Change is in the Air

It’s interesting to me, that of all the people in our little community who write prediction posts or talk about things that they would like to see in the coming year, didn’t see any of this coming.

This isn’t secret information. At this point, if you are interested in gaming and have an internet connection, you’ve already heard the news. There are four stories I’m going to talk about today, and I’m only touching upon them because they all surround things that have interested me, currently or otherwise. I’m late to the party, but I figured that I would give my two cents anyway. I went and said that I wasn’t going to, but here’s me doing it anyway.

So Joystiq, the all-inclusive gaming website that also played host to Massively, is owned by AOL. A huge douche-nozzle of a company, prone to buying companies and then shutting them down, as corporations are wont to do. It’s business, and it’s numbers, we all get it. There are a bunch of other bloggers who wrote more thought-provoking posts about this topic than I care to. In the end, I was mostly concerned for Syp and the other writers who were going to be out of work. It was announced that Joystiq and its sister sites would be shut down, and we all wondered where we’d find another reliable source for MMO news and otherwise. Of course, there were naysayers, happy to see the site get shuttered. There was backlash at that post and I’m sure there were others like it with even more backlash. These things happen on the Internet. As much as Keen is entitled to his opinion, you are entitled to disagree. There were recommendations for people to get their news at sites like Polygon, PCGamer, Rock, Paper, Shotgun, etc. You can find those sites on my sidebar as well, I check them all regularly. However, I do believe that our blogging community (and subsequently on Twitter) keeps me better informed than most sites. It can go either way, and I hear the news from one or the other, but I love the unflinching honesty of enthusiast bloggers, something that won’t be replicated on corporate sites.

Thankfully, Massively is going “indie,” by getting the gang together on their own website. I assume this means quality news, but maybe will give us some of that honesty that they weren’t able to before. I love a random “fuck” thrown into a well-written article. It feels more authentic that way. So the new site is called Massively Overpowered, and though it isn’t up just yet, you’ll be able to follow that link sooner than later. You can also follow them over on Twitter. I have updated the link on my sidebar, just a day after having removed the old one.

In related news, I also followed Joystiq for my console news, mainly for Playstation stuff, but there’s more on offer if you happen to enjoy a different console. They have been picked up by Engadget, and have a working name of “Joystiq X Engadget” (or Joystiq X e). This appears to be business as usual for the site, so aside from a further name change, it’s not going anywhere for the time being. Their Twitter account hasn’t changed for now, and I have also updated the link on the sidebar as well.

Next up, the big news from SOE that Sony sold them off to a company called Columbus Nova. This includes a name change, where SOE will now be known as “Daybreak Games.” This was a shocker I don’t think anyone saw coming. Some people will claim that they saw indicators, but I call bullshit. It’s been business as usual for SOE for years now, despite having put out new games (Early Access or otherwise) and keeping up on old titles. Yeah, they have had some free to play conversions, they also shuttered some under-performers, but that’s been the story for every MMO company for the last few years. Honestly, I don’t understand the hate people have for SOE, save for the people who are still holding grudges about Star Wars Galaxies and/or Vanguard. For me, SWG seemed like a shitty game and I don’t think that’s due to SOE’s influence. Vanguard also seemed like trash before it released, and SOE saved it from going into the trash bin, so yeah, who’s the villain there? Everquest 1 and 2 are still two of my favorite MMOs of all time, and that’s after having played most AAA titles from the past decade plus. Their upcoming titles (which are in early access) seem like they’re going to be great games when they’re done, and we all know EQN will be a thing. It might not come when you want it, but it will draw fans of the IP regardless.

SOE has done some things that are ridiculous, stupid, and backwards. But their transparency throughout has always been refreshing and a part of what makes them a great company. Eri said it best on our H1Z1 show, in that SOE is the little hero company that you’re supposed to like, and you hate to see them do stupid shit, but you still love them anyway. Something to that effect. I can’t say that I’ve approved of it all, but I don’t want to see them go under. They make it sound like they’re going to be an indie company now, and will have the ability to make games for other platforms and might be able to get away from things their parent company made them do. However, they are still under the umbrella of a corporation, so we’ll see how it goes. I’m rooting for them.  Their Twitter has been updated, so you can follow them for further updates.

Last story, was another that I didn’t think I’d see happen. For the past decade give or take, The Pirate Bay has been a torrent seekers dream. Anything you needed to get ahold of was available, and being based on servers in a country where it’s harder to prosecute, they kept pirates happy. I plead the 5th on my involvement, but we’ll just say that I was disappointed to learn it was shut down earlier this year. It didn’t take long for it to rise again though, like a phoenix from the ashes. Who knows how long this incarnation will last, but it’s good to see freedom ring clear on the Internet once again.

So, companies, websites, games, pirates. They rise and fall, come and go, but in the end, we find new versions, new fixes, and soldier on. The world we live in might be a big ol’ bitch, but sometimes she’s beautiful. That’s all for today.

#massivelyop #daybreakgames #joystiqxe #thepiratebay

9 thoughts on “Change is in the Air

  1. If you’d really want to understand the hate for SOE, you should look up the list of “PR successes” John Smedley racked up over the last years. He has a history of missunderstanding and insulting his customers. I mean we just have to look back half a month, when H1Z1 was released:

    “Even the disgusting PVE carebear servers [for H1Z1] will be ready day 1. I’m not happy about that but people tell me I need to get over it.”

    ~ SOE President John Smedley on Twitter

    Of course, his PR department a little later made clear that it was meant as a joke, but it’s just one example from a long list of such “slips”. While I know that PR representatives of some companies don’t survive even one such statement, i am not a friend of such harsh actions. Accidents to happen, jokes are missunderstood, everybody makes mistakes. In contrast to somebody making a mistake, though, Smedley continuously delivers demeaning statements about his customers.

    I just in 2014 can remember 3 different comments of him (don’t make me look them all up, that’s way too much work for a posting like this), which clearly insulted one or another part of their present or former customers. [Even after all these years, it’s John Smedley who can’t stop himself from a cheap shot at former SWG players. And people wonder why those people don’t forgive SOE, when they are still being insulted years later. ] And while i currently can “only” remember 3 such incidents within one year (more than a decades quota for most other gaming companies), it’s very likely that i did not even notice them all and there might even be more.

    So if the highly visible boss of a gaming company insults his playerbase on an almost regular basis, i think it’s not really surprising that there are plenty of players who dislike this company. I actually with that more players should be aware on how they are seen and treated by SOE and act accordingly. There are enough other companies out there who also offer very good games, surprisingly also are willing to accept money and at the same time treat their customers with respect.

    Thus it was not hard for me to make sure that SOE was not on the list of companies who got money from me, and as long as John Smedley is on board for Columbus Nova, i will treat that company just the same.


    • That being said, my sympathy goes to all the people who are quite likely or certain to loose their jobs. While Massively also at times felt like a “game company PR outlet”, it had several really great columns. Some of them i enjoyed reading occasionally, one of them (Chaos Theory) i was following regularily. Those columns would be a huge loss, i am glad to hear that the people there decided to continue independently and will certainly keep me eyes on them.

      I hope that the authors are not affected too negatively in a financial way with the closure and wish them good success and all the best.

      At the same time i with the former SOE, now Columbus Nova employees all the best. I know that most of them did and are doing a good job, despite the PR incompetence of their boss. Thus i hope for them that they do not loose their jobs or (as honestly, job reductions are very likely to happen after such a transfer) that they quickly find a new and good job again.


      • Personally, I like Smed. Carebear comments don’t bother me, I make the same sorts of comments. The game wasn’t supposed to have PvE whatsoever, but they added it in anyway. I probably haven’t paid much attention to his personal conduct over the years, but I still know they made some of my favorite MMOs, and I enjoy the transparency despite “flaws.”


      • There is a difference between making such comments on yourself and on peers, than when the boss of a gaming company makes them. That guy just oozes disrespect for his customers and thus should not be surprised if the customers return this “favour”.

        It’s certainly your decission if you ignore it for your favourite games are delivered by them, but there’s enough alternatives out there and enough people seem to have voted with their wallets lately. SOE made a huge loss the last years. Some people blame it on the payment models of their last products, but there are many other successful games with the same payment models out there, so i doubt that this is the real reason. When MMOs were still a new thing, WoW faintly on the horizon and alternatives to UO and EQ often were of dubious quality, that diva behaviour was no problem, people who wanted to play a MMO just had pay there. It’s far overdue that Smed understands that this has changed and adjusts his behaviour and i would guess that for many players the boat has sailed, they found better places to stay.


      • I think every MMO developer has been losing money for years, aside from Blizzard. Blizzard’s games aren’t the best on the market either, they just had that perfect storm effect. They have made more comments that pissed off the consumer than I think SOE ever did, yet they still earn hand over fist. I think you are just anti-SOE for these reasons, in a classic example of one. That’s fine, it’s your opinion you are free to have it. Just like I’m free to not care about what Smed says and instead just enjoy the games that the company makes. This new direction they’re going in will either see the studio turn a corner and thrive or it will fall apart and close completely. Time will tell. I’m following H1Z1 closely and it seems to be a hit with fans. The early dissension is already over. People love Landmark. EQN is still on the horizon. I don’t think SOE or Smedley are going anywhere. You may boycott what they have to offer, but the rest of us will enjoy the games they make.

        I think a gaming company should be judged on the merits of its products, rather than some off-handed comments by a goofy leader.


      • Several points here. First of all i dare to challenge this statement of yours: “They have made more comments that pissed off the consumer than I think SOE ever did, yet they still earn hand over fist.”

        Can you please just give one example where a higher ranked official of Blizzard showed demeaning attitude towards their customers? I am aware of a some GM statements who fell out of the line in the run of the years but dare to point out:
        – those comments were by “lowly” GMs, not a high tier representative.
        – when something went wrong then official appologies from further up were given and things were handled professionally.
        – GM contacts are extremely frequent, and while some slips have to be expected, their quota seems to be rather low. No, i never worked for Blizzard and don’t have their numbers, but a few years ago i’ve read a statement on how many GMs they had employed. Combine that with the fact that i worked as L1/L2 support in a technical environment (not a game) for some years and i can tell that at least in my perception the quota of GM slips at Blizzard actually is extremely low.
        – Last not least (and perhaps one of the reasons for the point above, next to good GM training), those GMs were either forcefully brought back in line or removed from the line. (Which is bad news for the GMs in the second case, but i can understand it from a business point of view. In the long run a company usually can’t afford such dirtthrowers in the lower ranks. One company, though, affords itself a dirtthrower in the highest position… )

        People can rant about Blizzard being the “perfect storm” (although i think the king of hype actually is ArenaNet, they play that game even better than Blizzard ) or for creating all “thin soup, suitable for everybody” games and i could not completely disagree. But their choice seems to pay out and they make sure that their PR is kept in a good shape. This also is true for most other publishers out there. Even EA, well renowned for treating their development labs badly and milking any franchise to death still works hard to keep negative PR limited. Repeated closures and layoffs definitely keep their PR department on their toes, but those people are doing a good job and repercussions for the big company seem to be limited. (I could now go on over some more studios or publishers, with Ubisoft being the second example of “not doing things that well”, but that’s beyond the point. )

        Next to that: “I think a gaming company should be judged on the merits of its products, rather than some off-handed comments by a goofy leader.”

        My point of view here is: i just with those people who make good products good luck in locking Smed in and hiding him from the public. I mean, i also see his credit in the first games of SOE and how much value he brought there. But that was the time of MMO divas, which by now has passed. I think that he still is a great asset in the design of new games, but he really needs somebody to control how he appears to the public.

        And last point: ” I think you are just anti-SOE for these reasons, in a classic example of one.”

        Where did i ever state that i personally hate SOE? Please point that out for me. All i tried to do was to help you understand why many people dislike SOE. Smed has a history of insulting one customer group after another and people get tired of the weak “it once again was just a joke, now we all laugh a bit at you and move on” saving attempts of his PR. After all, nobody here can step up and say “our boss is an idiot who has no idea how to respect his customers, please disregard him and continue giving us money.”

        Every other branch of business by now has learned that unless you have a monopoly (or some illegal market construct, but that’s a too big topic to cover here, so let’s keep it general) you have to pay dearly for rubbing your customers wrongly. This lesson still has to reach Smed, not so much for his sake (in worst case he gets the golden ticket and still is all fine), but for the sake of the hard working employees who were sold with SOE and now have to fear that they loose their jobs despite providing products which perhaps are not superior, but at least adequate to other offers on the market and would probably have more players if their boss would not regularily (even pre-launch of some games) take cheap shots at their potential customers and thus make a part of them decide against the game before spending any money on it.


      • Who was it, Pardo? With his sexist statements? That was enough to send the entire Internet off.

        It’s just your attitude that is conveyed in your comments, you sound like a Blizzard Fan-boy (or girl) and very anti-SOE.

        I wasn’t asking for examples, it was rhetoric.


      • On the story with Pardo you have a point. I forgot about that one. Although just to be sure, i have re-heard the interview with him, which was the big scandal, for which he then had to leave the company. Of course, people evaluate things differently, but what he basically said was that most of their developers are male, they would like to hire more but there are not enough female applicants and since most developers are male sometimes very male-oriented stuff makes it into the games, despite their attempts to avoid that to happen. While the wording was different, he was kicked out of the company for that. Now compare that to the bombs Smed drops towards his customers on an almost regular basis.

        There is just one reason why Smed, despite his comments being way harder, is not provoking the same reaction: people already consider him to be a terrible -insert-insult-here- and regard his company the same. Buying up SOE and still letting that guy speak is a mistake. If the buyers are clever, they will gag him, put him in a cage where he can assist in game development (something which he seems to be good at) and make sure that the public never hears of him again. With a new name and Smed locked away, the next games to come out might indeed have a better chance to find customers, as there’s nobody to insult and drive them away. A clear win for the new owners and the employees.

        And on my attitude, it’s always nice to learn something about yourself. When evaluating myself, i don’t see myself as anti-SOE but rather anti-SMED. He simply produced too many “gems” where he insulted us gamers, so if he repeatedly show disrespect and antipathy to us, i consider it just logical that we at some time return this “favour”. But hey, if somebody badnames you regularily and you in turn consider him a good friend, that’s entierely up to you.

        On the Blizzard fanboy i can just chuckle. I indeed liked the old Warcraft, Diablo 1 and 2 and Starcraft. WoW i only played for three months, though. I bought the first part of Starcraft 2 and seeing how it played like didn’t touch the rest and still couldn’t persuade myself to get Diablo 3. My personal perception is that the new products are just designed “with a too wide audience in mind” and not tempting me. It could also be that that i just get older and my taste changes, but i am unable to determine if this is true or not. Anyway, thinking i’d be a fanboy there is quite far off the mark.


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