Earlier this year, Atari revealed plans to sell off MMO maker Cryptic Studios, developers of Star Trek Online, Champions Online, and the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons MMORPG, Neverwinter. Now, after several months of paper signing, haggling, and grinding, the buyer, Chinese developer Perfect World International, has closed the deal. Cryptic was sold for $49.8 million, $30 million of which will go towards paying off Atari’s debts to BlueBay Credit, with the remaining being spent investing on the publisher’s latest focus: social and mobile games.
Cryptic has since confirmed that they’re going to continue operations on their currently released and upcoming games, though we expect big changes in the near future, especially for Star Trek Online. Cryptic’s space-based MMO is still clinging to a monthly subscription plan, asking for either $15/month or $299 for a lifetime of play. Seeing as Perfect World’s focus is free-to-play games, we’d be absolutely shocked if we didn’t hear something in the future about the developer offering a free option.
Whether or not it will go full-blown F2P or employ a hybrid model is another question. Odds are they’ll use a pay model similar to the one employed by Champions Online, which moved to free-to-play in January of this year. With this model, players can enjoy the full MMO experience from beginning to end without paying any money, but are offered the option of subscribing to a monthly fee for “premium benefits.” Players are also able to use “Atari Tokens” (a name we expect to be changed very soon) to purchase additional content, a convenience Star Trek Online actually already employs. This system would likely make the most sense for Perfect World and Cryptic, as it would fit into the developer’s structure without burning those who paid nearly $300 for a lifetime membership.
Also questionable is the future of Neverwinter, a game being developed with the Dungeons & Dragons license—a license Atari still holds. Atari might just co-publish the game, as has happened in the past with other developers that have been sold mid-development, but that’s just one possible solution. With Gamescom just on the horizon we expect to hear more very soon.
Aug 10, 2011