Cryptic Acquired By Perfect World

May 31, 2011

Merely a couple weeks ago, I wrote a post about what I thought of Atari’s decision to sell Cryptic, and held out hope that the developer would eventually find a good place to call home. Turns out we didn’t have to wait for long; today the news came out that Perfect World has acquired Cryptic.

Thought I’d throw in my two cents again, seeing as how a great many responses have already surfaced, ranging from those who are sure this deal will spell nothing but doom, to those who are positively ecstatic — one more opinion couldn’t possibly hurt. First of all, I’ll admit that I’m only mildly familiar with Perfect World as a company. I’ve never played any of their games, and much of what I’ve heard about their business practices comes from second hand knowledge — such as their “Asian grinder” stereotype and inclination towards free-to-play and cash shops…but to be fair, also the fact they purchased Runic Games last year and for the most part have left it alone.

To be honest, none of that really means squat to me, because my gut already says Perfect World will likely take a similar “hands-off” approach when it comes to Cryptic. That is, if this purchase was indeed a “strategic acquisition” and their opportunity to “further penetrate into the U.S. and global online game markets”…well, if that’s true, then it just wouldn’t make much sense for them to turn right around and screw with Cryptic’s games. I think to do so would be highly illogical, to quote our favorite pointy-eared friend.

Speaking of which, my interest in all this is, of course, because of Star Trek Online. Ever since Champions Online went free-to-play, there has been speculation on whether or not it’s Cryptic’s “F2P experiment”, and that maybe STO will soon follow. Given how long it’s been on players’ radar screens, if the game does go down that route, I can’t say it’ll be a shocker. My guess, however, is that the decision will come more from within Cryptic, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it ultimately gets attributed to the new ownership. How that situation might be handled, though, is also up for speculation. Regardless, it’s way too early to say whether or not this will affect my sub. Way, way too early to say this acquisition is “definitely good” or “definitely bad”, really.

At least now Cryptic has a home and a more stable source of funds and resources at their disposal to continue work on their games. I predict things should be business-as-usual for the foreseeable future. Sure, I could be wrong, but like Blue Kae I’m willing to sit back to wait and see before I tear out my hair and run screaming down the street panicking.

Yep, cautiously optimistic. That’s me, too.


  1. I’m glad to hear that Cryptic has a new home. I don’t think STO will ever go F2P mostly because I think they need to keep some kind of revenue going to pay for the license from CBS. That’s just my thought though. I think CBS has a lot of a say regarding what Cryptic does with STO.

    • That’s true, just from past experience it seems CBS has a lot more power in this relationship. I know many of the designs and decisions pertaining to the game has to go through them first, but I wonder how much they get a say in the business model. Hmm, I never thought of it this way until now, but while CBS can be a hindrance to STO sometimes, in a situation like this they may be the biggest factor in helping maintain the status quo.

      • But CBS has surprised us so far with the game. We got unlimited race creation, and now player driven content – two things that were never really expected. Somehow in the last year or two, SW and ST have swapped roles. Now its SW EU stuff thats getting the slap down and ST EU stuff thats getting green lit all over the place.

        Also, Cryptics revenue jumped $10m this past year with Champs going F2P. That’s a stellar endorsement for doing the same with STO.

  2. I completely agree, in the short term nothing is likely to change much. In the longer term, whether STO goes FtP or not depends largely on Cryptic. I doubt their new overlords will force it on them.

    I also personally think that CO went with a sub par FtP model. Being limited to builds that are weaker than the best custom builds…forever…no matter how much money you are willing to dump into your FtP account … seems like a mistake to me.

    They have not backed off of that since FtP launched, and I suspect that they are not seeing the returns from FtP they could as a result. To get back on target with the discussion suggested by your post, I doubt Cryptic is seeing a lot more mean income per user (in fact likely a hell of a lot less) in CO than they did before they went FtP.

    I doubt they will go FtP very soon in STO. Having tested the waters with a flawed approach in CO, they will likely have little stomach for trying it again in STO. If I am wrong, it will prove well and truly that hybrid FtP games are more profitable than pure sub based games…at least at scales smaller than WoW.

    • I agree with you, personally. Since seeing the success of the feature episodes, I think Cryptic’s got a good thing going with STO; I don’t think it’s quite yet time to go F2P. Still, you just never know these days…I figure if they do, they’ll probably try something else different from CO. The way STO’s set up gives them a lot more to play around with. Cryptic would know best to make the call, which is I think whether or not it goes F2P in the end will depend on them.

  3. I have mixed feelings about Cryptic as a dev for a few reasons I don’t really need to dredge up on your blog. Well, if you insist! 😉 Lifetime Champions sub (yeah yeah I know) and bought Trek at launch only to end up very disappointed in a few decisions that I felt really lessened the potential of the game (and my enjoyment). However, I am really anxious to see what Cryptic does with their current project Neverwinter. I really hope this project sees the light of day. Maybe the third time’s a charm! I just hope the new owner is a good fit for them. Let’s face it, Cryptic needs a solid performer and if Neverwinter gets rushed (as I feel the previous titles have been) well…

    • Oh no worries, trust me, I would be the first to bitch at Cryptic for the way STO was when it first launched! 😛 It wasn’t a terrible game then, but it certainly didn’t feel finished, no matter which way I looked it. Still, STO has come a long way, which shows me that given enough time and resources, the company and the game can indeed reach its potential. From the frequent updates and Q&As they put out now, it’s like they know the game needs work and they’re putting a lot of effort into improving it, so that’s always a point in my book.

      Good point about Neverwinter. Still no word on how that IP’s going to be handled, whether or not it’s retained by Atari. If it is, I don’t see how Cryptic can keep working on the game. I really hope for the best as well, because I’ve been excited since I first heard about it too 😀

  4. On the other hand, didn’t Emmert himself say they learned their lesson, that MMOs can’t be churned out and succeed in that state, and their future games (starting with Neverwinter) would launch with more effort put in? The proof will be in the pudding, but Neverwinter’s been going awhile now and we still don’t know much other than it’s a 5-player co-op RPG (not an MMO) and it will use the Foundry for player-created content. By this time in Champion’s development, didn’t you guys know more about the game?

    As an aside, I never liked CoH so avoided Champions like the plague but after finally trying it a few months ago, I do really enjoy it for what it is. And from what I hear, even though the Archetypes aren’t “uber” for PvE they do work well enough even through whatever the “end game” is, but it does seem Archetypes are popular for PvP since they’re more “balanced” than going up against someone’s uber build and not having a chance. Or something.

    I figure Cryptic could have just stayed on course and kept churning out sub-par MMO after sub-par MMO but at least they seem to be making an effort at improving themselves and trying new things. The new STO team has impressed the hell out of me not only from the changes and updates they put out but also the transparency and communication to the players. Champions seems to be keying up for new content and updates as well.

    • Oh, I freakin’ hope so. STO was definitely rushed and it was obvious, and now given Emmert’s own words, Neverwinter has the chance to be something great and I really pray that development on the project will continue as planned.

      I didn’t really play CO until after it went F2P either. I mean, I tried at release, but had to unfortunately unsub and uninstall because the game simply did not agree with my old computer. Didn’t have the opportunity to pick it up again until a few months ago, like you. The improvements since launch have been great, just like STO. Cryptic continues to impress me in this area, and like you mentioned, the fact that they keep the playerbase up-to-date with frequent Q&As and news updates on top of new game content. Rushed development and subpar quality pisses me off just like anyone else, but I find I’m a lot more lenient when I see improvement over time, which is what the STO team is delivering in droves. Especially since I really can’t bring myself to put 100% of the blame on Cryptic for rushing the game out the door, as I’m sure it had a lot to do with the powers that be higher up as well.

  5. The only problem with “business as usual” is that, and correct me if I have this wrong, didn’t Cryptic lose millions of dollars last year? And even more the year before?

    Perhaps they have a business plan that demonstrated to Perfect World how that curve will continue to profitability; if so then yes, it’ll probably be business as usual. But if not, then Perfect World will have to change something in order to help Cryptic turn things around.

    It may be that just opening distribution in China is enough to do that, particularly with CO which is already FtP. In order to bring STO to China they’d have to convert it to FtP (for the Chinese version) and re-negotiate the rights with CBS/Paramount.

    So my guess then, is that they’ll bring CO to Asia and leave STO alone.

    • Or you could look at it as they halved the amount they lost from one year to the next and possibly they can be at break even or profitable in another year. Plus they have only have two games of three (four?) producing revenue. If NWN comes out this year like their teaser site says, they could become profitable even sooner.

    • I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point they begin to put together plans to bring CO or STO over to the Asian market. Seems like their aim is to try and get a piece of NA with this acquisition though, and like Kae has already mentioned, Cryptic could be in the process of turning around already. I actually don’t think they are doing too bad…relatively.

  6. I think that’s good for them, i always hate to see a company crap out when they’re actually making a game that DOESNT really suck, but doesnt really max out it’s potential. I like STO a bunch even if i only played it for a little bit, i just couldnt stand to play it knowing that it could’ve been so much better later on down the line and i just felt there wasnt really much there to play for after a short while.

    I mean, when i think about SWTOR, i can already see 5 different crafting professions to work on, side missions, space missions, and of course quests, and end game, and pvp to look forward to, i dont think i’ll ever run out of things to do.

    When i played STO, i just had the monotonous quests and missions, it was fun the first few times i did them and people would be there in their ships and such, but the communication was sparse, and pvp space AND ground just werent fun to me, i couldnt imagine playing it long term, which to me is why it’s PERFECT to go F2P.

    Let’s face it, between everything in the c-store, uniforms, ships, BO’s? I think cryptic could make enough money and bring a large base of people into playing the game……i just can’t see paying $15 for a luxury “side game” that isnt going to occupy my time or really keep me interested for more than 2 hours.

    • First let me say that I have not payed 15$ in a long time. Go to amazon/steam whatever when the have
      STO on a “fire sale” and buy a copy for 3$. Add the key to your account and enjoy another free month.
      Sometimes you get even extra 500 “atari” points with it(-> last steam deal), so basically the
      pay you to play…. =)

      Well I have mixed feelings about Perfect World. It is true that the last missions are much much better
      then anything we have seen at the beginning. Maybe the can even change the ground combat in way that
      is more enjoyable in the next 2 month.

      However games from perfect world are more so lala. I really hope the stay out of the game, if the go F2P and keep the last quality lvl from sto, more power to them.

      • Speaking of which, I actually took advantage of that Steam sale last weekend. Loved the exclusives, loved the 500 points, but all that’s just gravy when considering the free 30 days that came with the purchase. To me, it’s like having a super discount on my sub for a month!

        I hear a ground combat overhaul is on the way, along with cool features like duty officers, etc. That and a new season and more featured episodes being planned. Seems like Cryptic has a lot on their plate these days.

    • I know what you mean. I remember those days too, the repetition getting to me and practically every mission playing out like another. I think that’s one of their motivations for reworking some of the classic missions, especially seeing the positive reaction to their weekly feature episodes. I’ll confess, I’ve wished for STO to go F2P before, especially given the way I play the game. It’s the perfect casual MMO for me, and admittedly I don’t log in as often as I’d like, considering my sub.

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