I've been closely following the cyber-mess between Daybreak Games President/CEO John Smedley and Finnish hacker "Zeekill", a member of Lizard Squad. Shots were fired from both parties and while Smedley is clearly a victim of aggressive harassment, he definitely could have handled the situation much more professionally.
Despite the events originating as a very personal assault, ultimately John painted his entire company (and all its employees) as a prime target - or at least brought them into the realm of collateral damage. I spoke at length on how I felt about the whole situation in two separate editorials the past few weeks, but the latest development in this story has been just as shocking as everything else that has happened. Yes, even more shocking than the CEO nuking his own reddit and twitter accounts.
John Smedley no longer CEO
According to a GamesBeat exclusive, a source speaking on behalf of Daybreak Games has confirmed that John Smedley will be officially stepping down as the CEO of the company after some time off and will transition into a new role within the company. Chief Operating Officer Russell Shanks will be taking over duties as CEO until a new long-term plan is decided upon.
“I can confirm that John Smedley will be taking some time off from the company for the near-term and transitioning to a different role to be determined,” a spokesperson for Daybreak told GamesBeat. “Upon finalization of his plans, further communication will be provided.”
While very few details have been provided about the cause for the sudden change of leadership, these latest events seem to have played at least some role in the decision; and probably a very large role, by my estimation.
As someone who has been following SOE and Daybreak Games very closely over the past couple of years, this new development intrigues me greatly. I still have so many questions about the recent transition, the buyout (or sellout - depending on your preference) of SOE to Columbus Nova - and of where exactly everything stands when it comes to company accountability.
I'm not sure if the company will ever publicly admit it, but quite a few mismanagements have occurred over the past several years involving various game titles. Those poor choices are probably the largest limiting factor that has kept SOE/DGC from competing with Blizzard as the top dog of the MMORPG genre. There's no way for us to tell how many of those choices were directly tied to Smedley, but I know I can't be the only fan that has felt put off at times by some of the company's moves - especially over the last couple of years.
I've got nothing against Smedley personally, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I have questioned his leadership at times (and certainly his professionalism on several occasions). So although I am quite shocked at this recent announcement by Daybreak, I'm actually interested to see what a new leader can bring to the table. With only a handful of profitable games, and another set undergoing heavy development (that seems to be consistently drawn out due to "unforeseen" complications) maybe now is the perfect time to inject some new lifeblood into this company and carry its rebranded vision forward into a new era of game development.
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