Sony Online Entertainment going Independent
Today, Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) announced that they were becoming Daybreak Game Company via a purchase by Columbus Nova, a New York based private investment management firm. SOE has been developing games for PC and PlayStation platforms since 1999 with titles including Everquest, DC Universe Online, Star Wars Galaxies, Free Realms, Planetside 2, and most recently H1Z1 which is in early access on Steam and PS4.
This move is most likely good news for gamers as it allows the new Daybreak Game Company to develop for platforms like the Xbox One and mobile. Indeed, the president of Daybreak, John Smedley, said on Twitter today that he “Can’t wait to make Xbox games.” In an announcement on the H1Z1 subreddit , a community manager for SOE, SOE_Legion, stated:
It will be business as usual and all SOE games will continue on their current path of development and operation. In fact, we expect to have even more resources available to us as a result of this acquisition. It also means new exciting developments for our existing IP and games as we can now fully embrace the multi-platform world we are living in.
The terms of the deal have not been made public, but this suggests that the current IPs that are platform exclusive will likely remain so for now but may be expanded in the future. It is tough to imagine that Sony would not want to protect the investment it made in developing titles for its console as long as it can.
In the long run, though, fewer platform exclusives are better for gamers. Having more games available is preferable to fewer and the more developers that are out there the more games there can be. The economics of game exclusives are very complicated, but generally speaking, having your game available to a wider audience should be a good thing for developers. Only one of 2014’s best-selling games, according to NPD, was platform exclusive, and that was Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. Even then, NPD combined the sales for the Wii U and 3DS versions.
Some fans of SOE/Daybreak may be concerned that this independence is coming via an equity firm and the business decisions that implies could be detrimental to their game experience. To those gamers, I would suggest cautious optimism. Columbus Nova’s Senior Managing Partner is Jason Epstein who was instrumental in Harmonix regaining its independence from Viacom (pun intended). Since regaining independence, Harmonix released the new games A City Sleeps, the well-received Fantasia: Music Evolved, successfully crowd-funded the remake of Amplitude, announced the new IP Chroma, and teased a possible new Rock Band. Based on Smedley and SOE_Legions comments, the Daybreak team seems excited about the possibilities that independence will grant the studio and Columbus Nova’s involvement should not overly concern existing fans.