Tag Archives: Pearl Abyss

Top Five MMORPG Stories I am still Waiting for in 2019

We are here in the final third of 2019, just four months left to go in the year and it has been a blur so far.  Everything has gone by too fast… except for those last two weeks before WoW Classic, which seemed painfully slow.

But there are still some new stories I am waiting for to pop up, things I feel certain we’ll hear about between now and the end of the year.

So I put together a list of five such news stories that I will be watching for between now and New Years Eve, and I’ll be disappointed if I don’t get them all.  These are, of course, steered by my own interests.  Your mileage may vary.

1 – Blizzard – WoW Classic Plans

Less than a week ago Blizzard let WoW Classic out into the wild and suddenly the retro sound track of life started playing Oops!… I Did It Again as the WoW team once again unleashed an uncontrollable juggernaut into the MMO scene.  2004 all over again, and Blizz will be some time getting it under control.

But with that much positive feedback on WoW Classic, including the stock price getting a bump, they cannot possibly leave things as they are.  They have to announce a plan for future retro operations.  They have hinted at various things, but the board of directors will want the ongoing stock boost that will come with an announced path forward.  It can be more fresh WoW Classic servers in a year.  It can be plans for The Burning Crusade.  It can be a tech breakthrough to eliminate queues.  But they have to announce something.  If there isn’t a whole session about this at BlizzCon 2019 I will be disappointed.

2 – Daybreak – The Breakup

Part of my New Year’s Predictions for 2019, we have been getting hints about Daybreak becoming multiple studios with Darkpaw Games and Twitter accounts for a while now.  Somebody has to be buying some or all of the place.  At some point… probably on a Friday afternoon after 3pm Pacific Time if I know Daybreak… they are going to have to spill some news on this and give us something in a press release.  Waiting for that Friday afternoon.  My vested interest here is to end up with a company that is focused on the EverQuest property that won’t be distracted by, or need to bear the burden of, fruitless attempts to make battle royale a thing again at Daybreak.

My current tinfoil hat theory is that CCP moving EVE Vegas to San Diego for 2020 along with the EverQuest team putting out a questionnaire about a possible player event in 2020 adds up to Pearl Abyss buying some, if not all, of Daybreak.  Maybe they want PlanetSide Arena as well, or maybe the don’t.  We’ll see.  The odd part about this crackpot theory of mine… other people have written more about it than I have.

3 – CCP – New Player Experience

CCP has been fretting about new player retention… again.  Despite the fact that their numbers seem to land pretty solidly within the industry norms, they want to do better.  An admirable goal, for sure, and they have declared that they are pulling resources from other projects to work on this.

The problem is… well… have you played EVE Online?  Nothing short of a complete revamp of the UI is going to make it more comprehensible.  And it is still an 16 year old MMO, a market position where a 2% new user retention rate is considered viable.  So I am waiting patiently for CCP to announce their plan to tackle this issue mostly so I can either be amazed or point and laugh.  I expect to do the latter.

4 – CCP – The Golden Parachute Escape

It was a little less than a year ago that the Pearl Abyss acquisition of CCP closed.  That included a series of performance goal to meet in order for CCP and its investors to get the full $425 million.  I expect that once the first anniversary of the acquisition hits in October we will see a quick exit by some of the vested CCP honchos, with Hilmar leading the pack.  I would buy into his statements about how he loves to interact with EVE Online players a lot more if he didn’t already have a foot out the door on his way to a new venture.

So the news I am waiting for concerns the disingenuous rats deserting the ship.  After that maybe somebody will have a better plan than chaos and pitting various player groups against each other in order to improve EVE Online.

5 – Blizzard – New Games

I had a bunch of possible items for fifth spot, all of them Blizzard related.  For example, what ever became of Diablo Immortal?  NetEase says it is done.

If nothing else, I have the core of a BlizzCon projection post already set.

But on that list, the easy first item was to hear about new games that Blizz has been hinting about.  And not an old new game.  Not Diablo IV.  But a new new game.  Blizz has found success in the past making new versions of the games the main developers have enjoyed.  This has been somewhat diluted by the growth of the company.  It is no longer a bunch of people who enjoyed raiding in EQ so they decided to make WoW, but I still want to see what they have going.

Another Studio Acquisition Story

Or a few stories really.

Acquisitions are much on my mind still and since Massively OP is still going on about the concept I’ll carry on as well.  Previously I meandered on about reasons for them and often how things can go bad.

Getting acquired can suck.

There can be a loss of prestige in not being able to make it on your own.  And, of course, there is always some loss of freedom and autonomy as you have to answer to the new owners.  Plus the company doing the buying doesn’t always know how to treat their acquisition.  Culture clash can be an issue and can lead to key developers heading for the exit.

But sometimes things do work out for the better.

For example, there was a company called Silicon & Synapse, Inc.  Founded in 1991, it did some platform ports to start off with, then moved on to a couple of original games that were published by Interplay.

A brain was their mascot, of course

The name of the company wasn’t as brilliant as the founders thought and they changed it to Chaos Studios, Inc.  However they were soon acquired by Davidson & Associates and ended up having to change their name again because somebody else held the rights to the name and they couldn’t afford to purchase them.  There was even a little story in the Technology section of the LA Times by one of the staff writers who probably drew the short end of the stick on that one.  It is short enough to quote in full. (Hopefully the LA Times won’t come after me for that.)

May 24, 1994|Times staff writer Dean Takahashi

From Chaos to Blizzard: Chaos Studios, a developer of video and computer games in Costa Mesa, has changed its name to Blizzard Entertainment.

Part of the reason is to reflect its new ownership. Davidson & Associates in Torrance, an education software company, bought Chaos Studios earlier this year in a $6.75-million stock deal.

The Costa Mesa game company, which formerly developed games for other publishers, will publish its own games as a result of an infusion of money from Davidson.

Another reason is that the rights to the Chaos name were owned by a small holding company in New York, Chaos Technologies, which also owns a video game company.

Allen Adham, president of Blizzard, said Chaos Studios couldn’t afford to pay for those rights, so the name was changed to Blizzard, which had a nice ring to it.

“We’re still the same lovable company,” he said.

We’re still the same lovable company!  That has to be one of the most low-key “before they were famous” news stories.

But look how things worked out.  Despite having been acquired just three years into their existence… and before they even had their name fully settled… Blizzard went on to be a powerhouse.  Blizzard has essentially never been a stand-alone company, not under that name.  Its success came after it was acquired.

Success grants you some power and Blizzard itself, having done well with Warcraft, was able to acquire Condor Games, renamed Blizzard North, which turned out Diablo and Diablo II.

While that turned out well initially, problems with then Blizzard owner Vivendi led key members of the Blizzard North team to leave and found Flagship Studios.  The studio was dissolved after  Hellgate: London failed to take off and some of the people from that venture ended up at Runic Games, the makers of Torchlight and Torchlight II, while key team member Bill Roper landed at Cryptic Studios.  Both Runic and Cryptic were later acquired by Perfect World Entertainment.

Some key people from Runic left PWE to form Double Damage games, and the whole dance continues on.  A few things succeed, others don’t pan out or make just enough to be of interest to another company.

And, just to bring this back to yet another small world story, Dean Takahashi, who wrote that little piece in the LA Times so long ago, is currently the lead writer for the Games Beat section of Venture Beat and was the author of three posts over there last week, one about CCP being acquired by Pearl Abyss as well as two key interviews interviews, one with Pearl Abyss CEO Robin Jung and the other with CCP CEO Hilmar Petursson.

Rambling On About Being Acquired

In chatting with people and thinking on the Pearl Abyss acquisition of CCP, I starting browsing though my own memories of acquisitions.

A new addition to the logo page

Working in Silicon Valley, being bought is pretty much a way of life.  I have been through eight acquisitions directly in my career (plus working for two VC funded startups, which is like the worst aspects of being acquired only it never stops), watched a few more from close up, and have listened to friends recount their tales.

Generally a company acquires another for one of the following reasons:

  1. Customers – You are a competitor and we essentially want to get you out of the way
  2. Entering a Market – You’re in a market we want to be in and it is cheaper to buy you than do it ourselves
  3. Tech of Expertise – Occasionally true, but unless your company has some nice patents or is doing something Google is suddenly into, mostly not
  4. Brand – It can happen, though usually a secondary item
  5. Investment – Usually in one of four flavors:
    • Buy you, fix you, sell you for more or take you public to cash out
    • Buy you, fix you, keep you for the revenue
    • Buy you, strip you to bare bones, and milk your revenue (the CA model)
    • Buy you as a way to hide money, especially Russian money
  6. Synergy – This a bullshit word that means nothing when used during an acquisition announcement

I currently work for a company that has acquired a bunch of other companies over the years for the first two reasons, but the part I work in was acquired for the third reason, and the whole company has since been bought out by an investment group that seem set on one of the first two sections of reason five.  We share a building with a group that was acquired for the second reason and who then had to absorb another group that was hired for the first reason.

My last company was acquired three times for the first reason, and none of the companies could get our customers to leave our product for theirs.  Rather than lose the maintenance revenue, they kept is alive and even now I know somebody who is still supporting it.

And I had a good friend who worked for Palm (and got me a refurbed then-current PalmPilot Professional, to put a time stamp on that), saw the founders split off and form Handspring, watched Palm acquire Handspring which ended up with Handspring running Palm, after which he got sick of the whole company and went to work for HP.  HP then acquired Palm and basically sent him back to his old job in the building he left.  He quit that and went to another company and HP got out of the phone business, selling the Palm name to somebody who was going to revive the name for Android phones, but even that seemed to drift off.

Acquisitions are pretty much a constant.  There is even a Silicon Valley business model based on the idea of getting acquired, with Google being the dream buyer.

Being bought can suck.  After the first acquisition of my last company, which had been billed a as a “merger of equals,” the new CEO got up and made sure we knew it was no such thing, that we were those ones being bought and his company was in charge.  I was pretty sure that “merger of equals” was just another form of “synergy,” I was just surprised that he felt the need to discard the pretense and start treating us like shit on day one.  But that helped me feel all the better when, in the end, not one of our customers would move to their product and, after they spun us off to be acquired again, they themselves were acquired and disappeared.

And sometimes being bough can be okay.  As it turned out the company that bought our group actually wanted to tech we had, have adopted it, and continue to use it eight years down the road.

All of which brings me around to CCP and why they got acquired.

It certainly wasn’t for the first reason.  EVE Online players can’t simply be folded into Black Desert Online, and it wasn’t for the second reason as Pearl Abyss is already in the MMO market.  I don’t think internet spaceship MMOs is big enough to be a market on its own.

There could be tech or expertise reasons to buy CCP, but I suspect not.  Any tech would have to be abstract enough to be transferable, while expertise is difficult to pass along.  Likewise, I am not sure the CCP brand brings much to the table.  EVE Online gets more mainstream media coverage than a lot of games, but I am not sure how much the public retains.

And, while both companies have said a lot of synergy-like things, that is never a good enough reason to buy a company.  It is a nice to have, something that can make things work better, but as a stated reason it is BS.

So it seems like an investment.  EVE Online is undoubtedly a minor gold mine, as any MMO that can keep a six figure population is.  If CCP were able to focus on it, tend it, and keep it going it could pay off handsomely for years to come.  I suppose they could spiff up CCP and try to resell it, but it seem more like they bought a revenue stream.

And for CCP this should be a boon.  If the last fifteen years have shown us anything, it is that CCP has spent a lot of time and money trying to create another money earning product.  As a solo company, that no doubt felt like a survival imperative.  Now, however, as part of a larger company, they can just be the EVE Online division.

What I don’t think will happen is any sudden change to how EVE Online is run.  If you go to the AMA that CCP did in their forums yesterday you can see CCP Falcon repeating over and over that no changes are planned. (I recommend that you click on his avatar and click the filter button so you only see his posts, otherwise the whole thing is overwhelming.)  I do not doubt that.  The last thing that Pearl Abyss wants after spending $425 million on a company is to kill it by radically changing how things are done.  I am sure they are well aware of the Incarna and and “greed is good” debacle.

This could very well be a renaissance of sorts for EVE Online.  You’re never going to get avatars into the game.  Falcon was specific on that, so you can let that pipe dream go.  But CCP as part of Pearl Abyss and focused on EVE Online could mean good things.

Does that mean there will never be any changes?  Of course not.  During times like this people always want assurances that go out to infinity, and that just isn’t possible.  If CCP screws up, if EVE Online sees a big drop in revenue, if another company buys Pearl Abyss, or any number of other possibilities come up, the situation may change drastically.  But unless Pearl Abyss is just dumb, they’ll remain fairly hands off.  Some redundant positions will be eliminated.  That always happens.  But for the most part I would guess we’ll see business as usual.

Only time will tell.  But if you’re in a lather about a Black Desert Online pay to win cash shop appearing in New Eden any time soon, you’re kidding yourself.

Other speculation:

CCP to be Acquired by Maker of Black Desert Online for $425 Million

Enemy on island. Issue in doubt.

-Commander Winfield Cunningham, Wake Island, December 1941

Well, we all knew things were not going well for CCP.  They had, near the end of last year, laid off a chunk of staff… again… after a new game, EVE Valkyrie, into which they had poured development time and resources failed to take off… again.

So we had to at least suspect that something was coming.  My double bonus extra credit prediction for 2018, made back on January first, was:

CCP will announce they are merging with, or being acquired by, another studio before the end of 2018.

Such was the mood of the time.  And while the year went on and we got bits of good news about games being made in partnership with other studios, with CCP’s main contribution being the EVE Online IP and art assets, I suppose nothing really changed overall.

Still, it was a surprise to see this tweet this morning.

In case that doesn’t come through due to AdBlock… or it getting deleted some day… it announces that CCP is to be acquired by Pearl Abyss, the makers of Black Desert Online.

I guess Pearly Abyss is a name we’ll be hearing a lot more now.

A new addition to the logo page

Venture Beat reports the price of the acquisition at $425 million.  That is less than the $1 billion that was being bandied about as a number by Bloomberg two years back, but still a sizable amount, and better than bankruptcy.

CCP has a press release up about the acquisition as well.  It says a lot of nothing, as such press releases must, but I’ll quote it here for posterity.

SEOUL – September 6, 2018 – Today, Black Desert Online developer Pearl Abyss announced that it will acquire CCP Games, the creators of popular spaceship MMORPG EVE Online. The deal outlines that CCP Games will continue to operate independently as a developer with studios in Reykjavik, London and Shanghai, while integrating the company’s extensive development and publishing expertise into Pearl Abyss’ operations for all current and future projects.

EVE Online is a space-based, persistent world MMO game, developed by CCP’s Reykjavik studio. The game first launched in 2003 and has since gained recognition for its scale and complexity with regards to player interactions in EVE’s single, shared game world. EVE Online is one of the most critically-acclaimed MMORPG intellectual properties (IPs) in North America and Europe, and one of the most extensive works of science fiction in the world.

Pearl Abyss CEO Robin Jung stated, “We are thrilled to have CCP Games join our team as Black Desert Online continues to branch out globally. CCP is a seasoned publisher with over 15 years of digital distribution experience and know-how. They have done an incredible job of engaging and maintaining their playerbase, which we aim to learn from and hope to integrate natively into Pearl Abyss’ general practices across all our games. I am confident CCP’s reputable IP and expertise in global publishing will help reaffirm our company’s dedication to developing and servicing the world’s best MMORPGs.”

“I have been seriously impressed with what Pearl Abyss has achieved ever since I first visited their website for Black Desert Online and subsequently became an avid player of the game,” said CCP Games CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson. “Pearl Abyss is a fast-growing company with lots to offer in terms of technology, capability and vision. I believe our two companies have a lot to learn from each other. We are very excited to join forces with them and achieve great new heights for our companies, our games and – above all – our players.”

Birgir Már Ragnarsson of Novator Partners and Chairman of CCP commented, “As lead investor in CCP for over 13 years alongside General Catalyst and NEA, we’ve seen CCP go from being a few dozen people strong to employing hundreds all over the world, with an ever-increasing customer base and multiple titles. CEO Hilmar V. Pétursson and his dedicated team have built a company that Novator and its partners are proud to hand over to Pearl Abyss and we wish them the best of luck in their future ventures.”

Pearl Abyss first launched its open-world MMORPG, Black Desert Online, in Korea in 2014. The game has received critical acclaim for its advanced graphics, seamless world, large-scale castle sieges and action-based combat system. Since Pearl Abyss’ initial public offering in 2017, the company has worked to secure competitive global IPs, such as EVE Online, through strategic investments and M&A activity.

Pearl Abyss saw record-high sales in the first half of 2018, following the launch of Black Desert Mobile in Korea. The company is looking forward to another strong year in 2019 with EVE Online and the upcoming global launch of Black Desert Mobile.

Deutsche Bank is acting as financial advisor to Pearl Abyss, and Kim & Chang is providing legal counsel. The Raine Group is acting as financial advisor to CCP Games, and White & Case LLP and LOGOS are providing legal counsel.

There is a Reddit AMA scheduled for tomorrow where, I am sure, we will be told everything is fine and nothing will change and that EVE Online will stay as it is or some such.

Hat tip to Rhavas… CCP Guard addressing the CSM

We will see some of this as well I am sure.

EVE Online Forever

And maybe it will be so.

But, having been through many acquisitions over my own career, in this stage of things it is in the interest of both companies to maintain the status quo and reassure everybody that there won’t be any significant changes.  That sort of news has to wait until the acquisition is complete and things have settled down a bit.

After all, everything was all light and happiness when SOE became Daybreak.  The layoffs came later.

So we’ll hear nothing of substance while those who love EVE Online fear the future and those who hate it hope that this will mean radical change.  The truth in the end will likely be less than anybody hopes for.  Expect lots of comparisons and memes.  So many memes.

(7:14:42 AM) directorbot@goonfleet.com: all characters must have at least 420 attack skill and 330 defense skill by next tuesday. If you don’t have the time to grind isk, you can purchase boosts from the store.

~~~ This was a broadcast from kcolor to opt-all at 2018-09-06 14:14:43.856271 EVE ~~~

I guess it might be time to see what Black Desert Online sells in their cash shop.  Maybe Jin’taan will get his cat ears after all.

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