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