Here's another of those stories we should have posted about a little earlier, but we were too busy trying on each other's clothes and saying how nice we looked. In a fair old shocker of a move, Infogrames-In-Disguise announced yesterday that they'd scooped up Cryptic Studios, the MMO outfit behind City of Heroes, Champions Online and Star Trek Online. It was a weird, and possibly kinda sad, thing to hear about a developer who've been famously independent - so much so that in parting ways with ncSoft they lost control of the august City of Heroes.
The price of Cryptic was, according to Gamasutra, " $28 million and up to $20 million in sales-related incentive." Happily, all 150 of its staff get to keep their jobs.
The big question is what happens to Champions, which was formerly signed up to be published by Take-Two-In-Disguise. Chatting to Ten Ton Hammer, Cryptic head fella Jack Emmert takes the fifth: "I can’t really comment one way or another on that at this point." Well, boo. I suspect it's a behind the scenes red tape nightmare, but he does repeatedly mention that Cryptic's new owners will be stumping up backing for the superheroic MMO. Tragically, he also seems to believe Infogrames-In-Disguise are Actual Atari:
I wanted to be part of the team that made Atari a namesake just like it was for me. I don’t think there’s anyone in the video game industry today that doesn’t look back at their Atari and remember Adventure, remember Pac-man, remember Warlords or Pitfall or any of the other titles. That’s really where most of us got our start.
Erk. How do we break the news to him?
More interestingly, he references Infogrames-In-Disguise's tight grip on the Dungeons & Dragon license, and how he'd love to make a D&D MMO. D&D Online is still alive to the best of my knowledge, and even saw a new update in November. The fact its US servers have dropped from 14 to 5 since release suggests it's not doing terribly well, though. Perhaps Cryptic will be tasked with coming up with a new, superior D&D/AD&D game, in much the same way as Bioware are aiming to get the bad taste of Galaxies out of our delicate mouths with The Old Republic. They've also got Star Trek, of course, which has the potential to be phenomenonally big deal if the new movie's a hit - and could well be one of Infogrames-In-Disguise's main hunger for that sweet Cryptic booty. Beyond that, there's a mysterious third project, though presumably I-I-D could can it and stick Cryptic on something else if they so desired.
Interesting times. Every publisher wants a big MMO under its belt at the moment, even if the lessons of Conan & Tabula Rasa - and, potentially, WAR. Those servers sure are quiet, huh? - have been particularly hard ones. I do hope Cryptic aren't too compromised by this. Oh, and Emmert jokes about making a Godzilla MMO in the Ten Ton Hammer interview. Dude - make a Godzilla MMO.