Published October 5, 2018
Pearl Abyss, the company behind the massively multiplayer online role-playing game ‘Black Desert Online,’ has bought the Icelandic gaming company CCP for almost half a billion U.S. dollars. Fans of the company’s popular and long-running ‘EVE Online’ game need not worry; according to a press release CCP has contractually guaranteed independence. The company will maintain its existing structure and continue its operations in Reykjavík, London, and Shanghai. Korea-based Pearl Abyss is a much younger company and wants to integrate the CCP studio’s experience and expertise in publishing and development into its current and future projects.
CCP Games was founded over twenty years ago and first launched ‘EVE Online’ in 2003, predating much of the internet as we know it now. It is older than the iPhone you may be reading this on, and Facebook, where you may have seen this posted. The massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) game is set in space. It is a shared, persistent world game, meaning all players are in the same world and time continues when individuals sign-off. It has around 300,000 active monthly users—close to Iceland’s actual population. ‘EVE’ is well-known for its detail, complexity and scale, and has consistently been one of the most popular games of its type.
Full of praise
In typical corporate public relations style, the press release announcing the buyout was full of praise from all corners. The CEO of Pearl Abyss, Robin Jung, hailed CCP’s success with ‘EVE and believes its expertise can help them build on the success it has had with ‘Black Desert.’ Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, the CEO of CCP, also had kind words for his new corporate masters. He fawned over the company’s website and noted that he is an avid player. CCP’s lead investor and chair of the board said, in part, “for over 13 years alongside General Catalyst and NEA, we’ve seen CCP go from being a few dozen people strong to employing hundreds all over the world, with an ever-increasing customer base and multiple titles.” While Hilmar is contractually required to stay on at the company, he indicated he would have stayed without the clause.
Hilmar told Hollywood industry paper Variety that the infusion of cash will allow the studio to improve the game and possibly pursue partners for a film deal. Like many before them, ‘EVE’ fans have expressed interest in a film and rumours appear online occasionally. The success of other games-to-films is not encouraging. ‘Assassin’s Creed,’ ‘World of Warcraft,’ and most recently ‘Tomb Raider’ have had little success. Online popularity and profitability have not transferred to the big screen. Hilmar might want to look elsewhere. Netflix, for example, has money to burn.
Hilmar thinks Korea is an excellent bellwether. New technologies are quickly adopted in Korea and the trend there has been toward mobile gaming. CCP is planning to use the new capital to develop a mobile real-time strategy, first-person shooter, and other versions of ‘EVE’ in the coming years. The money and talents from a newer game will allow CCP to spend the considerable time and effort updating ‘EVE.’
CCP Games has been the only Icelandic studio to enjoy relative longevity. Not all gaming companies have been so fortunate. Plain Vanilla was once the darling of the local tech scene, but shut down two years ago, after the initial success of their mobile quiz app ‘QuizUp.’
The recent report from the Icelandic Chamber of Commerce warned that the economy needs to be diversified to keep talent in the country and better withstand crises. Unlike many other developed countries—particularly other Nordic states—the Icelandic state has not invested in technology, instead focusing on heavy industry and fisheries. The younger generations, however, are well-educated and have little interest in working in those sectors. To prevent a brain-drain, the state needs to support high-tech industries. Iceland is a lonely island for CCP.