Moving Forward: Sony Sells MMO Division
By Carlos Ricafort
“Everquest.” For many gamers, that may ring a bell.
“Everquest” was a well-renowned MMO released in the late 1990s well before the rise of “World of Warcraft”. Behind it was Sony Online Entertainment, a division of Sony established to produce subscription-based MMO games for the company.
In a move that may not come as a surprise to some, Sony has sold off SOE to management firm Columbus Nova, resulting in an independent studio with a new name: Daybreak Game Company. While this does not affect the development of titles such as “H1Z1” and “ Everquest Next”, it allows the company to expand to other platforms such as the Xbox One.
For more than a decade, SOE was a very beneficial part of Sony. Not only did they develop the “Everquest” franchise, they also explored the “Star Wars” universe with “Star Wars Galaxies”, delved into superhero territory with “DC Universe Online”, and fathered the MMOFPS (Massively-Multiplayer Online First-Person Shooter) genre with the “Planetside” games.
As time went on, SOE shifted its focus to a free-to-play model instead of the traditional subscription-based one. As a result, games such a “Everquest” and “DC Universe Online” eventually became free-to-play, with “Planetside 2” launching completely free-to-play. The free-to-play model allowed for a larger audience to play the game & withheld certain items and privileges to players willing to pony up some cash.
The system also still produced revenue for the company. SuperData reported that “Planetside 2” earned $27 million in the year of 2014. Unfortunately, SOE still struggled in some areas, closing four of their MMOs in the same year.
Where does this fit within the puzzle that is Sony as a whole? It mostly boils down to the fact that while free-to-play was still somewhat profitable on the PC and PS4, the business was booming on mobile devices. As Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter puts it, “free-to-play is growing most rapidly on phones and tablets, and SOE wasn’t there because those aren’t really core Sony products. SOE didn’t support any of Sony’s consumer electronics businesses, so it was easy to sell.”
As SOE became less of an important asset to Sony than it was several years ago, the next logical step was for Sony to sell it off. Variety reports that Sony is expected to report a $2 billion loss at the end of it’s fiscal year in March. While the official financial details of the transaction have not been disclosed, it is sure to give Sony a slight boost.
What does this mean for Daybreak Game Company? Without any ties to Sony, the studio is now free to bring their products to other platforms. This is evident in a tweet that Daybreak’s Company President John Smedley sent out, which simply says “Can’t wait to make Xbox One games!”
can't wait to make Xbox One games!
— John Smedley (@j_smedley) February 2, 2015
This is good news for Xbox One owners, who can now expect games like “H1Z1” and “Planetside 2” on their console. This news also implies that Daybreak may also start developing for mobile devices also. This split has been rather fair for both Sony and Daybreak. It’s always exciting to see studios go independent and pursue new opportunities, and it seems like Daybreak is going to do just that.