Lasst week, we reported on what looks like Pearl Abyss’ power move to overtake the MMO market. With three MMOs and a Shadow Arena re-release, the Korean megacorp is playing wide with these new titles. Whereas Plan 8 will attempt to allure shooter fans by including the co-creator of Counter-Strike, Minh “Gooseman” Le in its development, and the monster-collecting DokeV seeking to capture Pokemon and Yokai Watch fans, we have Crimson Desert to attract… Black Desert players. I think?
Hilariously, there’s already a BDO private server with that exact same name. I’m not endorsing the server, but it’s literally the top result when I googled “Crimson Desert.”
There’s not much yet on any of these titles; we’ll learn more about them from the fan event later this week. But just the name alone courts so much speculation, concern, and hope for me. So before that official announcement, I want to record my initial feelings on the announcement and speculate on the ramifications this title might have to our beloved game.
I hope this game will just be Black Desert 2: So Black It’s Crimson. I want it with much more precise controls. I want that nice, clean UI PA’s been using on Black Desert. I hope they make a game that’ll not only attract hardcore PvPers and grinders but also cultivate a new generation of those gamers. I hope they have an out-of-the-box PvP that’s got a low bar for entry but a high-skill ceiling and a system to accommodate players that might not want to get ganked in their favorite grind spots.
There’s so much promise this new title can bring in, but we have to remember this is still Pearl Abyss. The biggest gripe the Black Desert community has with PA is how tone-deaf the company can be. Players oftentimes claim PA doesn’t play its own game and doesn’t listen to its players. There have been many questionable changes throughout the game’s history, like the addition-and-removal of the renown system last year. If this game really is what I think it is, I hope PA will listen to its players. I’ll give the studio the benefit of the doubt, though. I’ve really enjoyed the changes they’ve been making recently and I’m sure the dev team’s learned a lot from developing Black Desert.
I’ll eat my cash-shop hat if this doesn’t take place in the Black Desert universe. I think this is going to be a prequel. The Valencian Black Desert got its name because of the sand: It’s made from black stones, one the central items in the game. But many Valencians give it a different name: the Red Desert, which got its name from the countless battles and deaths that took place on its sands throughout its tumultuous history. Plus, PA contextualized this new title within a time frame of warring tribes, not factions. I see tribes as something that comes before a faction, and this would fit into the lore of Black Desert.
Considering how there’s been significant revisions to the story this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if PA decides to rebrand the desert’s alternate name into Crimson Desert. A prequel would be a great way to really build on what’s already there, and the team can apply narrative lessons learned from developing Black Desert’s lore. Of course, there’s the possibility Crimson Desert will go the route of your Final Fantasies and Tales of games where the game is not related at all but still includes series hallmarks – the Black Spirit in this case, which isn’t a bad idea for an MMO either.
Regardless of its place in lore, or even whether it’s part of the franchise, the decision to create something that may possibly overshadow Black Desert is odd. The timing just seems so strange since BDO still feels new. Black Desert released in Korea in 2015, NA and Europe in 2016, and South East Asia the beginning of 2018. The console versions just released this year. By MMO standards, that’s pretty young for a game. Why would they release it now when it seems like the best time to play Black Desert?
I can think of one really good reason: its nine-year-old engine.
It’s getting long in the tooth. Even with the remaster, Black Desert still has clipping issues and pop-ins. There’s always been some awkward physics-related bugs too, like boats getting stuck in the middle of nowhere and players getting caught on the occasional rock. PA has talked about transferring the game to the new engine, and it’s possible this is what Crimson Desert is. Personally, I wouldn’t mind a new engine, but it makes sense to just build a new game around the engine, rather then import the game over.
It’s also totally possible the studio is planning on transitioning into making Black Desert Mobile its primary money maker. Not only is it a good game, but it’s making even more money than the PC version is now. With Black Desert making steady money through its mobile iteration, and the PC version not making as much, there’s an opportunity to fill that gap with a new, sexy MMO with a brand-new engine.
The biggest concern for me is the risk. So many things can go wrong with replacing a game like Black Desert. There’s the obvious issue of splitting the fanbase and the development team. Time spent working on Crimson Desert will be time not spent adding content to Black Desert. It’s totally possible that PA will accidentally kill Black Desert PC. Apologies for the hyperbolic language, but suddenly jumping into a whole new game, especially while Black Desert is still healthy, is super risky. But we can’t ignore that Black Desert might be growing stale too. Even with the Great Expedition expansion, there haven’t been many major content expansions for the game. It’s mainly been polishing what’s already there and expanding to new platforms at a wild rate. Polish and reach doesn’t replace new content.
But that same risk fills me with hope for the future. One of the genre’s biggest criticisms is how averse to risk it’s become. It’s depended on tried-and-true practices and its stagnated. Pearl Abyss, with its oodles of money, is willing to create a new MMO for the new decade. It seems to be playing its cards very aggressively and I love it. It’s what the genre needs, and this aggression can be the catalyst that motivates other companies to push toward bigger and better MMOs. But hey, it could also mess up big too. Fingers crossed this goes well.