CCP Games, an Icelandic game studio known for the long running EVE: Online MMO and their eager jump into and eventual backpedaling in the VR space, has been acquired by Korea-based developer Pearl Abyss, the studio behind the MMO Black Desert Online. The surprise acquisition, which cost Pearl Abyss $425 million, according to VentureBeat, combines two prominent MMO developers from two different sides of the globe.
While CCP Games was a pioneer in the VR space, having leapt into the medium with Gunjack (2015), Gunjack 2 (2016), EVE: Valkyrie (2016), and Sparc (2017), the storied studio is best known for EVE: Online, a non-VR sci-fi MMO that the company has been operating for more than 15 years.
Having such experience building the complex virtual world of EVE: Online, it made sense for CCP feel right at home building for the burgeoning VR medium. The company had jumped into VR feet first, beginning development on several large titles well before consumer VR headsets had begun shipping in earnest. In 2015, the company raised $30 million to support their VR development.
Unfortunately the company’s bullishness ultimately didn’t pan out; with VR seeing a much slower initial uptick than many had hoped, the studio wasn’t able to sustain a healthy playerbase in its multiplayer-focused VR titles. In 2017 CCP announced they’d have to step back from VR development—closing one office dedicated to VR and selling another—even while saying they continued to have faith in VR’s long term success. Despite the shuttered offices, EVE: Valkyrie and Sparc remain functional today.
The acquisition by Pearl Abyss joins two major MMO studios from very different parts of the world. The studio’s Black Desert Online, a third-person fantasy MMO, has grown in popularity since its 2014 launch; the company says the game has 10 million registered users.
Pearl Abyss went public on the Korean stock market in 2017, now with a $2.6 billion market cap, and since that time says it has “worked to secure competitive global IPs, such as EVE: Online, through strategic investments and M&A activity.”
“We are thrilled to have CCP Games join our team as Black Desert Online continues to branch out globally. CCP is a seasoned publisher with over 15 years of digital distribution experience and know-how,” said Pearl Abyss CEO Robin Jung as part of the announcement. “They have done an incredible job of engaging and maintaining their playerbase, which we aim to learn from and hope to integrate natively into Pearl Abyss’ general practices across all our games. I am confident CCP’s reputable IP and expertise in global publishing will help reaffirm our company’s dedication to developing and servicing the world’s best MMORPGs.”
“I have been seriously impressed with what Pearl Abyss has achieved ever since I first visited their website for Black Desert Online and subsequently became an avid player of the game,” said CCP Games CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson. “Pearl Abyss is a fast-growing company with lots to offer in terms of technology, capability and vision. I believe our two companies have a lot to learn from each other. We are very excited to join forces with them and achieve great new heights for our companies, our games and – above all – our players.
Considering the lengthy 21 year history of CCP Games, the acquisition comes as quite a surprise. It isn’t entirely clear if CCP Games was in need of a buyer after its big 2015 bet on VR content didn’t pan out, or if Pearl Abyss simply saw a strategic opportunity and was able to make an offer that CCP couldn’t refuse.
According to Pearl Abyss, CCP Games will “continue to operate independently as a developer with studios in Reykjavik, London and Shanghai, while integrating the company’s extensive development and publishing expertise into Pearl Abyss’ operations for all current and future projects.”