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EverQuest and PlanetSide developer is splitting into three new studios

The move leaves H1Z1 somewhat unaccounted for

Artwork from Everquest 2 Image: Daybreak Games
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

The company behind EverQuest, PlanetSide, DC Universe Online, and H1Z1, Daybreak Games, is making a big change. Rather than a single overarching studio, Daybreak will reorganize into three studios: Dimensional Ink Games, Darkpaw Games, and Rogue Planet Games. Daybreak will transition to a publisher.

The changes will push three different “franchise studios” to the fore. These studios’ efforts will focus on DC Universe Online and legacy franchises EverQuest and Planetside. Absent from those plans is the studio’s youngest franchise, H1Z1.

Newly-minted Dimensional Ink Games will be headed by chief executive officer Jack Emmert and based in Austin, Texas. The studio will focus on DC Universe Online and an unannounced new MMO project. Darkpaw Games, based in San Diego, California, will be led by executive producer Holly Longdale, and will maintain the EverQuest franchise and “the next innovation for the franchise.” Meanwhile, executive producer Andy Sites will be responsible for San Diego-based Rogue Planet Games and continue work on the Planetside franchise.

“By allowing the identities of each of these studios to thrive under their individual studios,” Daybreak said in a press release, “each team will have flexibility to continue their work developing current and upcoming games, recruiting new talent and building upon the legacy of their respective franchises.”

“Daybreak itself is going to remain a publisher,” Jack Emmert told Polygon in a phone interview, “but it’s really going to take a back seat and it’s no longer going to be centrally directing its game studios. Instead, we’re really trying to push responsibility for the franchises down to the developers who are most close to it and really kind of adopt this ‘franchise first’ philosophy.”

Emmert said that he and his team were excited about the course of DC Universe Online, a free-to-play MMO available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One. But, while Daybreak will remain the publisher of that game in perpetuity, he indicated his studio would be open to finding other partners to help bring its next game to life.

“I think the possibilities are endless for the upcoming MMO,” Emmert said. “We’re going to choose what we think is best for the franchise.”

The reorganization of Daybreak — formerly Sony Online Entertainment — conspicuously leaves the future of its H1Z1 franchise in limbo. Developed with the help of Brendan Greene, the creator of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, the game was an early darling of the survival multiplayer genre. Since that time it has broken into multiple games and rebranded itself several times. Recently its main component was handed off to an outside developer and renamed Z1 Battle Royale, only to be handed back about a month later.

Polygon inquired about the future of the zombie survival franchise, but was offered few details. Joy Fox, director of global communications, would only say that the franchise will “remain under the Daybreak umbrella.”

“We will continue to support H1Z1,” Fox continued, “At the moment we don’t have a studio.”

Pressed for more specifics, Fox could not say if more new content was on the way for Z1 Battle Royale. She also could not say if the game was at risk of being shut down.

“That’s still being evaluated,” Fox said.

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