a.m. PT. The excitement of the game’s promise was palpable and its loyal community is still full of ideas for its future. Unfortunately, we are no longer in a position to fulfill its greatness and the current population of the game makes it untenable to maintain.

Just Survive was part of our first Early Access project, and we learned a great deal during its development. As with any open world game, the greatest stories came from our passionate players. From the incredibly skilled base builders to the free-ranging gangs, and all of the players named variations of “ImFriendly” and “PleaseDontShootMe”, we hope everyone had amazing adventures across Pleasant Valley and Badwater Canyon.

Thank you for taking the time to play the game, to help test it when we opened the Test servers to the public, and for all of the suggestions and feedback throughout Early Access. We truly appreciate everyone’s commitment and your contributions throughout the development process. Our promise is to do better and learn from every experience along the way.

Just Survive servers will remain available for play until Wednesday, October 24 at 11 a.m. PT, and starting immediately all Steam purchases and in-game transactions have been disabled. To find out if you are eligible for a refund via Steam, please visit this link.

Thank you again for your support and dedication to Just Survive.

Best,

The Just Survive Team at Daybreak Games

The original game, built up from PlanetSide 2, rolled up under the H1Z1 name back at the beginning, was announced back in April of 2014 with the bizarre promise that this zombie apocalypse, horror survival title was “dedicated to Star Wars Galaxies players.”   I know some people still trying to figure that last bit out.  The details about the game, available at that link, at first included the idea of it being free to play and available to SOE All Access subscribers.  Indeed.

H1Z1 went into Early Access in January of 2015 to much acclaim.

Okay, maybe not.  It was a bit of a disaster, not helped by then CEO Smed forgetting that gamers can’t take a joke… or that you shouldn’t insult your customer base quite so brazenly… or something.  Anyway, it brought up the whole idea of what we should expect out of paid early access and went some way, along with Landmark, towards setting the poor reputation the concept has.  It got Polygon to declare if a company was charging for a game then it was fair to review it as it stood.

Smed was also out there telling people it wasn’t an MMO despite the fact that the company web site said it was.  Get your stories straight and all of that.

I kind of miss Smed for quotes alone.  You never got Russ Shanks on Twitter after Smed was gone.

Anyway, as we were to soon lean, SOE was about to be split from Sony and become Daybreak Games, so rushing the title out the door was probably part of the plan to please the new masters in San Diego.

As time went on the game got better.  I went and played it a bit with people from the Reavers SIG from the Imperium in EVE Online.  It was clearly a game for groups, but it had its moments.

You use your clothes to make a bag right away, because inventory management!

There was even some bonus items for signing up through the then-branded TheMittani.com.

The machete was the clincher

However, the Battle Royale option that was put into the game became the hit aspect of the whole thing, the driving force that sold something like a million copies of the game and kicked off the whole Battle Royale genre.

When it became obvious where the money was for the title, the Battle Royale portion was split off into its own game, giving us two titles, H1Z1: Just Survive and H1Z1: King of the Kill. 

There was some later work on those titles, with the former becoming Just Survive and the latter going through some gyrations before returning to just H1Z1.

You missed one I think…

While H1Z1 has ridden some highs, first dominating then losing the Battle Royale market to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite, then getting a boost again on the PlayStation 4… if only you’d stayed with Sony… the other side of the house appeared to be struggling to live up to its name.  Just Survive was mostly a black hole of information.  I pegged it to be declared in “maintenance mode” by the end of this year while some wild rumors from earlier this year said it was on its last legs.

During that time H1Z1 finally went liveJust Survive never made it there.

And here we are today.  I was a bit too optimistic in my prediction.  How can you tell when something at Daybreak is in maintenance mode after all?  The traditional cycle there, carried over from the SOE days, is moments of enthusiasm followed by long, long stretches of dead silence.

Daybreak Games now has the following titles:

  • EverQuest (1999)
  • EverQuest II (2004)
  • DC Universe Online (2011)
  • PlanetSide 2 (2012)
  • H1Z1 (2015)

Those titles are all effectively SOE era work.  There have been improvements and expansions onto consoles and the like, but there hasn’t really been anything new in the Daybreak era.   Not much of a legacy after almost four years.

And so it goes.

Other sites covering this closure:

Rumors of Future Daybreak Projects and the End of EverQuest

[Addendum: A year after this post I reviewed how the rumors may have played out.]

Because we just can’t stop staring at Daybreak now that they’ve drawn our attention.

The eye seems more angry today

Over at Massively OP they reported on a Reddit post by an alleged former Daybreak staffer who was part of the big layoff and who decided to spilled the beans on what the company has under wraps.  I am going to quote the substance of the post just to have it here for reference now and in the future.

The list re-ordered for narrative flow and importance to me:

Everquest will have one last expansion. The 20th anniversary will introduce a series of nostalgic raids that tie into complex quests. These quests can be done in order to grant alternate characters powerful scaling weapons.

Well, I have long asked how many expansions could EverQuest sustain.  20 years is a pretty good run, and I imagine that they’ll keep playing the progression server card.  But it will be a sad day when the final expansion hits and Norrath reaches its final size.

Everquest 2 will also have one last expansion and eventually a similar series of send-off weapon quests and raids.

It seems like 2019 (or 2018) will be a final kiss-off for the slowly dwindling and increasingly bitter base of Norrath fans.  EQII will have made it to 15 years but won’t end up with nearly the immense scope of places that EQ has.  Another sad day for the MMO with my favorite housing scheme ever.

Everquest 3 has been back in development for a year and is being rebuilt from the ground up. It aims to compete with Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen and to be the first fantasy MMORPG to put an emphasis on team battle royal PvP.

I guess we should be happy about this, but after the first EverQuest Next announcement, then the restart, then the voxel word promises and Landmark and the faked AI in all the demos and the final cancellation I cannot find any enthusiasm for this at the moment.

There was a rumor going about last year that there was a Norrath based multiplayer RPG in the works that would not be an MMORPG, but I guess once you are on the stage with the other MMOs it is hard not to keep going that direction.

The idea of competing with Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen AND injecting the flavor of the month feature of battle royale PvP seems silly.  Would picking a focus be too much to ask?  And what would team battle royal PvP be anyway, and how would it be different from World of Warcraft battlegrounds?

I realize this isn’t an official announcement, but they have a lot to sell on this one if it is anywhere close to true.

Just Survive is on its last legs. Several ideas for increasing profits have been floated around but at this point it looks like a sunset is most likely.

Not unexpected.  Certainly the most credible item on the list.  The name seemed too on the nose when it was given, like naming a mayfly “dead by Friday.”

Planetside 2 was supposed to be getting new character models and animations in May. A new map and an aircraft carrier are planned for the end of the year.

Sounds okay I guess, unless you’re planning to replace the game.

Planetside 3 is in early development. Other teams will be siphoned into this project next year. This will be a team based battle royal game that combines the building aspect of Fortnite with territory acquisition.

Oh, you’re planning to replace the game.  The ghost of Smed continues to wander the halls of Daybreak I guess, which is odd because he isn’t actually dead.  And, of course, battle royale figures into it because of course it does.  Doesn’t Daybreak already have a battle royale game in H1Z1?

H1Z1 will get a smaller map as well as a remake of “Z1”. The PS4 port is looking good. After that new skins will continue to be released but most of the team will be moved over to Planetside 3.

Drop work on the current battle royale game save for cash shop items so you can work on the new battle royale game, which will probably launch when the market has gone well past saturation and will have to be altered to fit whatever the flavor of the month is at that time.

Well, down 70 people and with a handful of games to maintain I guess they have to make some tough choices if they ever want to launch anything new.

Of course, this could all be nonsense or misdirection too.  You can’t really know from the outside.  But I figured I would mark the moment so we can return to it later and see if any of it plays out.

I doubt there will be any official response to any of this, but we’ll all keep an eye out for announcements in the distant future from the house that Jason Epstein built.

Others on these rumors:

Honest Game Trailers – Fortnite

Honest Trailers did a video about PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds months back, just when it was starting to rise in popularity, taking over the market briefly held by the now officially released (and suddenly free) H1Z1 soon thereafter.  But I skipped past that back then because the game hadn’t really hit its stride yet as a dominate player.

But now Honest Trailers has a video about Fortnite, the one-time co-op game that showed up to totally eat PUBG’s lunch, according to SuperData, for specific definitions of “lunch.”

The building part of Fortnite, even in its battle royale mode, does look interesting.

H1Z1 – Going Live in Time to be a Zombie

Daybreak’s one-time H1Z1, then H1Z1: King of the Kill, then just King of the Kill, and finally just H1Z1 again, is reported to be leaving Early Access today.  There is a Producer’s Letter on the official site full of enthusiasm for this monumental day.

H1Z1 2015 Logo

At least they are trying to own the whole naming thing.

You missed one I think…

Starting as the Battle Royale mode of their zombie survival game first announced almost four years ago was a surprise success, selling in the seven figures and dominating the Steam charts.  Rightly wanting to reinforce success, the rest of the game was partitioned off as the aptly named Just Survive while the company focused on the bit that was getting attention.

I don’t think we’re here anymore…

Of course, what it also did was spawn imitators.  We hear all about PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds these days, a title that leapfrogged H1Z1’s success in a way reminiscent of what WoW did to EverQuest, and which spawned its own imitator and competitor, Fortnite and its Battle Royale module.

Meanwhile H1Z1 has slid down the charts, having lost a reported 91% of its player base.  Once things looked rosy and there was a deal with Tencent to bring the game to China.  Now I wonder if that is in jeopardy.

So it seems like exactly the right moment to leave Early Access I guess.  Not that leaving Early Access means anything at all these days.  The game was supposed to leave Early Access last year, but then didn’t.  Now it has and it doesn’t mean much of anything.  There is no launch day bump when you’ve been acting like a shipping product for a couple of years already.

They do have some new features that come with launch, the main one being a car based Battle Royale mode.

Zombies in cars getting coffee

Of course, in what I can only see as an ironic twist, they announced a beta feature on launch day.  We will see if the updates that Daybreak are bringing to the game with its long past due launch will stem the tide of its fleeing player base.  Is it too little, too late?

Friday Bullet Points – Names and Prices and Gambling

It is Friday and, while I have posts that I could put up today, I wanted to cover a few small items that popped up this week, if only to write them down for discussion later.  As usual, just marking the dates with a bullet point post.

King of the Kill Dethroned

In a surprise move… to me at least… Daybreak announced that their battle royale game H1Z1: King of the Kill, already under pressure from hot new contenders like PlayerUnknown’s Battleground and Fortnite, decided that one of the things it needed to do was simplify the games name.

So they cut one side of the colon.  The side with what I sort of considered the actual name.

The game is now simply called H1Z1.

H1Z1 – October 2017 logo

Back where we started in 2015 when there was only one game with two modes and a single name.   Only the other mode is now Just Survive.

H1Z1 2015 Logo

Daybreak gives a several dubious sounding reasons for the change, ending on what was likely the real answer”

…having the word ‘Kill’ in the name of the game can be limiting with some global audiences…

I have to admit that I cannot, off the cuff, come up with a widely successful game with “Kill” in its name.  Maybe they’re right.

Of course, none of that changes the fact that the two titles mentioned above are eat H1Z1’s lunch, that the game is still in Early Access after saying it would be released last year, and the planned console port is still just a wink and a promise.

Oculus Price Cut

Facebook announced a price cut for the Oculus Rift.  The unit, which started off at $599 back in the day, will now be $399 and include the Touch controllers as well, at one time additional cost items.

That is a better price, though I am still in the boat of having to upgrade my PC first to be able to support their VR implementation.  I am at the very minimum spec for the Oculus Rift, and we now how well minimum specs work out.  And there still isn’t a must-have game or app out there to push me forward.

Facebook also announced the Oculus Go, priced at $199, but then didn’t say much about what the hell it actually was.  According to the Game Informer post linked above, the Go unit is stand alone and comes with one controller and a lot of promises.  So I am not sure what that even means.  Can I watch movies on it?

Empires of Kunark Still Half Price

Back to Daybreak, where the Norrath titles are in the middle of their annual expansion run up.  I’ll probably compare and contrast the pre-order offers at a later date.

But as part of that both EverQuest and EverQuest II put last year’s expansion up for sale at half off the original price for a limited time.

Empires of Kunark – Half Price through Tuesday

If you wanted to get all of the goodies that came with the more expensive packages… well… they are less expensive now, though you don’t get any price credit for having bought the base package it seems.

Half Price Pricing, Buy or Upgrade

As usual, being a subscriber gets you an additional ten percent discount.

Lockboxes and Gambling

This has been going around due to a petition to the UK government to declare lockboxes a form of gambling.  This seems silly to me as lockboxes do not meet the required win/lose scenario of gambling.  You always get a prize.  That it is not the prize you wanted is irrelevant and you don’t get to claim that virtual good have no value if you only mean the ones you don’t like.

Anyway, fellow bloggers have weighed in on this:

The above doesn’t mean I like lockboxes, and I certainly don’t spend my money on them.  I think they are a predatory device that plays to the same weaknesses that gambling does.  They just aren’t gambling any more than Pokemon cards or the gumball machine at the grocery store.  Chance alone does not make something gambling.

Meanwhile devs offer responses as to why they use lockboxes.  Spoiler: They have families to feed, so are apparently absolved of any moral issues.

Meanwhile, Activision has patented a system to punish you for not paying to win, which can include buying lockboxes, so welcome to reality.  Good luck playing for sympathy with that on your side.

Daybreak 30 Months In

30 months seems like a nice round number for a review.

I was thinking about Daybreak over the weekend.  It has been about two and a half years now since they ceased to be SOE and began living the “indie” lifestyle as Daybreak.  Freed from the shackles of their PlayStation overlords there was the promise of being able to do new things… mostly on XBox.

First though, they had to clean house.  That started with staff cuts.  They cut games, Dragon’s Prophet, PlanetSide, and Legends of Norrath, though they had already cut some games as SOE to get ready for the deal.  Then they killed off the long suffering EverQuest Next project and released Landmark, only to close it down less than a year later.  That left them with a tidy array of games.

Daybreak Lineup – Fall 2017

DC Universe Online

Profitable on PlayStation, DCUO was the beneficiary of the whole “we can develop for XBox!” plan, getting an XBox One client last year along with the promise of being able to play on servers with Windows players.  I can’t recall if that ever happened.  The game does get regular content updates and likely continues to be profitable.

EverQuest and EverQuest II

The foundation of the company.  I remain of the opinion I expressed on a podcast a year and and a half ago, that these two titles are in the strongest place they have been in a long time.  Both games get yearly content expansion and regular updates and Daybreak has continued to successfully play the nostalgia card with both titles, rolling out fresh servers focused on old content.  Those are consistently the most popular servers though even I, a big fan of the idea, wonder how long these titles can live largely on that sort of thing.

H1Z1 – King of the Kill

The surprise break-out battle royale aspect of the H1Z1 saga, it still hasn’t managed to exit Early Access despite Daybreak’s parent company considering the game launched 30 months ago.  And there is a question as to how long its reign of success will last now that PlayerUnknown’s Battleground is now the darling of battle royale titles and Twitch streamers.  You cannot live on selling $5 in-game hoodies when a new game is stealing your audience.

Yeah, who owns Battle Royale now?

Having to differentiate yourself from your new competitor… which has sold 10 million units already… is never a good sign.  Meanwhile, the promised ports to PlayStation and XBox have never materialized.

Just Survive

The aptly named twin of King of the Kill and once the main focus of the plan.  Then the battle royale idea proved more popular, the game was split into two titles, with Just Survive mostly neglected for the next year and a half.  The biggest announcement during that time was that Daybreak was removing the “H1Z1” prefix from the title.  That came with the promise of a big revamp, but I don’t know if that will be enough to undue the damage from the time of neglect, which has left a recent legacy of “mostly negative” reviews for the game.

PlanetSide 2

The successor to PlanetSide and Smed’s favored child, it is hard to gauge how well it is doing in the post-Smed era.  It continues to get balance changes and updates.  On the other hand, almost two years back the Daybreak was saying that the title was having problems on the revenue generation front.  When you’re giving it away for free and not charging to play the core of the game, people will take advantage of that, a business model that remains the same today.  Has this gotten any better?

Something New?

The above is just the way things go with titles that are on the market and have to survive over time.  Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you.

What differentiates a going concern from a company just riding out its end days and milking its current titles is ongoing development of new games.  And I haven’t seen any of that from Daybreak.  Moving one five year old title to XBox was nice, but hardly a substitute for new work.

All six titles in the Daybreak lineup come from the SOE era.  H1Z1 might have gone into early access shortly after the Daybreak deal, but it was announced and work was in progress well before then.

The only thing new under the sun for Daybreak has been a deal with Standing Stone Games to handle some aspect of LOTRO and DDO operations.  But that is hardly a substitute for new work, especially since SSG is a company clearly riding out its own end game scenario.  No matter how much money Daybreak is getting from that deal, it clearly has an expiration date.

So is this what the Daybreak experience is going to be?  A long ride into the sunset shepherding an ever dwindling stable to titles onward until the last one drops?

SuperData Splits WoW into East and West Again

As the end of a month approaches SuperData Research publishes their digital market top ten lists for the previous month on their blog, so here are the stacks from April.

SuperData Research Top 10 – April 2017

This month sees World of Warcraft split out into East and West on the PC list.  This arrangement  first showed up on their January chart.  It was initially on their February chart, but the chart was revised to combine East and West later.  The March chart saw the single combined WoW on the list.  And here we are in April with East and West split out once again.

There is a temptation to ask SuperData to make up their mind.  But, as I have noted before, an analyst firm like SuperData requires the cooperation of the companies they study if they want access to raw data… data they can slice and dice and package to sell to investment managers and such.  That gives the company leverage, so I am going to say that if WoW is split into East and West, or combined into a single enter, it is because somebody at Activision-Blizzard wants it that way.  And I follow the changes just to see if they’ll tell me which way the wind is blowing.

Anyway, for this month League of Legends continues its reign at the top of the PC list, followed by three Chinese titles, then WoW West.  That seems to indicate either a boost in fortune for WoW outside of China, or a fall in the fortunes of World of Tanks, which dropped to sixth place.

Behind that is a new title on the list, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, a $30 early access game on Steam that more than a million players pain in for and which might be bad news for H1Z1: King of the Kill as it seems to be targetting the same audience with a survival battle royal theme.

Then there is WoW East followed by Overwatch, which overtook its nemsis CS:GO after falling behind it the previous month.

Dropping off the list from last time is Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands and Lineage.

On the mobile side of the house, Pokemon Go held on to 8th place again this month.

The notes for the month talk up Overwatch’s MAUs, which confirms to me that Activision-Blizzard is pushing their agenda.  A jump up the revenue list would have been more impressive.  Other notes from the post include:

  • U.S. digital slows down but still shows year-over-year growth. U.S. digital revenue is up from April 2016 but down from March 2017. Free-to-play MMO, console and mobile all had high-single-digit revenue growth, more than offsetting slight declines in social and premium PC revenue.
  • PLAYERUNKNOWN’s Battlegrounds tops this month’s premium PC digital revenue despite being in Early Access and breaks into the top 10 PC overall list with titans like League of Legends.  While still in Early Access, made an estimated $34 million in gross digital revenue in April.
  • March’s new releases, Mass Effect: Andromeda and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands, experienced sharp declines in digital revenue in April, possibly due to mediocre reviews.
  • Hearthstone mobile fully recovers from February, one of its worst months ever in terms of digital revenue, on the back of its latest expansion “Journey to Un’Goro”.
  • EA dominates the top console rankings. FIFA 17 and Battlefield 1 were the top grossing console titles in April. FIFA 17 digital revenue jumped double-digits y/y, a large portion of which came from Ultimate Team. Battlefield 1 was down slightly from March but still showed strong traction for the recent DLC “They Shall Not Pass”.
  • Grand Theft Auto V benefits from a new online update. GTA V digital revenue is up from last year. This was primarily driven by an uptick in GTA V Online micro-transaction revenue on the back of the “Tiny Racers” update, which was a unique throwback to retro, top-down, racing games.

Finally, in a post earlier this month, SuperData mentioned that  the Chinese giant Tencent Holdings, which counts Riot, developer of League of Legends, in its portfolio, might be looking to license Daybreak’s H1Z1: King of the Kill.  The quote from the May 2nd post:

Sources show that Tencent WeGame is surveying users’ intention if H1Z1 is to be moved to a “non-Steam platform,” leading to the discussion around whether the company has decided to publish H1Z1 on its newly rebranded WeGame platform. The game’s launch of a China-limited patch, altering police cars to cabs and blood to black fluid, are also considered signs of DayBreak prepping the game for officially entering China.

The source of the information is a web site in Chinese, so I’ll take their word for it since Google translate barely helped make the statement clearer.  The news, should it come to pass, could be a big bonus for Daybreak.

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.

The Further Diminution of Station Cash and Additional Intrigue

Daybreak Games announced yesterday that they would cease selling physical game cards for Daybreak Cash (which I am going to call Station Cash from here forward out of habit/tradition) or All Access membership effective last week.  The cards should have been pulled from stores as of September 26.

Soon to be gone

Soon to be gone

Naturally, in the grand SOE tradition, ads for these cards are still all over the various Daybreak game web sites despite the order to pull them from shelves.

Probably not coming to Target now...

Probably not coming to Target now…

Should you find such a card still on the rack at your local WalMart, because there is always somebody who doesn’t get the word, their ability to be activated will cease on November 8, 2016.  After that date they will just be colorful bits of plastic.

If you have an activated card, you can still redeem it for the foreseeable future, likely in part because California state law does not allow companies to expire or invalidate gift cards that customers have paid for.

The timing of this is… if not interesting, at least worth a moment of thought.

Daybreak sending out the word to pull Station Cash cards off the rack a full week before they announced to customers that the cards would be going away was not accidental.  They clearly wanted to get at least some of the cards off the rack before they told people.

But why?

There are downsides to such cards.

The cards have a bit of a checkered history, being one of the sources of Station Cash that helped devalue the currency back in the day with “Triple Cash” deals for redeeming cards and the inevitable bonus cash that WalMart demanded its customers get.

TripleSC01

Triple your take!

As a revenue source, Daybreak has to share a cut with the retailer and the card processor so, as Blizzard would rather you buy digital direct so they don’t have to share the loot, so Daybreak no doubt wishes you would just buy straight for them and leave them with the cut the middleman would otherwise take.

Then there is the accounting annoyance of such cards.  When a customer buys the card you cannot claim it as revenue until it is actually redeemed.  You have to carry that money on the books as an obligation.  In one of those way that accounting goes from measuring reality to becoming reality, you get the money and can spend the money, you just can’t claim the money towards revenue or profit.  But that likely doesn’t apply if Daybreak straight up sells you the Station Cash, because that transaction is done and you have your virtual good and/or service right away.

On the upside, those cards were low effort sales.  Somebody else has to ship them, put them on the shelves, ring them up and so on.  Daybreak just has to redeem codes and keep the accounts at their end.

And, of course, these cards are how players who do not have credit cards can buy Station Cash and All Access for their accounts.

So why kill them off?  If they were not selling enough, removing them from the shelves THEN announcing they were going away doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Doing it the other way around might have gotten them an injection of cash as people who wanted/needed to use them rushed out to pick up a few before they were gone.

And killing them off doesn’t end the accounting hassle.  That goes on for a while because you already have  this ecosystem of cards and some percentage always go missing and never get redeemed.

For this, I think we have to go back to a bit of news almost two weeks in the past, the announcement that one of Daybreak’s games, H1Z1: King of the Kill, was no longer going to use Station Cash and would be getting its own virtual currency with the generic name “Crowns.”  Not “Daybreak Crowns,” just “Crowns.”

So while Connor over at MMO Fallout attributes this to possibly more Daybreak financial woes, I wonder if this portends further changes at the company.  They have cut one of their games out of their Station Cash herd and now they are shutting down a somewhat passive revenue stream without trying to give it a final, farewell milking.

Are we looking at the start of some sort of splitting up of Daybreak into smaller, perhaps more saleable parts?  The Crowns announcement started people wondering that.  Does the retail card cut further that?  Is this another preparatory move, or just Daybreak trying to simplify their business?

Anyway, the announcement and brief FAQ is available here.