Massively OP’s 2018 Awards: Biggest MMO Story of 2018


Massively Overpowered’s end-of-the-year 2018 awards continue today with our award for Biggest MMO Story of the Year, which was awarded to The Great Lootbox Debate last year. This isn’t an award based on popularity as measured by hits or comments, and it’s not for a single article; it’s an acknowledgement of an ongoing narrative or event of deep importance and significance for the genre during the year. Don’t forget to cast your own vote in the just-for-fun reader poll at the very end!

The Massively OP staff pick for the Biggest MMO Story of 2018 is…

The Daybreak Columbus Nova Saga

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): I’m probably biased, but the connection between a Russian oligarch and Daybreak games. I mean, holy heck was that a ride! We knew Daybreak was really screwing up the MMO-verse by undoing all the goodwill Sony Online Entertainment had built up, but the constantly gaslighting on the internet by an online game company was ridiculous! It explains the company’s decisions and impatience with the industry, but man, it really spelled out why we should be worried about not just the fate of the company’s MMOs, but any buyouts of MMO companies. Gamigo buying Trion is probably second in my opinion. I still don’t exactly believe it, especially after they bought last year.

Brendan Drain (@nyphur): The Daybreak / Columbus Nova scandal. It’s rare to see real life political scandals bleed into our little MMO-laden corner of the gaming space, and almost as rare that we have to put on our investigator hats and really dig into a story that an MMO studio would rather not see the light of day. This scandal had both of those in droves, kicking off when news landed that the Russian Oligarch who owned Columbus Nova came under investigation by the US Government and all of his assets were frozen. Columbus Nova previously announced it had acquired Daybreak Games, so we sent an innocent enough email to Daybreak to ask if this would impact the studio. Daybreak’s response was baffling: They hadn’t been acquired by Columbus Nova after all! It smelled of a cover-up and an attempt to gaslight the media, and we were having none of it. We broke the story that Daybreak was denying its affiliation with Columbus Nova and investigated with the help of members of our community to uncover incriminating documents containing evidence to the contrary. As happens in many scandals in the games industry, the story even included financial disaster and a series of layoffs at Daybreak.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): The Daybreak Columbus Nova story was by far the biggest story we’ve ever worked on, and it should take the year for sure. I’m beyond proud of the effort we poured into it once it literally fell into our laps while we were tracking down an adjacent story. Honestly, the most shocking part of it all wasn’t that Daybreak neglected to tell everyone who really bought it for three years, it wasn’t that it touched on government sanctions relating to Russian oligarchs, and it wasn’t the mass layoffs that coincidentally dropped the same week, though that was all certainly bizarre. No, the wildest bit was watching in shock as an MMORPG company darted around the internet trying to delete documents that proved its deception in real time, while maintaining that deception was of no consequence (and… I think it turned out to be of no consequence, so why did they go into panic mode and delete things like the internet doesn’t remember forever?). I’ve never seen anything like it, and I hope to never again.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): The Daybreak Columbus Nova affair just reads like something out of fiction: a novel of backdoor dealings, shifting money, attempts to erase the record, and bunches of people caught in the splash damage. I am left agape at the baffling events behind this story and saddened that good ideas and especially good devs were the ones that appear to have paid the price.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): Gosh, this was an entire year of studios doing dumb and newsworthy stuff, wasn’t it? But for sheer sprawling insanity, it’s hard to match the whole Daybreak fiasco of “no, we were never bought by the company we claimed we were bought by.” It’s telling that this wasn’t even the only Daybreak implosion of the year, isn’t it?

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): The Daybreak fiasco showed us both how fragile this once-mighty MMO studio was and how little we can trust the statements that come out of them. When the choice was between incompetence and gaslighting, fans are going to lose either way.

Matt Daniel (@Matt_DanielMVOP): Daybreak-Columbus Nova Affair. Holy gaslighting, Batman. Never in a million years did I think that our little corner of the games-journalism world would be in any way linked to Russian oligarchs accused of meddling in United States elections and national affairs, but here we are. What a time to be alive.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): Without rehashing the whole story (because you can go elsewhere on MOP to read it), I say the biggest one for 2018 was the whole Daybreak Columbus Nova fiasco. The we-can-make-up-the-truth-as-we-go nonsense and we-can-cover-it-up-and-no-one-will-notice idiocy killed any last trust I think anyone had in Daybreak. It felt completely insulting as well as dishonest.

How does Massively OP choose the winner?
Our team gathers together over the course of a few days to discuss candidates and ideally settle on a consensus winner. We don’t have a hard vote, but we do include written commentary from every writer who submitted it on time so that you can see where some of us differed, what our secondary picks were, and why we personally nominated what we did (or didn’t). The site’s award goes to the staff selection, but we’ll include both it and the community’s top nomination in our debrief in January.

The Daybreak Columbus Nova Saga won our award for Biggest MMO Story of 2018. What’s your pick?

Reader poll: What was the biggest MMO story of 2018?

  • The Daybreak Columbus Nova affair (27%, 127 Votes)
  • Fallout 76's launch disaster mess (14%, 63 Votes)
  • The Blizzard and Diablo Immortal mess (20%, 93 Votes)
  • Lockbox legislation and investigations around the globe (9%, 40 Votes)
  • Riot's sexism expose and lawsuit (5%, 22 Votes)
  • Rockstar's crunch problem (1%, 3 Votes)
  • The push for games industry unionization (1%, 6 Votes)
  • ArenaNet's PR fiascos (2%, 11 Votes)
  • Pearl Abyss' CCP buyout (2%, 8 Votes)
  • WildStar's sunset and Carbine's closure (2%, 11 Votes)
  • Gamigo's Trion buyout (2%, 11 Votes)
  • The AAA MMO pivot to mobile (3%, 13 Votes)
  • The online games DMCA battle and victory (1%, 3 Votes)
  • The rescue of Project Copernicus and associated IPs (0%, 2 Votes)
  • WHO's gaming addiction classification and violence in gaming moral panic (1%, 3 Votes)
  • Machine learning and big game data (0%, 2 Votes)
  • The Madden tourney shooting (1%, 4 Votes)
  • Trion's Gazillion buyout (1%, 4 Votes)
  • The COD swatter case (1%, 6 Votes)
  • The push for MMO progression servers (0%, 2 Votes)
  • The Daybreak NantWorks and H1Z1 esports scandal (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Toxicity and the Fair Play Alliance (0%, 2 Votes)
  • Multiple MMOs get battle royale modes (1%, 4 Votes)
  • Torchlight Frontiers announced (1%, 4 Votes)
  • Atlas announced (0%, 2 Votes)
  • The SWTOR cancelation scare (1%, 5 Votes)
  • Nothing (2%, 7 Votes)
  • Something else (tell us in the comments!) (1%, 6 Votes)

Total Voters: 361

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Poll options include all stories nominated plus a few others we thought belonged in contention!

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Dagget Burmese

I think the Daybreak / Columbus Nova thing still needs follow-up. If a govt agency says it will/did freeze assets of a foreign-held company, I would assume they have an exact list available to the public, or by a Freedom of Information request showing what they actually impacted. The shell game with ownership paperwork, apparently done in Delaware, might be harder to sort out.


I voted something else – surprised it’s not listed, but maybe it’s not really ‘MMO’ news. But the first thing that came to mind was Blizzard essentially putting Heroes of the Storm into hospice care, killing the eleague and pissing lots of people off – and so soon after the Diablo-mobile fiasco!


Boy howdy, that current voting tally couldn’t be more recency biased if J and K came over with the flashy things and zapped everyone.

agemyth 😩
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agemyth 😩

The Columbus Nova thing was a bombshell at the time, but so far the only takeaway from it is that Daybreak doesn’t know how what to do with whatever PR people they have. We already knew they sucked at maintaining good public perception and about the potential connection to bad Russian people.

For now, they seem to be right about Jason Epstein being the actual owner of the company and that he is no longer a part of CN. Until someone can get solid dirt on the situation it seems to have been a major mistake in messaging. So as far as that being the biggest story for the industry as a whole I would let it off the hook for this award.

Fallout 76 and Diablo Immortal are both issues primarily about poor messaging and misreading their audiences. The takeaway there is nothing new.

The increased attention from government bodies to lockboxes probably has a lot of publishers and the ESA freaking out over how they will monetize things without lockboxes. I don’t know how much I want the government intervening with how games are designed, but blatant exploitative lockboxes should be labeled as such at least.


I didn’t think the Daybreak story was that big — I’ve not trusted anything they said for years. It’s like reading statements from a pathological liar. How many times are they going to double down? And who really cares? Other than a new Everquest (non-mobile) there isn’t anything they’ve been involved with for several years that has even slightly interested me.

I was curious about the “SWTOR cancelation scare” (sic) since I didn’t read anything on that.

Nate Woodard

Such a depressing list. /sigh I don’t even know what to say.

Matt R

I get really sad reading these awards. There have been so many low points in the mmo genre and very shallow highlights. It’s just sad to see the genre dying out.

Chestnut Bowl
Chestnut Bowl

I didn’t follow the Daybreak story as I don’t follow them at all. I voted for the Fo76 disaster, largely because it involved an actual product and is still happening.

Castagere Shaikura

I went with Fallout 76 because Bethesda was a company I had so much respect for. Now they are as bad as EA to me.


Not what I’d consider “biggest story” yet it’s still one of the sadder ones of this year, and one that didn’t really seem to get talked about much on MOP, would be John “TotalBiscuit” Bain passing away at the age of 33 back in May. Dude was very influential, taking a regular stand against junk like the growing trend of lockboxes and drawing attention to many less-known games out there, one of the most notable being Warframe. His influence had a significant impact on Warframe and helped get it the exposure DE needed when they were on the verge of bankruptcy. Like they actually cut a regular weekly stream short once they heard the news. Blizzard also did a memorial/tribute pack for him in Starcraft 2 with 100% of the proceeds going to TB’s wife and son.

Dude seemed to keep working hard and fighting as best he could until it took an ugly turn in early-mid 2018. He even showed up on the H3 podcast back in October 2017 and there was a pretty interesting section about him talking about his experience with cancer.

Really a shame that he passed at such a young age, ’cause we really need more folks like him in the online gaming space. Someone who didn’t only just criticize and challenge things wrong with the industry (as has become a very popular form of content these days with folks like Jim Sterling, Angry Joe, etc.) but also tried to support and build up games that did things well, helping them get the exposure they needed.

Bruno Brito

MOP has chosen to not report on Bain’s death since he was a controversial figure.