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‘Eve Online’ Creators on $425 Million Sale, Future of Game, Company

The nearly half-billion-dollar sale of ‘Eve Online’ developers CCP Games will help fuel growth of the company’s key 15-year-old franchise, empower new games and IP and could even reinvigorate a quest for a movie adaptation of the game, CCP CEO Hilmar Petursson tells Variety.

CCP Games was founded in 1997 and launched its first video game, space-opera massively multiplayer online game, in 2003.

Last week, Petursson told the hundreds of thousands of “Eve” players that “Black Desert Online” creators Pearl Abyss had purchased CCP. The $425 million sale is a combination of a $225 million upfront payment and up to $200 million in a deferred performance-based payout.

More importantly, the sale, which finalizes in October, allows CCP to retain independence and its internal structure. Petursson said that he is both contractually bound to stick around at the company and also wants to stay.

The sale, he said, is part of a shift in strategy CCP started near the end of 2017.

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“We decided that despite having a bit of success in VR, that the market didn’t bear more investment and I don’t think that’s going to change in the coming few years,” he said. “At least to the level we need it to for it to make good business sense.”

So the company stopped work on VR games and refocuses its efforts on core PC titles and initiated work on core games for the smartphone.

The company will continue to maintain, and even provide slight updates, for its existing VR titles including “Eve: Valkyrie” and “Gunjack 2.” But most of its efforts will go into a slew of in-development games like first-person “Eve Online” shooter “Project Nova,” a PC MMO and a smartphone real-time strategy games based in the “Eve” universe,  and a multiplayer game for the PC based on a new IP.

The decision to essentially shift from virtual reality to smartphone games was in part driven by an examination of what is happening in the rich gaming culture of South Korea which, Petursson believes, is an excellent predictor of what will take off in the West in half a decade or so.

“We didn’t initially feel that the mobile industry was quite there, but we’ve been keeping an eye on mobile trends in Korea and we’ve noticed that it has stepped up in terms of hardcoreness,” he said. “We see that trend coming West in the next three to five years. We made this decision to move into mobile game development due to those trends and the overall increase in the power of the handset and the maturing of the market. You can basically look at what’s going on in Korea and that will be a reality in the West in the coming five or so years.”

That, in part, explains why CCP decided to sell to Pearl Abyss, a South Korea game developer.

Petursson said the two companies got to know one another after CCP hired the Raine group to find potential investors for the company. The deal gives CCP better access to the lucrative Korean MMO gaming market and provides valued insight into maintaining an MMO over decades to the creators of fantasy MMO “Black Desert Online.”

Petursson was clear in speaking with Variety that a big part of CCP Games’ plans includes investing heavily in “Eve Online,” which has about 300,000 monthly active users. That investment, he said could include a major overhaul of the game’s underlying systems.

“We continue to have very ambitious plans for ‘Eve Online,’” he said. “This change, bringing another MMO developer on board, allows us to lean heavily into that.”

For the most part, the core aspects of “Eve Online,” which runs on an in-house game engine, hasn’t really been touched since its release. CCP did release an updated version of its graphics engine in 2007, but the core physics engine and distributed aspects of “Eve Online” remain the same as what was used when the game was launched 15 years ago, he said. So the team is talking about a complete overhaul of the game engine.

“If we are to really live up to the aspiration of having a game that goes on forever, of making plans for the third decade, we need to look at that,” he said.

While game development will continue to be a core element of CCP Games’ focus, Petursson, said that the infusion of cash could give the company a chance to take another look at trying to bring the stories of “Eve Online” to the big screen, something Petursson said he was surprised hadn’t happened yet.

“We found in the past that getting a project like that off the ground took a lot of effort and we couldn’t focus on that,” he said. “Who knows, we might have enough power now to get something done. I think it’s an excellent opportunity.”

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