Daybreak Games: Roundtable With Smedley & Naviaux

We discussed the origins and future of Daybreak Game Company with its president and marketing SVP.

Daybreak Game Company unveiled its new logo and website last week, giving a fresh face as it looks toward the future. We chatted with Daybreak President John Smedley and the Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing Laura Naviaux yesterday evening about the origins of the company's new name and logo, Columbus Nova, the future of its fan convention, and more.

Laura kicked things off explaining that the company chose the name Daybreak because it symbolizes the opportunity that each new day presents and the "renewed spirit each and every day to continue to move online gaming forward." With the logo, they wanted the undertones of power in it which is why they chose the coloring of red for the backdrop. The owl's eye "speaks to the nocturnal nature of gamers", with the gear representing the aspect of technology.

Smedley took a step back to address both what happened with Sony, and what life is like after Sony.

"The last few years at Sony we were exploring other companies to talk to, looking for a good place [we] could be a part of. Sony was looking to get down to its core and PC games were never something they were super-big on; that was always us. The opportunity to go out and get investors like Columbus Nova that think about things for the long haul was a big deal to us. But I'll be honest: we didn't know what life was going to be like after Sony.

"What I can tell you is it's a lot more fun. We are now free to do stuff... you know, on Xbox, on mobile. They have not interfered at all, zero, in any game-related thing. In fact, what they've done is supported us and given us the kind of money that we need to invest further in some of our new stuff.

"We're excited! We're not changing who we are as a company; our core is still going to be PC gaming, and the console stuff we're adding onto that because we want more people to be able to play the games that we make.


The final deal with Columbus Nova only took about a month to close, but the road there was longer. Smedley explains that it took a few years of going through a lot of options. Laura added that they believe they ended up with the right partner, that it was nice to not have to merge with another entity and remain as a standalone company.

There had been no timeframe for Daybreak to part ways with Sony; Smedley commented that they were very patient about it.

"It's like when you meet your significant other, you just know. You see stars in each other's eyes... it's kind of like that. There was a good vibe, they got us, they understood. They weren't sitting here talking about shutting down some of our key titles, which we've been behind forever. Columbus Nova feels the opposite; they feel like EverQuest is the thing that built this company—they want to see it run forever."

Changing gears, Smedley fielded his thoughts on the perception of Early Access and how it's working for Daybreak with H1Z1.

"It is fair to say that Early Access is not a perfect anything, right? There are some people that buy in in the spirit that it's intended, which is to help us develop; there's some who buy in because they heard it's a good game and they come in with the expectation that it's a finished game, even though we can't tell them enough times everywhere we can that it's not finished.

"I'm pretty proud. We're in this for the long haul. The games that we start on Early Access will be released. I think it's all in how the company behind it treats it, and in our case, here's how I put it: I would put my $20 into H1Z1 because I'm playing it so much right now that I'm getting a good entertainment value. But that decision is different for every person. A lot of people that I know are like 'that's not released, there's bugs, I don't want to touch it', and I understand that; it's a perfectly reasonable point of view.

"I'm real happy with how Early Access has worked out on H1Z1. No matter what it says, Early Access or whatever, people are buying a game and they need to have fun. What I would do differently is not much; I think we got the basics right. The stuff that I would change a little bit would be thinking through the monetization stuff and making sure we telegraph that more than we already are, to make sure that people understand that. I think we've done a good job with that, but it seems to be the most controversial point."

When we asked about development on the Xbox One now that Daybreak has parted ways with Sony, Smedley commented that we could expect titles such as PlanetSide 2, H1Z1 and DCUO to eventually be ported over.

We then took the opportunity to also ask about the future of Daybreak's annual fan convention (aka Fan Faire/SOE Live). Smedley was very positive that the convention would make its rounds again next year, and explained how the logistics just didn't work out in a timely fashion to plan anything for this year.

"Keep in mind that skipping the fan convention.. there was nothing more to it than one simple thing: it is too much [stuff] to do in too short of a timeframe, it was that simple. There was no way we could pull that off while we were transitioning to Daybreak; it just couldn't be done."

Laura also explained some more about the employee investment and monetary expectations of previous conventions.

"SOE Live was always a labor of love for the employees; I think that the employees were as bummed as players were that we weren't going to be hosting it. I also think there's a lot of misconceptions about what it really does take to pull off that event—both resources and economically. It would cost us $400-$500 more per head than the actual ticket sales. We love it, and think it's a perfect opportunity to own the moment, and we'd love to see it come back."

Smedley: "We put it off for this year, but it will be back."
Laura: "If you have any name suggestions, let us know!"
ZAM: "Go back to [using] Fan Faire!"
Smedley: "The problem with Fan Faire is that it's not as cool to the PlanetSide 2 people... they feel like they're going to a RenFaire... DCUO it's kind of the same thing. You have to realize that at Daybreak now we have players who are hardcore FPS, then we have people who have been with us for 16 years playing EverQuest. So we tried to come up with something that kind of captured the spirit; I loved that name, SOE Live, always did.

During the wrap-up, Smedley gave a nod to EQNext.

"EverQuest Next is in great shape, continues to be developed, and when we are ready to show it you guys are going to get blown away by a combination of what we've done and what our users have done. The Landmark workshops that we've done—getting all the building stuff ready—it's really working well. We're working on Qeynos right now as a matter of fact... and it's going to be the most awesome thing for you guys to see when you first see it. The city looks amazing purely because we used so much stuff from our players.

"If there are people that say it's vaporware, my answer to that is 'whatever'. That's kind of silly. Look at our company's history, we're not about vaporware, we deliver."

Our thanks to John Smedley and Laura Naviaux for taking the time to speak with us about Daybreak!

Ann "Cyliena" Hosler, Managing Editor


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DBG needs new leadership
# Oct 13 2016 at 8:18 AM Rating: Decent
22 posts
John Smedley is a large part of what is and has been wrong with SoE/Daybreak for a very long time. His policies destroyed Star Wars: Galaxies with the CU & NGE; he largely ruined the original EQ by instituting a nasty cycle of over-powered gear and AAs which lead to increasingly difficult mobs and that in turn eventually made attempting to adventure without a group completely suicidal; during his tenure Vanguard: Saga of Heroes was acquired and immediately neglected, resulting in its crashing and burning; and he severely damaged EQ2 with a series of changes similar to the NGE for SWG. Under his "leadership" EverQuest: Next was run into the ground so that the hollow shell of a once-great game company wouldn't have to actually do something innovative and design and implement a brand new product themselves. John Smedley virtually destroyed SoE then persuaded Sony to sell it off at a huge loss. Now all he does is rule over a company which barely manages to keep the tattered remnants of the few SoE games which haven't gone under limping along from month to month. I love EQ2 and won't give up on it, but why does anyone listen to John Smedley?
DBG needs new leadership
# Nov 14 2018 at 9:31 AM Rating: Good
30 posts
Has leadership changed? I have heard that it has yet again with new investors. With the new expansions coming out in december of 2018, I think it will decide the fate of EQ. They are not putting much effort in anymore, just milking the base that is left. Will they be like every other company failing and just shut doors in an instant, or will they make some announcement? We have asked for server merges, ways to help the economy, find people to group with..none has really happened. What they have done is make it so everyone is level 110 and then they will group..thats much of the game is wasted as so many just race up..rememeber the little guy here not just the ones raping the system for kronos..

/rant off
ha ha ha
# May 07 2015 at 1:03 AM Rating: Decent
26 posts
So I am suppose to trust this guy and his company just when my server crashes and I am rolled back an entire level. Give me a break I am aware and know servers are not 100% I say have a backup of your backups some people lost gear, money, time, completing a mission or quest, level yet this is multi million or billion dollar company. Funny there stuff can be hacked, attacked, cracked yet they never have an issue taking that money.
I do not care what anyone says I think some how Daybreak and Sony are some how inter mingled together.

I will say this they can come out with new games but as plain as the nose of a person's face, people want to play Everquest catch a clue already.

Fan faire never but bet is over priced food, alcohol, entertainment sure got canceled just to make some people want it more. They can come up with away to make more money increase there profit margin.

Edited, May 7th 2015 3:08am by creativedude
ha ha ha
# May 07 2015 at 10:02 AM Rating: Decent
[quote=creativedude]I will say this they can come out with new games but as plain as the nose of a person's face, people want to play Everquest catch a clue already.

This is it exactly!!! 100% AGREE!!!
# May 06 2015 at 5:44 AM Rating: Decent
309 posts
"...we want more people to be able to play the games that we make."

This was the excuse they gave for the HA lockouts and the XP nerf for 101+. They get so butthurt when people don't play their games. And it feels like the rest of this interview is along those same lines of resentment and ego.

I said it before, and I'll say it again: Smed has the stink of a career politician about him.

And his response to "Change the name back to Fan Faire" makes me want to punch kittens in the face. OF COURSE he loved the name "SOE Live", he's an idiot and that's what idiots do.

Alright alright, I'm done ranting. Point is, I don't trust him and we'd be better off replacing him with someone fresh.
Great interview
# May 05 2015 at 11:41 PM Rating: Decent
1 post
Great Interview and I'm glad we got answers to some very important questions. Even if it is merely a PR move, it's smart on their part to get these answers out there. The fans WANT to know.

I'm definitely becoming more of a "Daybreak" fanboy. In fact, I think the name is growing on me even more than "SOE." Because THEY created it. I'm very anxious for news on FanFaire, EQN and good to hear EQ gets big love.

I'm definitely feeling better about things. Thanks for the great article!

Great interview
# May 06 2015 at 12:19 AM Rating: Good
9 posts
Good Now, why dont you actually have a way to CONTACT SUPPORT without having to make a stupid Twitch account?

Great interview
# May 10 2015 at 8:05 PM Rating: Decent
21 posts
I want this answer too...I have hard time getting answers for my questions...and an actual number to talk to a HUMAN would be much received.
Good news
# May 05 2015 at 5:16 PM Rating: Decent
Should call the new fan convention 'Fanbreak' or like 'Daybreak Fanbreak'
Better Late than Never
# May 05 2015 at 3:04 PM Rating: Good
87 posts
Good interview, and its about time these things were covered together, instead of broken up in brief tweets. Twitter is okay for what it does, but it doesn't lend itself for thorough, detailed communication of ideas.
This interview covers many points of concern that I've seen expressed in the official forums, here, and on Reddit.
Still, I'm cautious about Columbus Nova.
I sincerely hope that when Smedley saw the "stars in the eyes" of CN, he wasn't getting conned.
While CN is an American company, they are owned by Renova, a Russian conglomerate.
Only time, and actions, will tell.
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