The New York-based investment firm has purchased Sony Online Entertainment, which is responsible for massively multiplayer online games like “EverQuest,” “PlanetSide” and “DC Universe Online” for an undisclosed amount.
Blizzard, after all, is the talent behind some of the industry’s biggest powerhouses, including “World of Warcraft” and “Diablo,” and has generated billions of dollars for parent Activision. But the seemingly sudden burst of generosity could turn out to be one of developer’s most savvy ideas to date.
Sony Online Entertainment has become largely pseudonymous with the free-to-play movement, offering triple-A titles like PlanetSide 2 for no cost from day one, and converting legacy games like EverQuest to the model.
It’s fairly seamless these days, but when Smedley and his team decided to embrace free-to-play, it was a big leap of faith.
Virtually every publisher was running one, building one, or contemplating one. A lot of those failed. A few struggled along with small but loyal audiences. And all of them acknowledged that they lived under the shadow of perennial champ World of Warcraft.
SOE isn’t as high profile as in its EverQuest heyday, but it’s settled in as one of the biggest players in free-to-play triple-A games. President John Smedley discusses why he thinks SOE’s headed in the right direction.
Most company presidents spent E3 locked in meeting rooms, only getting a few sparse moments to explore the show floor. Not Sony Online Entertainment’s John Smedley. He actively spent time in the thick of things — though he rarely strayed far from his own booth.
Smedley’s a heavy FPS fan — and he’s especially enamored with SOE’s upcoming action MMO Planetside 2. That professed dedication isn’t unusual when an executive has a product to sell, but few of those executives arrive to E3 2.5 hours early so they can sneak in a couple hours of gameplay, and lob trash talk at other players.
EverQuest will drop its mandatory monthly pricing strategy in March, as the game hits its impressive 13th birthday — though like other free-to-play games Sony Online Entertainment currently distributes, there will be a tiered pricing plan for players who want more features and content.
We certainly have no problem getting caught up in the fun of playing games, but the people who create them have their pocketbooks to worry about, too. In this column, finance expert and GameSpy contributor Chris Morris guides you through the tricky corridors the gaming industry’s financial side, touching on big-time business decisions and how they matter to the common gamer.
On the surface, giving your product away for free – especially if it has been a revenue generator for you for years – doesn’t make a lot of sense. But sometimes, that sort of radical move can be the kick in the pants aging games need to become relevant once more in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
Case in point: Sony Online Entertainment, which may not have started the MMO trend, but certainly was the first to truly capitalize on it, has been spending a lot of time lately exploring the free-to-play business model, converting a pair of games that have historically charged monthly subscription fees. And the early trends are astonishingly encouraging.
Sony announced Monday it had discovered another 24.6 million accounts had been hacked, this time in the company’s PC online gaming division. The intrusion is on top of the 77 million accounts that Sony has previously acknowledged were breached.