Atari Going Casual: Cryptic For Sale

By John Walker on May 18th, 2011 at 4:22 pm.

Homeless.

It looks like Atari, recently the focus of negative attention after Test Drive Unlimited developer Eden Games went on strike due to their treatment, are looking to gather some more cash. Via PCG we see Gamespot spotted the news that the publisher is selling Cryptic, the studio behind Star Trek: Online and Champions: Online.

Cryptic hasn’t been making Atari money. Last year they lost them €12.6m, and this year a further €5.3m. But then releasing two whopping great MMOs will do that. So now they’re looking for a seller. The company statement said,

“In line with the previously stated strategy of fewer but more profitable releases and further expansion into casual online and mobile games, the company has determined that external development creates more flexibility in the changing marketplace. Therefore, the company has made the decision to divest itself from Cryptic Studios. The divestiture process is underway and more details will be provided as appropriate.”

Oh dear. The incantation has been spoken: “Casual online and mobile games”.

It seems that Cryptic don’t think this will affect their current games, but no one knows what’s happening with Neverwinter, their next planned release.

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35 Comments »

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  1. terry says:

    Atari are basically the games industry’s Montezuma – offer silk for spices, constantly repeal their open borders policy and then have the nerve to demand gold for their antiquated technologies.

    • BAReFOOt says:

      Antiquated you say?
      1. Make sure you are at peace.
      2. Build lots and lost of tanks.
      3. Build some more tanks.
      4. Invade!

      6. PROFIT!

  2. Jahkaivah says:

    How much is Cryptic? A game development studio could come in handy.

  3. Linfosoma says:

    Also, it looks like they are trying to reduce the staff of Eden games to 30 or so. Sad times, good luck to everyone involved.
    Source: http://www.bluesnews.com/s/121824/atari-dropping-cryptic

    • BAReFOOt says:

      Nah, good times. The fired people won’t simply sit at home and rust, like a unused bicycle.
      They will make a new company. Where they can make something good.

    • dadioflex says:

      And with Atari focusing on external development, ie funding independent developers so they can “take advantage” of their intellectual properties, they might still be getting paid by Atari to work 30 hour days, eight days a week and be happy about it because they’re independent.

  4. applecup says:

    Don’t Atari own the publishing rights for D&D anyway? Or has that changed again?

    • Bob Moron says:

      I remember reading somewhere that they own them until 2017.

    • Negativeland says:

      Nice. Exactly the property in dire need of “casual and mobile” games…

  5. Bob Moron says:

    They’re looking for a seller? Somehow I don’t know if that’s the way they should do this.

  6. Hunam says:

    I can’t imagine Atari is going to be around for too much longer now.

  7. Torgen says:

    Apparently, Cryptic was a huge hole filled with red ink from the time Atari bought them.

    What a shame.

    • Koozer says:

      Look at Cryptic’s numbers though. it’d be hilarious/tragic if they make a profit next near after Atari have sold them.

    • Torgen says:

      What numbers are you looking at? These are the ones I saw in the article:

      “The studio, which recently took Champions Online free-to-play, showed a €5.3 million ($7.5 million) loss for the 2010/11 fiscal year, up from a loss of €12.6 million ($17.9 million) the previous year.”

    • Loli Catgirl says:

      With the losses detailed you have to bear in mind the greater picture that they’re starting out in the hole of dev costs, roughly $30 million each for CO and STO if I recall from discussion on it elsewhere.

      With something that’s banking on subscriptions and microtransactions like this, the long-term will look much better if the current trend continues.

      Champions Online has been having an up-swing since it went free-to-play, and from personal experience I can say that the content in Champions has been vastly improved since launch, especially in regards to story elements/tying the arcs together. (Still missing all but aside/easter-eggy Mechanon stuff though for being Champions, but Mechanon is highly suggested to be central in the next major content update.)

      Cryptic really seems to be honestly trying to improve the games as a whole – and are involved deeply in the communities, which again in Champions is pleasingly all-around improvements and additions, and not just adding stuff to the cash shop like you’d see in most f2p games.

    • Deano2099 says:

      Aye, continuing at that rate, they’ll be profitable next year.

  8. DK says:

    That’s what happens when you hire only the people who fans and developers want to get rid of but who happen to have the rights to the name of the studio, while letting the actually good devs stay with their old project.

    And they then freaking hired Bill Roper and made him lead designer. After Hellgate.

    Let me repeat that: They hired Bill Roper, after Hellgate.

    • President Weasel says:

      If they’re looking for casual online games, surely Cryptic’s MMOs are exactly what they want? They’ve roughly as much depth as the film of oil on a shallow puddle (and about as much long-term entertainment value too). For a company that boasted that their proprietary technology (was it called the Not Very Good Engine? I can’t remember) could allow them to generate and populate an MMO world at a fraction of the cost of traditional MMO development, who sold expensive lifetime subscriptions, sold boxed copies, sold subscriptions, and sold micropayments at the same time to still manage to lose oodles of money is actually quite an achievement.

      If only they could have monetised mediocrity.

      Also: Bill Roper.

  9. Jumwa says:

    I want for Neverwinter to be great, but I have no particular faith in Cryptic (I disliked Champions, it was not a good game and did not live up to its promises of being the first truly action-MMORPG), this move only makes it worse, and I’m still scarred from the last title bearing the name, that is: Neverwinter Nights 2. *Shudder*

  10. Hodag says:

    Bill Roper and Jack “that isn’t possible due to the constraints of the engine” Emmert.

  11. Garg says:

    So whats going to happen to the Neverwinter Nights game Cryptic were working on?

    • Torgen says:

      The Gamasutra article says that development is continuing for now.

      Apparently, Atari told Cryptic they were being kicked to the curb effective March 31, and are just now announcing it.

  12. RakeShark says:

    This is sad, as I have a few friends that work at Cryptic, but not entirely unexpected.

    The employees were well aware of the Bill Roper factor, and while they hoped that “this time will be different” you could tell that there was a bit of uncertainty when they said that. However they will say that Roper was a pleasure to work with and he’s a great person, and I have no doubt he’s a wonderful individual to know and be a friend of. When Roper left, they didn’t feel so much betrayed or relieved as they felt like they’ve been cursed. Jack, on the other hand, is a much more mixed bag.

    They did do their damnedest to make STO a fun and enjoyable MMO. Just about the entire studio crammed their time to make it work, even pulling the Champions team over during the last 6 months of development and beta. Hell, San Jose got Star Trek fever due to Cryptic’s efforts, even getting the science museum to host a rather incredible Star Trek exhibit, even got to sit on Kirk’s captain’s chair. They really wanted STO to work, because Neverwinter was the hushed “secret next project” they REALLY wanted to work on.

    The Cryptic guys really do have potential and talent, but I’d say their efforts are squandered on MMOs, as lightning rarely strikes twice in that genre. I do think they need better leadership, and whoever buys them better shave off the top rather than gut the bottom of the company. Because if they want Neverwinter to see the light of day AND do well, they need someone new who both knows what kind of game they want to make, and help them make the game they want to make.

    If anything, this is a sign of the times: The MMO Dream is one hell of a nightmare.

    • TsunamiWombat says:

      Champions Online simply didn’t do as well as CoH, not due to a failure of mechanics but more due to a failure of the setting and writing, I feel- good god the writing in that game is horrible. It makes super punching a zombie and sending it flying feel….stupid.

      Admittedly it probably is, but I shouldn’t FEEL like that. CoH had good mechanics but poor aesthetic.

      Meanwhile STO was pretty much dropped on Cryptic with little warning, at the last minute, and they had to crunch to hell to make it. STO’s failure wasn’t their fault, it was the fault of corporate mismanagement and the countinue “Chasing the Dragon” pipe dream of the subscription MMO community- everyone wants that phat WoW cash, not realizing, ONLY WOW GETS WOW CASH. So time and time and time and time again we see MMO’s trying to replicate it’s success, fail. And the corporate big wigs -never fucking get it-. No matter how many companies go under or are destroyed. They NEVER GET THAT TRADITIONAL MMO’S AREN’T WORTH THE FINANCIAL RISK. (PS: GuildWars2 ftw)

      I feel sorry for Cryptic, I really do. Talented people screwed over, mostly by management – though won’t deny Champions had some definate flaws. I’m still not sure why they felt the need to use a a cult/little known source material and rope themselves to it., and then make the cheesiest game to ever grill into a failure sandwhich. STO, however, totally not their fault.

    • dadioflex says:

      Writing? Hmm, maybe THAT was it. The brief time I played CO I never felt like there was a real story arc going on, just a bunch of unlikely scenarios cobbled together.

    • bob_d says:

      Cryptic really didn’t get the time they needed to deliver a good MMO – either for Champions or STO. They were especially screwed with STO, though, given that they were also trying to make it work with an engine that wasn’t designed to do a space game.
      It’ll be interesting to see what their next projects are like (assuming they survive), as the company strategy now requires that they take even less time to make a game. They won’t be making any MMOs with their new constraints, but some sort of smaller-scale multiplayer games. Given the unreasonable player expectations with MMOs, I also wonder how people will respond.

      @ TsunamiWombat: Thankfully I think by this point just about everyone has no gotten the memo that only WoW gets the WoW cash. Unfortunately, now everyone is trying to grab the Zynga cash.

  13. Felixader says:

    Hey those guys have lost us money. Please buy them.

    Smooth thinking Atari.

    • Warskull says:

      Someone bought APB, a disaster that destroyed Realtime Worlds. If the price is low enough someone will buy Cryptic. Worst case, you fire everyone but a skeleton staff and just milk the micropayment money until it is profitable. The worst expenses are already paid for by Atari, so you get the studio cheap enough and can be profitable.

  14. mmalove says:

    I’m confused that the adjective “great” was used to describe Star Trek Online and Champions. Also, screw Bill Roper and all his ilk. Any company that walks out on its customers the way flagship studios did deserves exactly this.

  15. GCU Speak Softly says:

    Would making ST:O f2p make as much money as D&D:O or LotRO did for Turbine?

    • DK says:

      Very likely – Champions going Free to Play was a huge success according to them. Just not huge enough to offset the downright insane starting investment (what with buying a license barely anyone had heard of at all, hiring big name devs no one had anything good to say about anymore, etc.)

      A shame too since STO is rather awesome by now, but the way they handled the free to play model in champions (you are utterly useless if you don’t pay – a LOT) I fear they’ll kill STO with it.