Charismatic Icelandic developer CCP, maker of Eve Online, has been acquired by the South Korean maker of Black Desert Online, Pearl Abyss, in a deal reportedly worth $425m.
CCP will operate independently as a wholly owned subsidiary across studios in Reykjavik (HQ), London and Shanghai, ensuring it will "continue to be free to do what we do best", wrote CCP boss Hilmar Veigar Pétursson in a letter to the Eve Online community. "But now we'll have the support of another tried and tested developer that's proven their own mettle in the complex and challenging field of creating and maintaining virtual worlds."
"As a nerdy Korean MMO maker, Pearl Abyss' company culture is very similar to that of CCP's..." -Hilmar Veigar Pétursson
Pétursson continued: "Right now, CCP is owned by a group of three big financial investors. They have been with us on this journey for over a decade with all our ups and downs and, as is the business of financial investors, selling their shares at some point is part of the plan. Being acquired by Pearl Abyss means that we will be bringing a video games company on board as well as a new long-term home for CCP. This will be important for the years to come as partnering up with another MMO developer means that we have an even greater shared depth of experience to pull from and can tackle even more (and bigger) long-term mutual goals." Not to mention more money.
"Pearl Abyss is a great home for CCP Games," he added. "As a nerdy Korean MMO maker, Pearl Abyss' company culture is very similar to that of CCP's; our two companies share similar DNA and there is an appreciable cultural fit for sure. Like CCP, Pearl Abyss also have an incredible passion for creating virtual worlds, and their mission is to create the best MMOs in the world. I can think of no other game developer whose aspirations align more perfectly with our own, and we're very excited to see what our joint future holds.
"I've spoken many times at FanFest (and last year at my first Eve Vegas too) about my firm belief that New Eden will outlive us all. This decision for CCP is the next logical step on that journey and will ensure Eve really is forever."
It follows a period of things not quite working out for CCP. The company bet on the first wave of virtual reality after an Eve-inspired dogfighting spin-off struck a chord at an Eve FanFest convention years ago. CCP opened a studio in Newcastle to turn the demo into Eve Valkyrie, then opened a studio in Atlanta to make another VR game called Sparc, a multiplayer hit-discs-at-each-other sports game. But VR failing to break out of a wealthy niche meant CCP didn't see return on investment and the company was forced to ditch VR in 2017, and close the Atlanta studio and sell CCP Newcastle to Sumo Digital.
Really, CCP has struggled to find anything to follow Eve Online, which isn't to say Eve Online hasn't been a great success. Launched in 2003, it's still going strong today, although Eve Online's heydays of headline-grabbing politicking and super-battles seem to be behind it.
There were forays into console development with DUST 514, an ambitious multiplayer shooter linked with the Eve Online universe, made by the Shanghai studio, but it failed to find much of an audience and was closed in 2015.
There have been efforts to fulfil this DUST 514 vision on the much freer and more powerful PC platform, but nothing ever seems to materialise. In 2014, CCP announced Project Legion, which presumably went on to become Project Nova, the shooter CCP still has in development, albeit now in cooperation with developer Sumo. In addition to Nova, CCP London is also working on an Unreal Engine 4-powered action MMO, although we don't know for which platforms nor when it will be out. We don't really know anything about it, nor about Nova.
CCP dabbled with a World of Darkness MMO for a number of years, too, but eventually cancelled plans and offloaded the White Wolf licence to Paradox in 2015.
Was CCP struggling before Pearl Abyss came along then? Perhaps, although $425m suggests otherwise, and Pétursson told VentureBeat CCP had $40m sat in the bank before Pearl Abyss came along (the deal is expected to close in October). Still, it's a surprise to see the stalwart, 21-year-old Eve developer bought by relative upstart Pearl Abyss, a company which has only made one game - not least because the Icelandic developer and its raucous Eve FanFest events exude independence.
But Pearl Abyss is evidently rolling in it. Black Desert Online's rise has been meteoric since its Korean launch in 2014, and European and American launch in 2016, and there are apparently more than 10 million people now registered to play - and as a buy-to-play game presumably a large portion of those have paid £8 or spent money in the game. Black Desert Online is good fun too, as I discovered a couple of years ago - and console and mobile versions are planned for release this year.
Whether there are other more private reasons behind the buyout I don't know, but there's no denying the financial clout and Eastern online expertise of Pearl Abyss will help CCP realise Project Nova and the action MMO as well as spread Eve Online further around the world. I expect Pearl Abyss will learn a great deal in return too. Whether Pearl Abyss will ever dare interfere beyond that, we'll have to wait and see.