As most players who have been in the game for more than a few months will know, MindArk started setting up the sale of Planet Calypso a few years ago. This seemed to be a good thing, as it completely separated the company running the Entropia Universe platform from their clients, the Planet Partners. Background of the Planet Calypso sale The first step in this direction was splitting up the MindArk team into the platform team (continuing under the name MindArk PE AB), and the team managing Planet Calypso, which continued as "First Planet Company AB" or FPC for short. This split occurred in January 2008. While FPC was mainly made up of old-MindArkians (including former MindArk CIO Marco Behrmann and Marketing Associate Frank Campbell, as well as various artists), who were still located in the same building as their former colleagues, it was a start on ensuring that Calypso would become a planet run by a company that was not intimately connected to MindArk. The second step in the separation process came in October 2008 when MindArk announced that Planet Calypso would now be fully operated and designed by FPC. ROCKtropia - Apparently not able to access all existing systems In April 2010, ROCKtropia launched as the first planet run by an independent company. NEVERDIE Studios, according to their CEO and spokesperson Jon 'NEVERDIE' Jacobs, did not have full access to all Entropia systems, and thus were unable to launch their planet offering the same functionality as Calypso. Source: http://www.neverdie.com/neverdie-studio-news/6817-may-20011-q.html Questions about the equality of Planet Partners This was the first occasion where questions were raised on whether a MindArk subsidiary controlling Planet Calypso did not pose a conflict of interest in regards to the other Planet Partners. After all, if ROCKtropia/NEVERDIE Studios would want to get specific functionality changed, they would have to wait until Sweden's offices opened up, whereas the Calypso team could simply head to the adjacent MindArk offices and get changes done (which, we will see later actually happens). At the same time, not only is there the time difference, but apparently, functionality that was existing and available on Calypso (after all, Calypso has long had the option of seeing mobs spawn and a crafting/tailoring system) was not immediately made available to other Planet Partners, thus putting the other Planet Partners at a disadvantage. Again, this is also still taking place, as we will see with the discussion about beacons/instances. (Note that we have no possble way to verify whether the claims made by NEVERDIE were accurate. We merely have his word to go on in case of the systems not being available). Background of the Planet Calypso sale - Continued Then, in June 2010, the MindArk 2009 Financial Report confirmed that First Planet Calypso was intended to be sold off to a third party. The following quote is a translation from Swedish to English by Google Translate: Source: MindArk Financial yearly report - 2009. Page 6, 7 - Paragraph 4 under Kassaflöde och likviditet. (translated by Google Translate from Swedish). In October 2010, MindArk published its Semi-Annual Report for Jan - Jun 2010, in which the intention to sell off Planet Calypso for approximately 6 million USD was stated again: Source: Semi-Annual Report January – June 2010. Planet Calypso sold to SEE December 2010 - Thorough searching allowed EntropiaPlanets to be the first to break the news that it was SEE Digital Studios who purchased planet Calypso. In January 2011, it became official. First Planet Company, and all its IP, including Planet Calypso, had been bought by SEE Virtual Worlds, and would be rebranded into See Digital Studios (SDS). Entropia Space May 12th, MindArk released a short statement announcing space. It was an introduction note meant to put Space on the map, but did not contain any further specifications of exactly what would be in store. Arkadia joins Entropia Universe May 25, 2011, Planet Arkadia was launched. Planet Arkadia had been announced first on EntropiaPlanets by David Dobson back in November 2010, and was highly anticipated by a large number of players, as the Arkadia team, since announcing the planet, had taken a highly communicative and professional approach to their Planet. They provided a well-thought out storyline, and actively and regularly interacted with the playerbase, while openly answering even the tough questions. All in all, it promised to become a highly succesful planet, including the introduction of a unique treasure hunting system, and refreshing new marketing efforts in order to attract new players. Indeed, when it launched, lots of players, including a large number of former players who had ceased playing, took the trip to Arkadia to see what the team had in store for them. On the first day after its launch, Arkadia in fact outperformed Calypso in many ways, including globals scored. Projection of the first day global numbers for a whole month would have placed Arkadia either at the same level, or beyond that of Calypso. Entropia Space - PVP June 8, 2011, less than 2 weeks after Arkadia launched, MindArk let the cat out of the bag for what was due with the arrival of space, namely full PVP in the entire universe, as well as removal of the planet-to-planet Teleporters offered until then (for a fee of 40 PED - which ensured safe passage to other planets). Source: http://www.entropiauniverse.com/bulletin/buzz/ - June 8th: Space is Imminent (Initially, the bit about teleporters read: "The space will connect all planets in one universe and you can choose to travel between them in space ships instead of using teleportation." This was later on corrected to the above to avoid confusion). Essentially, this meant that the safe and easy way of exploring new planets would cease, and that it would become risky business to actually pack up and move shop to a new planet you wished to call home. Termination of partnership with SEE A few days later, a new announcement on the MindArk site quietly stated that SEE and MindArk had ceased their Partnership, and that Planet Calypso was once again run by MindArk: Source: http://www.mindark.com/partners/ What is significant in this is that the ties between MindArk and SEE had been broken months prior to the announcement, but it was only published at this time. According to SEE CEO Martin Biallas, SEE decided to cease the partnership with MindArk as early as March 2011. The three months in between MindArk obviously was aware of the decision, but decided not to come out with the news. So for several months, MindArk had already, quietly, been operating Planet Calypso, or knew it would be operating Planet Calypso, but decided not to inform the Calypso customers (players), or its partners. While already armed with that knowledge, it seemed at the same time, they were putting in place an infrastructure (space) that would heavily favor planets with a fully working economy and undoubtedly be most beneficial towards planets with a large existing user base (in this case, essentially Planet Calypso). The same day, more references were made towards the upcoming termination of the teleporters as a means of safe travel. MindArk also ensured that auction systems would be completely separated with the new introduction of space. Source: http://www.entropiauniverse.com/bulletin/buzz/ - June 16th: Important Changes. At this time, lots of people started traveling back to Calypso, afraid they would miss out on an opportunity to sell their loot. After all, Calypso still had the larger part of the playerbase, and thus it would by far be easier to sell goods there. And with the 20th being the actual date of implementation of space, many took the opportunity to jump back with all of their inventory using the non-PVP teleporter. Shortly after that news Entropia Space was released on June 20th. The effect of Space on Arkadia This graph, taken from EntropiaTracker shows the situation before and after the launch of space. The picture cannot solely be explained by the introduction as space, as a lot of people undoubtedly dropped by just to check the new planet out and ended up going back after the novelty wore off. It would be safe to assume that the prospect of lootable space and the implied risk of losing all one's stackable items formed a major reason for people to use the safe option while it existed, and lso while they had a chance to safely transfer back to the one planet with a proven working economy. Further questions about the equality of Planet Partners Knowing all of the above, the question arises whether or not the specific way that space was implemented (which seems to favor Planet Calypso) was a move that existing and upcoming Planet Partners were aware of when they signed up to launch their planets in Entropia Universe. Also, whether the specific implementation was an intentional move made by MindArk in order to provide Planet Calypso with a significant advantage over the newer planets, who apparently see numbers of new players attracted by their marketing efforts pack up to Planet Calypso because it is easier to sell their loot there. Back to MindArk running Planet Calypso If you recall earlier in the article, we brought up the fact that there might be an issue with Planet Calypso being run by MindArk itself, as the MindArk staff has easier access to their own systems. This question was not only raised early on when ROCKtropia launched, but it still remains an open issue, and there obviously has not been any action taken by MindArk on it, as the screenshot below demonstrates (Kim | MindArk is in fact Kim Welter Timkrans, son of former MindArk CEO and main share holder of MindArk Jan Welter Timkrans. Kim currently heads the production of Planet Calypso). Source: http://www.entropiaforum.com/forum/ask-mindark/201627-does-all-planet-partners-have-same-rights-calypso.html Note that in the screenshot above, Kim mentions that all Planet Partners work with the same tools. However, this apparently does not apply to the beacons/instances tools (for those who have not heard of them, beacons were a form of instance where a small team would go into a private environment to battle robots). After the re-launch of Entropia Universe using CryEngine, beacons were unavailable. However, they recently were reintroduced to the universe. Beacons were announced by MindArk posting a trailer video on Planet Calypso Forum. When participants asked whether other Planet Partners would have these instancing options as well, Kim replied: Source: http://www.planetcalypsoforum.com/forums/showthread.php?219552-Robot-Beacon-Preview-Video/page3 So the statement from before, that all tools are available to all Planet Partners was either not entirely true, or MindArk somehow made an exception for the highly anticipated beacons/instance system by letting Planet Calypso be the only one to be able to use it (which provides Planet Calypso again with a big advantage). New systems tend to pull in large numbers of people, and an announcement like this alone would lead to players moving from another planet to Calypso. NEVERDIE went into a bit more detail on his forum: Source: http://www.neverdie.com/general-rocktropia-chat/10259-beacons-rt.html#post36080 David Dobson also referenced it during his interview on Atlas Haven Radio: Source: The 2nd AHR interview when answering a question (Roughly at 1:26:00). In short, not only do the Calypso participants get to perform a test, the system will also just be offered on the one planet Mindark still is intimately involved in. (The test did not go as well as planned, but MindArk neglected to announce this, other than by casually mentioning it in the game to those who happened to be in the right place at the right time. It was left up to players to actually communicate this to other players). Land deeds Lastly, there is the matter of the Calypso Land Deeds, where participants can buy a share of the Calypso revenue. This is essentially a relisting of Planet Calypso to a new party after the deal with SEE did not work out. The basic gist of the program is that 60,000 deeds of ownership of Planet Calypso are sold, at 1,000 PED (or 100 USD) a piece. Some quick calculation shows that 60,000 * $100 places the total amount at $6,000,000 which is the exact same amount that SEE was to pay earlier. In exchange, owners of the deeds will receive a payout (or dividend) consisting of a part (50%) of the gross revenue of Planet Calypso, as well as voting rights (when introduced), and the ability to claim a piece of land on Planet Calypso (for instance for building property on) when that system will be introduced. It might be worth mentioning that the Planet Partners receive 50% of the total revenue from a planet. The other 50% goes directly to MindArk for providing the platform service, unless a Planet Partner made arrangements to increase their take of the revenue. This system was first announced by means of a press release, which, apparently, is also how the Planet Partners learned about its existence. The immediate question that arises is whether this is another 'exclusive' to Planet Calypso, or whether any Planet Partner would at some point be able to launch a similar venture. David Simmonds, current CEO of MindArk, clarifies: This reads as if in due time it will be made available to every Partner, but is rather vague about what criteria should be met. In any case, it sounds very similar to the statements made by MindArk about when/how much land a Planet Partner is allowed to release, where they answered that land can be released based on the amount of participants for a Planet Partner (you will have to excuse the lack of a screenshot, as I really do not recall where/when I read that). With that in mind, though, after that was said in the past, players were quick to point out that on Planet Calypso, the amount of land areas that were sold off (for typically thousands of real dollars) does seem to be excessive considering the actual playing population on Calypso. It would be interesting to hear whether Planet Partners themselves would have been informed in actual numbers as to how many participants they need on their planet to initiate land area sales or the citizenship program. Lastly, apparently the Planet Calypso citizenship news is worthy of a graphical side-banner on the Entropia Universe website. Nothing launched by the other Planet Partners, including NEVERDIE Studios’ Hunt The Thing game was given the same treatment. Source: www.entropiauniverse.com We hope that this long post serves to show that despite MindArk's best claims that there is no preferential treatment going on in their universe, there certainly is room for questions as to whether this is entirely accurate or not. If the conclusion would be that there does seem to be a difference between Planet Partners, the logical next question would be whether this is done intentional or a mere byproduct of trying to fit multiple differently themed Planets into the same Entropia Universe platform. We have attempted to highlight some of the questions, without attempting to answer them. We tried presenting our evidence in an objective way, and we will let you, the reader, form your own opinion and draw your own conclusions based on it.