Dec 202016

Turbine turns to Standing Stone Games
DDO has been sold again. Not acquired, like it was last time when Turbine was bought out by Warner Brothers, but rather sold as a package, along with Lord of the Rings Online, to a suddenly-appearing brand new studio named Standing Stone Games.

I am not kidding about the suddenly-appearing part. The new company  does not have any of the accoutrements one might expect from a gaming company, not even something as simple and free as a LinkedIn entry. I did stumble across a trademarked image application belonging to Standing Stone Games LLC dated late October, but I can’t find it now; you’ll have to trust me.

They do have a website, albeit one that is one page long, and it is one that has all the right licensing logos.

So … there it is, and there we are too.

It seems that all of the existing DDO and LotRO team has gone over to the new studio too. I hope they had a choice! Even more, I am hoping that this band of people who love our games might even have been involved in standing up Standing Stone. Because of love, and not because it was Standing Stone versus the unemployment line.

But maybe I am imagining things again.

Either way, for better or worse, we are now wedded til server shut down do us part. Us and Standing Stone Games. And their strangely-related partner, Daybreak Games, with whom I have had only unpleasant experiences – the game I was playing (Landmark) truncated, my position wiped, and the game I was following (Everquest Next) canceled outright. Daybreak is the scary part of this announcement.

I wonder why they need a publisher at all? Perhaps for cash-based reasons? Maybe Daybreak supplied the cash while Team Love supplied the people?

I don’t know.

I can tell you that the changeover has already taken place, at least so far as logos and employment titles go on the forums. A handful of game designer types have updated their LinkedIn to the new company, no one I’ve met, and interestingly enough not including Severlin or Cordovan.

But then LinkedIn profiles are hardly top priority; I wouldn’t make much of their absence.

I have to admit the biggest surprise to me was not the sale of DDO and LotRO; it was learning that Severlin has become the executive producer of both properties. When did that happen? They must really be operating on a skeleton crew over there.

You can check out the official announcement here. Several DDO devs have chimed in to that thread to confirm they are moving to Standing Stone too. Cordovan also posted a “FAQ” about the move, but it is devoid of much information and for the most part can be paraphrased “Keep Calm and Don’t Panic”.

So what does all this mean for us? Probably this is a good thing, in a way, in that the business people at Standing Stone will be geared for low expectations right from the get-go. Warner Bros is not like that, there was always a danger that someone would be annoyed by Turbine or DDO or some aspect of it and be willing to write off it’s relatively small income stream for any number of reasons.

We were probably lucky Turbine didn’t get closed down over Infinite Crisis. I’m sure it came up. I’ll bet it was close.

Standing Stone will not be like that, we will be their lifeblood. We’ll be the big fish in a very small pond. Depending, I suppose, on their relationship with Daybreak Games, which may represent a larger pond.

The last time we were sold, it was to a company with deep pockets and tremendous resources. It gave Turbine the opportunity to build out DDO in new directions, and kept the game fresh for years beyond its expected lifespan. Last time, the game got better.

This time it is more like … it probably won’t get worse. Probably we’ll have status quo, maybe for years to come.

That’s not so bad, is it?

And maybe they’ll start going to PAX and GenCon again.

🙂 😀 🙂

  14 Responses to “Sold to the People Who Love Us”

Comments (14)
  1. Keep calm and remember your towel. I am hopefully optimistic.

  2. There’s no single answer to whether this is a good thing or a bad thing 🙂 As a separate independent entity you’re now responsible for your own expenditure and have to be viable in your own right. As a separate independent entity it’s easier to attract investment outwith of corporate constraints. If these guys decide they want to crowd source investment they can do that where Turbine wouldn’t have been able to.

    Absolutely nothing wrong with smaller development teams, in my experience they’re higher skilled and more committed to their projects.

    I was more concerned by Turbine’s announcement that they were focusing on mobile games than I am by the announcement that the games will be developed by a company set up specifically to focus on the MMO market.

    If the existing teams transition across within minimum casualties then there’s continuity of development skills and from our perspective it should be very much business as usual while the new team at Standing Stones find their feet.

    • I was none too happy (or “chuffed,” to use my Word of the Day) about Turbine wanting to focus on mobile games, so I think this move bodes well for the future of DDO.

      What I’ve taken from reading the various press releases and articles is that the team will remain pretty much intact, and all future plans for the game are just as on track as they were before – maybe more so, since DDO is now the star of the show rather than the extra with no lines.

  3. Update as of about 20 minutes ago: Asheron’s Call (and AC2) are done and will go dark 1/31/2017

  4. From what I understand, the DDO/LotRO crew (devs et. al.) actually started SSG. At least, that is what I inferred from the posts I read yesterday. Not sure why they need a publisher, but then, I’m not in the gaming industry. It could be exactly as you say – for money. Also from what I understand, all of the hardware associated with DDI/LotRO (servers, etc.) went with them, so there should not be any disruption of service, per se (though Cordovan did say there could be some minor interruptions, but it sounded to me like just regular maintenance things). As far as I know, they may even be in the same office building/space. When asked “who get money right now if we buy TP (which is changing its name, but otherwise remains the same) right now?”, the answer from Cordovan was “We (SSG) do.”

    As far as Severlin being made ex. producer at LotRO, it was about the same time that Cordovan became LotRO’s community manager. And if I recall correctly, that was about 6 months ago. The last post by Frelorn in LotRO’s Dev track was July 5th, and Cordovan’s first post was July 8th. I’m a little surprised you didn’t know that, but then, your main focus has always been DDO, and since they didn’t disappear from DDO, just took over parallel duties at LotRO, it’s understandable.

    I think this is a good thing (although, I have no knowledge of Daybreak Games, that I can recall, at least) and I look forward to seeing what SSG will do for both titles (though I am curious as to what became of AC/AC2…)

  5. Here’s what I know:

    – The last time I did research on the DDO license was back when Hasbro sued Atari for not doing its job. Hasbro won and transferred the license to Turbine. As far as I can remember that license contract was up for renewal in 2017

    – Daybreak studios is acting as a game publisher, which means they’ll be most likely be managing marketing and product manufacturing (if any). That also usually means they’ll manage finances when it comes to things like licenses, localization, and any physical materials associated with the game (manual, box, game cards, etc). They’re also supposed to do risk management. For example, is it a good idea or not to release a new module or add-on for the game given the current market.

    – It looks like much of the design and engineering staff at Standing Stone Game is pulling from Turbine talent. So I believe that DDO and LotRO on the development and design side will be in good hands.

    I got a chance to visit Daybreak Studios in San Diego with good friend who works there. From what I could see their current active MMOs are Landmark, PlanetSide 2, DC Universe Online, EverQuest II, and EverQuest. I remember when they canceled Everquest Next. I believe they wanted to focus on Landmark instead and their newest game game H1Z1, and the follow up H1Z1: King of the Kill (which was just released on the PC in Sept 2016). I guess the most interesting thing I learned is that Daybreak’s parent company is Columbus Nova (investment company in NY) and Renova Group (Russian conglomerate). Those two mostly provide investment money when needed and have been around for a couple of decades.

    In short, I think DDO and LotrO are in good hands. Will DDO last another decade? Who knows!

    • How is it that no matter the topic, you have something that is both newsy and also deeply knowledgeable to share about it?

      • I think it’s because I need to with trivia occasionally, lest I let my brain cells atrophy. With DDO its because I’ve spent nearly 4000 hours playing, even though I don’t play anymore. Old habits die hard, and I tend to absorb video game industry material pretty readily.

  6. When i start reading the announcement on Facebook i was like “Fu**, they are shutting dawn, i knew this day would came but not now… Not right before christmas…”

    Now i don’t know what to think, i have been taking a break from the game mostly because i´m trying other games (so many good games this days) and partially game fatigue.

    I´m getting old, and i never like changes…

  7. The game has the necessary material for popularity. All they really need to do is work in more advertising and publicity–something I’ve never seen happen in any strength since I joined 5 years ago. I presume the powers that be that owned the property said it was expensive or not worth it. Now, even web ads and even one TV ad could make population growth and make a big difference.

  8. Bob is optimistic.

What do you think?

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