John Smedley steps down as Daybreak CEO

Did the executive's ongoing tussle with hackers take its toll?

By Dan Pearson.Published Thursday 23rd July 2015, 8:05am GMT

Daybreak CEO John Smedley has stepped down from his role at the company formerly known as Sony Online Entertainment, to be replaced by current COO Russell Shanks.

However, Smedley will remain at the firm, taking some time off before returning in a yet-to-be agreed new role.

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"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," read a Daybreak statement issued to GamesBeat. "Upon finalization of his plans, further communication will be provided."

Smedley has been an integral part of the firm, and indeed the wider drive to establish free-to-play and MMOs on consoles, since well before Daybreak's split from Sony - having pioneered a great deal at Sony Online Entertainment. His work, from Everquest up to the recent H1Z1, has largely focused on pushing new ideas in online spaces, engaging with new payment models and technologies well ahead of many of his contemporaries in the West. However, a career in online gaming has also put him toe to toe with some of the market's least welcome elements: hackers.

Most recently, Smedley took a very public stance on the sentencing of Julius Kivimaki, a young Finnish cybercriminal who was convicted of over 50 offences of online crimes in his home country, including attacks on games and a bomb threat which grounded the plane carrying Smedley in August, 2014 - the culmination of a series of attacks against online gaming services including Battle.net, PSN, League of Legends and Xbox Live. At the time, Smedley tweeted angrily but with restraint, leaving the pursuit if the case in the hands of the FBI.

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However, when Kivimaki's sentencing was announced on July 8, with the young Finn receiving a two-year communted sentence and no jail time for his convictions, Smedley was less reserved, railing against the young man, his family and the justice system at large, saying that the "little dirtbag" would "get what's coming to him".

Whilst Smedley's anger may be understandable, Twitter is a very public place to take that sort of stance, especially when the large majority of Kivimaki's 'Lizard Squad' brethren were still active. Almost immediately following Smedley's outburst, DDoS attacks crippled several of Daybreak's games, shutting down Planetside 2, H1Z1 and others.

Given Smedley's incredible history and reputation, it's unlikely that this series of incidents had sole and direct responsibility for Smedley's decision, if indeed he took the decision himself, but it's almost inconceivable that they had no bearing at all. His involved and upfront style has earned him a great deal of respect and renown during his many years on the frontline, but clearly some enemies too - enemies which a company operating exclusively in the online space could do without. That's not to suggest that the activities of hackers shouldn't be pursued and combatted to the highest level of capacity and justice, but it wouldn't be surprising to see the Smedley who returns take a somewhat less vocal position of opposition.

Image credit: San Diego Tribune

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