I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. It’s all my fault.
There’s a weird running… thing with Bio Break that major stuff seems to go down whenever I take off for a break. Last year during my youth group winter retreat, SOE got sold off by Sony and Massively-that-was got canned. This past weekend was this year’s retreat, so as I was driving off to camp for two days, WildStar’s studio got gutted and Daybreak decided that it didn’t really want to be in the MMO business any longer by canning EverQuest Next.
Again, I’m sorry. And that WildStar stuff, I’m going to have to save that for another day. I haven’t really had a lot of time to process any of this, but there’s no chance that I wasn’t going to comment on EQN.
The cynic or even the mildly attentive observer would have said that the writing was on the wall since SOE’s sale and transformation into Daybreak. We’ve spent the last year watching Daybreak and wondering what was going to result as the studio laid people off, restructured, and got under new ownership. Now the picture is coming in clearer, and it’s not pretty. We see a picture of a studio that’s been aggressively paring down its library, resisting adding new titles, scaling back communication, and making questionable moves, such as in the case of H1Z1’s split into two lesser properties. But people — myself included — had been holding out hope that in the background, devs were furiously working on EverQuest Next and this might be the year we’d see it explode into the spotlight.
Maybe there was very little to hang that hope on — just a couple of throwaway quotes from Daybreak reps, Landmark’s continued existence, and some assurances from various industry insiders that work was still being done on it. But that hope was important because this was really the only major traditional, full-featured MMO left in development. Everything else is either skewing smaller, more PvP (such as Crowfall), or straddling other genres. And heck, what we had heard about EQN from SOE Live years ago got me excited about its prospects. I think I said at the time that this might be the first EverQuest game that I’d get in on the ground floor.
But that hope is now gone. I don’t have a clue what’s going on behind the scenes at Daybreak, but I can say that I am past caring about that company. Landmark is — and I apologize if you are a fan of it — an incredibly poor consolation prize to the faithful and those interested in the next step of the EverQuest franchise. Daybreak shot itself in both feet this past weekend and undoubtedly wasted countless hours and resources by scrapping this game.
I am just as personally crushed as I was with Blizzard’s Titan announcement and the whole Project Copernicus fiasco. The potential, the possibilities, the what-ifs… and never-will-bes. As a serious fan of MMOs, it’s downright painful to have to close the chapter on my interest in a game that could have been a contender. I am deeply disappointed with Daybreak and have no reason to root that studio on in anything it’s doing. And I — like probably many of you — am left feeling more than a little down about the future of the industry.
Accept or deny it, having major tentpole MMOs in development has been a big part of the fun of being an MMO fan since… the mid-90s? People were juiced about Ultima Online back then and the stream of ambitious titles hasn’t let up since. Even if the games didn’t make it out the door (Middle-earth Online, True Fantasy Live, Ultima X) there was always a lot of projects on the horizon. Now it feels — a feeling which may not reflect the accurate reality — that we’ve entered into an era seemingly empty of that sort of thing.
It’s not the end of the world or even the MMO industry, of course. It’s not as though we lack games to play right now, nor that current live games are lacking in continuing development, patches, expansions, events, and such. Maybe it is a time to stop looking forward and instead looking around at what we have.
And it’s not that EverQuest Next was the only MMO (or MMOish title) in development; there’s lots coming of various sizes and approaches, from Star Citizen to Crowfall to Shroud of the Avatar to Brad McQuaid’s VisionQuest to scads of imports. I’m actually really heartened by the enthusiasm and embrace of the big three games we’ve gotten this spring (Blade & Soul, Black Desert, and The Division), which tells me that there’s still a lot of interest out there in checking out new properties and seeing the industry continue to roll out additional titles.
Maybe we’re in a contracting period that will one day see the birth of a new — and changed — wave of MMOs. I simply hate seeing the shell of one of the MMO industry’s leaders roll over and play dead on a potentially great game instead of standing up and fighting.