For games with exceptionally large amounts of statistical data in a game (e.g. long running MMOs, large (legacy system) RPGs), are there specialists for managing the databases for that? And are there any specific tools made for that kind of thing, or are typical database/spreadsheet software used?

Yes, of course there are specialists. We have a variety of different people who access game databases for a number of different reasons. There are the DBAs who keep things running, the customer service and game master workers who use tools for tasks like granting/revoking entitlements, (un-)banning accounts, restoring inventory items, investigating bad behavior, etc., and the data scientists who aggregate and analyze the terabytes of telemetry data we gather from anonymous players.

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The more technically-minded people who are comfortable with raw sql script or spreadsheet analysis usually prefer to use those for expediency. If you know enough SQL to query for what you’re looking for, there’s less real need to build a special tool to do it for you since you can just write your own queries. These folks may write some helper batch scripts or create some automated scripts, but fully-featured tool suites are less needed. As always, whenever somebody has full access to run queries on the database, they also have the power to do a lot of damage.

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For those who are less technically-inclined (i.e. the customer service workers), AAA dev teams usually have tools engineers build custom game-database tools to enable support team members to do their jobs. This is usually some kind of in-house web UI tool that enables people to perform their various assigned tasks. These tools are built to make it easy for workers to do common tasks correctly and difficult to cause damage to the database. If there are tasks these people need to but cannot do with the existing tools, they have to submit a feature request to the tools team.

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