Sony Online Entertainment is no more. As part of a shock announcement yesterday, the MMO developer confirmed that it had been acquired by a New York investment group named Columbus Nova, and would be rebranding itself as the Adrian Chiles-inspired Daybreak Game Company. This obviously came as a surprise to many, with the company's immediate insistence on multiformat development seeming a touch odd – but we reckon that it may be good news for all involved.
Let's be honest: SOE has never been a particularly important part of PlayStation's plans. Despite eventually being absorbed by Sony Computer Entertainment, the organisation actually started life as a part of Sony Pictures. It's a reminder of just how disjointed the Japanese manufacturer can be, and something that gaffer Kaz Hirai is desperately trying to fix. Given that it's currently establishing services like PlayStation Music and PlayStation Video, having a PC-focused developer on its books probably never made sense.
And let's not beat around the bush: SOE is a PC-focused developer. The company has developed and published various console games – from the recently shuttered EverQuest Online Adventures on the PlayStation 2 right the way through to Field Commander on the PlayStation Portable – but it never sat aside the likes of Naughty Dog and Sucker Punch as a true first-party team. Instead, its output mostly centred on computers, with the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 forced to feed on the scraps.
As such, there was probably a little bit of lip service going on when it mentioned multiplatform production in its departure press release. PlanetSide 2, for example, has only just entered beta on the Japanese giant's next-gen machine – over two years after its original release. If you assume that EverQuest Next and H1Z1 will follow similar paths – neither of which have firm deploy dates for the PC right now – it could be three or even four years before they arrive on a PlayStation platform. For a company that's doubling down on its console brand, that's probably not a good return.
It's clear, then, why Sony would be eager to offload the outfit – especially when you consider that all of these games will still arrive on the PS4 eventually anyway. The outlay involved with MMO development is extortionate, and the risks are extremely high; the PlayStation maker can afford to make those bets, but given its fragile financial status, why would it bother if there aren't any immediate returns waiting on the other side? It'd be better investing that money elsewhere.
And, of course, this works out well for the now renamed Daybreak Game Company. Rather than being the black sheep in the SCE empire, it now finds itself the prize asset of an investment group which seems committed to leveraging its brands in the best possible way. Breaking away from Sony will allow it to more easily expand its wares to the emerging mobile markets, while it'll still be able to bring its content to PlayStation platforms – but perhaps now in its own time. That sounds like a win as far as we're concerned.
Finally, there are the advantages for the investment group Columbus Nova, too. This is clearly a savvy company, which sees the potential in what the developer is doing, and is willing to pod out to make its vision a reality. It shoulders the most risk in this instance, but it also arguably has the most to gain. And with around $15 billion of assets under its belt, who are we to question the organisation's business acumen?
With no job losses reported, and zero changes to Daybreak's release roadmap, we're struggling to find any negatives in this story at all. Of course, it hasn't stopped some pessimists from pondering whether this is the first Sony studio sale of many, with the likes of Naughty Dog and Guerrilla Games next to go under the hammer. These developers are integral to PlayStation, though, where SOE never was. With the platform holder doubling down on its primary gaming brand, we can't see the firm selling off prize assets like that – in fact, this sale may give it the breathing room to expand its Worldwide Studios portfolio, rather than reduce it.
Do you agree that SOE's sale is good news for everyone, or do you still have some reservations about the move? Embark on an EverQuest in the comments section below.