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Sony hurls Online Entertainment from the mothership

EverQuest maker says: Insert coin, please ... please

In an unexpected move, Sony has sold off its gaming division Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) – which was responsible for the pioneering massively multiplayer online (MMO) role-playing game EverQuest among other titles.

On Monday, SOE announced that it had been acquired by Columbus Nova, a New York–based investment firm, for an undisclosed sum.

SOE was founded in 1998 and launched EverQuest the following year. By 2004, the game boasted around 500,000 subscribers.

Under the terms of the deal with Columbus Nova, SOE will continue to operate as an independent game development studio under a new name, Daybreak Gaming Company.

In addition to EverQuest, SOE developed a number of other successful MMO titles, including the sci-fi shooter PlanetSide, the zombie survival game H1Z1, and the superhero game DC Universe Online – all of which will reportedly continue under the Daybreak brand.

"We are excited to join Columbus Nova's impressive roster of companies," John Smedley, who was president of SOE and will remain in the role at Daybreak, said in a statement. "They have a proven track record in similar and related industries and we are eager to move forward to see how we can push the boundaries of online gaming."

Among the changes that are expected once Daybreak is an independent company is a move toward multiplatform console game development. All of SOE's current roster of games are available either for PCs or exclusively on Sony's PlayStation console, but a tweet from Smedley on Monday suggested future titles may ship for Xbox or other platforms, as well.

Sony did not give its reasons for selling off the gaming unit, but it's believed the cash-strapped firm is unloading assets as a way to offset the massive losses it is expected to report when its fiscal year closes in March.

The company reported a net loss of $1.25bn for fiscal 2014, but its executives have already warned Wall Street to expect losses of $2bn or more for the current fiscal year. ®

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