Tag Archives: NantG Mobile

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.

Guess Who is Coming to Twitter

There was some news a bit back about Daybreak Games registering some new trademarks, specifically Darkpaw Games and Rogues Planet Games.

This logo may become a legacy object

Since then some of us have been waiting for a sign, and indication as to what these new company names really mean, if they mean anything at all.

This past week I wanted the latest episode of the EverQuest Show and saw they had in the background at one point an indication that maybe Twitter accounts had been setup for the new company.

So I immediately went to Twitter to search that down.  Sure enough, I quickly found @DarkpawGames along with three accounts related to Rogue Planet Games, one of the other recently registered names. They were @RoguePlanetG @RoguePlanetSD, and @RoguePlanetOps.   So I immediately followed them all.

Signs of a Daybreak break up?

I guess that is some indication as to a division of the company maybe?  “SD” seems likely to be “San Diego,” where Daybreak has its HQ.  “Ops” is perhaps technical status, and I have no idea what “G” might be, unless NantG Mobile, which at one point was supposed to put H1Z1 and EverQuest on our phones, is still in the picture somehow.

And then, in exploring the people who followed those four I found a fifth account.

What golden age was that?

Both Bronze Age Studios and Golden Age Studios have been thrown about in the discussion about Daybreak doing… whatever it is they are doing… but only Golden Age Studios is from the July time frame.  That it has the suffix “TX” seems a nod to a Texas location, which is where the team that works on DC Universe Online was, and probably still is, located.  Since “Golden Age” is often used to denote a specific era in comic books, it seems that maybe DCUO might be going its own way as well?

Anyway, it is all applications and speculation at this point.  We’re all still waiting for that 3pm on Friday press release that will drop the news.  If I had to guess at a day for that, I would say Friday, August 30th, since that is the Friday before a three day weekend in the US, which minimizes the amount of attention the press release is likely to get.

NantWorks Hands H1Z1 Back to Daybreak After Failing to Revive the Game

The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and you have burned so very very brightly, Roy.

-Dr. Eldon Tyrell, Blade Runner

A little over six months have passed since it was announced that Daybreak and NantWorks were forming a joint venture, NantG Mobile, in order to create mobile games based on the Daybreak H1Z1 and EverQuest franchises.

Also on the list was taking over the PC version of H1Z1, then rebranded Z1 Battle Royale, with what sounded like an eye towards restoring the title to its former glory.

It was unclear from the outside who really owned what in the matryoshka doll-like structure of the companies, and the details that have leaked… as when it came out that Jace Hall, who quickly became the face of the renamed title, was basically a volunteer when he stepped down… haven’t help much.

This past week word started to leak that something was amiss as a rumor of layoffs started to circulate.  Then Massively OP reported that NantWorks, via NantG Mobile, had posted an announcement on Steam that they were giving up on Z1 Battle Royale.

In the past few months, NantG Mobile has been working feverishly on rebranding Z1 Battle Royale and reverting the game back to its glory days. We’ve since made countless changes to Z1BR in an effort to recapture the moments that once made the game vastly popular and truly unique and special to many of you.

Despite the team’s determination and commitment to revive Z1BR’s player base with our recent Season 3 launch update, we soon realized that the road is still paved with many challenges that preclude us from long-term success, including the confusion it caused by having both NantG Mobile and Daybreak managing the same game under two separate brands.

Based on these events and the current state of the game, NantG Mobile will focus on its core mission of developing mobile games moving forward, and we have refocused our team toward this vision.

We have also decided to hand back the Z1BR torch to Daybreak Games, so that both Z1BR and H1Z1 will be under one publishing umbrella once again. Daybreak Games has agreed to keep the servers up for players and continue live maintenance on the game.

During this time period, we don’t foresee any issues of this affecting your experience with Z1BR, as we work with Daybreak on ensuring that the transition process runs as smoothly as possible without any disruption to the game’s service.

On behalf of NantG Mobile and everyone on the Z1BR team, thank you for all your countless cheers during our entire journey toward “The Return of the King.” We would never have made it this far without your passion, support and invaluable feedback.

The sunny side upshot is that the game is not going away, it is just going back to Daybreak.

Reality, however, isn’t so bright and shiny.  Looking at the Steam charts for the game, Z1 Battle Royale did manage to boost the active player base somewhat last month, hitting a peak around in early March before tapering off again.

2018/2019 Peak Concurrent Players

However, that number is far shy of the game’s overall peak back in 2017, making it look more like a dead cat bounce than a resurgence of any meaning.

H1Z1 whatever at its height on Steam

The slide down from that peak corresponds to the emergence of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on the scene, which pretty much destroyed the then still-in-early-access H1Z1.  Since then Fortnite and Apex Legends have jumped into the battle royale market, chopping off the Daybreak end run plan to finally launch H1Z1, only as free to play.

So now Z1 Battle Royale goes back to Daybreak, rejoining the PlayStation 4 version of the game that remained with the company, chugging along happily under the original title, leaving plenty of questions.

And not just “Are they going to need a bigger shirt now?”

The obvious one is what happens to Z1 Battle Royale now?  Is Daybreak going to pick it back up and run with it?

It seems unlikely to me that Daybreak would rush resources in another attempt to revive the game given that it has another battle royale title, PlanetSide Arena, in the works and slated to launch on PC and PS4 this summer.  Doing anything for Z1 Battle Royale at this point, even spending time to rebrand it back to H1Z1, might seem like throwing good money after bad and diverting resources from a better opportunity.  That announcement on Steam only promises that Daybreak will keep the servers up.

I think there is little question that the late Just Survive won’t be revived due to this turn of events.

And then there is the question as to what happens now with NantG Mobile, once billed as a joint venture between NantWorks and Daybreak.  The announcement says that NantG Mobile will focus on mobile titles.  Does that mean we might still see Z1 Battle Royale Pocket Edition or EverQuest Immortal available on our phones at some future date as previously promised/suggested/threatened?  Again, the statement on Steam is notable for its lack of details.  Refocusing on mobile games could be different from doing so in conjunction with Daybreak.

In the end it seems like the clock is running down on H1Z1.  Reviving it in the face of the current competition and its own legacy seems a unlikely path to success for a small company like Daybreak.  I suspect that it will hang around on life support while the company readies PlanetSide Arena.

If PlanetSide Arena takes off, expect another Friday, 4pm Pacific Time announcement, this time declaring that H1Z1 is being sunsetted.  And if PlanetSide Arena misfires at launch and fails to find an audience… well, there will be more to worry about at Daybreak than the fate of one more title past its prime.

For a brief time H1Z1 made it mark, certainly repaying the effort the company put into it.  But where one finds success like that competition is very likely to follow.

Just Survive Won’t

Maybe.  It is hard to tell.  But I’m running out of pithy three word titles to track its progress.  The next round will be “Shall” and “Shan’t” I guess, then after that I’ll have to figure something else out.

Anyway, Daybreak announced that they would be shutting down Just Survive back in August, giving people two months notice of the event.  I wrote a bit of a eulogy for the game back then.

The night is dark, and some will go quietly into it…

Then, about a week and a half back, Jace Hall said on a live stream that NantG Mobile, the joint venture between Daybreak and NantWorks, was working on a way to bring Just Survive over to be re-integrated into H1Z1… now called Z1 Battle Royale… as a PvE play mode for the game, which would close the circle as the two titles were originally one back when this whole thing started.

Anyway, pending that, Just Survive would remain up, if mostly untended.  The phrase “maintenance mode” was used on the stream, though I remain unsure how that would be different that the previous six month of the game’s life.

Not fully exposed, but not covered either

However, as Massively OP reported yesterday, Jace Hall apparently hadn’t checked things out fully with the Daybreak side of things, as they issued the following statement yesterday at 10:45am.

As we announced back in August, we’ve made the difficult decision to sunset Just Survive on Wednesday, October 24 at 11 a.m. PT. All game servers will be coming offline at that time, and the game will no longer be available for play.

While this chapter for Just Survive has come to an end, we are discussing the possibility of allowing our partner and developer of Z1 Battle Royale, NantG Mobile, to bring Just Survive back online and take over development of the game sometime in the future. Should we have further information to share regarding that matter, we’ll be sure to inform you accordingly.

Thank you again for the countless hours of fun across Pleasant Valley and Badwater Canyon – we appreciate your support and dedication to Just Survive.

Best,

The Just Survive Team at Daybreak Games

The note leaves open the possibility of the game being revived at some future date by NantG Mobile, but it appears that Daybreak isn’t going to leave the servers up until that happens.  And so we say good-bye for now.

This move seems to leave Daybreak with just four games, all from the SOE era, the newest of which is six years old already, while the oldest is going to turn 20 next March:

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

Gone from the list are Just Survive and H1Z1, which is now being run by NantG Mobile under the new name Z1 Battle Royale.  Daybreak may be getting some revenue from the latter, but it doesn’t seem to be their game anymore.  Of course, that bring up the whole question as to what is the real, legal relationship between Daybreak and NantG Mobile, but somehow I doubt we’re going to get details on that any time soon.

Just Survive Might

There was little in the way of shock or surprise when, back in August, Daybreak announced that their long neglected zombie horror title, Just Survive, was going to go dark on October 24.

The night is dark and full of dead SOE games

The gaming world moved on without so much as a ripple.

Then in early September came the announcement that Daybreak and NantWorks would be creating some sort of joint venture, NantG Mobile, to reboot the battle royale title H1Z1 in some way in which we might end up with a new Windows version of the game, along with a mobile version, under the name Z1 Battle Royale.

Also, EverQuest might be involved somehow.

The whole thing was more than a bit opaque as people tried to piece together all the things mentioned and the parties in play, which included, among other things, the LA Times and some sort of esports event center.

Left out of all of that however was Just Survive.  It was not part of the deal.  It was still dead.

Only now it might be part of the deal.  Maybe.  Could be.  If things align.

As noted over at MMO Fallout, Jace Hall said on a twitch stream that, while Just Survive was not part of the deal as it was originally cast, they are looking for a way to bring it into the joint venture.

There is nothing set in stone yet, but it could happen and, in anticipation of that, Just Survive will be put in some sort of “maintenance mode,” though I dare you to tell me how that differs from the support mode the game has been in for the last year, until the details can be worked out.  But the idea is to move Just Survive back into H1Z1… or Z1 Battle Royale… as a play mode for the game.

Jace Hall seemed mostly concerned about the skin situation and not diluting the skin market in H1Z1, from which I took that there is a skin market in H1Z1 and not much more.

So Just Survive might carry on.  I am sure this is a ray of hope to the small but dedicated fan base that follows the game.

The follow on conversation also seems to makes clear that Daybreak and the joint venture NantG Mobile are two completely separate entities, so it sounds very much like NantG Mobile it trying to figure out how to get Just Survive from Daybreak in a way that makes financial sense all around.

Of course, that just brings up more questions in my mind as to what this means for EverQuest and any future title in that domain, as that was clearly mentioned back in the original NantG Mobile announcement.

Remember, as Jace Hall said slowly and clearly on the stream, Just Survive is not a done deal yet.

Hat tip: MMO Fallout

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: