How about those Red Sox? Seriously, that’s a conversation I’d rather be having than the one that has cropped up this week — and I don’t even follow the Red Sox. Instead, we’ve got the Columbus Nova fiasco and Daybreak’s disasterous response. I feel as if I am witnessing my favorite game studio hang itself.
As I sit here watching as this story all unfolds, I almost wonder if I’ve stumbled into some crazy movie plot or scripted prank show. Is this seriously happening? It doesn’t seem real, and yet here we are; I’m right with you, following each new step in the saga as it happens. Sadly, in this narrative there are no winners, only losers. The studio, the developers, the players, the industry — we’re all losers. No matter how this ultimately turns out, much damage has been done. The hopes that my favorite game will continue are crashing and burning alongside the last vestiges of trust I had in my favorite studio. How did it come to this? These are my thoughts and feelings as a long-time fan on the matter, basically my WTF reaction to it all.
The odds are not in your favor
Of all people, I am known as one to give the benefit of the doubt. It’s in my nature to assume the best of folks. It can take quite a bit of some pretty blatant evidence to sway me. This whole thing that’s playing out now? I’m feeling pretty swayed. My jaw is on the floor. I simply cannot believe it is actually happening. And yet, it is. For those not following the big story, in a nutshell it’s the fact that the parent company (Renova Group) of Daybreak’s parent company (Columbus Nova) is in trouble. That’s not the problem; Daybreak’s reaction to that threat is what is causing all the trouble.
Daybreak’s answer to this risk is to inform us that the assertion that Columbus Nova acquired then-SOE was a miscommunication. Instead it was a private individual (who just happens to me a major employee of said company) who bought the studio. A miscommunication? Seriously? If it were true that citing Columbus Nova as the owner was a miscommunication, it was a miscommunication that was perpetually asserted for more than three years, over and over again by multiple sources. I was there. I know very well — often first-hand — what employees, from the top on down, said. I received the press releases very clearly stating that Columbus Nova was the owner. It was Columbus Nova this, and Columbus Nova that; here a Columbus Nova, there a Columbus Nova, everywhere Columbus Novas.
Still, let’s try the benefit of the doubt thing. Is it possible that Columbus Nova didn’t really own Daybreak? OK, almost anything is possible. Even a .000000000001% chance is a chance. But is it probable? Does not seem likely, does it? Daybreak PR is asking the world to believe that every press release and every quote from Daybreak and Columbus Nova employees alike for the last three plus years were in error. Again, that’s over three years. Certainly that was plenty of time to clear up a misunderstanding. Those items are only just now being corrected, coincidentally exactly after the sanctions were threatened. If it was in error, you couldn’t have picked a worse time to try and fix it!
However, it goes beyond just PR and interviews. Setting those aside, what about the terms of service that all players had to agree to? Am I being asked to believe that this ToS passed legal muster with an incorrect company name attached? Wouldn’t a lawyer have pounced on such a mistake and insisted it be corrected to save from possible future litigation? And what about misuse of logos? How on earth could all that get past everyone?
This is what Daybreak wants us to believe. It’s just a whoopsie. MOP has even heard from a reliable source that this is the case. But honestly, at this point how can we believe it? I’m having a really hard time. That big of a miscommunication could not have been overlooked for over three years. No way. That’s some seriously gross incompetence (which doesn’t look all that favorable for the studio, either). Were we intentionally misled? If Columbus Nova was never the owner, the two companies said and did quite a bit to make everyone believe it was. Was that a lie? Was being attached to that name meant to engender more confidence and trust? (Obviously that totally backfired.) Or is the narrative now a lie? It feels like we have to pick: Either Daybreak lied then, or it is lying now. Not exactly a great choice.
Speaking of, what about those layoffs? That is quite a chunk of staff to suddenly be let go. Daybreak wants us to believe it is telling the truth, but in the same breath says that these layoffs won’t affect the games or operations. Oh come now, there is no way losing that many isn’t going to impact things! Daybreak, you are making this harder.
Undoubtedly, Daybreak is trying to distance itself from Columbus Nova in order to protect itself and remain in operation. I can’t fault that. After all, I want EverQuest II to continue more than most. But how the studio is going about that goal just flabbergasts me. Who in heaven’s name advised Daybreak that trying to quietly scrub all connection with Columbus Nova was a good idea? Do these people know how the internet works? Don’t they understand that stuff on the internet can’t just be erased? Abundant copies of all these items exist. Even if the claim that Columbus Nova didn’t own Daybreak is true, the purge looks as unscrupulous and shady as all get out. Surely there was a way to do this without looking like the studio was sneaking around in the dark hoping no one would notice? And if it was owned by Columbus Nova, systematically rewriting history is the epitome of dishonest. How could anyone have trust in the studio after that?
If I thought things were iffy before, I am more resigned about the fates of EQII and Daybreak now. I can’t really see any positive way to come out of this. If the games go down because assets get frozen, we lose them. We’ll be saying farewell to EverQuest, EQII, DC Universe Online, PlanetSide 2, H1Z1, and Just Survive. That would royally suck. On the other hand, even if the games survive, how Daybreak has dealt with this situation has given it some serious black eyes. Trust is pretty shattered. Even if the studio isn’t tied to Columbus Nova, its integrity seems even more questionable as demonstrated by its recent actions. And worse, if Daybreak was tied to CN but pulls off erasing its association through all these suspiciously shady shenanigans, we know the studio is willing to force a historical rewrite when it suits its interest. That means it could easily pull that again when it needed to, to the detriment of anyone.
This whole thing breaks my heart. Do I want these games to survive? You better believe it! EQII is a home away from home, a comfort game for me that I never want to lose. Ever! But I want the studio to do it in an above board, ethical way. The way things are going now, it appears to be anything but. And I can’t even describe how much that truly disappoints and saddens me. I want to believe the best, but it feels like this week is doing everything to convince me otherwise. If CN owned the studio, why didn’t it avoid all of this by just selling off/trading/giving Daybreak new ownership legitimately by the June 5th deadline noted in the sanction? What ever could Daybreak gain by this course of action — by alienating fans, by appearing completely dishonest and unscrupulous, and by possibly risking legal action — that made this path more appealing than other possibilities? Even if the games don’t shut down, how can Daybreak recover from this?
I don’t get it. I am watching what has been my favorite studio carefully tie a noose for itself. No matter which way it goes, damage is done. I am stunned. And I am crushed. There are no winners here.
Get caught up on the whole Daybreak/Columbus Nova ordeal: