Reading the other MMO news that came up at the same time as the New Dawn info. I see that the publisher of Ashes of Creation have opted for My.com (owned by Mail.ru in Russia) as the European distributor/host. This instantly reminded me of several hosting deal crises, most notably to me the ProSiebenSat fiasco that Sony Online Entertainment presided over back in 2012 (see how this deal started, was dialled back and then discarded).
I’m not saying that the same pattern will happen here, maybe SoE back then was a big enough player, with good enough lawyers, to get themselves out of a universally unpopular deal. The EU players then were already customers of SoE, so this felt like being “sold down the river”.
This case is different as the game isn’t due for launch till 2020, so it’s more a case of potential customers facing this deal. There were doubtless SoE customers who were very invested in their games and characters, for them the upheaval and the loss of direct service from the developer would be tolerable enough if the game was playable. For Intrepid, this deal comes at a time when they have no customers to speak off, so the sunk costs associated with MMOs (I’ve played it so long already) do not apply.
I have one major experience of this type of deal, I played Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online through Codemasters in Europe originally before these games were merged back into Turbine’s (now Standing Stone Games’) global service. The experience was one of distance to the ‘source’, slow updates and flow of news. The forums for the EU service were often ablaze with flame wars over delays to this patch or that announcement. In game things were fine, at least from my very limited perspective, although I don’t remember ever needing customer support to see how well it was handled.
These publishing/hosting deals are a necessary evil I suppose for smaller development companies. But some sensitivity and consultation with the playerbase in advance of deciding and announcing a partner would be wise, the reaction to this news is hardly surprising to anyone who has done even a cursory search of the history of such deals.