Letting go of SOE

If you’re reading this blog I’m sure you know everything that’s been going on with SOE, but just in case, here’s a recap.

Sony, SOE’s parent company, has been losing money in a big way. As it struggles to recover it’s been spinning off and selling parts of itself. Last May as part of its annual financial report, Sony shared that its gaming division lost $78 million in the prior year. $60 million of that loss was a write-off due to poor sales at SOE. While we don’t have the figures from this year, it’s hard to imagine things have changed much since SOE launched no new titles (unless you count Early Access to H1Z1) since then.

A few weeks ago SOE was sold off to investment firm Columbus Nova and was renamed Daybreak Games. There was a lot of noise about this. I wasn’t as concerned as some; it seemed to me like being sold was better than being shut down, which seemed (from the outside anyway) like a distinct possibility given what SOE was costing Sony. Of course the marketing/PR chatter was about how great this was because it freed up Daybreak to explore more options; for instance they could port their games to the Xbox One.

It only took a week or so for the other shoe to drop. Daybreak announced a major round of layoffs including some very high profile individuals like Dave “Smokejumper” Georgeson and Linda “Brasse” Carlson as well as a bunch of others that I felt like I ‘knew’ from interacting with them on Twitter and other places.

That’s when I flipped the table. How could “they” do this? Dave Georgeson was the heart and soul (in my mind) of the Everquest franchise and dammit I was looking forward to EverQuest Next. And I’ve been dabbling in Landmark for a year now. And now both games are ruined. RUINED I TELL YOU!

I swore never to give Daybreak another nickle. I’d show them that they can’t get away with firing my friends (friends who have no clue who I am).

With many others, I started speculating on what games would be shut down and what games would never see the light of day. Daybreak’s PR department, meanwhile, said nothing was being canceled and everything was business as usual. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. I still don’t see how you get rid of a big chunk of staff without also divesting yourself of some of your work, but I guess we’ll see.

Last week Daybreak hosted an episode of Landmark Live, their at-one-time weekly Twitch stream where they talk about what’s going on in the game. I didn’t bother watching because I was FINISHED with Daybreak! But then yesterday I got curious and I watched the archived YouTube version.

My first thought was that it was incredibly sad to see Colette Murphy & Terry Michaels alone on-stage. The ghost of Dave hovered in the background. Colette and Terry kept talking to Emily “Pentapod” Taylor who was off-screen, which we haven’t really seen happen before. You could read a lot into this (and maybe have some or all of it wrong). Murphy had been promoted (I assume?) out of the EverQuest team, and Tiffany “Amnerys” Spence had taken over as Community Manager for Landmark and had been doing Landmark Live, but Spence was one of those let go and now Murphy was back. So she’d escaped the cuts on the condition she accept a demotion, it seems. Taylor, I assume, was taking on the duties of whomever used to be behind the camera and who now was gone. (I’m totally guessing here, but let’s face it pretty much everyone not a part of the company has been speculating like crazy about Daybreak.)

I really wanted to see how they dealt with everything that happened, and at first they really didn’t. Michaels talked about the acquisition but kind of glossed over the layoffs. But later in the stream they came back to what was going on and Murphy, in particular, opened up a bit, talking about how the layoffs impacted existing staff, but how they’re all still determined to create great games (Skip to around the 28:30 minute mark if you’re in a hurry.)

And somewhere in the process of watching this discussion I was finally able to let go of my anger. There are still people working at Daybreak (and they are people that I like, in as much as you can like someone based on their social media comments and such) and I’m going to assume these people still care deeply about the games they’re working on (because I don’t think any sane person would work in the games industry unless they really loved their work). Games are still being worked on. I’m still certain there will be changes. (In fact one big change that we know about is that they’re no longer working with StoryBricks, which seems like a real shame.) Heck who knows what is going to happen in the long run.

But one thing I do know. If I make a deliberate attempt to ‘boycott’ Daybreak’s games, it’s not going to help anything. If it sends a message at all, that message will be “There’s no profit in these games, let’s shut the company down.” and I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that no one who has put a lot of effort into these titles, whether they’re still with the company or not, wants to see all their effort come to naught.

I’m not going all Pollyanna on you. I’m keeping some emotional distance between myself and these games. But I’m back to playing Landmark. I’m going to keep dabbling around in DCUO and I still can’t wait for Planetside 2 to launch on PS4. I’m going to keep playing these games as long as I’m enjoying them and they’re around for me to play. Not playing them just to spite Columbus Nova is going to hurt the remaining staff as much as, if not more than, it hurts CN. Not playing them because I’m not convinced they’re going to stay around is just going to hasten their departure.

I really hope Daybreak is around for a long time to come. And of course I really hope all those impacted by the cuts wind up with new positions that they love (and I’ll be watching their new projects, too). As for me, I’m ready to say farewell to SOE, and give the new, trimmer Daybreak a chance.